A very busy night tonight.

Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers (and also Facebook – General)

In my monthly spot for More than Writers, I look at the changing seasons and attitudes towards them.  My maternal grandmother hated autumn.  She always saw it as the season when everything died (and ironically perhaps died in a September many moons ago).  I love autumn despite the downside of the darkening early evenings, fog etc.  Just as we have to have autumn and winter before we can hope to have spring again, I talk about how I don’t feel you can avoid the horrible side of life and how I feel I should handle this as a Christian.

Poetry conjures up images so beautifully. Image via Pixabay. See Sandra Lyn Gordon's wonderful poem on Chandler's Ford Today for another example of great imagery.

Poppies for Remembrance.  Glorious reds are so often a feature of autumn.  Image via Pixabay.

Chandler’s Ford Today/Facebook – General and From Light to Dark and Back Again

My weekly post looks at why writers should “put themselves out there” and flags up a local Book Fair a group of local authors and I will be running at the end of October.  I discuss the advantages of writers banding together like this.  There will be a nice range of books available at the Fair too, many with special offers (including my From Light to Dark and Back Again).  There will be YA fantasy, short story collections, flash fiction (guess whose!) and romantic comedy to name but a few.

One nice thing about events at the end of October is you have to have them indoors generally speaking and we will be at the Age Concern Centre in Brownhill Road in Chandler’s Ford. I will flag up a reminder a bit nearer the time but I should add we were pleased to meet many people at the recent Hiltingbury Extravaganza and hope to meet still more at the Book Fair.

And dare I mention THAT word? Yes, I think so. We see the Book Fair as a great chance to start your Christmas book buying! There will be special offers too…



Coming soon as they say!  Image kindly supplied by Catherine Griffin and Sally Howard.


Goodreads Author Programme

I’m working my way through what has been a busy week.  Pleased to say I’m now on the Goodreads Author Programme and I was delighted at how easy it was to set up the profile and share it on Facebook.  (It is now a link on my author page and my page for From Light to Dark and Back Again).  I loved answering the questions they use to get you started but then I do love author Q&As!  Please do drop by and visit the page.  Would love to answer writing questions so do send them in!



Do send your questions in to my Goodreads Author slot.  Image via Pixabay (and one of the stills from my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again).


Fairytales with Bite – The Point of Fairytales


The link below takes you to the post but also to a slideshow.

To be fair, there is more than one point to fairytales but, for me, the most important one is fairytales can show children things about life and people’s behaviour in an entertaining way that doesn’t preach.

Cinderella doesn’t need to say bullying and cruelty to others is wrong.  You pick that up from the story (and the idea virtue is rewarded, even if it is slow!).  Okay this doesn’t just apply to children but for many it is their first venture into the wonderful world of reading (as it was for me).  All stories show the world we know to some extent via their characters.  We may not be able to identify with the strange world portrayed but we can do so with the character that’s battling for justice against the odds.

What is remarkable about fairytales is their bluntness at times.  They call evil out for what it is and not all of them end happily either (which is also a lesson in life we all need to learn but fairytales are a great way of getting that point across reasonably gently).

I grimace when people dismiss something as “just a fairytale”.  There is nothing “just” about fairytales.  They have to be well crafted stories to hold children’s attention for a start.  When people are asked to name the first book or story they read, they often refer to children’s classics, including the fairytales.


Feature Image - Flash Fiction - Books are Gateway - image via Pixabay

So true!  Image via Pixabay



This World and Others:  Using What is Around You

The link takes you to this post but also to a slideshow.

What is the most popular question ever asked of any writer?  My nomination would be “where do you get your ideas from?”!  Certainly it is the impression I have had from writer interviews I’ve read it is one of the top questions ever asked.

I can understand why people ask it but it is a difficult one to answer.  I get my ideas from a combination of sources and if you even try to explain that, all you will see is your questioner’s eyes glaze over as they were expecting a quick, pat answer!

Over time, I have learned to use what is around me to inspire ideas.  For example, in the UK right now, we are well into autumn and I’ve talked about the changing seasons in my Association of Christian Writers’ blog post this month on their More Than Writers page.

