I promised Julie over at 'Julie's Quest' blog a while back that I'd join her in doing some research into the magazines I have trouble getting published in. Typically of me, I bought the magazines, read a few stories, for pleasure, and didn't get any further ... so I felt quite guilty when I read Julie's excellent post about 'Take a Break' (http://jlpwritersquest.blogspot.com/2009/12/take-break-research.html) - because 'Take a Break' is the magazine I most need to get to grips with, and what have I done? Nothing!! I'm really grateful to Julie and sure I will find her research very useful - I certainly hope so as I have never managed yet to get a story in TAB.
So to make up for it, I sat down last night with My Weekly's 'Bumper Issue' (No 5000) from 28 November, and did some proper research on the stories in that. Sadly, 'My Weekly' has become a closed door for many writers, since they recently decided to stop considering submissions from anyone who hasn't had a story published there before. I can only hope they'll change their minds again in due course; but I haven't found it an easy market to target recently anyway, although I have had stories published there in the past.
The first thing that struck me about the Bumper Issue was that, out of only four short stories and one serial, TWO short stories are 'Exclusives from best-selling authors'. So it does seem as though 'My Weekly' are concentrating their efforts on not just previously published writers, but very successful writers!
The second immediately obvious point is that, although this is only a 28 November issue, ALL the stories have Christmas themes. So the scope for Christmas stories, at least in this mag, is wider than I'd realised.
The two best-selling authors in this issue are Jacqueline Winspear and Rosie Harris, and their stories of course are both great.
Jacqueline Winspear's story, 'The Scent of Love', a one-pager with a full page illustration, is about a blind girl who spends Christmas with her family who find her disabilty difficult to deal with; but the person who understands her best (apart from her faithful guide-dog), is her driver ...
What struck me about this story was that it was written from the point of view of the dog, was told in the first person and the present tense. I like writing in the first person myself, and often in the present tense, but some of the other mags discourage both of these - as they also discourage stories told from an animal's viewpoint! So it was good to see that 'My Weekly' had no such qualms - at least, not where a bestselling author is concerned!
Rosie Harris's story, 'The Christmas Wallflower', a longer 3-page story, is about two sisters, illustrating their differences (one quiet and shy, one outgoing and confident), and how at a Christmas ball, the quiet one ends up getting the man, which was a nice satisfying ending, although not altogether unexpected! This is more traditionally written in third person and past tense.
There are two other short stories in this issue - and as per My Weekly's stated requirements, these fell into specific and labelled categories: the first a 'Twist in the Tale', the second a 'Coffee-Break Tale'.
The 'Twist' story, 'An Absolute Treasure', by Deborah White, is a two-pager and again, I was pleased to see that it has some unusual elements: It's told from a male point of view, and concerns a mixed-race relationship, with a baby given up for adoption before her parents marry.
The daughter then comes into their lives again by chance as an adult. A nice idea, presented really as a love story - and worth noting that 'My Weekly', unlike 'The People's Friend' for instance, isn't afraid of stories involving babies born out of wedlock!
The 'Coffee-Break tale' is 'Clowning Around' by Stella Whitelaw - a one-page quick read, again told from an unusual point of view - that of a child, whose parents are separated and who unwillingly has to play the part of a clown in the school Christmas play - but manages to make her parents smile.
The serial is a 'Christmas Murder Mystery' - called 'The Blue Rinse Brigade' by Douglas McPherson. This 4-page instalment is the first part, and is a good, lively read about some pensioners who decide to act as civilian volunteers to help the police. I've only ever tried writing serials a couple of times - many years ago! - so this isn't really my field but it seems a good market for those who do write them.
To sum up: for those of us still currently eligible to submit to 'My Weekly', I think it's still going to be a hard nut to crack, as they obviously seem to have their pick of well-known writers.
However, I was heartened to see the variety in these stories: particularly the different viewpoints being used, indicating that the editors are more interested in a good story than in sticking to any particular rules about tense, POV, etc - and that they're publishing stories with sensitive themes like the blind girl, and the mixed-race baby given up for adoption.
So all I need to do is come up with some new ideas, presented in an unusual way, make them into cracking good stories, fit them into one of My Weekly's standard categories - and I'll still probably get nowhere, but at least I might be giving myself a chance! Good luck to anyone else targeting My Weekly in 2010 - and let's hope their submission policy gets reversed soon, to give everyone else a fair chance.