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

Sunday, 5 December 2010

How Do You Do It?

I've been thinking a lot about short stories recently. In between writing the 50,000 words of my NaNo novel I've been considering what it is that makes a great woman's mag short story. I pondered this for a bit and then decided that if I knew what it was, I'd be swimming in my own published short stories! Can you be taught and learn how to write a good woman's mag short story? Yes, I believe you can. I know I've read hundreds of short stories in a wide spectrum of the women's mags, read countless brilliant books on the subject,  and  been to a few short story writing work shops, listened to the very valuable advice on Womag's blog, and the blogs of all the wonderful woman's mag short story writers out there and I even did a creative writing course. But am I any closer to being able to define what an editor of a women's mag wants in their short stories? I have to admit that no, I'm probably not!

Okay, I know how to present my stories to the editors. I know how to structure them. I get the mechanics of the woman's mag short story  - the theory. But that's a world away from being able to identify that essence of what editors want. I've even had two of my short stories published in Australia and one soon to be published here in the UK, but I still can't tell you why those stories got published and the 40 odd others I've submitted didn't!

I've been guided by the women's mags own submission criteria and gleaned a lot from reading the stories that they do publish. Reading the stories in the women's mags offer writers a goldmine of information on the style, structure, length, and subject matter of the stories the editors choose. If you're clever you can use that information and give yourself an advantage over other writers who don't read the magazines before they submit their own stories.

It can be frustrating to write your heart out after reading the stories in the magazines, thinking that you've surely cracked it this time, and still get your short story rejected. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason sometimes. But the important thing to remember is that every writer goes through this. Every writer, no matter how much they've had published, still gets rejections. That knowledge had quite a profound effect on me as I thought it was just me that got rejections! But once I realised that they came with the territory and were nothing to get in a tizz over or - heaven forbid - stop me from writing.

So why do I still bother to submit my short stories? Because I enjoy writing the stories and I want to get more published. And the only sure fire way of achieving that that I know is to keep reading stories that have been published in your target magazines, keep writing your own stories and submitting them. It's a numbers game: the more short stories you write, the more you improve and the more you submit and, eventually, if you do the ground work and work hard, the more you will have published.

So that's one of the points in my writing plan for the rest of the year and into 2011: write more short stories and get more published. It's a slow process but one I've enjoyed so far. This writing lark is like a compulsion for me and I want to make sure I give myself the best chance I can, as I'm sure you all do too.  So read the stories in the magazines, learn from them and other writers, write lots of your own and send them out. That's how I do it!

Happy writing

Julie xx


Bernadette said...

All very true, Julie.

I've had quite a few published now, but the ones that come flying back still far exceed the acceptances and I often don't understand why that one was successful when this one wasn't.

As you've said, you just have to make sure they're as good as they can be, follow the guidelines and keep on keeping on.

Good luck!

David said...

Interesting post as ever Julie. Like you I think I 'get' many of the elements that make up a great womag story. It's just making sure they're all in mine that seems to present the problems!

The ones I have enjoyed the most have all the mechanics in place PLUS have a really great storyline or plot that drags me in and that leaves me wondering how the writer came up with it in the first place.

Julie P said...

Hi, Bernadette,

I don't think we'll ever understand why some stories come back whilst others are rejected! It's just the way it is. I think you can drive yourself mad trying to figure it out.

What I intend to do from now on is to carry on reading the published stories and just write more short stories of my own - and try to get them as good as I can. That's all any of us can do. Well done on your published stories too.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

You have the same problem as me and a lot of other short story writers out there too, David! It is hard to get all the elements working in a story at the same time. But if we keep reading the short stories that are published in our target magazines and write our own to the best of our ability and keep sending them out, we'll get nearer to our goal.

Best of luck for the coming year.

Julie xx

Nari said...

Very good advice, Julie. I have to say, I admire people like you who can be so prolific without getting disheartened. I guess there's a certain amount of momentum needed to get a good number of good stories out, something I just don't seem to be able to do with short stories.
Well done for getting two of them noticed, and keep at it :)


Julie P said...

Hi, Nari

I still get disheartened, but I don't let it stop me from writing. I'd have never got the first story published if I had let the many rejections I got stop me from writing. And I would have never have got the second one published if I hadn't have kept going (it took me about a year and a lot more rejections to get a short story published again after the first one!)

I haven't been as prolific with the short stories as I'd have liked to have been, but I'm working on it!

Good luck and we must always keep trying.
Julie xx

Suzanne Jones said...

I think you're doing all the right things, Julie - reading and writing as many short stories as you can. I'm sure it won't be long before your next sale.


Suzanne Jones said...

I think you're doing all the right things, Julie - reading and writing as many short stories as you can. I'm sure it won't be long before your next sale.


Simon Whaley said...

Yep, keep reading them, and keep writing them, and eventually your efforts will be rewarded!

Julie P said...

Hi, Suzanne

Yes I think the only way to get published is to keep reading, keep learning, keep writing and keep sending your writing out there.

I've had a bit of a short story writing hiatus but I'm back on track to be sending some more out soon.

Julie xx

Julie P said...

Hi, Simon

If it wasn't for your and the other Wrekin Writers and fellow bloggers I wouldn't have got as far as I have! I think it's so easy, particularly at the start of a writer's career, to just give up when you get rejection after rejection. When what we should do is keep going because you never know if your next piece of writing is the one that's going to make it to publication. I know you have to have a certain amount of writing talent to get opublished in the first place, but you also need a healthy dose of determination and perseverance to get you through.

See you on Saturday! Can't wait - Xmas dinner here we come. Do you think the venue will cope?!

Julie xx

Julie xx

womagwriter said...

I think I only had one out of my first 40-odd submissions accepted.
So you're doing very well with 3 sales!

You are quite right -the only way is to keep going, keep writing, keep studying your market and keep submitting.

Best of luck for 2011.

Julie P said...

Hi, Womag

Best of luck to you too!

My daughter is reading this as I type it and she said your name was funny!! I had to explain that it wasn't your real name!

Julie xx