At a guess, you might well not have heard of Glenda Young. She is a lovely woman who lives in the north-east of England, has a great smile and a ready sense of humour.
She is also probably the most prolific fiction writer in these islands at this time.
Not only does Glenda have multi-book deals for writing series of both historical sagas and cosy crime, she also created and continues to write the weekly ‘soap’, Riverside, in the world’s longest-running weekly women’s magazine, The People’s Friend.
In addition, she contributes occasional short stories to various women’s magazines, and oversees a number of blogs related to Coronation Street, of which she is a lifelong fan.
I cannot imagine what her annual word count is, but I would be very surprised if any author, anywhere, is producing that amount of new material and getting it published.
Glenda is kind of my role model. Like her, I have found a great deal of encouragement via writing stories for popular women’s magazines, and this helped give me the confidence to try to write a full-length, contemporary thriller, and then another, and another.
I need to state that I had written novels before. I wrote two darkish comedy-dramas, Notes for the Next Time and The Undercover Mother, over a dozen years ago. They were well-received, but sales were less than hoped for and my publishing contract was not renewed.
I assumed that was it, I’d had my chance and my fiction-writing career had failed to flourish. Needing to earn a living, I went off, retrained in Children’s Care, Learning and Development and then in Playwork, which I loved, and worked in those fields for several years.
It was only because I was on sick leave following surgery that someone brought me a gift of popular women’s magazines to help me pass the time. I became intrigued by the fiction element and wondered who wrote those stories – was the content produced in-house or could anyone submit material?
I wrote and sent off three short stories, pretty much forgot all about them and returned to work. Had all three got nowhere, I probably wouldn’t have tried again, assuming that unsolicited fiction wasn’t wanted, or that my style wasn’t what fiction editors were after.
But one of the three sold. So I knew there was hope.
Managing a full-time, full-on job, further training, a family of teenagers and a home, I didn’t have a lot of time to write, but I did what I could. Some of what I submitted was declined – I once had twelve stories turned down in a single email; there were exceptional circumstances, but still… However, I learned as much from the rejections as from the successes and the ratio of hits to misses started to improve markedly.
I have heard some people speak dismissively of what are fondly known as the ‘womags’ – as though their fiction content is for the simple-minded or for people who aren’t clever enough to read actual books. I must disagree! Womag readers are a discerning bunch who expect and demand well-drawn, engaging characters, sharp, believable dialogue and a robust plot. Nothing flimsy, predictable or tired, please. And this is no place to try and flog off your apprentice pieces – only submit your best work.
If you are prepared to persist and to learn, the rewards are there to be reaped. You will see your work in print, often with original, bespoke artwork. You will forge relationships with editors who want to work with you more. You will be paid! (Not a fortune, but certainly not merely a token amount.) And you will develop as a writer. I know I have done. My first two novels, way-back, were diary-style musings with minimal dialogue. This was partly because the stories were very introspective in nature, but I suspect it was also partly because I had very little confidence about writing direct speech. Not any more. I’m not saying I’m Anne Enright, whom I heard on radio recently reading aloud a row she had composed – it was electric! But, after half a dozen successful short magazine stories I was definitely improving, and now I have no fear of it.
I have had about four hundred ‘womag’ stories accepted in the past four years, and if anyone suggested that I ‘churn them out’ I would be seriously offended. I have never ‘churned out’ anything in my life. I wouldn’t. I am fully committed to every piece I write, be it a gentle rom-com for The People’s Friend or a psychological thriller like my new one, Closing In, which I really hope you will rush out and read. (Christmas, an old flame, and a BIG secret!)
In each of the past three years I have produced a crime-thriller from scratch, plus written around a hundred magazine stories. I’m not quite up there with Glenda Young, or, indeed, in terms of greatness, with the incomparable Kate Atkinson, who also began her writing career with stories for the ‘womags’, believe it or not. But my recent experiences have made me productive and professional and, as a route into fiction writing, I would strongly recommend approaching women’s magazines.
Do bring to the project lots of fresh ideas about family and friendship, bomb-proof optimism to meet the inevitable rejections, patience when you have written a piece so that you let it rest instead of firing it off in a fit of excitement the minute it’s written, and more patience, because sometimes magazines take a while to let you know.
I absolutely love writing for the ‘womags’, and have no intention of giving it up, just because I now write novels, as well. They were doing ‘up-lit’ long before the recent fashion, and writing in that genre can hardly help putting a smile on your face.
(c) E.D. Thompson
Closing In by E.D. Thompson is published by Hachette Ireland.
About Closing In:
Caroline has a good life – a job she likes, a daughter she’d do anything for. In the midst of the Christmas rush, covering events and parties, the local journalist is looking forward to the holidays and having some quality time with the ones she loves.
But Caroline’s good life is not her only life.
When, out of the blue, she spots a frighteningly familiar figure in the crowd – a man she hasn’t laid eyes on in more than twenty years – she is jolted shockingly back to a secret past she’d hoped she’d put behind her forever.
As Christmas nudges closer and alarming events unfold, she feels him closing in on her. Caroline must come up with a plan to keep this man away from her family. But just how far will one woman go to protect a good life? And just how far will one man go to destroy it?
Order your copy online here.