Sunday 9 April 2017

Writing Pocket Novels - Guest Post Margaret Mounsdon

Have you ever fancied writing a pocket novel? Well, if you have, this week's lovely guest, Margaret Mounsdon will help you on your way. Over to you, Margaret.

My Weekly and People’s Friend Pocket Novels are a wonderful way to get published. You do not need an agent and the staff at D C Thomson are incredibly helpful and will suggest changes if they like your story so I would tell anyone to give them a go.

They require a synopsis and the first three chapters to get a feel of the story then if they like it, they will ask to see the rest. All details of where to send them are on the website. They are published fortnightly.

I have been writing pocket novels since I gave up my ‘proper’ job and I have to say I now have what I consider to be one of the best jobs in the world. It takes me about three months to complete a pocket novel but I often put them to one side then tweak them a week or so later. When you look at them with a fresh eye it’s amazing what you can do to improve your work.

My pocket novels are contemporary and modern. I like strong females with professional careers. I also love eccentric characters. I usually include a wide range of ages and different social backgrounds as I feel they reflect modern life.

You cannot waste words in a pocket novel. You must keep the action moving. You need a strong story with a theme e.g. ambition; dedication; family loyalty and a problem that has to be resolved in 42,000 words approx for People’s Friend and 50,000 My Weekly. The requirements do change from time to time so it is important to check before you send your manuscript off.

I have had divorced heroes, a heroine’s father who was a gambler, another father who was involved in a financial scandal. I had a heroine’s mother who had a nervous breakdown and another was wheelchair bound. I have confronted modern issues of bullying, shoplifting and some of my eccentric characters have led ‘artistic’ lives.

I get ideas for my novels from life. It helps if you’re a bit nosy like me as I do eavesdrop on conversations on buses and trains and the shops - anywhere there are people. I look at the Sunday supplements and cut out pictures that appeal me to me. I write character sketches and give them a star sign and generally build them a life. I am not very good at writing a synopsis because I don’t seem to stick to it. The story evolves once my fingers start hitting the keyboard. I have a general idea where I’m going but how I get there is generally a bit of a mystery. I know that’s not very helpful advice but it’s the way I do it. I’m not suggesting you adopt my methods because everyone makes their own rules.

My advice is to study the current market by reading as many pocket novels as you can then have a go at one yourself. The stories must reflect the ethos of the magazines something you will get a feel of if you do your market research.

On a personal level I had a varied professional career before I took up writing. I worked for a barrister in London, then as a bi-lingual secretary in Switzerland, France and Belgium. I then worked as a customer relations officer at Gatwick Airport, a marvelous breeding ground for human stories. Then I wound up in a nursing home for the elderly (on the front desk I hasten to add). Everyone bends the receptionist’s ear from staff, to visitors, residents and their relations. We even had a ghost. The house was built in the 1890’s and was also full of mystery so by the time I gave up the day job, my mind was teeming with ideas.

Everybody has led an interesting and varied life so if you get stuck for ideas I suggest you think about your own life. It may seem dull to you but things happen to all of us and if you draw on your own personal reserves it’s surprising what you can come up with. When you go on holiday take pictures, listen to the chatter over the dinner table, take in what the guides are saying. It is all excellent resource material – and free.

Once D C Thomson have published your pocket novels you are free to sell other rights – large print, ebook etc, but I would suggest you check the situation with them first. I always do in case anything has changed.

The large print books go into the library and once they get an ISBN number you can apply for Public Lending Rights, so over the years they can be a source of regular income.

Writing pocket novels has given me confidence as a writer, when people ask me how many books I have had published, it always gives me a thrill when I say thirty.

Good luck.

Details of my books are on my blog and I can be found on twitter @SwwjMargaret

Hungry For Love is available on amazon 

Festival Fever is out in large print on 1 April.


  1. Thank you, Margaret. Very informative and interesting post.

  2. Thank you, Margaret. Very informative and interesting post.

  3. Lucky you, Margaret. I love it when someone - anyone - feels they have 'the best job in the world.' Certainly your love of your writing comes through clearly in this post. I think a lot of writers will recognise what you say about the story sometimes developing in unexpected ways. That is one of the joys of writing and where much of a story's richness can come from. I enjoyed reading about your work - thank you. And thanks also to Wendy for hosting.

    1. I think a lot of writers would say they had the best job in the world 😀

  4. Thank you Wendy and thank you Margaret for generously sharing your knowledge and experience. I really want to write a Pocket Novel and this will be so helpful. Thank you :-)

  5. Thank you, Wendy and Margaret for an interesting post. You've had some interesting jobs, Margaret - all good fiction fodder by the sounds of it :)

    1. I was also really interested to read all about Margaret's different jobs as well, Tracy.

  6. Thank you for an interesting and informative post! What an interesting life you have lived, Margaret. Good luck with your writing.

  7. Excellent post, Margaret - thanks for sharing such great advice (and Wendy for hosting!). I've often thought about pocket novels but never got as far as submitting one. Worth keeping in mind.

  8. I love pocket novels. They are a nice light read you can get through in a train journey. And I know there is an art to writing them which Margaret has clearly learned well. So valuable to pass on that knowledge. Thank you.

  9. An interesting post. Thank you, Wendy and Margaret.

  10. Interesting and encouraging post. Thanks Margaret and Wendy.

  11. Thanks for the advice, Margaret. Thanks for the post, Wendy.