Moments That Matter/Narrative Voice

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My CFT post this week looks at Moments that Matter. I share some of these from a writer’s perspective but also delve into the topic from a historical viewpoint too.

Moments that matter there, for example, include George Buck finding a copy of Titulus Regius, which Henry VII had ordered destroyed. Buck’s discovery of that document led to him reassessing Richard III. No surprise really that didn’t happen until after the Tudors had gone but it was a moment that mattered!

I also discuss why we should treasure moments that matter to us but also use them to spur us on. Hope you enjoy.

Image Credit:  Pixabay.  Suitable captions over on CFT!

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What was the first story you read that made you think “I want to be a writer”? To be honest, I can’t remember what mine was (though I always loved the Famous Five so it probably was one of those), but books like The Lord of the Rings held me in awe of what could be done (and I’m still in awe over that one, and rightly so. Tolkein’s vision is amazing).

Much as I loved (and still love) fairytales, they didn’t then inspire me to write. I don’t think it was until I was reading children’s books etc for myself that the idea of writing stories myself occurred to me.

My trigger for writing was always having it in the back of my mind to give it a go some day. The trouble with that approach is working out when some day becomes “now”. It took a significant birthday and becoming a mum to make me realise if I wanted to write, I’d better get on and do it then. My only regret now is not starting a lot sooner than I did.

You don’t realise how much there is to learn, how it takes you time to get used to rejections, getting into the habit of submitting work regularly and so on when you first start. But when all is said and done, the important thing IS to start. Then enjoy the writing journey.

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My CFT post this week will be on Moments that Matter. I look at this from a personal, writer’s, and historical viewpoint amongst others. Treasuring such moments is vital but so is moving on to the next one!

I also look at how the materials we have influence how we see historical turning points in particular (and what the absence in some cases can also do. Richard III fans will know what I mean there!). Link up on Friday.

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It’s always important that your story has a strong narrative voice, but vital in flash fiction where that is used to imply so much and to drive the tale.

You need to get into your reader’s head what your character is like very quickly. Attitudes need to be shown quickly etc. There should be a sense of having to find out what this character will do next.

I think this is one reason why I use first person a lot in flash as I can take a reader straight into the head of that character and hit the ground running.

From my Serving Up a Treat:-

“I learned ages ago not arguing saved many beatings”.

Now hopefully that will provoke curiosity as to:-

a. Who the character is.

b. Why they’ve clearly put up with something intolerable for so long.

c. There is the implication that things are about to change and you will hopefully want to find out how. (Why, I think, is pretty much spelt out).

So a lot to do with an opening line then but I love the fun of coming up with lines like this which tell me so much about the character immediately. I want to find out what happens as I tell the story and that is a good sign. You are your own first audience. If you’re not gripped by what you write, nobody else will be!

Have fun writing lines like these. See where you can take your characters. I believe that the fun a writer has in coming up with a tale does get picked up on by readers, albeit at a subsconcious level. Get them hooked!

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I remain convinced that technology has helped flash fiction take off as a genre given it is so easy to read on screens. If something like that encourages people to read who hadn’t read much before, I’m all for it. Tempt in with a quick easy read and before you know it, you have them hooked on War and Peace!

Okay, maybe not, but flash fiction can make a very useful start to a love of reading… and it helps you so much as a writer. You learn to focus and your editing skills are sharpened considerably. Also, you learn to come up with ideas, more ideas, still further ideas and so on. The more you use your writing muscles, the more you develop them.

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Another good way of finding out if your flash fiction piece has the “oomph” you hoped it would is to record yourself reading it out, putting that away for a while, and then listen back. If you are gripped, well done, others will be too.

I’ve long advocated reading work out loud, even if you don’t record it, as if you stumble over dialogue, others will do. It is an oddity that something which looks good written down does not necessarily “read well”. Always read it out and see for yourself.

Simple easy to read writing takes lots of editing to get to that point. I don’t believe that IS just me!

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Should Fairytales Ever Be Funny?

Well, should fairytales ever be funny? I suppose your answer to that might be based on what you believe fairytales are for. Many, of course, give moral messages (e.g.  never be unkind to an old person. In the fairytale they often turn out to be someone important and/or magical in disguise. Crossing them or being unkind is never a good move!).  Other fairytales can act as warnings. Some, naturally, can do both.

My own view is where a story (of any kind) can be funny and it gets something across better that way, then do so. Truth is often more palatable when sweetened a bit and making someone laugh or smile as they take in the more serious point behind the gag does make accepting that truth easier. I’ve never seen anything wrong in “just” writing for laughs.  It’s harder to do than it sounds but I’ve found the most memorable speeches/sermons/stories have all contained at least some element of humour. Humour makes it easier to remember and can be a useful tool for a writer.

Humour should never be forced. It should arise naturally out of your characters and the situations you put them in. I don’t think you can fake something to be funny. It either is or isn’t. There are topics which are not suitable for humour at all (abuse is the obvious one for me) but a fairytale which is trying to “promote” being kind, for example, could use humour to make more of an impact on a reader.

I love reading humorous prose. I find it a tonic for the soul. Given stories reflect life, and life should have humour in it, so should our tales! But it works best when it suits the material. You can’t force humour into a story where tragedy is more appropriate. Nobody went to see Romeo and Juliet for laughs for example.

