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, 22 September 2013

What Woman's Weekly Want. Straight From The Horses Mouth!

As most of you know, last Saturday I went with my good friend Angeline Wheeler to the Woman's Weekly Live Event in Manchester. There, alongside aisles and aisles of all the various art and crafting materials known to man, in a little corner there were also writing workshops. Short story queen, columnist, novelist and non-fiction book writer Della Galton was there alongside novelist, short story writer and non-fiction book writer (and now TV star) Jane Wenham-Jones and also Gaynor Davies, Fiction Editor at Woman's Weekly.


I cannot impress on you enough the advantages of attending one of these events if you are seriously considering writing and subbing short stories to Woman's Weekly. Yes, reading the magazines, analysing the short stories published in there, going on writing forums, taking writing courses will get you so far, but to have the opportunity to spend time with people such as Gaynor, Jane and Della is too good to miss.

The talks themselves were a gold mine of information as to what Gaynor does and doesn't want. But apart from that it was a good opportunity to meet the editor and writers and glean bits of information that  you can't get from just reading their submission guidelines and the magazine alone.

For instance, and this sounds really scary, we were asked to each write the beginning and end of a two short stories, one with some humour in it, which Gaynor and Della took turns in reading out and critiquing. (All this was for only £7 entry fee to the whole event, I hasten to add but the experience and advice was priceless!) I learnt far more at those workshops than I ever did doing anything else. The comments received were so positive and encouraging too that they spurred me to carry on trying. Gaynor actually said that they welcome new writers and actively seek them - so there is a way in!

Here, as promised, is the low down, taken from my notes from the day, of what they want. Bear in mind that they get hundreds of short stories subbed to them a month so you'll be wanting to make yours stand out!

Smiley Face Logo Design


1. They like their stories to communicate at a deeper level, sharing universal meanings and symbolism.

2. Gaynor reads subbed short stories on the train to and from work so if you can make or laugh or cry (or both) you're off to a good start!

3. Their readers like escapism, but not in a Mills and Boon sense. (Gaynor has nothing against Mills and Boon style writing whatsoever - it's just a different style of writing that isn't what she is looking for in Woman's Weekly.

4. At the heart of Woman's Weekly is integrity, honesty and optimism. It isn't old fashioned and they like to broaden their horizons. They like the useful but not the sordid side of life. Things readers will identify with and make them go, ah yes that's true, and not make them uncomfortable.

5. Who are their readers? They are undefinable. They are just like me or you. Attitude? Interested in their families and homes. They have a quirky sense of humour and sense of tradition. They do have male readers too so don't neglect them.

6. Woman's Weekly is like a friend to their readers. They are not a recognised cure for insomnia!

7. They like their fiction to relax the reader, send them into another world for a few minutes as they read the story It's escapism but not in the traditional boy meets girl sense.

8. A lot of stories are turned down because nothing happens in them or they are too predictable.

9. The stories reflect real life and all types of relationships and dilemmas. They like situations that show the best in people. No politics or inheriting of cottages! No shocks.

10. Variety is important.

11. Use your own voice. Don't try and write in the style of a known Woman's Weekly writer. There is only one Della Galton, one Teresa Ashby to name a couple of their most successful writers.  Use your own voice that is uniquely different to any other writers. Think about your own rhythms of speech and the musicality in your own voice. Originality of speech, colloquialisms in dialogue and expression. You are unique so don't copy!

12. They like their stories to have warmth - nothing cold or spiteful.

13. Crime is popular, but make it cosy crime. Off stage murders that will engage the reader but not frighten or disturb them.

14. Conflict and change are vitally important. A crisis. Tie it up at the end but not in a big fancy bow!It doesn't have to be a happy ending but main character has to have undergone a change of some kind through the story.

15. Any frustration or worry the main character has must be resolved by the end of the story.

16. Make sure something happens in the story! Something must change within the main character's life to leave them different than at the start of the story.

17. Stories need to convey feelings and emotions. The creative process is like dreaming. Let the unconscious go and make it conscious.

18. Relax and be excited. Your creativity is like an energy that bubbles up. Write the short story and then edit it.

19. They don't want straight forwardness or the ordinary. They want something different.

20. Keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas as they come to you. You WILL forget the idea otherwise.

21. If an idea appeals to you and appears interesting then it will more than likely appeal to others (readers and editors).

