Romantic Novelists at 60

I went to the RNA 60/MMU event today at the Anthony Burgess Foundation in the middle of Manchester. This was a collaborative venture between the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Man Met University. It was great to see so many local writers supporting it.

However, while I was there, I had an epiphany. Alison May, the current chairman of the RNA, gave a talk about the history of the RNA and its values. It was fabulous, and I could not agree more with the ‘nurturing’ of future novelists aim – this is exactly what they do. Consequently, most of my writing friends are romance writers.

It was while I was pondering this, and the completely different situation with the Crime Writer’s Association (which is for published writers only) that I realised although I would like to write crime, I don’t know any crime novelists. I did apply to join a crime writing group on Facebook some months ago, but my membership is still ‘pending’ (or at least it was – I just cancelled the request on the basis I don’t want to belong to a group that is so inert or indifferent).

So, I’d just like to wish the RNA a fabulously successful 60th year and thank them for all the help and support they give me and other budding writers. And if you’re thinking seriously about writing any sort of fiction with some romance in it, the RNA might be just the organisation to help you.




The End is Near

Don’t panic. I’m talking about the year, not my personal demise.

This came to mind today as I was logging my latest short story. I’m about to send it to The People’s Friend. I opened up my submission spreadsheet to log it and was surprised at how long my list of submissions is this year.

Had I written that many short stories?


A closer look revealed a mix of other things including resubmitted stories that had been unsuccessful the first time around, letters, and submissions to the Writer’s Forum ‘first draft’ column – a useful source of £25 cheques this year: they’ve certainly paid my subs.

A snapshot of my Trello page shows a slightly different picture:

Trello submission status

The lefthand column is stories awaiting a decision. The much longer one next to it (it goes on well below the picture) is stories that need resubmitting. The pathetic one on the right is sales!

What I can tell from this straight away is that virtually all outstanding stories are with The People’s Friend (that little green lozenge at the top left corner of each ‘card’). Partly this reflects their turnaround time (at least they seem to be considering my stories rather than rejecting them as soon as they come through the door). But mostly it indicates my limited submission options.

Some of the stories in the ‘resubmission’ column have been rejected multiple times despite having good feedback from my critique group. Quite what I’ll do with these, I don’t know.

Others, though, definitely just need a tweak and a new ‘home’.

So, it’s time to set my writing goals for 2020. I am avoiding the word ‘resolution’ because we all know what happens to those, don’t we? As writers, we should all have something to aim for to spur us on and keep us focused, especially if we want sales.

This is what I’ve come up with. You can hold me to it!

  1. research new markets and submit stories to them.
  2. finish and submit at least one of the two pocket novels I’ve got on the go
  3. continue to submit a ‘first draft’ every month
  4. find some sort of home for, or retire, at least half of the stories on my resubmit list
  5. consider a serial for The People’s Friend.
  6. polish my next submission to The New Writer Scheme

Eek. I feel tired already!

Patsy Collins’s womagwriter blog will help with new markets, although I suspect some of my stories can be adapted to other markets such as Scribble, which I’ve subscribed to but never submitted to. The problem here will be finding out what sort of stories these new markets want. Ireland’s Own, for example, is not on sale in mainland UK.

I might have to have a holiday in Ireland!

The pocket novels must be a priority: I’ve got over 80,000 words going to waste at the moment.

The serial for The People’s Friend is more of a challenge as I’ll have to come up with a character-driven story that can be sustained over perhaps 5 instalments. Not my forte.

And I’m trying not to think about my next romance project, though I know I’ll have to.

So, I’ve got plenty to get on with next year. What are you planning to do?





Money and all that

It’s been a funny old week in the world of WOMAG writing. I’ve not written any short stories this month as I’ve been working on a novel for NaNoWriMo, but I have kept up with the gossip.

On one hand, an editor at The People’s Friend annoyed a lot of people by suggesting that one shouldn’t write for money but from the heart. Not surprisingly, quite a few writers who try to earn a living through their words took exception to that!

On the other hand, Yours magazine has expanded its short story requirement as it is bringing out periodic short story specials. Furthermore, they have abandoned the ‘all rights’ contract they had. Hurray! we all said until it became clear what the payment for these was – less than for the main magazine. The sliding payment scale is in the comments of Patsy’s womagwriterblog. However you interpret The People’s Friend’s comments about payment, at least they pay more than this.

So it seems to be a game of swings and roundabouts.

As I doubt that writing will ever be anything more than a hobby for me, I’d be happy if editors just got back to me with an answer: I’ve got one story out that I know will be rejected as it’s a Christmas theme and the magazine will have chosen the Christmas stories well before now. Why are they holding onto it? Because until I actually get that ‘no’ there’s that faint glimmer of hope that maybe it will be a ‘yes’.

