Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Take a Break - Submission Guidelines

I've been busy this past few days,so haven't really written anything, so thought I would post these guidelines for any fellow short story writers. I emailed the women's magazine Take a Break last week, querying short story submissions and whether they take unsolicited mail. The response arrived today, that they did and the below are guidelines for the stories and submission. I hope you find this helpful.


Basic requirements: We are looking for contemporary stories aimed at women from their mid-twenties upwards. We require about 1000 words (N.B. Please note reduction from max of 1100 words) with a strong plot and a good twist in the tail. We do not have a weekly serial, so stories must be complete in themselves. It is highly unusual for us to buy stories written in the first person (I), we prefer third person narratives, (He/she).

N.B N.B. N.B !!!!!!

The twist MUST arise out of the plot, rather than simply turn on a detail, which the characters know but is deliberately kept hidden from the reader in order to mislead:
To check your twist is a genuine twist - not simply a deception - imagine your story were being made into a film and ask yourself - would the surprise still work? If it wouldn't, I'm afraid it's not for us.

Subject matter: We particularly like settings and situations which readers can recognise and relate to, rather than say, country house murders or stories about drugs’ rings or jewel thieves. It's essential to read several issues of the magazine to get the flavour of the type of fiction we publish before writing a story aimed at Take a Break. Many writers waste a lot of time and effort because they haven't done this. Please avoid straightforward romance i.e. boy meets girl and they live happily ever after. Also avoid historical backgrounds, science fiction and stories narrated by animals or small children. Take a Break is a family magazine so graphic murders etc. are not acceptable.

Common plots to avoid: UPDATED

* The heroine/narrator is revealed to be a cat, dog, fox, or whatever! This is a complete no-no.
* The victim of a rip-off tradesman or horrible motorist etc. turns out to be his or her new
boss/emergency dentist/VAT inspector.
* The policeman/woman is really a strippagram/singing telegram.
* The woman discovers her husband's secret lover is a man (or man discovers wife's lover is a woman).
* A husband/wife's mysterious arrangements turn out to be for a surprise gift/party - not an affair.
* The character who sees 'ghosts' is actually one him/herself.
* A shifty antiques dealer or similar dupes an old lady out of what he thinks is a priceless antique and it
turns out she is making them by the dozen.
* Anything to do with twins.
* Someone nervous about a first day at school turns out to be the teacher; or about a wedding, turns
out to be the vicar; or an interview, the interviewer and so on.
* Anything to do with bumping off elderly relatives for the inheritance; in fact 'Wills' in general are best avoided.

Finally...no stereotypes please! It's all too easy to fall into the trap of having lazy husbands and put upon wives, battle-axe wives and put upon husbands, grumpy old people and their longsuffering relatives, lonely single mums and their matchmaking children… Stories about super-husbands and overly-cheery grannies can be equally dull.

Because many writers write to this type of brief, their stories become boring and perhaps a good
twist is wasted. Be open-minded about your characters but keep them real!!!!!!

Because our stories are so short, it can be confusing if you have too many characters. A maximum of four is usually best. The main character should always be a woman.

Stories must be your own idea and original work, previously unpublished, and not on offer to any other magazine or publisher at the time sent to us. Should your story be accepted we would probably have to edit it to conform to page length and style.

Presentation: No e-mail submissions or floppy disks please!
Typed manuscripts are quicker and easier to read, but if you can't get your story typed, write clearly in double line spacing.

Please ensure your name, address; e-mail address (if you have one), and telephone number are on each page of the manuscript as well as on any accompanying letter. An accompanying letter is not necessary. Please include a stamped address envelope large enough to hold your story. Self-seal envelopes are especially appreciated. It's advisable to keep a copy of your story to guard against the remote chance of loss.

Features and articles should be sent directly to the Features Department with a covering letter.
It can take 10-12 weeks before a decision is made concerning your manuscript, so please be patient. If your story has not been returned after 12 weeks, please drop me a line giving me the story title, a 2-line synopsis of the plot and the date sent. Include your phone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Should your story be rejected it can be for any number of reasons. Sometimes we have already published or have in stock a similar story. More likely though, I feel it will not appeal to our readers. This does not necessarily mean I will not like another of your stories, so please don't lose heart.

Payment: £400

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms
Stories sent for specific issues, such as Christmas, Easter, Halloween etc, must be sent at least three –four months in advance of issue date.


As Fiction Feast is a short story publication we can be very flexible about the length and type of fiction required. However, do read Fiction Feast every month to get the flavour of the magazine. Please note we rarely, if ever, publish stories written in the present tense. If writing with us in mind, please think carefully whether your story wouldn't work just as well in the past tense!

Please check the 'common plots to avoid' list (updated) above. Remember, too, that stories must be original, previously unpublished and complete in themselves. (Sorry, no serials) If you have good, strong 750 - 3,000 words, suitable for a family publication, I'd be delighted to consider it.

Presentation: as for Take a Break (see above)

Reading time: It can take 12 weeks for a decision to be made regarding your story. If you haven't had a verdict after 12 weeks, please drop me a line, giving me a brief synopsis of the plot, and date submitted. Include your telephone number (and e-mail address if poss.) and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Payment: which is generally on publication, depends on published length, starting at £200 for a single page.

Usage Terms: First British Serial Rights with extended usage only across all media platforms
If you have any specific queries about submitting stories to Take a Break or Fiction Feast, I will be happy to answer them. Please write to me, Norah McGrath, Fiction Editor, Take a Break 24-28 Oval Road, NW1 7DT.


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