In From Light to Dark and Back Again, my flash fiction pieces have been inspired by moments in films, my take on well known books (for example Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde) and also my take on fairytales, my first love when it comes to reading and writing. My characters are nearly always amalgams of character traits, interesting things I’ve overheard that I’ve wanted to adapt and put into the mouth of a fictional person, and physical qualities (some good, others less so!).

So there is no one “go-to” place for ideas, nor should there be, and I guess the only answer to the question is to tell your questioner you get your ideas from many different places.  If they are really keen to know more, you can expand the conversation.  If not, well there’s your quick answer and you haven’t bored them!  Result!



Using what is around you can be the creative spark for many a great story.  Image via Pixabay.




As at the HE, we would also be delighted to share information about creative writing classes, the Hampshire Writers’ Society and so on so so do come and along and see us if you can. We would be very pleased to chat.

Never give up, work hard, be disciplined... all valuable traits for success, whether you're a tennis player, a writer or a character in a story! Image via Pixabay.


Facebook – General

Pleased to say I’ve been accepted onto the Goodreads Author Programme. I need to update my profile on there and download book cover images etc but hope to do this in the next day or so. There is scope for having an author Q&A on this (I LOVE author Q&As!) and I hope to have one in the not too distant future.

Am also looking forward to a local Book Fair at the end of October and will post more details nearer the time. Am also looking forward to joining the lovely people at the Southampton Writers’ Circle very soon as I will be judging their Scroll Award competition. (It was also good to catch up with a couple of said lovely people at Swanwick in August!).

Also looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day in London on 7th October. Always learn a lot from these. Incidentally, I think this is one reason why writing is good for your mental health. You are always trying to improve what you do and learning as a result. Great way of keeping the brain active.

Didn’t get anywhere in the recent flash fiction competition I entered but it means I have another story written for my second book. Nothing is wasted!

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

Shakespeare had his quill, modern writers have their laptops. Image via Pixabay.

Such a familiar look. Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve recently found out that my tendency to write 100-word tales means I’m a drabbler, a writer of drabbles. That’s fine. The only problem with writing flash fiction is it does mean you are known as a flasher. On the whole, I think being a drabbler is better! There is a little more dignity to it!

Some of my flash stories are inspired by movies. The Haunting is inspired by The Ladykillers where the heroine is forever leaving her brolley behind and it is not until the end of the film we discover she has always hated it. Learning the Trade is inspired by Fantasia/The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (which is one of those Disney films I’ve only ever seen clips from and not the whole thing. Not deliberately on my part and I would love to see the whole film especially as the music that goes with it is fantastic).

Sometimes a film or a radio play can spark off ideas where your characters react differently to the ones you watched/heard originally. Interesting story ideas can come from that.

Books make wonderful gifts. Image via Pixabay.

Books are wonderful – whether in print or electronic, whether as audio stories or told by a storyteller. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here - the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here – the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.




Facebook – General

Glad to say the presentation of prizes for the children’s poetry competition run by Chandler’s Ford Authors with the Hampshire Library service went well. The only regret was I couldn’t be there as the readings looked fun. A good reader adds so much to the text they read out and can bring it to life for people. On the way back from my trip at the weekend, a proud Granny was reading nonsense verse to her grandchild. Wonderful reading (and I think it was Edward Lear she was reading).

I read aloud (lessons in the church being the most obvious example) and also find it a useful thing to do when checking to see if my dialogue in my stories is as good as I thought it was! I don’t know what it is about reading out loud but it does show up where words don’t flow well, where your readers could trip up, and I also find it highlights where I could simplify what I’ve written (never a bad thing!).

You can't beat a good read and I would include Jane Austen in amongst the top of my list. Image via Pixabay.

You can’t beat a good read and reading aloud is a great way to literally hear if your dialogue is as it should be. Image via Pixabay.

