The Journey of a Woman’s Weekly Short Story – from arrival to publication

Last Friday I was lucky enough to be teaching at Woman’s Weekly’s offices in London with Fiction Editor, Gaynor Davies. Β While I was there, I thought it would be very interesting to find out exactly what happens to our stories when they arrive. So if you have ever wondered what happened to your manuscript after you posted it – here is the journey of a Woman’s Weekly Short Story.

Woman's Weekly

Step One. All manuscripts are logged in date order and put in this cupboard.

The Manuscript Cupboard

Step Two. They are sorted out and read. If you have been published by Woman’s Weekly before they will be read ‘in house’. If you have not they will be sent out to two very experienced readers who Gaynor says she trusts with her life.

Step Three. If your story is a near miss or a possible it will be sent back to Clare for a second read.

Step Four. If Clare likes it, she will pass it to Gaynor Davies, fiction editor.

Step Five. If Gaynor likes it she will pass it to Diane Kenwood, the editor for a final read/approval. Which is hopefully followed by a yes.

Step Six. If it’s a yes, Clare will contact you by phone or email to tell you the good news.

Of course, a ‘no’ can happen at any stage of this process. Β If it’s a ‘no’, you will have an email from Maureen Street. Β Now it has been rumoured that Maureen Street doesn’t exist. That she is just the pseudonym or ‘fall guy’ if you like – the made-up person who sends the rejections. Β I can confirm she does exist and she is a very very nice lady. Here she is with Gaynor.

Gaynor Davies (left) Maureen Street (right)

And here are the two desks where so many decisions regarding the fate of our stories are made πŸ™‚

So now you know!

 

Gaynor's desk (closest) Maureen's desk (by window)

Gaynor's desk (closest) Maureen's desk (by window)

 

 

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39 Responses to The Journey of a Woman’s Weekly Short Story – from arrival to publication

  1. Audrey Pembroke says:

    Thank you for that encouraging information. Della Galton’s talk last Tuesday has inspired me to give short stories another go. Guidelines would be very welcome.
    Audrey Pembroke

  2. Eeek – the name ‘Maureen Street’ strikes terror into my heart (sorry Maureen…) because when I get an email from her it means REJECTION!! But it’s nice to see her ‘in the flesh’ because I believe in facing one’s fears! Thanks for a really interesting post, Della. I always wondered what happened to my manuscripts and the fact that they have to go through sooooo many people makes me actually, quite chirpy, to think that some of them actually got accepted!

  3. Patsy says:

    I didn’t think Maureen was real – mostly because I didn’t like the idea of there being a person who could make all our hearts sink just because we’ve seen her name. Nothing personal of course! Still getting a reject is better than not hearing anything. I’ll try to think of her as being the person who lets me know I can try rewriting the story for another market, rather than being the one saying no.

    I agree with Helen that it’s actually kind of nice that so many people like the accepted stories.

    • Della Galton says:

      Patsy and Helen – yes Maureen’s name always strikes terror into my heart too but she is really really nice. I shall see her name in quite a different light now. And yes it is heartening to know just how hard it is to get published these days.

  4. Simon Whaley says:

    Lovely to see ‘behind the scenes’ and to see some real faces too. Having a clearer understanding of the process our stories go through is brilliant. I wish you’d taken a photo of behind the cupboard though – I think one of my submissions has fallen down the back of it!

    So, which fiction editor’s desk are you visiting next week? I can see a whole new series of blog postings now πŸ˜‰

    • Della Galton says:

      Tee hee, Simon, it would have been tricky to get behind that cupboard. As there was a wall there so yours is definitely in there somewhere, along with half a dozen of mine. I think Gaynor thought I was crackers when I said I wanted to photograph the manuscript cupboard – and which one was it !
      Hmmm a series on Fiction Editors’ desks – what a fine plan πŸ™‚

  5. Wendy Clarke says:

    Oh, fascinating! Thanks, Della. Poor Maureen – I always think her job must be akin to a tax inspector or a traffic warden… someone has to impart the bad news! I’m sure she is lovely, though and she’s has always been very nice when I’ve had to email her.

