Saturday, 30 March 2013

One day writing retreat

I bet the title of this post made you all sigh, and think: oh yes, that's just what I could do with...

Well, if you're within reach of Northamptonshire and free on 4th May, why not consider joining Helen Hunt and other writers on this retreat to be held in the inspiring surroundings of Delapre Abbey? The cost is just £35 which includes refreshments and various sessions - see here for more details.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Guest post - epublishing is easy!

I have a guest post for you today, from Sally Jenkins, on how easy it is to self publish an ebook on Kindle or Smashwords. Very timely for me - I am currently working on a little book I want to epublish soon, watch this space! So I'll be following up every link in this post; you can be sure of that. Sally makes it sound easy, and I hope it turns out that way. If anyone's got any further tips on epublishing, do add them in the comments below. I know many fellow writers who've epublished their pocket novels or short story anthologies. It's a good way of getting work out there! 

E-Publishing - It’s Easier than You Think!

Self-publishing used to be prohibitively expensive for most writers. The advent of the e-book has changed all that. It’s now possible to make your book available to a worldwide audience with absolutely no financial outlay.
But many of us are still shying away from this opportunity, assuming we lack the necessary technological skills to make it all happen. Recently I took the bull by the horns and had a go - it wasn’t as difficult as I thought! Here are a few pointers for those of you who may want to try e-publishing too:


Everything you need to know is in the Smashwords Style Guide, which can be downloaded for free.
Don’t be put off by the length of the Guide - much of it is background information or covers advanced techniques such as including images in a book. The only skills you need are a basic knowledge of Word.
The Guide specifically describes how to format a book that will be sold via Smashwords and doesn’t mention the Kindle but the same formatting rules work for both platforms. The Guide doesn’t include detailed instructions for recent editions of Word but if you get stuck just pop your question into Google to find a solution.

The Cover

I think this is the most difficult part and, without doubt, the best covers are produced by professionals. However, I didn’t want to spend money that I might not be able to recoup. I selected a free image from those available at (make sure you read the terms and conditions and include a credit for the photographer at the front of your book).
There are many software packages available for manipulating images and adding lettering for the book title and author name. I used GIMP, which is free to down load - if you get stuck with it, pop your question into Google. Keep it simple with clear lettering that is legible when the cover is reduced to thumbnail size
on Amazon.

Uploading to Amazon

Sign into your existing Amazon account (that you use to make purchases) and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Click on ‘Self-Publish with Us’. The process that follows is no more difficult than putting something for sale on EBay. At any point you can ‘Save as Draft’ - so you don’t have to publish until you’re ready.
Make sure you use the ‘Preview Your Book’ facility to check how your book will look on the Kindle.


This is the really tough bit! It’s easy to sell a certain number of copies to friends and family but it’s difficult to keep that initial momentum going. Encourage people to leave reviews if they’ve enjoyed your book and to click the ‘Like’ icon on the book’s Amazon page.

Set up an Amazon Author page and link back to your own website or blog so that readers can find out more about you. Finally, I’ve been told, and read, several times that the best way to sell more e-books is to write and publish more e-books, especially a series of books or novellas that will keep the reader coming back for more from their favourite character.

Good Luck!

Details of Sally’s e-books can be found at
Sally blogs about writing and related topics at

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The New Writer - relaunching

I used to subscribe to The New Writer. I bought it on and off for many years and only quite recently stopped subscribing, due to lack of time to read the magazine.

It's currently being relaunched, and I find myself itching to re-subscribe again. On the website here you can read 12 sample pages of the next issue, and they do look enticing. There are also some special offers if you subscribe or order the first issue ahead of relaunch - details on home page link above. You can even pay by Paypal.

Oh, to heck with it. I'll re-subscribe. Why not? It's a lovely looking magazine and if you fancy reading a different writing magazine than the ones available in WHSmith, I'd recommend this one. It's a UK mag but accepts overseas subscriptions too.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

How to Hunt Down an Agent

I know most readers of this blog are primarily short story writers, but many are also writing novels and therefore might one day need to find an agent to sell their novels. I'm currently deep into edits myself, and the day when I want to start hunting for an agent grows ever closer.