Being a Drabbler…

Trying to catch up on some magazine reading. Pleased to send From Light to Dark and Back Again off as a prize today. Am working my way though future Chander’s Ford Today interviews. Hope to send these out to the right people in the next couple of weeks.

It was thanks to being at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year I found out my 100-word tales are known as “drabbles”. Like the term. It means I’m a drabbler! (Better than being a dribbler perhaps!).

A lot of my flash fiction ends up with a twist in the tale ending. I think this kind of thing ideal for flash as you don’t have room to expand much detail, every word must count, and you are looking to make an impact on the reader. A good twist in the tale achieves all of that in one hit!


Flash Fiction should leave an impact on the reader.  Image via Pixabay

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Sometimes a story can come from taking a proverb or a saying and expanding on it from the viewpoint of a character you wouldn’t usually come across.

In The Truth in From Light to Dark and Back Again I have an honest character give their view on something but the twist is who that character is. Making the Grade is an exam story but the character is probably not one you would particularly want to go to school with. So taking an ordinary situation but using an extraordinary character can be a great way of developing new stories.

Also, certain things like truth are open to interpretation so a writer can have fun here with their characters. One character’s truth is another’s lie, which can be a good source of a conflict and once you have a conflict, you have a potential story.


“Twist” characters can spark off all sorts of ideas for stories.  Image via Pixabay.


I love reading and writing quirky fiction (and flash fiction fits perfectly into this. Some of my characters are very quirky indeed (!) and their stories are ideal as short moments in time. A standard length short story would probably be too long to convey this or would dilute the quirkiness too much).

A lot of my tales are told from the first person perspective because it has the immediacy which is brilliant for flash fiction. My quirky characters like people to know where they’re coming from (even if you don’t like what they’re doing!).

I find knowing what my characters are like dictates how I present them. Some are best shown in the third person with us the readers looking in at what they are up to and others in the first person with us beside them as they get up to their various actions.

Great characters should show humour. Image via Pixabay.

I’m not the only one who loves quirky characters! Image via Pixabay.


Facebook – General

Glad to say From Light to Dark and Back Again was a prize in Elizabeth Ducie’s recent book launch for Deception. It is a real pleasure wrapping the book up to send out! Also good when a book launch goes really well. I know I had a lot of fun with mine.

Managed to write three new flash fiction pieces for my second book on my phone yesterday while out and about. Slowly getting used to the smartphone and really love the Evernote app. (I’m using the basic free version at the moment and have found this useful for sharing photo files as well as text ones).

Must get used to putting my phone charger in my bag as I could’ve done with charging the phone up on my way home yesterday and could easily have done so on the train. Duh!

Glad to report the children’s poetry competition presentation went well at Chandler’s Ford Library yesterday. I share the link to Mike Sedgwick’s excellent report on how things went. I am only sorry I couldn’t be there. The readings sounded fab but I was pleased to hear all who went had a wonderful time.

The competition was organized by Chandler’s Ford Authors and supported by the Hampshire Library Service and the Hiltingbury Extravaganza. Prizes were sponsored by local estate agents, Goadsby. Well done to all who took part in the competition!

Children's Poetry Competition 2017

Well done to all who took part in the competition.  Glad to hear the presentation went well.  Always good to encourage writing!

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.

Writer at work. Image via Pixabay.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Really pleased with myself I managed to use my smartphone to do some serious writing when on a long train journey yesterday. Really miffed with myself I managed to forget to pack my phone charger as I needed to recharge it on the way home and could easily have done so on the train. Two sides to the writing life there!

Finally making some headway on my second book. Am hoping to have a first draft ready in the next month or so. Then comes the editing but the joy with flash is in having such a restricted word count, you do find yourself doing a lot of this as you go. You select the words with the strongest impact for the fewest possible words as you go so no unnecessary adverbs here!

And I’ve finally realised exactly what it is about flash that has ensured I’ve become addicted to the form. I have always loved character-led fiction. Flash has to be character-led as there is no room for scene setting etc. You have to cut to the chase. And I’ve always loved getting straight into my characters’ heads to find out exactly what is going on in there!


writing in many forms via Pixabay

There is a planner at work here, rather than a “pantser”! Image via Pixabay.