  6. Thanks a lot for sharing this, Della – it’s also a reality check about how many stages they go through!

  7. Hi Della

    Thanks so much for the behind the scenes insight. You were so right to take a picture of that cupboard. Now I know where my stories are sleeping!

    Linda

  8. Beatrice Charles says:

    Thank you for sharing this insight into the mysteries of WW’s fiction desk selection process. Fascinating and humbling.

  9. Della Galton says:

    I knew you guys would be as fascinated as I was. I think it’s because we put our heart and souls into our writing and our stories are like children and it’s nice to know what happens to them once they’ve gone off into the big bad world of publishing!

  10. Brendawen Thornber says:

    I got rejections by post because I haven’t been published by them before. I got a standard rejection letter with all the 20+ rejections so had no idea where I should improve them eg well worn story or not suitable or bad writing … I have stopped submitting because it seemed a waste of postage , paper and SAE envelopes.. A few words on the rejection would have helped point me in the right direction. I attended a writing workshop at Blue fin and Gaynor said the ideas I had were good, but were they good enough, or did my style or grammar skill let me down? I have had stories published in other mags in the past. It would be nice to have even 3 or 4 words of feedback.

    • Della Galton says:

      Interesting Brendawen – hard to know the answer to that. I seem to remember it took me ages to get in there and they weren’t the first mag I was published in either. But it can be a long haul getting an acceptance. I still get regularly rejected these days – or should that be given the opportunity to rewrite the stories for someone else!

    • Emma Green says:

      Yes I agree entirely, how on earth are we expected to improve or learn from our mistakes with no feedback, it wouldn’t hurt them or take much time just to jot a few words of advice down, that’s all we need really. A rejection from a job interview usually gives feedback to learn from for the next interview, it is only polite really to do this for people. Please ‘get with the times’ Womans Weekly and don’t be so mean to people that have put their heart and soul and a lot of time and effort in writing their stories.

  11. kath says:

    Wonder if Maureen knows she became a verb in one online writing group I belonged to. To say you’d been ‘maureened’ meant you needed to be offered tea and sympathy for the latest batch of rejections.

  12. Cara Cooper says:

    Fascinating stuff Della. Short story writing really is like giving birth isn’t it, and almost as gruelling. First as writers we conceive the idea, that cupboard is a bit like a dark womb where everything gets ‘cooked’ and finally the obstretrics team of editors get to work on bringing it out into the light (hopefully!) To my mind the ones that don’t come out into the light with Women’s Weekly may well find birth elsewhere, some shorts I’ve even managed to change into novellas, or tweaked and sold elsewhere. It’s all part of the creative process!

    • Della Galton says:

      very good metaphor Cara – no wonder you’re a writer. Yes, it’s true that what dosn’t suit one magazine may well suit another. I have found this to be true many times πŸ™‚

  13. Jill Stitson says:

    Brilliant, Della for giving us all the info. We all seem to agree that our hearts sink when we see poor Maureen’s name and skips a beat when we see Claire’s. I’m wondering where my last two stories are – probably in the cupboard! I am lucky and have had some stories published in Women’s Weekly but no luck for months now. As Cara Cooper says – try somewhere else if WW fail you. I recently had a story published in Australia! It was my favourite and written many years ago. I’m lucky enough to have Della as my tutor- about 13 years now! And she told me that that particular story deserved to be published so I never gave up on it. Back to WW. They really seem a very nice bunch though I’ve never seen them only had the emails which are always friendly.

  14. Tracy Fells says:

    What an interesting post, thanks for this, Della. Good to know Maureen is real and doing well despite all the bad thoughts that must be sent her way. I’m still waiting for that first call from Clare, but will keep trying!