Fairytales have great scope for flexibility. You have magical creatures and where there is magic, there is always the potential for it to go wrong. The consequences can be funny. Think of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for example.

Happy – and fun – writing!

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This World and Others – Moments That Matter

I discuss Moments that Matter in my CFT post this week and look at it from writing and historical perspectives amongst others. From a world building viewpoint, what are the moments that matter to you as the writer putting a fictional universe together? My thoughts are:-

  1. That moment it all comes “together”. The politics, the way your world is governed, how your characters react to all that finally makes sense and you write with utter conviction, knowing the parameters of your creation and testing your characters against those. (There are always rebels, though of course it does depend on your viewpoint if the rebels have a point or not!).
  2. When you know your lead characters inside out. You know what makes them tick, what pressures they would be vulnerable to, what would be pivotal moments for them. That’s where the stories and drama are!
  3. When you can visualise your world and feel it is almost as real as this one! You know the street names, where people would go for entertainment, whether there is religious/political freedom at all. You know your world to such a degree you could be quizzed intensely over it and come up with good answers!


It pays to write a list of questions you need to know the answers to and then work those answers out. Preparation work like that will save you work later. For a long piece of work like a novel, I could not write without having some sort of “map” to assist me here.  Happy writing!

 

AMAZON AUTHOR CENTRAL PAGE

Am pleased to finally share the link to my UK page. (There is one for the US, France, Germany, and Japan too! I will share links in due course).

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07T3HT18L?ref_=pe_584750_33951330

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submissions, Housekeeping, and Anthologies

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Pleased to have submitted another story (a crime short) this evening. Am pushing myself to submit more often and am loving doing so. The nice thing is whatever happens to the stories, there will be things I can do with them later on. Nothing is ever wasted. If one competition doesn’t like it, will the tale suit another? Does it need a closer look and then submitting elsewhere? You have options!

Am working on my novel and also my Amazon Author Central pages (particularly for the US and UK). Hope to share the links for these soon. A big thanks to #PaulaReadman for putting me on to this. I blog regularly and use FB and other social media but this one had escaped me. It always pays to network with other writers because (a) it is huge fun, (b) reassures you that you are not alone in the crazy but wonderful world of writing, (c) you learn all sorts of things that can help you and, in turn, (d) you can help others too. All of that is great.

What has been nice has been looking up the various anthologies I’ve had work in over the years and it makes a nice selection to put up on said pages. So what now? Try to get in more anthologies of course!

A big thank you to my better half, Adrian, for taking the pics earlier today. It makes a huge difference when the writing geek in a family has support from the rest of the family (and something I am very grateful for).

PS  Have put the new pics up on other areas of the website. Housekeeping like this is a good habit to get into!

The writing life is made up of a series of special moments. You start by plucking up the courage to submit work somewhere. You then get your first rejection (almost inevitably) and you try again and again and then, hopefully, comes the great day when a piece of work is accepted. Joy!

But rejections continue to come in long after your first publication credit and you realise the writing life is a roller coaster and you need to learn to cope with the ups and the downs. Yes, even to cope with the ups, because you don’t want those to create the sense you can never better that special moment. You can hamstring yourself here!

You need, I think, to work towards making progress all the time. Progress can include trying forms of writing new to you and that’s a great opportunity to just write for fun. I took up flash fiction because Cafelit had put out a 100-word challenge and I just thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t expect anything to come from it but quickly became addicted to the form and things took off from there.

Progress can include looking at the rejections that come in and, if lucky enough to get comments, to see if there is a common thread.

Some competitions offer critiques for a fee in addition to the competition entry fee. I’ve gone for these sometimes.Some critiques are more useful than others but you literally pays your money and take your choice. You need to work out whether such a thing would be useful to you.

I only enter competitions that have been longstanding ones or where feedback on them is positive. I also go for critiques like these where the blurb tells you what to expect. For a short story, it is never going to be a long critique. What I’m after here is the critic’s general view of how well my story and characters come across. Tickbox critiques can work well here too.

Do you finish reading a story that hasn’t gripped you?

These days, I’m afraid I don’t – life’s too short etc – but I am pleased to say I can’t remember when I last abandoned a story. That’s partly I think because I’m getting better at picking out a tale that’s likely to appeal to me. It’s also because the moment a character has gripped me, I’ve got to find out what happens to them.

So of course you try to replicate that in your own writing. For me, it is always down to the characters which determines whether a story or book is successful or not. For non-fiction, it is the voice of the “narrator” of the piece that has to grip me and therefore determine whether I’m going to like the article or not.

Do you ever find you start a story slowly, then the pace quickens, and before you know it you can’t get the words down fast enough? I’ve likened this to almost taking dictation from your characters and that’s a good sign.

The other positive is that the slow start means you’ve started the story in the wrong place and that will be what you look at first to edit, cut, or rewrite later. You sometimes need to write a start like that to help get you going. The important thing IS to get going and have that first draft down. This is why I always write a story in full and then edit. I know it won’t be perfect straightaway (what is after all?) but that’s okay. The improvement works come later on.

Only the Ten Commandments were written in stone so just be aware you’ll need to go back and change that slow start. It if serves no purpose get rid of it. If there is useful material in there, what can you do to retain that and get it across to the reader in a better way? Sometimes that material can make a separate scene later once the pace has picked up and be a useful “take a breather” scene. Sometimes you can get the character to convey the information. There are options!

