Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Advice for Aspiring Pocket Novelists

New year is traditionally a time to think about new projects and setting goals. If you've thought about writing a pocket novel for My Weekly or People's Friend, I discovered that all the pocket novelists who contribute to this blog agree: start with research. There is no substitute for reading a selection of pocket novels from each series to give you the best idea about what is required.

"I cracked the pocket novel market by reading a load of the current ones," says Cara Cooper. "Still, whenever I start on a new one, I read a couple more as even in the tight world of the pocket novel there are developments."

It is important to realise that writing pocket novels is a specific skill. "Don't think of it as an easy option," says Chrisse Loveday. "They are a genre in their own right."

"Respect the genre and respect the readership," agrees Sally Quilford. "It’s important to enjoy writing them. It’s noticeable that the couple I wrote that I struggled over was because I lost interest in the story or it didn’t work out as I’d hoped."

"Naturally you have to have read pocket novels to know the content and types of stories," adds Nolene Jenkinson. "But you also must have a certain level of story telling and writing ability before it's enough for an editor to consider your work."

If you think writing for pocket novels might be for you and want to give it a go, remember:
  • Both My Weekly Pocket Novels and People's Friend Pocket Novels are 50K in length
  • The series have different editors and so it worth checking for up to date guidelines before submitting
  • Pocket novels can be straightforward "boy meets girl" romances or they might be other stories that incorporate romance, e.g. dramas, mystery, suspense, family stories, rags to riches
  • Pocket novels must be excellent page turners with sympathetic characters and engaging plots. Study films and TV serials that you like and analyse what it is that makes you keep watching.
  • Violence should not be graphic and the bedroom door should remain shut
  • Having said that, kisses should be passionate and pulses should race with romantic tension
  • Contemporary stories as well as historical settings are acceptable but don't go too far back in historical times (my earliest-set one is The Smuggler Returns - see picture - set in 1795)
  • Stories can be set anywhere in the world
"A successful pocket novel needs a good plot and a gorgeous hero and heroine. The same as any other romance," points out Fay Cunningham.

If you decide to give it a go, good luck from all the Pocketeers, and let us know how you get on.


  1. Great advice, Kate, and even for those of us doing it, it's nice to get a reminder of what's important.

  2. I have been advised that my two pocket novels will be out tomorrow (Thursday). I'm not sure under which title but I wrote them as Heart Of The Matter - People's Friend no 696 and Second Time Around. I'll look for them in town tomorrow and if the details have changed, I'll post.

  3. Thanks for the very useful info, Kate. The new year is a great time to be taking all of these things on board as we continue with our writing.

  4. Hi all,

    Great to see the Pocketeers back again - and with such an inspiring post to get the creative juices flowing. Thanks everyone.

    And wow! Margaret...two pocket novels published in the same week. How good is that?

  5. Well done, Margaret. That will be my new challenge now. Get two pocket novels published in the same week!

  6. Chrissie speaking:
    Very good post Kate and thank you for taking such trouble to ask for thoughts and then quoting them. I think we're going from strength to strength and surely, doing somehting for the sales! And well done to Mrgaret ... I've managed two in the same month but never two at the same time. A positive takeover bid!

  7. Hi Cara here. Useful post Kate and what a lovely cover for your PN! I suppose the only other thing I would say is that PN readers want escapism. Although they want a 'safe' read with a happy ever after they do want to be taken to exotic places (and that could as easily be the hills of Wales as a Carribean paradise) and different worlds.

  8. Thanks Kate for this - it's really useful at the start of another writing year to be reminded of what we are aiming at. It's worth adding, for new writers who want to have a go at PNs, that the editors are really nice and will give good feedback if they think you have potential.