Editing, Dream Characters, and Story Collections

Facebook – General

I’ve never understood writers who edit as they write. I know full well I would stymie myself if I tried that. When would I ever accept I had written a good enough first line yet alone a first page etc?

It has helped me enormously to know you don’t have to get it right all in one go. Indeed, the one guarantee is you won’t! So I write and focus on getting the story written.

Then I worry about:-

1. Does the story work?

2. Does the structure make sense?

3. Have I overwritten anything? (The answer to that is always yes!).

4. What “flabby prose” can I tighten up by better choices of words, phrases etc? (There is always something to be improved here but that’s fine. You get better over time at knowing what to look for here and how you can put it right. It is slightly annoying you can’t stop yourself writing flabby prose but at least nobody else has to see it!).

5. Do my characters come across the way I want them to do? (There’s nearly always room for improvement here).

I love editing. It’s a great feeling when you know your story has improved dramatically because you’ve dealt with the 5 points above properly.

But it is a case of one thing at a time. Write first, edit later.


Pleased I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces. Won’t know results for a while but it’s such a joy being able to submit work online.

When I first started out (and the dinosaurs had just left the planet etc etc), all submissions had to be done by snail mail. When I think of the costs and time tied up in that, the mind boggles!

The great thing is I have acknowledgement of receipt of entries pretty much straight away too. I recall having to put in stamped addressed postcards to publishers when I was particularly keen to know if something had reached them.

So am I pleased at the development of email submissions etc? You bet! Technological change is often a good thing.

What would you class as a dream character? For me this would be someone who was:-

1. Feisty and honourable. (Funnily enough, that can apply to villains too. They will have a code they adhere to no matter what. It may not be one we as readers like or agree with but there will be something there where we can see why the villain would act the way they are. What I can’t stand are characters who do things for no apparent reason. They leave me thinking “What….?!”).

2. Comes up with all the best one-liners

3. Gets on with most other characters because they’re not full of themselves or, in the case of a villain, is able to charm other characters into obeying them. The fascination there is how they draw people in.

4. Is the type of person you would definitely want on your side in a fight/life or death scenario. In the case of a villain. who is the cause of said fight/life or death scenario, they are the kind of person you would run a million miles from. They have got to be PROPER villains.

5. Fascinate YOU as the writer. You are your own first audience.

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I’ll be looking at What Do You Think Makes a Good Book in my CFT post later this week. I’ll also be naming three of my all-time favourites, which are varied in genre and era, and look at what they have in common. Link up on Friday. I love writing for CFT but posts this like are especially fun to write!

How to spot a committed writer (and possibly one that should be!):-

1. Their book shelves are piled high with books from across the genres

2. They have notebooks everywhere (but can have trouble finding a pen when asked).

3. They can go on about stories for ever and ever amen (and do given half a chance).


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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Editing is my theme for tonight. One of the issues with flash fiction is how far do you edit? It is too easy just to focus on getting the word count right and not look at the balance of the story overall. It’s something I have to watch out for.

If a phrase, say, tells me something more about a character than a shorter expression would, the longer phrase stays in. It’s all about the relevant details. Focus on what HAS to be in your story. What’s left is where you can cut back.

But look at how the story flows and do read it aloud to hear this for yourself. An edit doesn’t work if you’ve taken out ALL that makes the story flow. This is the point if I decide a story works better at 250 words than 100, it stays at 250.

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What are the advantages of using the first person in flash fiction?

1. I can take you straight into that character’s thoughts.

2. That in turn will show you their attitudes (which will also give clues as to what their significant traits are likely to be).

3. I show you the story through that character’s eyes and I think it creates immediacy.

4. I can vary how my “I” character talks to you as a reader – and that can in turn help you guess at likely age and so on. My Calling the Doctor has a confiding tone to it. My They Don’t Understand has my narrator looking back at life with regret. I don’t need to tell you the latter is going to be a senior citizen as a result. It is all implied in how they “talk”.

5. As first person is so direct, it can save a lot on the word count!

What do I look for in a writing prompt? The obvious answer is something to stretch me (no, not a rack or a huge elastic band!). The format of that prompt matters less.

I’ve used picture prompts, opening line and closing line prompts, list so many words connected to a theme prompts and so on.

I do think it a good idea to mix up which prompts you use to keep things interesting for you and also to ensure you ARE challenging yourself frequently enough. It can be easy to get into a rut of using only certain kinds of prompts/ideas to get you started.

Mix things up, have fun, play with words. Once you’ve got your thoughts down, then stand back and put your editor’s hat on.

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I’ve long been an advocate of reading work out loud. I’ve picked up errors this way and find out if my dialogue really is as smooth as I thought it was when I wrote it. If I stumble over it, a reader will too, and out comes the editing pen again.

It is one of those oddballs that something which looks great written down does not necessarily transfer well to speech.

The other advantage of reading work out loud is you hear the rhythm within the prose and you can tweak that to the advantage of the story’s overall impact.

The great thing with flash fiction?

Reading work out loud doesn’t take long!


Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

I have got a very soft spot for story collections for several reasons:-

1. My first real reading loves was the Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales, which I still have.

2. You get a lovely mixture of tones and length of story in an anthlogy.

3. I’ve been published in such anthologies (and am due to be so again) so am not unbiased here!

4. If you’re not sure what to read next novel wise, why not switch to short story collections for a while? I’ve found reading a collection makes a nice “refresher” before I pick which novel I’ll read next. You also get to mix up your reading here (which I think is always a good thing as it can be a great way to discover authors new to you).

5. You can have collections on a single theme or genre so it is easy enough to go with what you fancy here.

6. You can support the indie presses who bring out such anthologies as these give more authors a voice (and readers more choice too).

7. It’s my belief short stories and flash fiction can encourage reluctant readers to venture further into the wonderful world of books. You’re not asking them to commit to too much at the start. Hopefully by the time they’ve finished a collection, they’ll be hooked and will want to read more.





























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