Julie's Quest

Hello, and welcome to my blog. My blog is about the trials and tribulations of writing, where we celebrate successes and commiserate our near misses. We tell it like it is here and will do our very best to help you on the road to being published and pick you up after the rejections (they will come!) Whether you are a professional or amateur writer you will find something useful here.

I hope you enjoy reading my posts and will visit again soon.

Happy Writing

Julie Phillips - freelance writer - member of the Association of Freelance Writers - member of the Society of Authors

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Reading for inspiration

I received the latest (June) issue of Take A Break's Fiction Feast along with The Weekly News through the post yesterday, and walked up to the local shop to buy this week's Woman's Weekly this morning and I have the Woman's Weekly fiction special somewhere. It's lovely to see the 'old' favourites (I don't mean old in age  before I upset anyone! I mean 'regulars!) in all of these magazines such as: Teresa Ashby, Elizabeth Dale, Mhairi Grant, Helen. M. Hunt, Bernadette James, Gabrielle Mullarky and Della Galton to name but a few. But it's also great to see some new names in there too! It gives those of us who have yet to grace the pages of these coveted and hallowed magazines a chink of hope that we too, one day, may get our short stories in them!

Many of these regulars are also avid bloggers and by reading their blogs I have learned a lot about them and by reading their stories I am inspired and motivated to try harder at writing my own to such a standard as will be suitable for publication just like theres are. It can be daunting to see some writers getting two or three stories in the same magazine and some writers may think that they are wasting their time as these mags obviously have their 'favourites' so there's no place for their own stories. Poppycock! We can't have that defeatist attitude here! If you look through these magazines you will see new names popping up all the time amongst those of more established writers so it can be done  -  we just have to try harder  - read the stories that get published  -  really read them and don't get the attitude "Phah! I can do better than that because that will just  fast track you down the road of failure!" It's not that easy to either write short stories or get them published. I know as I've tried and am still trying. But you can learn a lot about what sells and what doesn't  - what works and what doesn't by reading published stories and looking at your own to see where yours may fall short of the mark.

I know when I've had some of my short stories rejected I've wailed "But why, oh why, oh why wasn't it good enough?!" I've sat there searching my frazzled brain for answers I couldn't find. I'd read all the short stories I could, read the submission guidelines, looked at the published stories and just couldn't see why others had succeeded and I hadn't. I still can't see it sometimes  - and that's where your secret weapon comes in.

Up until recently I wouldn't let anyone other than my husband read the stories I submitted. But I have now had two 'vetted' by a professional writer who has given me good, solid, honest critiques and I am so glad that I sent them to him. He has confirmed some of my suspicions about the stories as well as picked up on some things I hadn't realised, and he has also been very positive about them. But most of all he's been honest and I know he would say my stories were a load of rubbish if he thought they were and I respect and need that level honesty  - as do other writers, I suspect. I'd much rather know what was wrong with a story than not and sometimes we are a little bit too close to our own work to see its flaws or what's good about it sometimes. So if you know a writer who writes stuff in the same genre as you and they have a good publishing record, then do seek their help. I'm not saying it will definately get you published but it will go a long way in getting you there.

I sent one of the stories he looked at off to a magazine last week and the other one, after I've made the suggested changes, will be going to another mag soon. They might get published, they might not. But the important thing is that after a break I'm sending my short stories out again. I could have given up after last year but I want to prove to myself that I can do it again and that the one story I did get published wasn't just a fluke.

I don't know what it is about the sunny weather but while I was sitting outside as my daughter, niece and nephew played after our picnic, I had five ideas for short stories that just popped into my head from absolutely nowhere! Honestly, I go for weeks without a whiff of inspiration for a story and several come along at once  -  not that I'm complaining. It means I have plenty to be going on with for the next few weeks and I wouldn't want it any other way.

We have a new blogger amongst us who runs a hotel in Ludlow, Shropshire  - a  hotel which fellow blogger Carole Ann Carr recommended to me  - so click here and pop over to the blog to say hello! And if you're ever in Ludlow and need a place to stay take a look at the hotel.

Enjoy the good weather and happy writing

Julie xx


HelenMHunt said...

You're absolutely right, there is no substitute for really reading and researching the magazines, and for taking advice from writers who are already being published in the target market. I know I wouldn't have got anywhere without doing that. Good luck with the ones you're working on now.

Milton said...

Hi Julie

Today the Muttie woman also went out and bought Womens Weekly Fiction and TAB fiction. She badly wants to write short stories too but has so far been too timid to send. Sometimes, like you, she feels good about it. Other times she'll read one and think: 'I could never do that.' It's a funny game this...
She was wondering though if you would recommend an editor? Or suggest a good resource where she could look one up?

Milt x

klahanie said...

Dear Julie.
Some excellent advice you have posted here. Along with your positive and realistic attitude; you clearly demonstrate your ongoing writing quests.
I know you will continue to take suggestions and appraisal from those who can be so beneficial to your goals and desires. That is most healthy and I truly wish you well.
Glad to note that inspiration has come from your time in the sunny weather. From what you mention, your inspiration comes along like 'buses' :-)
All the very best and I shall now check out your link.
Happy writing. With kindness, Gary x

Julie P said...

Hi, Helen

It's so true isn't it! I'm like you in that I wouldn't be where I am now with my writing if it wasn't for reading the stories in the magazines I want to write for. It's one of the best things a writer can do, I feel.

