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Feedback on the Magazine Survey

Putting together the results of the survey I did recently about the forthcoming Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine, I think I can safely say that we are pretty much all on the same page about what it should contain.

Around the top of the list in your minds and mine were things like informative and powerful articles which would have an impact on your writing, along with guest interviews, regular columns giving advice, tips and fresh insights, and of course plenty of evocative and well-written fiction.

Cartoons was a popular item as part of a 50/50 picture to text ratio. I don’t think anyone wants page after page of close text in a magazine of the kind and size I’m aiming for. How big will it be? Well, some of the best writers’ magazines out there have over 100 pages, and because this will be an e-magazine, there’s no real reason why it can’t be just as big. A lot will depend on how many contributions I get.

Obviously, content will be varied - story after story after story will not give it the flavour of a magazine, which is defined as a periodical publication containing articles and illustrations, often on a particular subject or aimed at a particular readership. It may or may not interest you to learn that the word ‘magazine’ comes from the late 16th century, from the French word magasin, which in turn comes from the Italian magazzino. But this goes further back to the Arabic word maḵzin or maḵzan which means ‘storehouse’, and comes from the word ḵazana ‘store up’. This definition was often used from the mid 17th century in the title of books providing information useful to particular groups of people. Not many people know that (said in Michael Caine’s voice).

I want to have a letters page, because all of you are good at writing; I want to have competitions, because most of you like winning. I need to have your anecdotes, funny and real; I need to have your news, with pictures - book signings, meetings you’ve been to, places you’ve visited as part of your research or general lifestyle. It may not be something that you’re aware of, but we have members all over the world, from Australia to India, from Nigeria to Canada, from Scotland to South America. We even have at least one member who doesn’t have a home but travels around as the whim takes him (hi Peter!) I want pictures of where you live; I want you to make others aware of who you are and what you’re doing.

One of the biggest items that came up in the survey was a need for a series of articles on how to get paid for your writing. This wouldn’t be just a list of where to submit your short stories - though there will be such a list too. No, what’s needed is a kind of ongoing course on how to get paid for doing writing as a living - writing for magazines, newspapers, businesses, and so forth. As you command, so shall it be. Such a series of articles would incorporate challenges for you, so you could carve out a career for yourself as you went along.

Ongoing fiction serials were another popular suggestion. You know the kind of thing - short chapters which end with a ‘What will happen next?’ cliffhanger, which of course prompt you to get the next issue.

Text deconstructions, story analyses and advice from experts was another hugely popular item. I will certainly do this, as I love to examine stories to see what makes them work. If you want to send me excerpts from your own works in progress and have me pick them to pieces publicly - constructively and politely, of course - then start emailing me now. But please keep them short! I probably won’t have time to wade through a 300,000 word family saga set on the planet Neptune, at least not this year. (At least one person out there read that and thought, 'Hmmm, a 300,000 word family saga set on the planet Neptune? there's an idea...')

I'll include technical issues like tips on grammar, punctuation, syntax, and so on. I might also include a Frequently Asked Questions column to deal with… well, frequently asked questions, including perhaps the question 'Will there be a Frequently Asked Questions column?' This will include things like common writing mistakes people make, ways to improve writing that isn’t patronising or hackneyed, etc.

Of course there’ll be a column on marketing. ('Thank goodness!' sigh 327 people...)

Thought-provoking short stories will appear, of various genres, accompanied by startling artwork. Some of you were kind enough to request more drawings from me, but we will have to see what time permits.

Features on how to get started submitting short stories, the difference between paid and unpaid markets etc — over time, such articles would add up to a ‘how to get started in short story publishing’ information source.

Writing prompts was another suggestion, along with author insights, crosswords, snippets from your books, snippets from my books, and much more. You will be permitted and encouraged to advertise in the magazine and some extremely reasonable ad rates have been laid out elsewhere.

All of this will become accessible to you soon. I just wanted you to know that we all seemed to be wanting much the same kind of thing. As someone said, we need ‘a sense of community, fun and laughter’ which doesn’t depend on social media and which is also incredibly useful to us.

I hope you agree.

Stand by for further announcements soon!

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