Sunday, 1 November 2015

Writing for Magazines - Guest Post Leonora Francis


Leonora Francis is a name you will recognise if you are a reader of women's magazines. She started writing the year before me and we have followed similar paths - from short stories to serials. I though it would be interesting to find out more about this magazine writer's writing life.

How long have you been writing and what made you start?

This is a true story. I wrote a book in my late twenties and received a lovely rejection letter from a publisher, with feedback, and they asked me to write another one. I should have, but didn’t. If only I knew then what I know now.

I didn’t put pen to paper again until four years ago. I was helping my daughter with an essay and it kick-started my love of writing. My son encouraged me to send my stories out to publishers. I did. And here I am.

Can you remember the first magazine story you sold and has your style changed since then?

I will never forget it. It was a humorous story about a granddaughter encouraging her granddad to give up smoking in exchange for removing her navel ring, which he hated. An acceptance was waiting for me from Shirley Blair at The People’s Friend when I returned home from work one day. That was in early 2011 but I didn’t really get to grips with writing until 2012. I learnt so much in those early days and I never gave up.

And yes, my writing style has changed. After that first acceptance, which I put down to the quirkiness of the story itself and not my style, I wrote many, many stories. They were all rejected. That is, until a kind editor at the People’s Friend personally contacted me by email. It was from him that I learnt about ‘voice’, which in turn helped me to engage with my characters. There are only so many themes that you can write about and I believe the story is almost secondary to characterisation. I thank my editor for bringing this to my attention.

How do you keep track of all your submissions, rejections and acceptances?

I have a lovely spreadsheet and use pretty colours for acceptances and rejections. More importantly, there’s also a short section to add a few words as to why the story was rejected. In the early days I used that section as a learning tool. I still do!

Briefly describe a typical writing day?

I’m brightest in the morning and write in bed. Yes, in bed, with my laptop on my knees! I exit my bed at about mid-day to start editing. I don’t edit in bed. I find some other room in the house and always edit on a paper copy. Don’t ask me why. I try to finish at about 3 o’clock, but if a story has gripped me, I can write into the early hours of the morning, which drives my husband mad.


What made you move from short stories to writing serials?

My stories were getting longer and developing into these huge dramas, especially the period ones. In late 2013 I received emails from both PF and WW asking if I would like to attempt a serial for them. I was excited and rushed into it without thinking. Fortunately, my first serial for Woman’s Weekly, Amos Browne, made the grade. My attempt for PF was a disaster.

Do you have any bad writing habits?

I don’t plan, so I have no idea what’s going to happen in any of my stories until just before I type, ‘The End’. It can be costly. More than once I’ve reached part 3 of a serial and got stuck. I’ve had to abandon a few because of it. I also have an obsession with commas and exclamation marks, but I don’t think I’m alone in that!

If you could write in only one genre what would it be?

It would have to be Sci-Fi or Fantasy. Andre Norton books were my first love and I’m just about to finish reading book 3 in the Tawny Man Trilogy by Robin Hobb. The only downside with writing Sci-Fi or Fantasy is that your memory has to be pretty good otherwise you’d have to constantly check your notes. You’d also have to have a fairly good understanding of all the technical/science stuff. I’m not sure I can write one until I try. 

Do you write in the same genre that you enjoy reading?

Before I started writing seriously I didn’t read much in the way of crime or romance. When I think of an idea for a story I rarely have romance in mind. My stories seem to turn into romances as soon as a strong male character walks on stage. As for crime serials, I concentrate less on the actual crime and more on character development. One day someone is going to clock that the crime itself doesn’t quite ring true or that it would have been impossible for the perpetrator to have ‘done it’! Seriously though, writing outside your comfort zone can be so much fun.

What are your future writing plans?

I won’t give up trying to write a serial for The People’s Friend. (My mother would be overjoyed! So would I!) After that, I’d like to attempt that Sci-Fi novel. I’ve got an idea forming, but it needs a lot more development before I crawl into bed, open my laptop and start typing. Saying that, I’m not sure I’ll ever abandon short stories because adore writing them.


