Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau



Quality Women's Fiction - Contributors' Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in QWF. I have to point out at the outset that reading a set of guidelines is no substitute for reading at least one copy of the publication you wish to write for. I encourage potential contributors to subscribe to QWF, not because I'm mercenary, but because I feel it is the only way a writer can get a feel for the magazine and the kind of things I enjoy reading and seeing in print. All new writers should make an effort to support the independent press, otherwise this ever-shrinking market for short fiction will disappear completely. 

            There are differing opinions on what a short story is or should be. I am aiming to publish a predominantly literary collection, which will appeal to the intelligent female reader. QWF isn't a traditional 'women's story magazine' like The People's Friend.

            I agree with Graham Allen's opinions recently published in an article in The New Welsh Review. The short story writer, like any other, must have something to say. In QWF I hope that women writers can explore issues affecting women in particular, and show how women view the world.

            The short story form is probably one of the most difficult to master.  In her introduction to a volume of prize-winning short stories, Sarah Dunant puts it better than I ever could:

            For many years as a writer I was terrified of the short story. It seemed to me - and it still does in many ways - the toughest of literary acts. There’s no place for the writer to hide in a short story, no room for failure, for sloppy writing or muddled thought. For a short story to succeed it must have everything; an arresting opening, a strong governing idea or emotion, convincing characters, style and a great end. In short a novel. Or rather a short novel. Very short. As I say, a tough act. Hard to write. Easy to read. That’s another part of the trick.

            In the short story there should be an action or point of conflict, which culminates in a moment of insight. If possible the action should turn on specific qualities of character. I want to see character in action. Things are so because characters are so. A good short story writer will strengthen the narrative movement of the story by making plot and character indivisible. Ill-drawn, hollow characters make for an emptiness in the narrative, since the events belong to no one and both the readers and the characters remain uninvolved. A short story writer needs to be able to tug on the readers' emotions and appeal to their senses.

            I like a short story to have atmosphere. I want to be there; part of the scene. I want to be able to visualise the setting and to hear, see, and touch the things going on around me. A good writer will always be specific when describing people, places or objects. For example, 'He was reading a newspaper.' doesn't tell us as much about the person as 'He was reading The Guardian.'  Don't just say it's a 'red cup'. What sort of red? Deep crimson,

scarlet; there are several shades of red and I have to know to be able to visualise this cup.  'A tomato red cup' tells the reader so much more.

            This brings me on to imagery.  To effectively describe objects etc in as much detail as possible, it helps to liken them to other things.  Incorporating imagery into one's work makes it at once more arresting and memorable.  One image, which has stayed with me since I first read it a couple of years ago, appears in Sally Zigmond's story, ‘Dispossession’, published in QWF Issue 5.  Sally was describing a couple of Asian women walking down a suburban street and observed that, “the bright hems of their robes peep like shy brides from under drab, shapeless coats,”. One can visualise this so easily, and it is an image the reader can identify with immediately.

            A writer should be able to manipulate language to create colourful, vibrant prose and not be afraid to experiment.  Forget tired old clichés; the reader wants something new.  Most readers are in love with language and want to see it used to its best possible advantage.  Who likes to see their lover dressed in shabby, worn-out clothes every day?

            A short story should have texture.  As Graham Allen says, “The meaning of a short story could be expressed in all the manifold details of style, its imagery, symbolism - in short, its texture.”  If possible, form should reflect content.  A story's structure should reflect what it is the writer wants to say.  Structure can alter a story considerably, and again a writer shouldn't shy away from experimenting with a variety of sentence and paragraph construction.  One sentence paragraphs, for example, can pull the reader up sharp and create such an impact.

            A good short story writer uses subtlety and doesn't feel the need to hammer the point home.  What is left out is often just as important, if not more important, as what is included.  Leave something to the reader's imagination; credit your reader with intelligence.  Avoid the temptation of spelling everything out to the reader.  A reader's imagination will always fill in the gaps.  Give your reader food for thought.  Allow her to question and ponder what you've written.  A good short story is one you're sorry to finish and one which stays with you, always.  Make it memorable.  You have to hold the reader from the first line to the last.  Don't allow her attention to wander for a moment.


“To get published, you have to do what every writer in history has done. You have to sit for thousands of hours and hundreds of days in solitude. You have to read and write on a daily basis. You have to be utterly vulnerable on the page, and utterly ruthless in revision. To write something good, you have to want it so bad that nothing else matters.”

-         Chris Offutt interviewed in Writers Ask published by Glimmer Train Press, Inc (www.glimmertrain.com)

“A literary short story should have emotional depth and a level of truth reached. It contains, for example, astute observations about the emotional complexity of life, which we immediately recognise, and in recognising them, we become more involved with a character and gain insight into their life.”

-         Sue Lowings, 1999


Ø      Word count

Up to 4,500 for stories, up to 1,000 for articles/reviews

Ø      Submission times

September to May

Ø      Payment

£10 voucher per story, £5 voucher per article or review (on publication)

Ø      Manuscripts

must be double spaced

black ink on white paper

printed on one side only

don’t use faded ink cartridge or typewriter ribbon

12pt  or 14pt font (Arial or Times New Roman)

pages must be numbered and feature title of story and author’s name

stapled at top left

cover sheet with title of story, word count, author’s name, address, email and phone number

authors must state whether First British Serial Rights are offered

covering letter (be brief – don’t want CV or synopsis)

MSS must be mailed flat, using a large envelope

Don’t use Recorded Delivery

Don’t use folders, dressmaker pins, pieces of cardboard, reels of tape

Always include a large SAE with correct postage for return of MS

Don’t send submissions via email

Ø      Multiple submissions

No thank you! One story at a time!

Ø      Turnaround time

Usually a month, up to 6 months if workload is heavy

Ø      Rejection

Authors will receive feedback

Don’t resubmit a story if it’s been rejected

Ø      Acceptance

If your story is accepted for publication, it will be put on file for up to 18 months

If accepted, please send in story on formatted disk or as an email attachment

Please provide a suitable envelope if you want your disk returned

Please provide a biographical note

Don't be too disheartened if you receive a rejection.  Remember I accept very few stories per year in relation to the number sent in.  Keep trying to improve your work; read, read, read and practise your craft everyday.


QWF runs one short story competition per year, closing on 21st August, with at least £500 cash prizes.  We also offer an optional critique (not just tick boxes, but a full A4 page of in-depth notes and comments) on competition entries written by published writers).  The winning stories in the competition are published in QWF.

I'm only too happy to chat to aspiring writers and give them as much help as possible.  Please note that the address for QWF has changed.  We are now based in Rugby. You may also be interested in joining our lively email discussion forum (QWFF@yahoogroups.com) – a great place to network with other women writers. If so, please send your email address to Jo Good.

Good luck with your writing.

Jo Good


PO Box 1768


CV21 4ZA

Tel: 01788 334302    Fax: 01788 334702

Email: jo@qwfmagazine.co.uk   Website: http://www.qwfmagazine.co.uk