By the time you’re drafted your story and then re-read the whole thing, you should also have a better idea of where your tale should have begun. Hey presto, you take it from there!

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Am pushing myself on story submissions though I’ve mixed this up with flash tales, standard length short stories and so on. All good fun!

One of my longer term projects is my third flash fiction collection (which is at a reasonable length as it is now but needs editing. I’ve got some linked flash stories in this one and some historical pieces but would like to add a few more tales to this before I really edit the lot).

My starting point for a flash fiction story is always to work out who is the character who is leading it, what their motivations are, what they stand to win or lose by the end of the tale. All of these have got to be strong enough to keep my interest going (yet alone anyone else’s!) and if the three strands together, then a promising flash fiction story should be the result.

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I use first person a lot in flash fiction as it is so immediate but when I do name a character, it’s usually by Christian name only. This is partly due to the word count restriction but, much more importantly, I can convey what I need a reader to know about a character called Mary just by using that name only.

When I do bring in a surname it’s either a means to show what class/background that character belongs to OR another character is referring to them. That tells a reader immediately the named character is important to my narrator. It makes a useful flag!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when you are really pressed for time to write, you can jot down something to work with. Whether you then extend those jottings to a full length 1500 words+ story or keep it as something that could work in the flash market is up to you, but you have the option! So never despair if you only have 10 minutes to write, you can get something down in that time.

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My CFT post this week will be about Moments that Matter but in flash fiction every moment matters!

Whatever kind of story you write, you select what the reader has to know, you leave gaps for them to work things out, and end with a satisfying conclusion to your tale. With flash, that whole process is more intense.

Every word must count and play its part. For example:-

She always wore velvet.

She always wore moth-eaten velvet.

Which of those lines would I use in a story? The second one.

This is because the “always” implies there’s a character here who may well be obsessed with what she wears. The “moth-eaten” tells you something about her financial well being (or she’s exceptionally careless about how she looks after her clothes). Yes. these are two extra words to the count but both add weight and meaning to the story so stay in.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do You Look For in a Story?

What people look for in a story differs of course but, for me, the primary wish is to be entertained.

I don’t like it when genre fiction is looked down on for not being “highbrow”. That isn’t the purpose of genre fiction. Besides genre fiction CAN be challenging and make readers think.

There is nothing wrong in writing or reading “merely” to be entertained. A good story that can make you forget your troubles for while is wonderful.

One of the lovely things about books/stories is they can take you out of yourself for a while and that is invaluable. In difficult times, I’ve relished those periods when I’ve been able to escape with a good book. The ability to escape for a while is crucial.

I can understand the point of misery memoir but frankly it isn’t for me. I hope others find healing and help through it but I want to switch off the real world when I read and deliberately venture into something I know is totally made up!

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AMAZON CENTRAL

Below is the link to the US and UK pages I’ve set up on Author Central. More will be added as and when I have news/further publications out (there’s optimism for you!).  Hope you enjoy.

https://www.amazon.com/Allison-Symes/e/B07T3HT18L?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

(American)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07T3HT18L

(UK)

There are also pages for me on Author Central France, Germany, and Japan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Legacy

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is about Writing Legacies. I look back at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and reflect on the wonderful writing legacy left by the late Barbara Large, MBE. I take the subject from her own legacy to the legacy she gave hundreds (possibly thousands) of writers she encouraged over the decades.

I also ask what legacy we should leave as writers, regardless of what we write in terms of genre. Link up tomorrow. This is one of those posts that is a privilege to write but then it was a huge privilege to know Barbara. The writing world needs more like her…

Image Credit:  Mostly Pixabay though the image of Barbara Large and Barbara with Anne Wan were kindly supplied by Anne Wan for a previous CFT post.  The selfie is of crime writer, Val Penny, and I at the Winchester Writers’ Festival on 15th June 2019.

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My CFT post this week is about Writing Legacies. I look back at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and reflect on the wonderful writing legacy left by the late Barbara Large, MBE. I take the subject from her own legacy to the legacy she gave hundreds (possibly thousands) of writers she encouraged over the decades.

I also ask what legacy we should leave as writers, regardless of what we write in terms of genre. Link up tomorrow. This is one of those posts that is a privilege to write but then it was a huge privilege to know Barbara. The writing world needs more like her…

 

What do you think your greatest achievement is as a writer? Is it publication? Is it repeated publication? Or is it knowing you’ve written without publication in mind but still produced work to a high standard.

All of that is wonderful. I’d say the real test is writing something, putting it away for a while, looking at your piece again, recognizing its flaws, and then editing it to improve it. And going through that process until you know that piece of work is as good as you can make it.

That, for me, is where the real writing lies.

Nobody but nobody produces a perfect piece of work at the first attempt. For me, there is great consolation in knowing that! What matters is putting the work into your story or article or book and doing what it takes to get it right. There’s a reason writers need stamina – and this is it.

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I had an unusual opportunity to discuss flash fiction (and the wonderful Cafelit today) – and that was while I was in the dentist’s chair waiting for the anaesthetic to work! Never miss an opportunity, folks…

The main point to come out of this was I was discussing how flash fiction are complete stories in and of themselves. They’re not cut off prose. Each flash story must make sense AS a story.