Leonora Francis was born in Leicester and now lives in South London. She’s had over a hundred and twenty stories published in women’s magazines, and is currently writing her sixth serial for Woman’s Weekly. Leonora thinks she’s normal but her friends say she’s eccentric. Sometimes she has to agree with them.

You can find out more about Leonora on Facebook 




68 comments:

  1. Lovely interview Wendy and Leonora. There is something very special about your stories and serials, Leonora and I'm so pleased that you're working on a new serial.
    I hope you do write that Sci-Fi novel one day xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leonora is always wonderfully supportive of others too (like you, Teresa). It's lovely to be able to showcase her on my blog.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your kind comments, Teresa and thank you for having me, Wendy. Sorry I'm late, but I couldn't resist watching the first of the classic cars come by this morning. It's the London to Brighton Classic car race today!

      Delete
  2. I enjoyed this interview too - thanks Wendy and Leonora. Leonora, yours is certainly a name I OFTEN see in the women's mags, so it's great to learn more about you. I love it that you write in bed!! (Marian Keyes does that too! Maybe I should start...?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha. Funny how the 'writing in bed' part was the bit I homed in on too, Helen! Morning is the best time for my own writing so maybe I should try it.

      Delete
    2. I didn't know Marian Keyes wrote in bed, too! It's so cosy, Helen x

      Delete
  3. That's a lovely interview with Leonora, Wendy. I would love to have a go at writing for magazines but still lack the courage to have a go! Reading Leonora's story was very inspiring, so thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie - how can you say that after publishing your novels? Now that is what I call brave!

      Delete
    2. Oh thank you! I know it seems mad but short stories still confound me. As you know, there's a real art to them and I don't know if I've quite mastered it yet...I really want to though!

      Delete
    3. You will achieve our short story writing goal if your persevere, Julie. I'm not saying that they're easy, but the more you write them, the better they'll get. There are lots of sites where you can get support, if needs be. (Secretly, I'm envious of writers who have written full-length novels!)

      Delete
    4. Isn't that always the way, Leonora?! We always want what we don't yet have. Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. I will keep trying :) Good luck with your novel too!

      Delete
  4. I've enjoyed lots of your stories, Leonora. I'm sure you'll crack that People's Friend serial one day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure she will too, Jianne.

      Delete
    2. I really do hope so, Joanne. It would be like a dream come true.

      I'm so pleased that you have so much faith in me, Wendy. Thank you x

      Delete
  5. Really interesting interview, Leonora - and prove once again, of how helpful PF editors are to writers xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are excellent, Samantha - almost like having your own tutor!

      Delete
  6. Great interview. Good idea about having a section on the spreadsheet for comments about the stories to help with improving. Might add that to mine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Julie. When I found I had three or four similar comments for rejection in a row, I knew that it was time to change the type of stories I was writing. It really helped.

      Delete
    2. I've never done that - it is a good idea.

      Delete
  7. Lovely interview!
    Edwina, I remember that story about the navel ring and smoking grandad (didn't remember it was a Leonora Francis one, though).
    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it nice when a story is remembered. Thanks for popping over, Pat.

      Delete
  8. So I've "known" you and loved your stories longer than I realised!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fabulous interview Leonora and Wendy. Keep on trying with the PF serial and you'll get there. My third attempt got accepted and is nearly finished.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, well done, Kate. You've given me hope! Serials are challenging to write, aren't they. But, at the same time they are so, so satisfying.

      Delete
    2. Hurry up and finish it, Kate. Then we can all enjoy it.

      Delete
  10. I've seen the name loads of times and its nice to be able to put a face to it now. Thanks, Leonora and Wendy. Good luck with the sci-fi. Great interview.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Keith :)

      Delete
  11. Lovely interview, Wendy and Leonora. I'm with you on the not-planning, Leonora. I just can't plan, and when I try it comes out way too contrived. It's time-consuming but that's how it is.
    Now get on with the sci-fi novel and PF serial but try not to get them mixed up!
    Rebecca Holmes/Lilian B

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That made me laugh, Lilian. I'll try my best not to mix them up x

      Delete
    2. And yes, I really can't plan. You've clearly put into words what happens to me when I try to write to a plan.