So how do you go about finding an agent who represents books in your genre, is actively looking for new writers, and is someone you feel you could work well with? Those who've been round this loop before are probably beginning to mutter about using The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook as a starting place, and reading agency websites, and about how long it all takes and how difficult it all is.

What if there was a one-stop shop website with a searchable database of all UK literary agents? One where you could put in search criteria such as genre, length of time as an agent, whether looking for more clients or not, number of clients currently on the books. A website with a bio of each agent, links to their websites, blogs and Twitter accounts, plus notes on their personal likes and dislikes? Wouldn't that be just fantastic?

I thought so, too. Especially after spending a pleasant hour or so yesterday browsing it. I've book-marked it, of course, as I think it'll come in very handy once I've got through editing my novel.

Oh, I guess you want me to share the link? OK, then, here you go:

It's brand new - only launched a couple of weeks ago. Its creators,  The Writers' Workshop, emailed all agencies in the country asking for bios etc for the website. Not every agent responded but it looks like the vast majority did, and the database contains hundreds of entries. You can even save your searches so if you are working through a long list of possibles, you will be able to come back to it.

You can 'try before you buy' by registering for free on the site. You'll then get 7 days to explore the site. After that you need to pay £12 for a year's subscription, or cancel. Alternatively, and this is really cool, take a look at this post on The Writers' Workshop blog where they are giving away 50 free full subscriptions in return for a blog post reviewing the site.

Given that books listing agents are almost as much as a subscription to the website, contain less info about each agent and tend to be out of date as soon as they've been published, I reckon AgentHunter will very quickly become the standard way to start your search for an agent.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Anthology - Call for submissions

Got any 2000-word stories on the theme of age? If so you might be interested in the following from ReadWave:


ReadWave, a new digital publishing platform, has joined with PageTurners, formerly part of Penguin India, to offer writers a fantastic opportunity to get published in their upcoming anthology, “Across the Ages”.

The theme of the anthology is ‘Age,’ especially focusing on cross-generational literature, how different age groups perceive each other, and how our own perspectives are changed by age.

Anyone can submit their story to the anthology for free. Just upload your submission at and add the hashtag #AcrossTheAges in the title of the story.

The word limit for short stories is 2,000 words. Poetry is also be accepted. The deadline for entries is the 1st April.

For more information contact:

Robert Tucker

Also from ReadWave - sign up for free short stories in your inbox each week:

ReadWave: Free Short Stories from Emerging Writers

ReadWave, a new platform which showcases the best stories from exciting new authors, has just announced that it will be giving away a free short story each week. Just sign up to ReadWave's Story of the Week, and get a fantastic short story from an up-and-coming author in your inbox every week.

If you would like to read more but don't have time for a full-length novel, then ReadWave is perfect for you. Every day, the ReadWave homepage is updated with brand new short stories from emerging writers to read for free. 

ReadWave is accessible on all mobile devices, so whether you’re sitting on the train or bored at work you can instantly dive into a great read. All stories on ReadWave are lovingly handpicked by a team of editors. Visit now and discover your next read. 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Guest Post - Things that Matter by Della Galton

Della Galton, Queen of Womags, has a new book out called Ice and a Slice. In this post she talks about issue-led fiction, and why she likes to write about big themes which are important to her. I've read Ice and a Slice, and my review of it follows Della's post. It's excellent - I highly recommend it! 

Things That Matter

I’ve often wondered how we choose what we write. Do we choose to write short stories or novels because we love them, or do we just drift into the form? And what about the subject matter? Why do we choose that?

The first short story I ever had published was called Second Chance, and it was published in a teenage confession magazine called Loving (I wish that magazine was still around, it was excellent)

Second Chance was set in a doctor’s surgery, and it was all about a teenager who was planning to have a termination – blimey, I don’t think I’d sell that story now – it’s quite a controversial issue, even today. But then I’ve always liked writing about controversial issues. I don’t have a copy of Second Chance any more but I can remember the last line, which went something like this.

