Writing short fiction for the women's magazine market is as much a craft as an art. It is possible for most people to write polished short stories with a little practice. Short fiction in women's magazines is normally around 700 to 1,000 words, but some specialist markets publish "flash fiction" of around 50 words. Writing good short fiction means making each word count as there is no room for unnecessary description or characters whose only task is to add colour.
- Skill level:
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Study a few issues of the magazine for which you wish to write. Read the fiction already published and take note of the length of the story, the types of characters and their ages, how many characters and what kind of situations they are in.
Gather your ideas by brainstorming, mind-mapping or making lists. Make a note of the plot points in the story, what happens when and what happens next. There is no need to write down every single event in the story. Include enough to roughly outline how the characters get from beginning to end.
Write the first draft by starting in the middle of the action, not writing a long preamble to get to the action. Put the reader directly in the middle of trouble to hook the reader's interest. Keep description to a minimum. Allow the reader to fill in some blanks from imagination.
Allow room for discovery in the story as you write the first draft. Fiction grows and develops as it progresses so it's OK to allow a story to digress from the outline if it seems important. Follow a new idea to see where it leads if it feels promising.
Allow the first draft to sit overnight or at least for a few hours. Read through it with an open mind, noting any areas you want to change or language that needs tightening. Examples of things that might need changing include adding or removing scenes for clarity, deleting anything that does not move the story forward or taking out unnecessary description to keep within the given word count.
Write a second draft, then repeat the waiting and revising process. How many drafts you need depends on how satisfied you are with your story. Fiction writing can sometimes take many drafts. At other times, the story needs only one draft. Be guided by your own instincts and the guidelines of the magazine.
Proofread the final draft for tiny errors of spelling or punctuation. Get a friend or colleague to read it for you if you don't trust your own eyes.
Tips and warnings
- Write the first draft quickly, without editing. Allow thoughts to stream and ideas to develop.
- Stories of fiction are not cast in stone. It is acceptable to change the beginning to match a new ending or to change anything in the middle if you get a better idea halfway through.
- Keep sentences and paragraphs short for modern women's magazines.
- Many women's magazines publish guidelines for writers, either online or available by contacting the magazine. Read guidelines closely when they are available to note the requirements.
- Keep strictly to word count and appropriate subject matter when writing for a women's magazine.
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