Feature Image - Flash Fiction - Books are Gateway - image via Pixabay

The nice thing with this is it equally applies to non-fiction.  Image via Pixabay




Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post takes a look at the recent Hiltingbury Extravaganza. It was the first time I’ve been behind a stall too. A group of local writers, including yours truly, were manning our book stand and I’m glad to say we all sold copies of our books.

My post gives an overview of the whole Extravaganza and I also share why I would not have entered my border collie, Mabel, into the Most Obedient Dog category in the dog show that was a very popular feature. Mind you, the pets supplies stand was also popular, especially given so many of their toys and treats were at “dog level”!  I also look a little at why it was so useful local writers banded together to support each other here, a topic I look at again in my other posts below.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have I found writing flash fiction useful with my other writing?

Yes. Firstly, as flash has proved incredibly useful for tightening my editing skills and working out what words are carrying their weight and which are not. As a result of that, learning not to be afraid of the editing pen and being ruthless with your own work when needed. Then there is the appreciation of the need for clarity. You have to be to the point with flash fiction.

I’ve always loved character led fiction and, to my mind, flash fiction has to be precisely that. There is no room for scene setting etc so you must go with what/who drives the plot – the characters. I’ve always enjoyed getting straight into my characters’ heads and seeing where that takes me. This is a positive asset when it comes to writing flash.

Am greatly encouraged by the increasing numbers of competitions for flash fiction too, a lot of which are online. (Great, no postage costs!).

The wonderful world of stories... Image via Pixabay.

The wonderful world of stories… Image via Pixabay.


So much marketing is done online - image via Pixabay.png

A lot of flash fiction competitions are now online so no postage costs!  Image via Pixabay


Fairytales With Bite

One of the great things about events such as our Hiltingbury Extravaganza is that it gives local writers a chance to show the community (a) there is a group of local writers in it (!) and (b) to show, and hopefully sell, what we do!

It was lovely meeting a good range of people interested in books, publishing, stories (or any combination!) and we all talked about why a group of local writers had got together in the first place.

The Extravaganza is a good example of an event where one writer would not have done this on their own.  (There are insurance costs, space hire to sort out, plus having to put your stand up and down again all on your own.  It made far more sense for a small group of writers to do all this between them and share the costs as it made the event viable for us all.  Not sure it would have been for any one of us).

Having said all that, we managed to spread the word about what we do, why writers group together to help one another and sold our books so it was a good event!  Any writer thinking of banding together with others should seriously consider it.  One other advantage was our stand ended up having a wide range of fiction on it from my flash fiction (From Light to Dark and Back Again) to romantic comedy to short stories set in our area to YA fantasy/time travel.  (More details of these in my CFT post).  The upside of this, of course, is it meant it was far more likely that at least some of our books would appeal to some of the people and this did prove to be the case.

Spreading the word is time consuming and you can never know exactly what will come from it but unless you do try to put the word out there, nobody will know what you do.  So I agree with the old proverb that “nothing ventured is nothing gained”.  And having support from other writers, and being supportive in your turn, is phenomenally helpful when doing this.  Good luck!


A corner of books

A corner of books.  Image by Allison Symes


More of the books

More of the books.  Image via Allison Symes




This World and Others

Writing is one of those things that keeps on giving.  Not only is there the joy of creating your own work (hopefully to be followed by the even greater joy of seeing it published!), but your reading should increase and widen.  Why?  To write well is to read well.  I can’t think of any writer who doesn’t read.  So in many ways when you become a writer, you become a deeper reader too (in terms of reading more widely and continuing to explore your own love of books anyway).  (The link incidentally takes you to this post on my Weebly site but there is also a small slideshow on that).

But one other thing that writing gives is an immediate topic of conversation at writers’ conferences and so on.  I have found it incredibly helpful to break the ice with people by asking what they write, have they been published or are they working on it and so on, and before you know it, they are asking the same (and other questions of you and lo and behold you have a conversation going!  This is the way long term writing friendships start.