Throughout her life she would give her baby many second chances, but none of them would be as important as the one she was giving him now…

The first novel I ever wrote was called Prisoners.

It was about a woman who works in a pet shop and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (her married boss). There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

If this sounds like an immense muddle, then that’s because it was. I’d had four or five short stories published when I wrote Prisoners. I thought writing a novel was simply a matter of writing 70,000 words.

Moving swiftly on, my first published novel, Passing Shadows, was about a woman who works in an animal sanctuary and falls in love with someone she shouldn’t (the father of her best friend’s child.) There are a few animal characters and they have a few nights out (the people, not the animals) and in the end the couple get it together.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it? So why did this novel work and Prisoners not work? Well, partly because I knew a bit more about what I was doing. I was passionate about the main characters, Maggie and Finn. Also, this novel had some strong themes, friendship and betrayal being two of them.

My latest novel, Ice and a Slice, also has some strong themes. It’s about friendship, beating the odds, and love.

It’s also about alcoholism, which is a theme I’ve explored in short stories too, but I wanted to take it further and the only way to do this was to write a novel.

The main character in Ice and a Slice, is called SJ, and she drinks too much, although she would argue until she was blue in the face about that! And if you don’t believe me, then do check out her Facebook page here or her Twitter account here, where she is surprisingly active!

So, why did I write about alcoholism? Well, as I said earlier I’m big on issues. I like writing about things that matter, and alcoholism is a subject very close to my heart. Many of my family suffer from it. Some of them are in recovery and some of them are not. And some have died needless premature deaths.

An alcoholic is not someone, as I once thought, who drinks meths on a park bench. Alcoholism is not a moral issue for weak minded people – it’s a disease that can affect anyone – it can strike doctors, lawyers, teachers, plumbers, vicars, secretaries, taxi drivers, anyone. It’s a disease of our time.

So, yes I feel passionate about alcoholism and that’s why I wrote Ice and a Slice. SJ – or Sarah-Jane Crosse to give her full name – is deeply flawed, but I love her to bits. I think she’s probably the most three dimensional character I’ve ever created. Hence, she has her own social media pages. Do check them out.

You’ll have more luck getting a sensible answer from her when she’s sober – so mornings are good!

And if you like what you see, do take a look at Ice and a Slice too – you can read a free sample or buy it for less than a glass of Chardonnay :) by clicking here.

Thanks for reading.
Della Galton x

Thanks Della - I always enjoy issue-led fiction. It means so much more!

In Ice and a Slice, SJ is aware she might possibly drink a bit too much but she's not admitting to the label 'alcoholic'. Her husband Tom is hardly ever around, and seems pretty unsupportive. SJ is estranged from her sister, after she slept with SJ's first husband, leading to the break-up of that marriage. Friend Tanya is doing what she can to help, but she has problems of her own that she must come to terms with. SJ plucks up the courage to see an addiction counsellor, the rather gorgeous Kit, and it is from then on that her life begins to change.

There's a really shocking scene at the start of this book, and then you get the back story showing what led up to those events. It's a real page-turner of a book. Although it is written in third person, you get so close to SJ that it feels like first person, and by the end, SJ seems like a friend. So it's lovely you can then interact with her on Twitter or Facebook - see Della's links above! 

This is a book with some serious messages, but it's written with warmth and humour, from the point of view of a character you really care about. Definitely one that's worth reading. You can buy it here.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Guest post

Here's a lovely guest post from a blog-reader who wants to remain anonymous, telling how she began writing and how an editor at People's Friend gave her the initial encouragement she needed to keep writing, keep submitting. I think we'll all relate to that - we can all remember the first praise for our writing that actually meant something.

Writing for Bill

‘A romantic complete story by ...’

It was 1995 and I can still so clearly remember sitting with a copy of the People’s Friend in my hands, looking at my name in print for the first time. It was a familiar enough tale of a girl who returns home to her childhood village, and falls in love. It’s often said that there are no new stories, just new ways of telling them, and my way obviously sparkled enough that day.