What flash does do is leave more gaps for the reader to fill in. It has to because of the word count restriction. There should be scope for a reader to wonder what might have happened after the story ends. Now that’s true for all forms of fiction (haven’t you wondered about characters in novels you love?) but with flash you just reach that point far quicker!

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Every so often I will jot down some promising opening lines and see where I can go with them. It’s one of the few times I don’t outline something. I wouldn’t call it the white knuckle ride of flash fiction writing exactly but it is the nearest I get to it given I do outline 90% of the time and am glad to do so. Outlining has saved me going off on too many tangents that don’t prove useful.

I am a firm believer in mixing up how you write your stories as it will keep things fresh and interesting for you. It’s a good way of avoiding being formulaic too. It is one of the great ironies of the writing life nobody wants you to be formulaic but they do want you to write more of the stories that have been published etc. More of the same but different… hmm…

One of the things I love most about Scrivener is setting my word count target. For flash fiction competitions and markets, this is invaluable.

Some include the word title as part of the allowable count, others do not, but whichever way it goes, I can set my target accordingly and know I’m not going to go over it.

You can even check how often you use a word if you want to do so. Yes, “the” and “and” are right up there! But if you use Scrivener and you know you use certain phrases or words a lot, this could be a great way of ensuring you don’t overdo it.

Image Credit: The shots of the Scrivener boxes were taken by me as screenshots, something else which is easy to do within the program. I love the traffic light system of red, amber and green as you approach your target.

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Fairytales with Bite – Writing Legacy

My CFT post this week, Writing Legacy, looks at the legacy of the much missed Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the Winchester Writers’ Festival. I also ask what legacy we as writers should try to leave behind.

From a character viewpoint, what is the legacy we as our creators should leave them with?

  1. Have we made them unforgettable characters? We should have done…

  2. Have we given them plenty to do in the story? We should have done…

  3. Have we tested them to see what they are really made of? We should have done…

  4. Have they got good dialogue? If not, why not?

  5. Do they come across well to a reader? They should do (and this applies equally to villains. They need to be convincing too).

  6. Are the motivations of the character strong enough?

  7. Will the reader feel a pang of regret when the story is over?

Better get to it then!

This World and Others – The Longest Day

Today is the longest day (at least it is from my part of the world, the UK), but in writing terms, what would this mean for your characters?

  1. The longest day is taken literally and we follow the character through from getting up to going to bed.

  2. The longest day is taken metaphorically and we see a character going through all kinds of trials in a relatively short time span.

Whichever route you go, the character has to have enough to do and for that to be gripping enough to make the reader want to continue with your story. Their motivations must be strong enough and we need to see what makes them keep going when most would have given up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death scenario though a situation where the ability to leave is taken away from the character is always interesting and full of dramatic possibilities.

I find it more interesting though when a character could get out of a situation, you can understand why they would do so, but they continue on their current path. What drives that character? What makes them tick? Do they have any sense of failure? Who do they think they would be letting down if they did just walk away?

Definite story possibilities there!

Image Credit:  Pixabay.

 

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Aspects of the Writing Life

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This post comes almost live from the Winchester Writers’ Festival. What do you mean by almost, I hear you cry? Well I started drafting this on Evernote just after a fab lunch with the lovely Val Penny (writer of the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries starring DI Hunter Wilson). I swear we stuck to orange juice… whether you believe me is another matter!

So what do I find most useful about coming to Winchester? Difficult to know where to start but here goes.

Information from the courses. You find out information you knew you needed and equally things you hadn’t known you needed to know. Both are useful.

Networking with writer friends, old and new.

The opportunity to hear first hand from published authors, agents, editors, and publishers in keynote speeches and the like. These can be real eye openers.

Coming to events like this can be a confidence booster especially when starting your own writing journey. You start to feel as if you are a real writer. Rejections can knock you back. Events like this help pick you up again.

Already looking forward to next year’s Festival.

Val Penny and I having a selfie moment at Winchester last Saturday

Crime writer Val Penny and I having a selfie moment at the Winchester Writers’ Festival

Amongst the Murphy’s Laws that exist purely for writers must be the following:-

1. Time drags until it is time to write, then it flies by, leaving you wondering where on earth it went. Naturally you have not achieved as much as you would have liked either.

Incidentally that is okay. The big thing to ask yourself here is have you made progress on what you’re writing? Progress can include getting a certain number of words down, of course, but equally valid are things like changing scene orders, re-reading through, and being happy with how you’ve changed things. That all takes time but is as much writing as actual writing, if you see my meaning.

Don’t belittle yourself if “all” you managed to get done was some editing. As long as that editing is tightening up your work, improving it etc., it is a valid part of your writing and you are still making progress.

2. You may be a writer but you are still afflicted by the curse that says you can’t find a pen when you need one.

In public, this is embarrassing. Guess who, whenever she is due out at an event, makes absolutely sure she has pens in bags, pockets etc so she knows she has at least TWO on her person. It has to be two to prevent Murphy’s Law kicking in again by ensuring your solitary pen doesn’t work and if you only take one, it WILL fail on you.

3. Your toner cartridge runs out part way through a print run. It is never anywhere useful such as on the test print you do before you run out a lengthy story.

