On the Fiction team, we have what’s known as a weekly story mix.
We find seven short stories for each issue of the magazine, matching the current required story lengths (1 x 1200 words, 3 x 1800, 1 x 2000, 1 x 3000 and our “opener” story, which falls into the 2700 – 3000 word range).
The selection for our Specials differs somewhat from the weekly — particularly thanks to the inclusion of the longest story length at 4000 words.
But I want to use the weekly story mix to illustrate the types of stories we look for.
Alongside stories of the right length, we look for a mix of genres. Period, contemporary, young romance, mature romance, junior and family are common categories.
We don’t have to tick all the genre boxes, so long as there is a wide range in the stories chosen.
We also make sure to include a variety of writers and illustrators. It wouldn’t look natural if an entire issue consisted of one or two names, after all.
We’re helped out here by the fact that some writers specialise in genres and, quite often, story lengths, too.
Our weekly story mix will depend on the season a story is set in, too.
Another thing we have to consider is the story’s subject matter.
We could have two romance stories at different lengths — one period, one contemporary — but if they are both about planning for an upcoming wedding, then that’s a plot clash we’d avoid.
Our illustrations will help determine the types of stories for a particular issue.
Too many single characters will be an obvious clash, as will too many illustrations featuring specific animals.
Also, regular readers of the magazine will notice that we balance traditional artwork with a more modern style.
Our “openers” tend to have strong, eye-catching illustrations attached to them, as it’s the first story a reader will see.
We also have, of course, two serials and two series running in each issue. Though they will stand alone from the short stories, they will still have a bearing on how the mix looks week to week.
We put a lot of thought into each week’s story mix, and we hope you enjoy our choices just as much as we do!
Inspired to put your story in the mix? Then click here to take a look at our submission guidelines.
You can take a look at the stories included in each issue in our “This Week’s Issue” section.