Like so many writers, I was the little girl who always wanted to write. The first time I went to a meeting of the Women Writers Network, it felt like attending an AA meeting. There was no internet then; I’d never met anyone else who admitted to this secret addiction and suddenly all around me were women saying quite openly that they wrote poetry, non-fiction, literary novels, short stories ...

So - “Hi, I’m Kate, I’ve always written. I can’t help myself. I have notebooks full of words. I had imaginary friends. I wrote diaries from the age of seven and two historical novels when I was a teenager ...”

Clearly I didn’t get out much. But how did I get from that girl who wrote in her bedroom to this point where I have a respectable stack of magazines containing my stories?

Well, I’m in the spare room now but over the years in between, I did venture out. I joined the Romantic Novelists Association and the Women Writers Network. They had speakers at each meeting – that was where I met Lynda O’Byrne, the fiction editor of Bella. I listened, I made detailed notes and I sold – she was lovely to work with.

I was helped by the fact that I worked for the BBC. I was only a PA and researcher, but it taught me about considering your audience and I learned how to write scripts – writing for radio has much in common with magazine work - the same need to connect and make an immediate impact in a very small number of words.

When I started, I studied the magazines consciously; now it’s automatic. I took the magazines apart, I read the letters, the adverts, the fashions – everything. After all, it’s the job of the magazine’s editors to know their readers, so I followed where they led. It sounds clinical but fiction for magazines treads a balanced path – you have to write from your heart, but there is no shame in writing for a brief. It’s a skill, a craft. The right number of words, the right sentence structure, the right themes – without those your work won’t sell. If they
ask for double quotes for speech, give them that – it’s professional.

For creativity, I do all the familiar things – I keep notebooks full of ideas and fragments that spark my interest. (NEVER delay in writing them down – ideas are skittish things that need capturing fast.) I read, I walk around muttering to myself searching for the end of a story. I have books of baby names – I can’t write a nameless character and I shudder if a sub changes them!

Most of all, though, I write for the magazines that I enjoy reading. There were years when my children were small and I couldn’t write, but I read the magazines every single week, specials too. I believe that, to write for a magazine, you have to understand its audience, but more than that, you have to empathise with it, you have to have affection for it and you have to respect it.

That is the case with all three of the magazines I have written for regularly. The People’s Friend, though, has a particular place in my heart because they were the first to buy that story. Even more so because Bill, the man on the fiction team who wrote me that first friendly acceptance letter passed away some years ago, but on my shelf here in the room where I write, in my box of special things, is a letter he wrote to me when he was ill. He generously told me I was a good writer and urged me to continue and every once in a while, when writer’s block overcomes me, I take out that letter. There have been many others over the years who have continued that process, but it was his encouragement and advice that started me off as a professional writer.

Thanks, Bill.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Guest post by David Hough

David Hough is a member of the writing class I attend weekly, run by Della Galton. I mentioned him in a post a couple of weeks ago - some of his novels are about to be republished by Cloudberry books.  In this post, David writes about the inspiration for one of his novels - which I've recently read and reviewed here. David's known in our class as someone who sits down to write a short story and ends up writing a novel, and here he explains why that is, and why he prefers to write long rather than short. I must admit, I've really got into novel writing these last couple of years as well. 

Why Am I A Novelist?

Ten years ago, when I was a very novice writer, I wrote a short story and entered it for a competition. The theme was a tale set around three meals. I had been reading a non-fiction book about life in the Amazon rain forest and set my story around three meals in a remote tribal village. It won second prize. In his critique, the adjudicator told me he was fascinated by the tribal people and he wanted to read more. What happened next? What became of the main characters?

Heartened by his assurance that I had created a credible tale of believable characters, I set about writing what happened next. Very quickly I was drawn into a much longer story, one that related what happened before those three meals as well as what happened afterwards. In fact I ended up with a full length novel. Ten years later it has just been re-released on Amazon Kindle as The Long Road to Sunrise.

