Fancy Writing Fiction? Inspiration from Susan Jones

Please welcome  writer and friend, Susan Jones, who has kindly agreed to offer some insight and tips into fiction writing.  I met Susan via blogging and she has been a great source of inspiration and support ever since.  Susan’s slogan is “Just write, right” and I am hoping that the tips she shares here will help me do just that!  To learn more about Susan, she keeps a beautiful blog, which I am sure she would be happy for you to visit:

Thank you for sharing, Susan!



Fancy having a go at Fiction Writing?

When you begin writing fiction, it’s tempting to write randomly and find your writing voice. This is important, and you should write at least half a dozen stories before you start to target your market. People’s Friend is one of the more popular fiction markets, along with ‘Women’s Weekly’ and ‘Take a Break,’ and ‘Fiction Feast.’

Each of these magazines has a different style and reader. A story in ‘People’s Friend’ wouldn’t suit the ‘Woman’s Weekly’ reader, and vice versa. ‘Take a Break’ readers prefer a grittier and sometimes scary story. It’s best to look at all of these and any others you find such as ‘Yours’.

The main ingredients of a story for a woman’s magazine are plenty of dialogue, strong main characters, and some kind of conflict. ‘People’s Friend’ favour stories that begin with speech; introducing a main character and the problem they face in a sentence.

E.g. “Thomas, how many times do I have to tell you that I don’t want any fuss for my 70th?” Betty Warmleigh tutted and pushed a wisp of greying hair behind her ears as she busied herself arranging flowers in the Church Hall.

“We all thought….”

“Exactly, we all. How about what I want? Come on; give me a hand with these.” She piled gladioli and delphiniums into Thomas’s arms, and instructed him to follow her.

That is an example of show don’t tell which is what editors want. The gist of that story tells us that Betty will soon be 70. Thomas wants to organize a party, and Betty doesn’t want one. She arranges flowers in the Church Hall, so she probably has quite a few friends, and she is a good organizer as she’s asking Thomas to help her with the flowers. There is a strong sense of community and togetherness, old fashioned values with People’s Friend. A regular reader would hope and guess that the story will end with a party. Maybe Betty is such a good organizer she doesn’t want to feel as if a party could be laid on without her intervention; perhaps she doesn’t want to admit to being 70? The story will unravel and all will be revealed.

Ordinary events make up a story, it’s everyday problems, and the solving of them, reaching a happy conclusion that editors are looking for.

Lots of stories are written in 1st person. As if someone is telling us the story.

E.g. There weren’t many girls from school that I’d fancied. Except Ginny of course, she hadn’t changed a bit. Now I’ll be seeing her every day. She’s started work in our staff canteen. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds out that we were engaged to be married. Still, that was over three years ago. I’m totally over her now, really I am.

This story is written from a male point of view, and we know that he fancies Ginny, who he knew at school, and was engaged to. The fact that he is talking about her at all, and in such detail tells us that he is still in love with her. This story would suit Take a Break rather than People’s Friend.

Experimenting with dialogue, length of the story, and topics can be great fun. Always put a top copy with your story, with your name, address, telephone and email. Type your story in double spacing, and enclose a s.a.e. Be prepared for rejection letters, but keep on sending your stories, and take notice of any comments. Usually it’s a standard letter, but bear in mind editors will receive lots of submissions, and haven’t time to respond to everyone individually.

Enjoy the writing, and one day, you will have the email or phone call you’ve been hoping for!

Categories: Writing/Publishing

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8 replies

  1. Great advice – I agree completely.

  2. Hi Nicola,
    You’ve laid this out beautifully. All those useful links as well. Interesting that the Woman’s Weekly link has up to date information of what they’re looking for. Must get some typed up and sent out. Good luck with your adventure into fiction. I know you’ll do well because you never give up. Thanks for posting.

  3. Thank you for this – it’s good to have some useful, practical information about what the magazines are looking for.

  4. Susan, Just out of interest, is there a magazine you would recommend beginners start with? I suspect People’s Friend might be a bit advanced for beginners? What are your thoughts?

  5. Hi Nicola,
    You’re right about the main magazines, you need to start with something like Scribble magazine. The owner sends out a free copy for the cost of a couple of stamps. Also, somewhere like emeraldwritingworkshops where Eddie Walsh runs short fiction competitions, and for a fee of a few stamps, he also offers a critique which could be helpful. Have a look at where they want short fiction connected to a drink. I have some stories published there. Debz Hobbs is most helpful. Also, Maureen Vincent Northam, who is an editor is helpful as well. If you contact them, say Sue Jones spoke of them. Not that I am so important you understand, just that they will know you’ve found them via someone who has used their editing services, and knows how helpful they are. Good luck with your fiction Nicola.

    • Susan, love your new profile picture – beautiful. Thanks so much for all the advice you have left here. I can only apologise for my delay in responding as I have just got back from holiday and am overwhelmed with a post-holiday backlog! Your advice is greatly appreciated and I will be using it once I am confident enough and have enough time. Hope you are well x

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