Then there are the competitions and the thrilll you feel if you are shortlisted or win.  (A little vindication goes a long way for most writers!).  And when going out and about to events such as the recent Hiltingbury Extravaganza, you can talk about why writers group together to help each other, share news of creative writing classes in the area and so on.  So write, have fun, talk about writing, love that too and in all these things, we spread stories, the value of literature of all kinds and so on.  Quite a worthy thing to do really (and if we sell our books too, even better!).


Barbara hard at work spreading the word about books and ours especially

My colleague, Barbara Sedgwick, spreading the word about the writers’ stand at the recent Hiltingbury Extravaganza.  Image by Allison Symes



Karen Stephens shares what the writers' stand is about

My colleague, Karen Stephen, shares with the crowds what is on offer at the writers’ stand.  Image via Allison Symes



Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be an overview of the recent Hiltingbury Extravaganza. It was my first experience of being “behind” a stall too and I’m glad to say all the writers at the HE sold books and spread the word about creative writing, the Hampshire Writers’ Society and so on. More details tomorrow.

What is the important thing about writing? That it encourages reading, I think. Reading widely and well, whether it is non-fiction or fiction, encourages the development of a wider vocabulary and can help develop empathy (as you root for specific characters), It also sets the imagination free to explore worlds you would never visit (especially if you read sci-fi or fantasy!), or to explore ideas new to you.

And there’s always the joy of trying to work out who the killer in a crime novel is long before getting to the end of the said book! I can sometimes guess this correctly, other times the author keeps me on the hop, and occasionally I name the killer but fail to spot the real motive behind the crime. Reading crime novels can be like puzzle solving.

So whatever you read I hope you enjoy it and find more books to relish. I always feel sad when people say they don’t have time to read. That tells me someone is not taking time out to feed their minds with literature. It also tells me they are missing out on a great deal too!


More of the books

At the Hiltingbury Extravaganza.  Image by Allison Symes.  (The weather certainly wasn’t extravagant!)


The writers' book stand

The books here range from my flash fiction to YA fantasy/time travel and short story collections.  Image by Allison Symes


Barbara hard at work spreading the word about books and ours especially

And romantic comedy is represented here.  Image by Allison Symes


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do I find it easier to write the funny or darker flash fiction tales?

Difficult to tell as both humorous and more sombre writing come naturally to me but if I have the character in my head and a rough idea of where I want to finish the story, then away I go.

Also, a lot depends on mood. On a day when nothing seems to go right, it can be more of an effort to write anything remotely funny! On days like that though if I want to write about an irritated character, that comes very easily indeed. I don’t even have to put myself in the character’s head for that one!

Writing can sometimes be likened to method acting when you are trying to work out motivations. Being irritated yourself and then writing about an irritated character, well there’s no pretending required. You know something of what would lead that character to feeling uppity so can write with ease about it. I’ve found it’s one of the few good things about being edgy – if you need to write edgy, it will be easy and it can get a lot of that edginess out of your system writing it out of yourself and into a character instead!

The downside? Writing about a real monster of a character and people wondering what inspired you to write that! (Don’t tell them or come out with a really good story like Mary Shelley did and blame it on a dream!). Happy writing!



Dark or funny stories?  Which are easiest to write?  Image via Pixabay


Well, what IS your story? Image via Pixabay.


Am glad to say the writers’ stand at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza went well last weekend.  I share what I think is the worst part of writing a new story and discuss why writers grouping together can be such a good idea.

Facebook – General

What is the worst part of writing a new story? Getting that first draft written or shaping that draft into something that has an impact on a reader? For me, it is getting that first draft written. I never worry about a first draft being rubbish (they all are!) but I do feel a huge sense of relief once the story is down on paper as I then have something I know I can do something with. (I take the optimistic view that things can only get better, to quote the song, once the first draft IS down!).

As for my blog posts, especially for Chandler’s Ford Today, every so often I have a brainstorming session for possible article ideas, put these aside for a while, and then when I come back to them, the ideas which have “legs” will still stand out and those are the ones I write up.



