Friday, 29 January 2016

The January Sales

It's sooooo cold outside!
Christmas is long behind us, it’s dark and cold outside, and life’s feeling a bit flat.  Just the time of year when we all need a bit of a boost; something to cheer us up. And that’s where, for many of us, the January sales come in! Seeking out a bargain, sprucing up our wardrobes, doing something that’s fun and makes us feel good about ourselves.
But, for me, January sales mean something entirely different. To any writer of magazine stories, sales mean only one thing – an editor has read one of the stories we’ve sent in, liked it, and said YES! We have sold a story and are going to get paid for it. And that is just as exciting as finding a new winter coat at half price, I can tell you!

I am very pleased to have made THREE story sales during January, each one of them penned months ago and pushed out of mind ever since. Believe me, it’s absolutely no use sitting around worrying about whether a story has yet reached the editor’s desk and if she’s going to like it. The work’s been done and the end result is out of our hands. All we can do is get on and write some more.

Here are the stories of my January sales, what inspired them and how they came to be written, although I’m not going to reveal which magazine has bought them or what they are currently called (Editors often change the title anyway!)

 1.     Last November, Paul and I had been heavily into house hunting. Estate agents were ringing up every day, and we were already on first name terms with a few of them. At the same time, we realised we would have to think about inheritance and make the necessary changes to our wills once we owned our first home together. Combine those two elements and what did I get? A young woman having to sell a house after the death of her grandmother. It gave me plenty of scope to introduce emotion, with the house 
Saying goodbye to the house
evoking treasured childhood memories, and my heroine having to say goodbye, not only to her Gran but to the house too. I knew from the start where this story would fit and wrote it very much with that specific magazine in mind. Luckily, the editor agreed, buying the story just two months after it was submitted. Although magazines contain many stories about family homes and country cottages being inherited by grandchildren, the new owner usually decides to relocate and move in. My ‘twist’, whereby she does not follow the conventional route but lets the house go, accepts the inevitability of change and moves on with her own life, is what the editor says made this story rise above the rest. And the hint of romance with the friendly estate agent, lifting the mood at the end, didn’t do any harm either!

 2.     The second story was a strange one. I started to write it in the New Year, with no idea of what it was about or how it would end. Sometimes that just happens, with an opening line or a random image leading me off into the unknown. By the time it was finished, it was too long for the magazine slot I had decided to aim for, so I had to do some serious cutting – not a bad thing when a story has rambled onto the page with so very little forward planning. By 9th January I had a 2000 word story about… well, so many things. Childhood memories (again), being a twin, having to wear second hand clothes, losing a friend and, years later, deciding to try to find her again. There were all kinds of influences from my own life mixed up in this story – a heroine of my own age, having twin daughters, remembering school life and friendships decades later (a friend’s ruby wedding party had helped with that one), and having to clear out cupboards but not always wanting to throw everything away. I liked this one. It had a feel-good factor by the end, and it was bought by the first editor to see it, just five days after it was submitted, which is pretty rare!

So many to choose from!
 3.     The third story was written purely for fun, way back in June. I like a bit of gentle humour, and this one was based on a family game. You know the kind of thing we all play with our kids – Can you name a fruit or vegetable whose name starts with each letter of the alphabet in turn? What would you be called if you could have chosen your own name? If you were a car, what car would you be, and why? For the game in my story, I chose biscuits. If you could be a biscuit… Well, I love a good choc chip cookie, and I’m quite partial to fig rolls too, which I know are not everyone’s cup of tea. So, we have a group of young boys gathered for a birthday celebration, a harassed single mum and a gran helping out, all sitting together and playing the game, with some interesting results. But humour is a very subjective thing. It’s not always to everybody’s taste. The first magazine didn’t like it at all. ‘Sweet, but with no surprises’ was the verdict after a four month wait for a response. Yet, editor number two loved it – ‘a smashing idea’ she said, ‘and I loved the ending’. So this one has been seven months in the making, and it will probably be another couple before it is published. Patience really is the name of the game… unless it’s one about biscuits, of course!