I use a laser jet so I have no indication of when it’s going to run out. Having said that, my lovely printer, which I call Old Faithful because I’ve had it for YEARS, has seen come and go at least three “cleverer” printers my better half has had, which DO say when their cartridges will run out, print in colour etc. On balance, I think I’ll stick with Old Faithful until it finally bites the dust.

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There are similarities to writing and trying to lose weight.

1. You can be guaranteed frustrations along the way but it is best to face up to that from the start so that when they do come, you’re not surprised/thrown by them. It is important to pick yourself up and dust yourself down and then see how far along the road you can get before the next one hits.
2. Success in either never comes as quickly as you’d like.
3. Persistence pays. The determination not to give up is crucial.
4. You can’t know for sure you will get to your end goal. You can only give it your best shot but your end goal may genuinely change. You may discover your writing skills suit short stories rather than novels, for example, and that’s fine.
5. You need to accept the rough with the smooth and take some comfort from the fact everyone has to come to terms with rejections (set backs on the weight loss) and you are definitely not alone on this.
6. When going well, both writing and losing weight sensibly and successfully make you feel good about yourself!
7. Keeping going is the only way to get to the end destination at all.

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Why does any writer need a decent amount of stamina?

1. The determination to keep going will help a lot when the rejections come in – and they will. Okay you may need to look at revamping what you’ve written or try other markets for it etc, but the important thing here is accepting rejections are par for the course. Everyone gets them. It’s how you react to them that matters. Sometimes you have to accept something isn’t working and move on to new work too. It can be tough to move on from a project you’ve loved but which just isn’t working.

2. There will be wonderful high moments such as when you receive your first acceptance, when you see your story or article in print etc., but the lows come too. All that comes into your inbox are rejections or you don’t hear anything at all. Stamina helps you accept all of this is the normal lot of the writer’s life, regardless of what you write.

3. Seeking out the markets and competitions that are right for what you write takes time and effort.

4. Submitting work to the appropriate outlet also takes time and effort.

5. Being aware there are charlatans out there who will happily take your money for precious little in return and researching who you can genuinely turn to for self publishing or other services which are legitimate etc again takes time and effort.

Spot the theme emerging!

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If anyone tells you writing short fiction has to be easier than writing longer works, don’t believe them! Both have their challenges and joys. Both forms should be celebrated and treasured.

What flash fiction writing has taught me is how to pick words and phrases which will have the maximum impact on readers. The great thing with that is it is a transferable skill, useful for any and every form of writing.

 

I’m on a theme tonight – Murphy’s Law for writers (see my Allison Symes author page for more) – but let’s look at some specifically for flash fiction writers.

1. You’ve set your heart on entering a story for a 100-word comp. No matter what you do, your story stubbornly persists in coming in at 101 words.

Take out the additional word, I hear you say? Ha! It’ll either muck up your grammar (so spoiling your chances in the competition anyway) or it takes out something that adds depth to your character and is a crucial point in the story. Yes, one word can make a huge difference here. For example:-

She was dressed in velvet.
She was dressed in moth-eaten velvet.

2. You love writing flash fiction on a particular theme or in a certain genre say. Murphy’s Law will dictate the perfect competition with a short deadline will crop up when you’re away or ill. You will discover this when you are back at your desk. You will also discover you have missed that deadline or have a snowflake’s chances in hell of meeting it. You will not be a happy bunny. You will be a distinctly irritated bunny. No prizes for guessing how I know…

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There is something about writing that transforms writers. You can be the sweetest soul imaginable to all around you, but at the drop of a pen, be utterly ruthless as you dump your characters into absolute hell and see how they get out of it, if they do at all. And that’s how it should be!

Your characters sink or swim and it is the hook of finding out which way your characters go that will keep your readers with you. So go on, you know you want to, drop your characters right in the mire and see what happens!

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Flash fiction writers are living proof that great stories do not have to run to thousands of words and pages. A great story is one that keeps a reader gripped, whether it is a 50-word tale, or an epic saga like The Lord of the Rings.

Short writing takes effort. It is so easy to fill your writing with words you don’t really need – and really is one of those words that usually gets the automatic red pen through it when I write it. I wish I could stop myself writing words I know will only be cut later but the next best thing is to know what your weak words are and DO cut them later.

Can there be a genuine use for words such as really? Yes. The only time I use it is is in dialogue when I might want a character to be sarcastic. You can get a lot of emphasis into “really”!

Really!

Goodreads Author Blog – Planning Your Reading

Do you plan your reading time? Over a week, I like to make sure I’ve had a good balance of magazine, short story, flash fiction, non-fiction, and novel reading. I like to mix Kindle and paper reading too.

Whether it is better to read one thing before moving on to the next, or reading slices of different forms is best, is down to personal preference, of course. What is good is changing what you read whether you do this sequentially or not.

I’ve gone for the “slices” approach because some evenings I really do just want to read a novel. The next evening I’ll want to read short stories. I don’t want to feel obliged to finish one thing first.

Having said that, a fantastic book will keep me gripped as a reader so I have to complete it. The challenge for a writer is to produce that effect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Aloud Allowed

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is Reading Aloud Allowed. I look why reading out loud is such a good idea for writers but also why it is beneficial for readers too.

I look at performance prose, take a look back at the Waterloo Arts Festival, and sing the praises of audio books too. The latter are great for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is they are a means of getting stories to people who won’t necessarily go to the printed word first, if at all.