Says it all (though I think the one person a writer has to convince about this IS them!).   Image via Pixabay.


Shakespeare had his quill, modern writers have their laptops. Image via Pixabay.

Getting on with the writing.  Image via Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I thought I’d share a couple of images from the writers’ stand at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza last weekend. What was lovely was we all sold books but we also got to talk to people about local creative writing classes and so on. It all helps spread the word!

People were pleasantly surprised to see such an array of books too. This is one nice aspect of a group of writers working together. No one writer ever appeals to every reader in the world (even Shakespeare had his critics!) but a group of writers, with books in different genres, at a local event?

Well, the chances are instantly improved that our works will appeal to different people, who may not have come to any events we held individually as writers. I very much hope the writers’ stand will become a regular event.

I hope to put up more pictures later in the week – am currently working my way through my photo files!


The writers' book stand

The writers’ stand at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza – side view.  Image by Allison Symes


More of the books

There was a nice range of books – from my flash fiction to YA fantasy/time travel to romantic comedy and two volumes of short stories set in my area.  Something in there to appeal to most people I think!  Image by Allison Symes




Local Writers at Hiltingbury Extravaganza

Has been a busy weekend.  I’m sharing the post Janet Williams, Chandler’s Ford Today’s editor, has written summarising the Hiltingbury Extravaganza at the weekend.  There is a lovely “shout out” for the local writers’ stand, which we all appreciate!  Good photo too.  Thanks, Janet.

I wrote a couple of pieces on Facebook over the weekend which I share below.  If your local event supports the writers in your area or gives them a way to showcase what they do, go and support them.  We loved talking to people about (a) what we do, (b) sharing details of creative writing classes and writer get-togethers in our area, and (c) discovering people were pleasantly surprised to find there were more published writers around than they’d realised!

The huge advantage of a team approach to events like this is this kind of show is not something one of us would have done on our own but for a small group, it is ideal.  The costs are shared (mainly insurance and space “hire”, the main reasons you would not run this kind of event on your own) and you can cross-promote and support each other. It also meant a good range of books on our stand with everything from my flash fiction to YA fantasy/time travel to romantic comedy to short stories with settings in our area.


At the HE Book Stand

Part of the book stand at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza



Talking about Flash Fiction at the Extravaganza

Advantages of flash fiction include encouraging reluctant readers given you are not asking people to commit to too much in one go and it can also be a good way for readers to pick up your style of writing etc before reading longer works by you.

I also love the fact that, due to the restricted word count, I can’t spend too long in setting the scene. I’ve found this frees me to set my stories in any dimension and/or time and the tales are all character led. People remember characters rather than plots so this is no bad thing.

I think, based on chats I had with people at the Hiltingbury Extravaganza today, the word needs to be spread more about what flash fiction is and its virtues. Game on then!

Local authors' books at Chandler's Ford railway station

Report from the Book Stand at the Extravaganza

Good turnout for the Hiltingbury Extravaganza. Many thanks to all who came to the book stand. Good to see you all. What was lovely was the number of people who were surprised (in a nice way) to find there were more authors in the area than they’d realized! It was also good to spread the word about the Hampshire Writers’ Society and local creative writing classes too. I hope if only in a small way we’ve encouraged the enjoyment of reading and creative writing this afternoon.

I also managed to have a good look at what was going on in the rest of the show too. Nice to say hello to the good people of Thornden Hall and the Chameleon Theatre Group. Had to have a look at the dog show. My Mabel would happily have rounded all the contestants up if she could so it was as well she wasn’t there. If ever they decide to award an All-Time Herder of Other Animals category, she’s in with an excellent chance of winning it. Likewise, if they offer a category called Dog with the Stare that Could Cut Diamond (what is it with collies here?!).



The glorious Mabel.



Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Loved listening to Danse Macabre by Camille Saint Saens on Classic FM requests earlier today. I had always known this to be the theme from Jonathan Creek (a series I loved) but now I think of my book trailer the moment I hear the opening note!





