On 7 June I went to Southwark Street in London (near London Bridge) to a workshop by Woman's Weekly. I had recently had a story rejected by them so wanted to find out what they look for. Here is what I learnt.
They publish/write for all walks of life. The stories are information and entertainment but not shocking. They accept a variety of stories, but not horror with blood etc and no sex - has to be behind doors. Crime has to be done off stage if it is a crime story. Mystery/crime still has to have warmth, think cosy crime. Characters have encounters that changes lives. Characters have to have a problem. Don't get too attached to your story as you might decide to change things. The one question you should ask yourself, and what I now think when I want to write for them is Is this likely? If it's no, then the reader won't believe in it, if yes or could be, then reader will and they could accept it. This is why my story was rejected. It was magical realism and wasn't likely to happen in real life. Your story mustn't be too tame or predictable either. For weekly issue they accept stories of 1000 and 2000 words; for the specials they want anything up to 8000 words. Hurrah for me, as I like writing long short stories that length.
Room for experiements. Strong plots. Each part has to have a cliff hanger at end of it. Have authentic background (real life again). Don't let background be story. Fairly happy endings. Character is essential. Write their background so they can appear to behave consistently.
Style/language not too matter of fact. Not overwritten with too many words. Cross out too many adverbs eg like that. (I thought oh dear, I know I do that.) No repetition, stating the obvious. Don't sign post things.
Rejection - as I said above, has to be realistic for the reader to get lost in the story. If it isn't, you have lost that reader. Know your market. Write in your own voice. Be nosy.
We had an exercise next. Write an opener about a letter. I couldn't think what to write, then read the exercise sheet where it said think about what happens later in the story. So I did, remembered a story I had in mind to write and wrote the opener. We all had to read our exercise out. Gaynor Davies said they were all good.
I learnt that WW stories gets to dilemma in the first sentence.
That is all for now. Back again with more about serials etc next week.