Many thanks to Ana Coelho for the picture of me reading from The Professional last weekend. The whole event was huge fun and I’ve practiced what I preach about reading aloud too!

Image Credit:  Ana Coelho as mentioned above (she also took the one of Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin and I in the pub ahead of the Festival).  All other images by Allison Symes bar one Pixabay one.  That won’t be difficult to spot! Captions on the CFT post.

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I love that moment when you’re writing a story and you suddenly know you really have got your character spot on and they seemingly come to life in front of you. It’s at moments like that I can’t write the words down fast enough but it is such a good feeling.

Outlining what you think your character will be like is a good way to generate further ideas which will help that character take off.

I love the Scrivener story templates (character and setting – and I also love the way setting is treated almost as a character here. I’ve found it helps a lot. It makes me think about my setting more and as a result how my characters react to said setting. There can be stories to write in that alone).

Of course you can design your own. Think about what you really need to know about your character before you write their story. What makes them what they are? What are their biggest fears? What makes them laugh? Whatever outlining questions you go for have fun with this. Dig deep too. Look at why they have the fears they do. What are their triggers?

Then write their story. I believe it will come across that you really do know your characters well enough and that you are writing with conviction.

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I’ll be discussing the joys of reading aloud in my CFT post this week. Okay there are some places where it is best not done. (You’d get some funny looks on the bus, particularly if you were the bus driver. 😉😀). There are benefits to reading aloud though both from the viewpoint of reader and author. Link up on Friday.

Practising what I preach here. I’ve added in a couple of additional pictures since I put this post up initially on Facebook.  Many thanks to Ana Coelho, Dawn Kentish Knox, Geoff Parkes, the Hampshire Writers’ Society, and Janet Williams (my lovely CFT editor) for taking various pictures of me at work and for their blessing to use the images. It is very difficult to take selfies of yourself in full flow and certainly would not be a pretty sight!!

 

Reading part of the Professional at the WAF. Photo taken by Ana Coelho

Loved reading from The Professional. Many thanks to Ana Coelho for the image.

Happy writers at the WAF - photo taken by Ana Coelho

Proof positive that Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors are a happy bunch. Image taken by Ana Coehlo.

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Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin, and me just ahead of the Festival. Many thanks to Ana Coelho for taking the picture.

I read a few of my flash fiction stories and am pleased they go down well - image by Dawn Kentish Knox

I read some of my flash fiction from FLTDBA and Cafelit. Image by Dawn Kentish Knox

HAMPSHIRE WRITERS PICTURE OF ALLISON

Image from Hampshire Writers Society where I was a guest speaker last year. Great fun! Many thanks to HWS for permission to use the photo.

The Open Mic for Prose night

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes for kind permission to use this shot of me reading at the Swanwick Prose Open Mic Night.

cropped-cropped-version-of-my-reading-at-railway-station

My reading at my signing at our local railway station. Image taken by Janet Williams, CFT editor.

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I’ve found generating stories come into two categories for me.

1. The idea comes quickly, I know it’s a winner, and off I go and write it up. OR
2. I have an initial idea, which builds up over time to a much stronger one.

Option 2 takes longer to write up and edit but I’ve found some of my longer, more thoughtful pieces have emerged that way.

Both options are equally valid. I love that feeling when the words and ideas just flow and you know you are creating something good. Yes, it will need to be shaped later but that’s fine and another enjoyable task. But to run with the story idea is huge fun.

I equally love an Option 2 story when it has taken me a while to get there but I can see how much further the tale has strengthened and developed over that “brewing” period and that it has turned into something special.

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I’m writing directly to screen most of the time now thanks to Evernote on the phone and a good laptop and Scrivener. It’s good fun and it saves a lot of time not having to type up notes the way I used to have to do.

BUT I always carry out a final edit of any stories, posts etc., on paper as it is too easy to miss things on screen. It can be too easy to “fill in the gaps” mentally as you read something but the gaps are still there and will stand out to any editor/publisher/agent.

You’d think with flash fiction being so short that would be easy to edit on screen. Sure, I can do the basic edits that way and do so but I still run out the story on paper for the reasons given above. There must be some sort of psychological “block” at work here helping a writer to see things that aren’t there but should be or in missing blatant errors.

All I know for sure is a final edit on paper works for me.

The important thing with any submission is you have got to get it as good as you can make it and I don’t want to let myself down by sending something in only for me to spot errors in my copy of the MSS later. You make that mistake once – early on as a writer – and not again!

 

How do you know when a flash fiction story is the right length? Not everything suits a 50-word, 100-word tale etc.

The answer for me is when you cannot add another word as it would just tip the balance of the story over. You CAN have too much of a good thing!

Also when you cannot remove another word from it because to do so would spoil the rhythm of the prose or take something away from the character/setting.

It’s then a question of establishing the word count and sending the piece off to the appropriate competition/market. So never worry if you’ve set your heart on writing a 75-word story but it works better if it stays at 150. Far better to leave it at the latter.

Fairytales with Bite – Reading Aloud Allowed

Reading Aloud Allowed is the topic of my CFT post this week.  I show how it benefits readers and writers alike.

Do your characters read? If so, what do they read? Do they read out loud? What is their schooling like (where reading aloud is really encouraged of course)? Do you have characters who struggle with reading or is your fictional setting one which is aggressive to the idea of books and learning?