In the process of writing that tale of rainforest life I discovered that I enjoyed creating the full novel much more than I enjoyed cobbling together the short story. I liked my characters more because I knew more about them. Inevitably, they were rounded characters whereas the short story showed only limited parts of their personalities. I think this was the point where I discovered that I preferred to write as a novellist, not a short story writer. Don't get me wrong; I have great respect for writers who can create a complete story with credible characters within the limits of a thousand words or so. I admire their work. But it isn't my forte. I need the broad canvas of a novel to say all I want to say, to tell the reader what happened next.

Today, I have had twenty novels published and I have enjoyed writing every one of them. You can read more about the experience on my web site: Each story is different – I have never found myself trapped in one genre – but each has allowed me to explore the lives of the main characters completely. Occasionally, I still write the odd short story as a way of keeping in with the writing group I meet with each week. But I have no illusions about being a competent short story writer. And that doesn’t worry me. Margaret Mitchell could never have written Gone With The Wind in the space of one thousand word. She needed the full scope of a lengthy novel to tell us how the Old South disappeared like a breath of wind, and how Scarlett O’Hara grew from a petulant youngster to a determined woman. A short story based on the same theme would have given us only one small aspect of the whole sweeping panorama she actually created. That’s what I like about novel writing. That’s why I class myself as a novelist.

And a very good novelist, I'd say. By the way, if anyone's ever wondered where the word 'blurb' came from, take a look at David's own blog here, where he explains the origin of the term. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Yellow Room competition

Just a quickie, to alert you to the Yellow Room competition, which closes on 31st March. Maximum 1000 words, no theme, entry fee £4 and top prize £100.

For full details see the website, linked above. Jo Derrick who owns, edits and publishes The Yellow Room and runs the competition works tirelessly to keep it all going so I hope you can support her. The writing world would be a duller place without people like Jo.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Guest Post by Sandra Pollard

Sandra Pollard is a English writer living in America who's had some success with My Weekly and other mags, and writes here about her inspiration for a forthcoming 'moment in time' story. Those can be the most difficult to get right, even though they're so short (just 700 words). Mind you, there are many of us who would be inspired by the sight she describes, ahem! 

Do take a look at Sandra's blog, which is mostly about whales. I'm delighted to hear she has a publisher interested in her whale book as well, and will keep an eye out for its publication. There's something about whales, isn't there - wonderful creatures you can't help but be fascinated by.

Over to Sandra: 

Just checking in…

I cannot claim to be a dedicated Womagwriter as I have written more articles than short stories for magazines such as Best of British, The Lady, People’s Friend, Dog’s Today and My Weekly. Occasionally, though, inspiration strikes and I hit lucky…

A 700-word story for My Weekly’s Coffee Break page titled ‘Sun, Sea and Surf’ was written while sitting in a cafĂ© (just like J K Rowling) overlooking a Cornish surfing beach where I grew up. I had a ‘moment in time’ as I watched a sleek, bronzed surfer saunter up the beach, dredging up memories of my teenage youth. I enjoy the challenge of the tight word count where every word does, literally, count – there’s no room for waffle.

It’s important to study the market and the magazine’s current guidelines. Note the different length, style, content and structure of the stories. As I live in North America I don’t have regular access to British magazines (I miss W H Smith), but I subscribe to My Weekly. Their guidelines are regularly updated, although they are still only accepting submissions from authors they have published before and only take one submission a month from each author.

I have another Coffee Break story coming out in My Weekly titled ‘Checking in’, which was triggered by the memory of an airport farewell. I’ve been so busy researching and writing a non-fiction book for the last year that I had forgotten about the story, so it came as quite a surprise when the lovely Liz Smith contacted me and asked if it was still for sale. Yes!

As for the book (have to give this a plug) I’ve almost finished ‘Whales for Sale’, a story of the killer whale capture era in Washington State from 1964-1976. This is a true tale of personal and corporate greed and the near decimation of a unique, iconic species (the southern resident killer whales), which is now on the endangered species list. Ever wonder how SeaWorld’s original ‘Shamu’ got her name, and where she came from? OK, so I’m not here to do a book blurb... I have a US publisher interested, and hope to have
some good news soon. For future updates, check out my blog

Happy writing, Womagwriters. I hope to join you again soon.