      Delete
    3. I don't plan my stories either, Lilian.

      Delete
  12. Hi, Wendy and Leonora, lovely name, and I remember Amos Browne, he was a man on a bench, wasn't he from Jamaica if I'm remembering correctly? Your stories always stand out as having lots of colour and fabulous characters. They're really special, and it's only a matter of time until P.F. snap up one of your serial ideas. Keep writing, as your stories are unique. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Suzanne. Oh, so remember Amos? In my head he was quite a hunk, but he had a job to do and I couldn't dwell on him for too long. Thank you so much for your kind comments x

      Delete
    2. Thanks for popping over to comment, Susan.

      Delete
  13. What a lovely interview. I love all Leonora's stories and her distinctive voice and style. As for her great characters, I liked Jeremiah and Maggie from the story 'Jeremiah Jones' so much that I've begged her to do a follow-up because I want to know what happened next.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes Jacula, and I've put it in my diary or early next year. It should be quite interesting to write. Lots of drama and quite a few tears as they adjust to a different life. Thanks x

      Delete
    2. Oh, I'm so glad to hear you're going to do it. I can't wait to catch-up with them in their new life. xx

      Delete
  14. Really enjoyed this interview. Thank you, Leonara and Wendy. Good to hear the ups and the downs of a writer's career. Why not try a Sci-fi short story first, Leonara and have some fun. Go for it :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy, I never thought of that. What a good idea. I think I'll research the market over the next few days. Thank you x

      Delete
    2. I think Leonora should try the sci-fi too - definitely.

      Delete
  15. I find it really funny that you say you had to learn about voice, Leonora, because I have always thought that is your best quality - you have such an individual voice! The plots are often quirky too, but I first really picked out your stories because of the voice - and if I see your name in the index, I'd always turn to have a look at your story first.
    Thanks Wendy - it was good to hear from Leonora.
    Kate Hardstaff

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, but when I began writing for the magazines I wrote what I thought they wanted until the editor at PF encouraged me to 'just write'. That's when I actually began to find my voice. If it ended up as a gentle story, I'd send it to PF. If it was more quirky, I'd send it to WW. It honestly did take a while to find my writing style. So, thank you Kate for your very kind comments, and I'm glad that you like my voice.

      Delete
    2. Leonora's a hugely popular writer, isn't she, Kate, and I'm really pleased to hear someone else reiterate what I always say... to write what you love, not what you think what a magazine wants. I agree with Leonora - it's the way I found my voice too.

      Delete
  16. A great interview, Leonora and Wendy. It was very interesting to read about your writing journey. Good luck with getting that serial accepted by PF and the Sci-Fi novel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jan. I won't give up on that PF serial, or my novel. They have almost become an obsession, lol x

      Delete
  17. A wonderful interview! Thank you for sharing Leonora. Lovely to learn a little more about you. What a fascinating journey. Wishing you continued success and fun with your writing.

    Thank you Wendy for such interesting questions! Have a great week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Nicola. Glad you found it interesting.

      Delete
    2. Thank you Nicola. I've really enjoyed being here.

      Delete
  18. Greta interview - thank you!
    My favourite bit? When you say,
    "Seriously though, writing outside your comfort zone can be so much fun."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooops...Great not Greta...

      Delete
    2. I think I might try this too, Jenny.

      Delete
  19. I was initially scared writing outside my comfort zone, Jenny. But now I love it, and it has opened up a new world of story ideas x

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great interview.

    To the 20 year old you, Leonora - oh no! You duffer. You should have listened to them!!!! Better late than never, eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hahaha! Yes indeed, Patsy.I was pretty arrogant in those days. Thought I knew everything, when I knew nothing!

      Delete
    2. Hindsight is a great thing isn't it, Patsy.

      Delete
  21. Great interview, and lovely to 'meet' you here, Leonora. I've really enjoyed your stories when I've come across them.

    ReplyDelete