Is your fictional world one where stories are treasured?  Is there an oral storytelling tradition? What are the legends which generally are the basis of oral storytelling?

Now you are bound to have some story idea triggers from answering at least some of that!

Have fun!

This World and Others – Using Sayings in Fiction

I use sayings and proverbs in fiction as (a) titles and (b) themes for stories. There are so many stories that could be written on the theme of, for example, “revenge is a dish best served cold”. You can also subvert that idea and “prove” the saying wrong if you wanted to do so. See proverbs and sayings as a useful resource both used directly or having your characters react against the saying you’ve picked.

Looking through a book of proverbs can be a great way to trigger story ideas.  It is also useful when you’ve written a piece to look back through it and see what theme emerges from it that you hadn’t planned out. I suspect a lot of the time what you come up with here will link in with a well known saying.  Why?

Because we write from the depths of our soul and our life experiences will come into that. This will include things we read, things we have read, things we know to be true or things we know could be true.  Proverbs and sayings will have affected us subconsciously over years too.  Some of course we will have had direct experience of and so know them to be true and so could write stories on these based on our conviction they are true. Proverbs and sayings will influence how we think and therefore how we write.

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Waterloo Arts Festival and Ingesting Stories

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Had a fab time at the Waterloo Arts Festival. Loved hearing the extracts from the winning stories for the WAF Writing Competition. St. John’s Church is absolutely stunning and its own artwork incredible.

The theme, and title for the ebook compilation of the winning stories including my The Professional, was taken in very different ways by the writers.

The compilation is called Transforming Being.

Transforming Being Medium

Transforming Beings. Image via Gill James

I love things like this. It is proof, if it were needed, every writer has a unique voice. It is that voice which comes through in the stories. So how do you develop your writing voice?

By writing of course! Lots and lots of writing. There are no shortcuts for anyone here. This is part of the “behind the scenes” work for every writer, as it applies equally well to non-fiction.

The good news is the work you put in here won’t be wasted. Some of it may well find its way into stories or articles which are published later. You will get to find what works and what doesn’t. That will save you time and help you be more productive later on. See it as the ground work you build on later.

Good luck!

Image Credit:  Most of the images below were taken by me but many thanks to Ana Coelho for taking the lovely shot of Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin and I having a great pub lunch and conversation ahead of the Festival today.  Also thanks to Ana for the images of a happy bunch of Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown writers and of me reading from The Professional. It is always lovely to meet up with those writers that for most of the year you can only “see” online!

 

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Managed to draft a 1500-word short story, draft some posts for FB, and prepared my Goodreads blog on the train and while in Costas at Waterloo yesterday ahead of the Festival. Well pleased with that. I love Evernote! All it meant, when I got home after a wonderful day feeling shattered, was all I had to do was post those blogs and that was me done for the day.

I hope the story, once edited and polished, will be submitted for competition. I’ve got a couple of others in mind I want to have a go at too.

Next event is the Winchester Writers’ Festival over the weekend, though I’m only going on the Saturday. Looking forward to the courses, catching up with friends, and making some new ones! Encouragement and inspiration to come from the event I’m taking as read!

Do you play word games at all? I like online Scrabble but have yet to use any of the odd two and three letter words you’re allowed into any writing. Can’t see any immediate use for them!

I occasionally have a go at a crossword (usually the Quick ones. I’ve got to be feeling particularly brilliant to have a go at the cryptic type and that doesn’t happen often enough!).

I find word games a great way to wind down AFTER a writing session. And I’m still playing with words when all is said and done. It is a kind of reward for getting to where I want to be on my stories.

A big thanks to #AnaCoelho for taking the picture of me reading from The Professional at the Waterloo Arts Festival and for kind permission to use the picture. The venue, St. John’s Church, is lovely and has some stunning artwork of its own. Oh and Ana very kindly provided proof that Bridge House/Chapeltown/Cafelit are a happy bunch of writers!

NB  I make no apology for repeating the pics!

Happy writers at the WAF - photo taken by Ana Coelho

Proof positive that Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors are a happy bunch. Image taken by Ana Coehlo.

Reading part of the Professional at the WAF. Photo taken by Ana Coelho

Loved reading from The Professional. Many thanks to Ana Coelho for the image.

Sorry for slight delay in posting tonight. Have no idea why but the create post box has literally just appeared so here I am typing away! No idea why it vanished. If anyone has any thoughts on why and how to fix it, please say!

It’s thrown me as I’d not changed anything. Obviously would like to avoid this happening again. All rather bizarre. Facebook, please note – one not happy author here! Also would like to flag this up as it may well happen to others. I have reported it.

On to happier things. I’m looking forward to going to the Winchester Writers’ Festival on Saturday. It’ll be lovely meeting friends, hopefully making new friendships, learning from the courses, and all the lovely conversations you get into over tea/coffee breaks and lunch! Have often picked up news of competitions etc I’d not heard of previously.

Naturally I shall have a good browse around the Book Shop too. Well, you have to, yes?

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Every story has a theme underpinning it. These are planned of course but what is fun is when you’ve written a piece to your chosen topic and, on re-reading it, you find another theme has emerged.

It can be exciting, and sometimes worrying, to discover just what did emerge from your subconscious as you were writing!

I’m sure you’ll have heard the advice to dig deep for your writing. Sometimes you can do that without realising you have!