22. If you see someone with a certain expression on their face, weave that into your plot.

23. Starting with a character is often good as it will drive the plot.

24. NO stereotypes. NO personality changes half way through the story (or changing names!)

25. No nastiness.

26. Be subtle.

27. Give the reader a sense of place from the beginning.

28. Drip feed clues - don't give too much away too soon.

29. Surprise the reader.

30. SERIALS: They are an enormous project! Send them the 1st instalment 3000 - 3300 words and a brief outline.

With serials you can indulge yourself as you have more words to play with. Pace it though. Don't hold the story up by placing too much background or back story. Use this device sparingly and in the right place only. If it doesn't move the story along, don't keep it in. Don't try and pad your stories out with useless information. Keep the forward momentum going.

31. In the main magazine (the weekly one) they accept stories of 900 / 1100 words to 2000 words In the monthly Fiction Special anything from 900 - 8000 complete stories are acceptable.
 Now there has been some comments made about these story lengths so I will tell you what some writers have been saying. They say that Gaynor will only accept stories of either 1000 words or 2000 words  and nothing in between that as this fits their page template. I can only report what I heard Gaynor say!

Kathryn Dews, who has attended a previous workshop with Gaynor and she had said a similar think has confirmed that she did query the 'in between' lengths with Gaynor on the Good To Know website and she said that for shorter lengths of 1000 - 2000 words they can only have either 1000 or 2000 words, but for anything above that in between lengths are fine. Thank you Kath!

32. Historical stories are popular.

32. Try something different.

32. Science Fiction is not appropriate for their magazine.

33. Reader not to feel threatened.

34. Immerse yourself in reading several copies of the entire magazine. Analyse the stories for pacing, plot. What makes the story work? Study its structure.

35. CHARACTERS: Make them consistent. Have a clear vision of the character in your head. Think about their likes and dislikes, what they look like and who they are. A lot of this information won't make it into the final story but your research will make your characters more rounded and believable to the reader.

36. Don't overwrite or be repetitious. Don't try too hard. Don't use too many adjectives or adverbs.

37. Dialogue tagging  - he said/ she said is fine. Other tags like he muttered, she stammered, can become too distracting. Use strong dialogue instead and mannerisms/gestures to convey how a character is feeling or what kind of a person they are.

38. Don't butler and maid it: in other words, don't make the characters say what they already know. For example:

   'How's Paul getting on, Marjorie?'
   'Oh, you mean Paul my son, the one who has just dropped out of uni to travel to Australia for a year?'

39. Show don't tell. Be subtle. Let it speak for itself.  Use drama - it engages the reader and includes their feelings . Everyone will read something slightly different into the same story.

40. Don't state the obvious. Don't sign post everything. Let the reader find their own path through the story.

41. REJECTIONS: They occur because:

The story didn't fit in with the Woman's Weekly market.
The story was too dated or old fashioned.
It was too romantic or slushy.
Too sexist or chivalrous.
Characters were too type cast.

42. Be nosey! Characters are everywhere so go people watching.

43. Observe everything and use it in your writing.

44. Be sensitive and be yourself.

45. KNOW your market, use your OWN VOICE, SHOW don't Tell.

46. Use all of the senses - touch, sound, sight, taste, etc where appropriate in your writing - bring it alive for your readers.

47. DO include a covering letter with your short story submission - purely for communication purposes only and add your name and contact details to the top of each page in your manuscript in a header.

48. HUMOUR: Gaynor would like to see more humour in stories.

49. Try and keep to specified word lengths as they cannot use in between lengths.

50. Main MALE characters? They don't get many but are willing to look at stories with them in.

Manuscripts should be double spaced, one side only, single speech marks and sent to:

The Fiction Department,
Woman's Weekly,
IPC Media,
Blue Fin Building,
110 Southwark Street,

Include SAE if you want your story returned should they not be able to use it.
Once you've had a story accepted you will then be able to submit by e-mail!

If you want to be sent details of the next Woman's weekly Fiction Workshops then contact: 

wwevent@ipcmedia.com  and they will email you the details.

For current submission guidelines go to either:


or: http://www.womansweekly.co.uk

So there you have it! You have no excuse to get writing what Woman's Weekly want now!

Good luck
Julie xx


Wendy's Writing said...

Thanks for the great info, Julie. As a WW writer, I would say my biggest advice is 'surprise them'.

Patsy said...

Thanks, Julie.

Sounds like it was well worth going.

I went to one of the London workshops and found that interesting too.

susanjanejones said...

Thank you Julie for sharing, I'll take note of that.

Julie P said...

Thank you Wendy!

I'm hoping to surprise them soon ;o)


Julie P said...

Thanks, Patsy - it was so good to experience it and I'm hoping I can get a sale to them soon!
Julie xx

Julie P said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie P said...

Thanks, Susan - here's to working towards publication with WW!
Julie XX

Julie P said...

Thanks, Susan - here's to working towards publication with WW!
Julie XX