  15. susan jones says:

    Thanks Della, so that’s where my stories lurk. I’ll always keep trying, it’s what we have to do. There’ll be someone else who wants our stories. I haven’t had a ‘Maureen’ yet. Only postal returns. (Sounds better that the r word eh?:)

  16. KH says:

    Thank, Della. I’m lucky enough to have had quite a few WW acceptances now so can email straight to Clare but would really like to know why they take so long to reject stories. Surely if it’s not for them the rejection should be quicker than the acceptances. Any thoughts?

    • Della Galton says:

      Hi KH and Jill – I would love to be able to answer this but as i don’t actually work for Woman’s Weekly – I confess I would only be guessing. I suspect though that it’s because of pressure of work. Let’s suppose they get 100 or so manuscripts a week – to read, which I think isn’t far off the mark. They have to read, choose, let the successful writers know and of course edit and proof read the stories for the actual magazine. This is all done to a deadline. I suspect that rejecting the stories they don’t want is lower on the priority list because it doesn’t have a deadline.
      I don’t know about you guys but I work for magazines who don’t send rejections at all – ever. So I have to guess if they want my stories or not. I think they actually state in their guidelines – these other mags – not Woman’s Weekly – that if you don’t hear within six months you can assume your stories aren’t wanted.
      And I guess we all work for mags who sometimes reject after a year or more – or sometimes even accept after a year or more, don’t we πŸ™‚
      Top requirement on a writer’s CV is patience though isn’t it πŸ™‚

  17. JS says:

    I’m in the same boat as KH. Have had stories accepted but they do take a long time to reject. Any comments, Della?

  18. KH says:

    Thanks for getting back, Della. I can understand your thoughts on the slow rejection process. Personally, though, I’d rather be ‘Maureened’ quickly! Don’t know if you can answer this one Della but how do you ‘guess’ when a magazine doesn’t want your work? Thanks again. Good wishes. KH

    • Della Galton says:

      Hi again KH, this is very tricky. I don’t think you can tell, especially as some mags answer quickly and some very slowly. Wouldn’t it be good if we could all be editors for a day – then we could see how it works from the other side of the coin. Maybe a new PR opportunity for a mag!

  19. Kate Hardstaff says:

    Fabulous post, Della! Only a hopeful writer, sitting at a quiet desk somewhere, could understand the sheer delight of actually seeing a desk, a manuscript cupboard – and a real person behind an email! I’m so thrilled to see Maureen, even if – like everyone else – I don’t want her name in my inbox! Though, to be fair, she does also send out the very useful contributor’s letters …

  20. Tracy says:

    Thanks for letting us take a peek behind the scenes with you Della. I must confess that my mood slumps when I see an email from Maureen in my inbox. Poor lady to have to be the bearer of bad news every day. Great post though, thanks for taking time to photograph THE cupboard.

  21. Jan Baynham says:

    A really useful post, Della. So far I’ve only had postal returns too – am going to use that now rather than ‘rejection’, like Sue said in her post! πŸ˜‰ Will keep trying.

  22. Terry Tyler says:

    That was good, Della! I’ve never submitted a short story to a magazine, but it just occurred to me that they might like one I wrote last month – it’s through the eyes of an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Not a very jolly subject, but lots of people have said it’s spot on, so thanks for this; I wouldn’t have thought of trying if I hadn’t read it!

  23. Patricia Mallon says:

    I submitted a story on 1 Feb 2016 to Wm Weekly and have not heard since the post acknowledgement.
    Over 4 months on, I would like to know one way or the other if my 2000 word story is rejected. However I cannot trace an email number for Gaynor (or Maureen!). Any suggestions?
    and thanks, Della, for doing us all a service in painting a picture of “the journey of a story submission”.

  24. G.G. Jackman says:

    I am a published author and would like to know about your subscription requirements, please.
    I wrote many stories for you some years ago, and would now like to go back to writing short stories.

    Thank you.

    G.G. Jackman

    • Della Galton says:

      Hi GG. I’m not actually an employee of Woman’s Weekly. So you will need to ask them via their website. I’m sure they would be happy to send you current guidelines. Or you could check out Womagwriter.net. They also list guidelines for Woman’s Weekly and other mags. Good luck.

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