But then, as I was about to publish this, The People’s Friend put up another blog post in which they explained they need their Christmas stories in by May at the latest if you’re a known writer, and from February onwards if you are not! This, dear reader, is new: and implies their reading times are going up, something we have suspected for a while.

So maybe they are hanging on to my Christmas story for next year!

A girl can dream.

Apothecary weights

No, I haven’t gone mad, but I have had an interesting few days. As well as trying to keep on top of NaNoWriMo, I had to attend a dinner prior to which I had to research some old records linked to the society holding the dinner (long story which I shan’t bore you with).

In the early parts of these records, I found references to charging for prescriptions which contained what I can only describe as Western Hieroglyphs. They certainly looked nothing like any prescription I’d seen before.

The figures on the right are obviously prices in shillings and pence, but what of the rest of them?

I asked a very old doctor who was at the dinner. He’d never seen anything like it, either.

Fortunately, Google came to the rescue. It seems these are weights under the old apothecary system: the ‘3’ gone mad at the start of many of these clusters is the symbol for an apothecary ounce. I still haven’t worked out what all the letters and dots mean, but I have fingers in pies.

Why am I writing about this in a WOMAG blog? Because it illustrates how inspiration comes from all directions and often where we least expect it. The more I look at this and the pages before and after, the more characters are forming – the ones who recorded these proceedings and the ones affected by them. Hopefully, soon I will have a serial along the lines of The Citadel by A J Cronin. But more cheerful.

This seemed an obvious excuse to go and watch a dramatisation of The Citadel. So far, the only one I’ve found has been transposed to Ireland, or maybe Scotland, made in Italian and dubbed very badly. I lasted about 2 minutes before clicking off.

I need to do some more research! So if you know of a good dramatisation of this classic story, please tell me.

Writing Retreat

I have just returned from a long weekend with writer friends in the borders. Most of us met on Open University creative writing courses perhaps a decade ago and, being geographically scattered, we try to meet up once a year.

Darnlea, Melrose. roomy and welcoming.

So, last Friday I headed up to a delightful house just outside Melrose. This was a fabulous place. Roomy, warm, comfortable, quiet, wi-fi that works and with interesting things to see nearby. Above all, it wasn’t expensive – £148 for a double room for 4 nights!

Walter Scott’s house, Abbotsford, was a mile or two in one direction. Melrose, with its ancient abbey and delightful shops, was an easy walk in the other.

We were surrounded by vibrant autumn colours and beautiful rolling countryside. We had two brief ‘workshops’ per day, with ample writing or exploring time in between. And, of course, there was ample time to catch up and generally renew old friendships over shared meals.

We watched Strictly en masse (and were all appalled when Emma survived the Sunday vote). We each wrote a 50-word short story for the Scottish book trust competition (I must remember to enter mine even though I’d only win a mug!), and planned novels by summarising each of the main scenes with a sentence.

I got to discuss my devastating New Writer Scheme novel feedback with someone who knows my writing and whom I trust (Mairi Macmillan has just released her first novel, The Viking’s Cursed Bride with Tirgearr).

Ian and I shared more than one bottle of wine. And Palo Stickland showed me how to make chapatti’s so they rise properly on the stove. It was Palo making chapattis on previous retreats which prompted me to write my story

anthology with recipes
Second Helpings – it’s got recipes and everything

‘Chapattis with everything’ in the anthology ‘Second Helpings’, published by our group which we call Women Who Write With Elves. This was supposed to be a play on words taking the book ‘Women Who Run With Wolves’ and turning it to suit our group which is all female except for Mr Elves. (He says he has Portuguese sailors in his ancestry but we’re not sure we believe him.)

And so here I am back home. I am bang up to date with my NaNoWriMo word count, I’ve got a flash to submit, great ideas for plotting and a promise of a second opinion on the novella which can be salvaged if only I knew how.

On Thursday I meet with the local NaNoWriMo group at our library for 2 hours of uninterrupted (well, except for coffee) writing. On Friday, I’ll be meeting another member of the New Writer’s Scheme for lunch and a chat over where our novels are going after our feedback. I’m really looking forward to that.

I think the point I’m trying to make is how important it is to network with other writers. We tend to write in a bubble. But just as doctors or lawyers or policemen or even refuse collectors don’t work in isolation, then neither should we.

Darnlea and its grounds: splendid isolation, but perfect for writers

I’m not a natural networker, but getting together with other writers, meeting new ones, exchanging ideas, sharing hopes and fears is all for the good, both in terms of writing and the spirits.

I’m already looking forward to going to Darnlea again next year. Is it booked yet?