Starting out: tips for new writing friends


So long since I wrote on this, I think a few moths flew out when I opened the page! Moved house and life took over, sorry.

Happy New Year. I hope 2018 has started happily and constructively for you. I’m doing ‘Dry Fortnight’ (I’m a realist), so mine has been marked by persistent grumpiness and a nagging craving for Waitrose’s Spanish Red.Other than effing Dry Fortnight, my only new year’s resolution was to spend a bit more time helping others, and extending my circle of writing friends. Earlier today I was writing an email to a friend of a friend who I met at a new year’s party – she’s just started putting pen to paper for the first time since school, and I promised to send her a few links that I’ve found useful over the past couple of years. It struck me it might help someone else who’s just starting out, so please feel free to share if you know someone who might benefit from a few tips to help them along the way (especially if they’re a woman living in the East Midlands!).

Till the next time,


Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is quite a good way to start, as we discussed, as it can take less time (not always) to write a piece under 1000/500/200/100 (the definitions differ from place to place), and the turnaround on submissions tends to be quicker. There’s a great article about writing flash fiction here, by a real master of this length of piece:

Once you have one or more pieces you’re happy with, here are some good places to submit:

If competitions appeal, I’d recommend the Ad Hoc fiction competition , which is a weekly free-to-enter comp, the prize for which is a free entry to the prestigious Bath Flash Fiction Award .

Be prepared for lots of rejection, as writing’s obviously such a subjective game and everyone gets it, but if you can put up with it, submitting to magazine is a really helpful way to elicit feedback/gauge how your writing’s progressing. Once you get your first publication, of course, it’s brilliant to see your name in print, and you’re on the way to building a writing ‘cv’.

It’s not on the list above but Salome magazine would be a great place to start, as they try to give feedback on all their submissions and are focussed on emerging women writers. If you follow them on Twitter (which is really useful for writing stuff generally – I’m on there at @turnerpen2paper if you want to pick up some good writing links from the people I follow and join the writing community), you’ll see when they are open for submissions, or otherwise wait for the website to be updated.

If you can, try and read a few stories from the publication you want to submit to before doing so, because they all have different styles, and you don’t want to get rejected unnecessarily. And do read the submission guidelines carefully, as they’re all different too!

Short Stories (broadly, 1000 words+)

When I started getting interested in writing short stories I got a lot out of listening to these masterclasses, where a famous writer reads from one of their stories and is then interviewed about the writing of it. The same site also has a good competition/magazine submission list.

These sites are great for writing submission opportunities generally:


I think I mentioned mentoring, and specifically the WoMentoring scheme, which is a fantastic free scheme for emerging women writers which partners them with established women authors/editors/agents to help their writing career develop. The precise offering depends on the individual – it might be a skype call and a review of a short story, for example – you find someone you like the sound of (and who is currently available), and apply to them.  Definitely worth checking out.

The Word Factory are another brilliant organisation with a mentoring scheme – it’s very competitive but amazing for those lucky enough to be selected (I keep trying!). The 2018 scheme application closes later this month:

If you are interested in mentoring and are happy to pay for it, there are other options. You can pay a fortune for the likes of The Literary Consultancy/Gold Dust to review your work, but a much better option might be the Highlands and Islands Short Story Association, who offer a £69 review of short stories up to 10,000 words I did this some time ago and found Clio Gray’s feedback really valuable – at least one of the stories she looked at went on to be published.


There are endless creative writing blogs, but if you’re interested in aspects of the craft of writing (plot development/point of view/story structure, etc), Emma Darwin, who teaches some of the top creative writing courses, has a fantastic site:  I think between this and the Thresholds site above, you can basically put together your own Creative Writing MA!


Mslexia magazine is a great source of articles/submission opportunities/competitions for women writers: . Many people I know also subscribe to Writers Forum , but I don’t myself (you could spend a fortune doing everything) – they sell it in WH Smiths etc if you want to grab a copy for a browse.

Writers’ Group

Finally, I’d really recommend joining a writers’ group if you can, as it’s a great source of free feedback and also a way to make writing friends – crucial as it’s a lonely game otherwise. Also check out Writing East Midlands, who run all sorts of cool stuff in the area and have good resources online. It looks like they do mentoring too.

Happy writing!

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