Away from books and stories, my other great love is music (in a wide range of genres though I particularly love classical). So much music is used to tell stories (e.g. Romeo and Juliet), and a truly great film score adds to the movie in such a way you can’t imagine the film without it (e.g. The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter).

I can’t imagine how someone can compose a piece of music (though I have had people tell me they can’t imagine how writers like myself come up with stories out of nothing so maybe this is an “across the arts” thing). All I do know is long may such composition continue! The arts are good for the soul…

Classic music can make a classic film

Hard at work - image via Pixabay










I concede the above title is not the most fun one I have ever invented but I hope my thoughts in my Fairytales with Bite (judgement) and This World and Others (self-censorship) prove useful.


All writers sit in judgement on themselves.  Sounds harsh but it is true.  We have to judge what is relevant for our stories and articles etc so we can edit efficiently and well.

The thought of judgement came up for this post partly as a result of Part 2 of my Chandler’s Ford Today interview with Gill James.  This does look at censorship, including the self-imposed variety, as we continue to discuss writing historical fiction and its joys and woes.  (One great joy, which is also a woe, is being tempted to use all of that lovely research which was needed to write the book but, if it were included, would weigh said book down and put readers off with far too much information). I also talk more about this issue on my This World and Others site.

This question of judgement is a strange one for writers.  In many ways we are the worst people to do it.  Why?  I think it fair to say most writers swing between thinking everything we write is total rubbish or, conversely, is a work of genius and not one word must be cut!

The truth, as with most things, is somewhere in the middle!  Yes, you’ve got good work here but it does need at least one damned good edit to get rid of what your reader doesn’t really need to know to enjoy and get the most out of the story/article.  The judgement is in working out what is needed to be known and what isn’t.  This is where that phrase “never be afraid to kill your darlings” comes in.  Everything has to be relevant to the story.  Everything has to move it on in some way.  Whatever is not doing either of those things (and ideally both) is what comes out.

I’ve also found I have to put work away for a while before being able to read it again with a less prejudiced eye.  I try to read what I’ve written, after said suitable gap, as if I was the reader, as if I’d NOT written it and I ask myself questions as I go through the piece (mainly is this relevant?  Do I need to know this?  Would the story sag without this information etc etc?  What do I make of the characters now I am reading their story in the cold light of day so to speak?).

It has taken me a while to realise I cannot judge my story or article immediately.  I really must put it away for a bit but it does mean when I return to it, I can wear my editor’s hat comfortably and get on with what I know needs to be done:  getting rid of the rubbish I wrote in that first draft!


Fill that blank sheet with ideas from non-fiction as well as other fiction works - image via Pixabay

The start of the process, though no writing is complete without at least one good edit.  Image via Pixabay.



Well, what is your story - image via Pixabay

Being able to judge what is relevant to your story/article is vital.  Image via Pixabay.



Part of my interview with Gill James on Chandler’s Ford Today for this week looks at the issue of censorship, including the self-imposed variety. Is there ever a case for doing this?  I think so – and I recommend a read of the interview so you can see what Gill thinks about it.  Her experience of writing historical fiction is based on writing her book The House on Schellberg Street, which is set in Germany throughout World War Two, so censorship would have been an issue for her characters and something they had to work with.

In many ways, any writer who edits their work (and I would hope that is all of us!) self-censors.  We look at the way we originally wrote a piece, realise we can write it with stronger words and so on and cut out the deadwood.  We deliberately make choices as to what remains.  Also we have to work out what our reader really does need to know about our characters to get the most out of the story.  I can’t think of any fiction writer who, preparing biographies for their characters (whether detailed or a simpler outline), puts every single thing into their stories!  They would become top-heavy with information for a start.  As for word count restrictions forget it, you’d never meet them if every single thing you created went into your finished piece.

The important thing, I feel, is whether writing non-fiction or fiction, is to ask yourself if the information is relevant to the reader?  If you left the information out, would the article or story still stand?  If the answer to that is no, then the information goes in and stays in!