Also the support from fellow bloggers has been fantastic and we writers need that support. I doubt I would be trying again with the short stories if it wsn't for the lovely folk here.

Good luck with your writing too - I read your brilliant story The Power of Forgiveness in Fiction Feast - made me feel quite emotional. Very inspiring

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi Milton and well done on getting the magazines to read - it's one of the best things you can do. I find that reading the stories in the magazines you want to write for works as a good editor too. You can see how the sentences are constructed and how they flow into paragraphs to move the story forward.

Dialogue is important so take special note of how much dialogue is in the stories and how it is constructed/worded. Look at the story as a whole: word length, pace, flow, dialogue, characters, themes etc and try and adopt that structure to your own stories.

As regards to recommending an actual editor I would say that a good move would be to go to your local writers' group, if you have access to one, as I did this and it was like a revelation! Let othr writers there read your work, or if you feel able read it to them. We have a writers' clinic as part of out writing group ,meetings where we can take our work in progress and get advice on how to improve it. It works a treat.

I have to admit that I used to be very squeamish about letting writers see my work. But I have to say, now that I have done it I wish I'd done it last year and saved myself a lot of heartache and possibly reduced the amount of rejections I got!

I met the writer who is looking at my stories at my writing group. He is also a writing tutor with The Writers' Bureau - look at his excellent blog Simon Says. I'll put the link in the next message as I can't remember it at the moment - the sun has addled my brain!

If you know any other writers who live near you it may be worth giving your work to them too. But it's more beneficial to have your work looked at by someone who has actually had their short stories published in the mags you want to be published in too.

I assume you've seen Womag's excellent blog? If not I'll put the link in the next comment - well worth visiting as it Womag has all the mags submission guidelines plus lots and lots of advice.

Have you ever entered the short story comps in Writers' Forum. Sue Moorcroft judges that with another writer and she will give you a critique of the story even if you don't win. I had a critique from her and it was wonderful - really helped me with my general short story writing - might be positive for you too.
Might be an idea to attend a workshop or Creative Writing Course specificaly aimed at writing for the women's mags short story market - I think the Writers' Bureau do one as do many other places.

Don't be timid about sending your work out! It's the only way you're going to know if you can get it published. I know what you mean though, as I was terrified to begin with. But here I am, thirty nine rejections later and still at it! The one I got published really spurred me on - that was ten months ago and I haven't had one published again yet. But you have to peservere with it and listen to what other writers suggest and act on those suggestions. Most importantly keep reading and writing and sending your work out there.

Keep reading blogs too - excellent source of information and several of the names you see at the end of the stories in the women's mags have blogs.

Good luck with your writing and let us know how you get on.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Milton, I see you already follow most of the blogs I've mentioned above - so I'd say just continue to follow them! They are all brilliant and will support you with getting your stories published - they've done it and so can we!

Julie xx

Julie P said...

My ideas do come along like buses, Gary! It can be annoying when I'm trying to get the first idea written down but several others are trying to barge in and jump the queue! At least I've had some more ideas now, though - it would be a disaster if I didn't!

How are the 'wee folk' today? I think they might need their umbrellas today - looks like rain.

Take care

Julie xx

Suzanne Jones said...

Great advice, Julie.

FF is on my shopping list, but I think I might have to subscribe in future so I can get it sooner.


Julie P said...

That's why I subscribed too, Suzanne. Plus I knew I wouldn't forget to get it or find they'd sold out at the shop.

I also get The Weekly News delivered for 12 weeks as I'm targeting them at the moment - I find it so useful to read the stories that are published - it's given me an idea of what I need to be writing and how I need to do it to get my short stories published.

Most times I read a story I learn something new or they remind me to concentrate on character or mess around with dialogue.

I've read hundreds of short stories and I do get fed up with it and frustrated that I can't get my short stories to the standard that is being published, but I think you need to read as many as you can and keep reading the new stuff that's being published, learn from it and implement what you've learned into your own stories - keep trying as it's the only way you'll get closer to publication.You've had a fair few published already and are doing so well and I think it helps other writers to see that it can be done!

Good luck

Julie xx

David said...

Hi Julie,

I think you are so right. There is nothing else for it but to keep on researching the magazines and trying to learn as much as we can.

I have just picked up my copy of TABFF too. Loved the story set in Paris. I mean to sit down later and look at it again properly to see how the author put it together. From an initial reading it was a perfect short story.

So glad to hear that the sunny day has brought on an onslaught of ideas. Maybe one of them will be your next 'lucky' one...

Fingers crossed!


Julie P said...

Thanks, David. I agree, the Paris story was brilliant and it's something I aspire to.

I've sent two short stories off recently (not to TAB FF but I'm working on a couple for them!) I find the waiting difficult and frustrating - particularly if it's going to be a long wait and it's a thanks but no thanks!

But there's something within me that is driving me on to keep trying so while I have the urge I'll try my best to get one of them published! Even though I know the odds are unfavourable because there are so many writers and not enough slots in the mags - but you don't know until you try.

The best of luck, David, with your stories too.


Helen@TheCliffeHotel said...

Hi Julie
Just to say 'thank you' for mentioning my hotel in your blog. You will soon discover that I am not a writer so I am in awe of your skills. Also to say that in the May edition of the Woman & Home magazine there is a short story competition with the theme 'the photograph'. So if you have a story that would fit the bill you could give it a go.

Julie P said...

Hi, Helen

My pleasure! I'll have a look at Woman and Home magazine. Thank you for mentioning it.

Julie xx