Saturday, 6 February 2010

Writing a People's Friend Pocket Novel

For those writers who are more used to short stories, but want to write the longer fiction of a novel, a People’s Friend Pocket Novel might be a useful ‘go-between’. At 50,000 words, it is shorter than the normal 80,000 to 100,000 words of most mainstream novels.

But, given that short stories usually range from around 800 to 3,000 words, how easy is it to write a novel of this length? And is it any easier to be published in this way?

To find out some of the answers and learn from someone else’s experience, I put some questions to Gill Stewart, writing as Gillian Villiers, who has published two novellas with People’s Friend, Rachel’s Coming Home and Tomorrow’s Promise.

Gill’s novellas are a very good read with some excellent characterisation, and they are as multi-layered as any novel.

Why did you choose to write the novella length?

I started writing full length novels but after hearing someone from PF speak at a SAW conference I thought I'd like to have a try at writing for them. My first novella was written specifically for them, to their length, but the second one was a longer novel that I shortened. That was actually harder work!

Did you have to submit the whole story at once?

The first time I submitted the first 7,000 words. I had a very helpful reply suggesting some minor changes and encouraging me to finish the novella, but with no guarantee of accepting it. The second one I sent in complete, after I'd finished the changes.

Does the word count have to be exact?

People's Friend pocket novels are 50,000 which is nearly a full length novel! I think they will probably accept up to 1000 words over the limit. My Weekly Story Collection pocket novels are around 30,000 (maximum 32,000).

Can it be set in any period?

My Weekly SC do a mixture of contemporary and historical (mostly Regency I think) but People's Friend seem to be mostly contemporary.

Any other tips for writers wanting to try this route?

Read a few of the current publications. PF have a very specific style and they have some very particular 'NOs' including: NO serious illness, NO marital break up happening currently, NO sex, NO swearing. Stories must have warm, likeable characters, preferably be multi-generational, have a strong romance element and have a happy ending. Any 'bad' characters must be redeemed during the course of the story.

Thanks a lot, Gill, for this great insight into writing a People’s Friend Pocket Book. Perhaps some of us will be inspired to aim for this market.

I've found the following information given out at the RNA Conference in July. Send a synopsis and the first couple of chapters to: People's Friend Pocket Novels, DC Thomson & Co. Ltd, 80 Kingsway East, Dundee DD4 8SL.


Bill Kirton said...

Interesting as always, Rosemary and Gill. Problem is, my one attempt at romantic fiction many years ago was returned by Mills and Boone with a note saying my writing was 'competent' but not for them.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for leaving a comment, as always, Bill. I'm sure you're breaking your heart about M&B's comment! But they're another sort of romance all together...

Janice said...

An interesting and insightful interview with Gill. Thanks for posting it, ladies.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks for the kind comment, Janice!