Cover of The House on Schellberg Street.  Image supplied by Gill James.  Working in historical fiction will mean dealing with censorship, especially if writing about an era where it is prevalent.

One thing that has been true throughout history is the need for a good edit! Image via Pixabay

Editing immediately means accepting you are self-censoring to a certain extent, yet without it your story will be weaker. Image via Pixabay


Part 2 of my interview with Gill James looks at the issue of censorship.  Gill also shares her joys and woes when it comes to writing historical fiction and also offers some very useful tips for writers new to the genre. I hope to be writing more “writing in other genres” posts for CFT later in the year, including crime and ghost stories.  Will post more details when I have them.


Note the dates on the postmarks - clear censorship - image via Pixabay

Note the dates on the envelope, clear indications of censorship.  Image via Pixabay.



I share some thoughts on competitions and whether titles count as part of a word count limit in tonight’s post.


Copyright (never enter a competition asking you to give away ALL rights) - image via Pixabay

Never enter a competition which asks you to sign over ALL your rights. If in doubt seek advice from writers’ groups, the Society of Authors etc.  Image via Pixabay.








Facebook – General

Why is reading widely so vital for anyone wanting to write seriously?

Partly because you always learn something from whatever you read. (In the case of bad fiction, this can be as simple as learning what not to do! Sometimes this can also encourage you. If that got published, my work must be in with a chance etc!).

Partly when you read, you are filling your mind with ideas. Ideas encourage other ideas and before you know it, you have an original take on a story idea of your own. The more you read (and especially the more widely), the more ideas you will have for your subconscious to think about. I like to think of this as nurturing the creative spirit. It does need feeding regularly!

Also given all writers love books and stories, doesn’t it make sense to support the industry you hope to be part of?

Reading - says it all really via Pixabay

Says it all really.  Image via Pixabay.

Escape with a good book via Pixabay

Losing yourself in a good book.  Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of my methods of writing flash fiction is to work out the “punch” ending and then work backward from that point. I believe Agatha Christie used a similar technique for many of her novels. I would also be very surprised if she was the only one! I strongly suspect not.

The nice thing about this technique is you have that cracking ending and you have to think of something strong enough to justify it. It means not reaching for the first idea that comes to you but often the second, third, fourth etc.

But in making yourself think more deeply about how the ending could be the way you’ve written it, you come up with something far more original. I like to think of it as mining the imagination – and good mining always goes far beyond the surface!

The world of the imagination should play a role in your stories. I can't imagine any world without some form of the arts. Image via Pixabay.

What is the world of your story? Image via Pixabay.

Whether you write flash fiction or other kinds of story, brainstorming sessions are invaluable. I have, less often, used them to generate ideas for non-fiction work. Image via Pixabay.

Whether you write flash fiction or other kinds of story, brainstorming sessions are invaluable. I have, less often, used them to generate ideas for non-fiction work. Image via Pixabay.



Ideas are only the starting point for stories.  Read widely, encourage your mind to fill up with different ideas and mull over them.  Image via Pixabay


And a recent post… Favourite Moments in Writing

Favourite moments in writing? Some of mine are:

1. That instant when you know your character has come to life and the story takes off.

2. When your characters surprise you with what they come out with (again proof they have come to life). You will broadly know what your characters are going to be capable of but something coming out of “left field” should make you reassess where the character and story is going. I have found to date that the “left field” experience is always worth pursuing. It nearly always ends up being a stronger idea than the one I first had. Sometimes it takes writing the story for a while to dig out the REAL idea behind it.

3. Knowing you’ve left enough room in your outline to allow for “left field” moments so you are ready for these. You can work out where they would best fit and how they impact on your initial thoughts and that they are not going to totally detail your structure, etc. I find being “open” to these things happening means I handle them better and so can make the most of them. I find that very satisfying.

4. Being told your story is going to be published.

5. Seeing your story in print, online or both!

Themes pour out of good books - image via Pixabay

Let those ideas flow!  Image via Pixabay


The wonderful world of stories... Image via Pixabay.

The wonderful world of stories… Image via Pixabay.