Saturday, 15 June 2013


It was an exhausting but inspiring day at the Woman's Weekly fiction workshop where a collection of writers and wannabe writers gathered to learn tips and theories and practice the creation and development of characters and plots that would be of use and value to the magazine which is clearly a hungry animal.

With a regular fiction special out 12 times a year that features 20 - 25 stories and three or four every week, it needs lots of feeding so the aim of the workshop was to show those who write for it, or who want to write for it, the sort of standard required from submissions.

Those who have written for the publication before are in a better position than those of us who have not. They can approach the editor with ideas by email that go to the top of the pile for consideration while those of us who have not must take our chances with about 1,000 other people submitting stories each week by snail mail post. With such a huge volume of talent to chose from it's no wonder that it takes four months to get an answer about whether your story is one for them. No response after four months clearly means your story is not one that the magazine can use.

I had hoped to feel closer to my goals of swapping real life features for fiction features but strangely felt even further away by the end of the day. However, it has given me a new focus to aim for and a new style to adapt to. No one ever said earning a living as a writer would be easy and anyone who thinks it is is a misguided fool.

One author who does have features used regularly is Suzanne Ahern. She gave lots of useful tips and advice for those wanting to try their hand at the art of serial writing. These can include stories as long as 8,000 words. Each one clearly needs to end on a cliff hanger to ensure the reader will return. In some ways serials are said to be easier to write than the one page stories of 1,000 words which leave little room for character development and plot twist.

Another speaker was agent Laura Longrigg I had my chance to pitch my crime novel to her in an exercise where we had two sentences to describe a piece a work we are working on or from another author we admire but I flunked. I just didn't quite get it out before it got to my turn so at this stage, rather than embarrass myself, I passed and threw my pen down in defeat.

However, she did mention the Harry Bowling Prize and that work with a strong urban theme was desired. I mentioned my crime novel because the setting is the strongest thing about it and she was very encouraging. If I came away at the end of the day motivated to do anything it was to ensure that I finish at least that first draft by the end of this summer.

As far as submitting to Woman's Weekly, then I think it's time to revisit the works in progress on my fiction page to see how they can be tailored to the story requirements of the magazine. At present, I guess they fall into the nice story but where is it going category.

The event was held at the Blue Finn building in Southwark where we had access to the staff restaurant/café. I had the nicest cup of tea I've ever had there served by a friendly chap who clearly loved his job - judging by the wide smile spread across his face as he worked.

The viewtop terrace outside afforded panoramic views of the City and I grabbed a few shots with my mobile phone. The one below is probably one of the best and shows that London is currently like a large building site with cranes hovering over towers in the middle of or nearing the end construction.

The magazine's next Fiction Workshop in London is on July 19th and another event is due to be held in Manchester from September 12 - 14th called Woman's Weekly Live where fiction writing is also on the schedule.

You would need to book in advance by emailing

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