Writing Tools: Seasons

We had the vernal equinox last week. The first day of spring was all over Twitter. The sun even shone for two consecutive days making us all quite giddy.

And yet this picture shouts autumn, doesn’t it? I’ve deliberately chosen a particularly autumnal picture for today’s Writers Tool to answer an oft-asked question. Just today Alan replied to a query about how far in advance of specific seasons or events writers should submit their work. The answer? Six months.

I know – it’s an awfully long time. But if I explain a little bit of our process you’ll see why.

We’re currently reading the January submissions from our regular writers. The unsolicited manuscripts are running just a bit behind that, but won’t be for long. It’s March just now, so you’re justified in thinking, that’s only two months – what’s the rush on autumn stories?

Next bit of explanation:

On March 21 last week, I selected all of the stories for Special 159 which goes on sale in June. That means those stories had been submitted, had sat in the reading queue, been read, been authorised for purchase, gone through the admin process, and been illustrated.

So, right now it’s March. For a June issue date. That’s almost three months of production time. Add in reading queue time of 12-16 weeks before it ever gets started on its production journey, and do you see how time dribbles on?


Take a specific example. Say you write a story for midsummer night, June 21. It arrives the first week of January. Sits in the queue for 12 weeks – 16 at busy times. Potentially, then, that’s already the end of March – and I’m already choosing those June Special stories…

Production of the weekly magazine does run to a shorter lead time, but even so, wouldn’t you rather be in with a chance of catching this summer rather than having the long wait till next?

That’s why we always advise submitting six months ahead of any specific date or season in your story.


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Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.