Monday, June 10, 2013

How to Write for Woman's Weekly: An All-day Workshop at the Blue Fin Building 7th June

I’ve been to quite a few writing workshops but none so targeted as last Friday’s. The Blue Fin Building in Southwark, home to IPC publishing, was imposing - all tight security, glass and light wood inside with a fantastic view of the skyline round the London Bridge area from the tenth floor canteen.  I nearly got lost when I got out of the lift at the 6th instead of the 10th floor, but was recalled in time to squeeze back in.
I enjoyed all of it. Friendly Gaynor Davies, Fiction Editor, talked anecdotally about changes in WW’s 100 year history, from the old ‘Pink and Blue Banner’ days. ‘In hard times for magazines, we are holding our own ‘. Funny stories included sexual restraint advice from an Edwardian Agony Aunt and a reader’s endorsement of Woman’s Weekly as a perfect cure for insomnia.
  A practical exercise in writing an attention-grabbing first paragraph showed how many inventive approaches could rise from a single prompt.

For me, the most useful talk was lively Suzanne Ahern’s explanation of how she wrote serials – 17 of them so far. Her approach was practical, spontaneous and confessional- in line with her character. She also supplied copious hand-outs. Dividing the 30 or so attendees into three groups to construct a three-part serial, complete with cliff-hangers, demonstrated the need for structure.
In the afternoon Laura Longrigg, from the MBA Literary agency, gave an overview of what publishers are looking for in women’s fiction. She responded, as well, to questions from workshop members. She regretted that the days of lavish parties were over and emphasised how important it was for agents to socialise and network because that’s how they could source the kind of writing they were looking for. Understandably, her approach was profit-driven – a reminder of what commercial fiction is about.


I came away inspired, carrying free back issues of the Fiction Special magazines.  I’d like to write for Woman’s Weekly because they pay well - £200 for a one-page 1000 word story and much more for a serial. The stories with a historical setting are entertaining and allow for a plausibly passive heroine in the way that modern stories don’t. The recently –emerging mystery stories interest me, too. I don’t like the all-too predictable romantic stories and family crises, in cosy settings, or fantasy boy-meets-girl-on-idyllic-holiday tales that make up the rest.  Ditto the many pet stories. It’s life, but not as I know it.

I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to write for women’s magazines – the workshop is scheduled to be repeated on future dates.


Patsy said...

It was a good day, wasn't it? Lovely to meet you, even though we didn't have much time to talk.

Sheila Cornelius said...

Yes, you were the other end of that very long table. Nice to meet you and Cara.

Cara Cooper said...

Hi - great blog Sheila. Yours is super too Patsy, the gardening one I really liked. We had far too little time to talk sadly, now we've met though perhaps we can organise a drink or something some time in London! I so enjoyed the workshop and keep thinking up stories but getting time to write them is another matter.....

Lindsay said...

I echo Patsy's comment. It would have been good if we could have all had lunch together roving around to chat a bit more!

Sheila Cornelius said...

Cara, glad you like the blog - I so agree about finding the time, and I'm semi-retired! London is too distracting.