Of course, what you then do with that writing is up to you!

Good to see more competitions and markets for flash fiction. Always opportunities about.

The problem I think a lot of writers have, and this includes me, is finding enough time to have a crack at all the competitions I’d like to try. As that never really works, I look at a few and go for the ones where the theme appeals most and discard the others. There are some competitions I enter yearly and where I’d love to be shortlisted. If you don’t have a go…

It pays to work out a strategy that works for you when it comes to story submissions. Look at what your writing strengths are and what you most like writing and then find the market/competition to match. For example, I can tell if a piece is going to work best on Cafelit and sure enough I send it there!

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Pleased to have written and sent off a 100 word story for a competition over the weekend. The competition was flagged up to me by pal, #JenWilson, (who writes the wonderful Kindred Spirit series), and this is one of the great things about the writing community.

Information gets shared. Sometimes you’ll share something that will be of use to others. Other times, you’ll use information that’s of use to you. What goes around comes around etc.

And always take notice of scams doing the rounds. No industry is exempt from these. Sadly, the creative industries are not the exception. If you’re not sure about whether something is a scam or not, check it out. Don’t be afraid to ask.

For competitions, I always check out terms carefully. I don’t submit work to anywhere that wants all my rights (and usually for ever and ever amen at that). If you’re not happy with a competition for whatever reason, move on to others. There are more out there for flash now which is a great thing.

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Glad to be able to post as the create post box on here has only just appeared. Goodness knows where it went or why it vanished at all. Have reported it. Don’t know if this is just me or whether there has been an overall issue on FB tonight.

On to happier things… Very pleased with how reading The Professional went at the Waterloo Arts Festival on Saturday. It was such a treat listening to the other stories too. I’ll be talking about the joys of reading aloud in my Chandler’s Ford Today post later this week.

Flash fiction is great to read at events of course because it doesn’t take too long. It’s a good way to catch a would-be reader’s attention too. And twist endings, which really grab attention work brilliantly in flash. What I love is when I’ve enjoyed a story like that and then realised how brilliantly chosen the title was. It encourages me to up my own game here.

I usually choose a title and then write but sometimes a better one will occur while doing that. So fine, I change it. As with the body of the story itself, I want the title to be the most appropriate and have the greatest impact on a reader.

Goodreads Author Blog Ingesting Stories

Ingesting? Really? Yes and we all do so more often than you might think, as it’s not just a conscious thing.

You hear snippets of conversation on a train and a writer’s mind will want to fill in the gaps. I refuse to believe that is just me!

A reader’s mind may well be reminded of stories they’ve read based on similar themes to what they’ve overheard. There will be something!

Ingesting stories can also be done via audio books/going to oral storytelling events and so on. We ourselves are stories and our lives reflect tales that have influenced us.

Look at what your favourite stories are and ask yourself why you picked these. It is the reason why these stories speak to your soul that is so fascinating.

Really great stories do reflect what we know of ourselves and humanity in general. We take in those stories with themes that fascinate us most.

The good thing then is to have a healthy reading diet. Stories take us to places we physically cannot go. This is especially true for science fiction and fantasy, but stories should feed our minds and open them.

So ingest plenty of tales (and the best non-fiction is a creative narrative too) and enjoy what’s on the menu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes – and Publication News

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week takes a look Behind the Scenes from the viewpoints of volunteering and writing. Volunteers make such a huge difference in so many ways and what they do often goes unseen. So time for some plaudits and encouragement then.

Writers can feel all the hard work they put in as they submit stories, articles etc goes unseen too. Yes, it does, but it helps you to develop as a writer. You can’t learn from your mistakes unless you make some!

It really is how you develop but the great thing with being involved with writing groups/writing communities online is generally these are very supportive and there are ways of finding out what you need to know so you do NOT make ALL the mistakes ever known to writing kind!

Going to good writing events helps enormously here too.

Does the behind the scenes work pay off? Nobody can guarantee publication or a foolproof way to always earn from your writing but you are much more likely to achieve success (however you define it) by putting the groundwork in. As with so much in life, there are no shortcuts. The encouraging thing here is EVERY writer goes through this.

Image Credit:  The images are from the magnificent Pixabay. I particularly like the grouchy looking face in the comments box. Rumours that this resembles me when another rejection has come in are totally true.  Captions on the CFT page.

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Absolutely delighted to share the cover for Transforming Beings and the link to it on Amazon. My story, The Professional, is one of the sixteen winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing competition.

Every writer all had to write to the same word count and on the same theme. This is proof you can have at least sixteen different writers produce sixteen different takes on the topic!

Am so looking forward to being at the Festival on Saturday and to taking part in the readings. Good luck to everyone who is also taking part. It will be great to catch up with you all.

Transforming Being Medium

My CFT post this week will look at what behind the scenes means in terms of volunteering, but also what it means for writers. It gives me a chance to say thanks to all those who give up their time to help others and, I hope, to encourage writers who feel they may be slogging away for years without their being any visible benefits. Link up on Friday.

In other news, as they say, work continues well on the novel and I’m fleshing out other ideas, fiction and non-fiction, for development later in the year. Want to get some more submissions out before long too.

The joy of writing? One of them is never being short of things to do!

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Reading work out loud is a great way to hear how your story flows, whether your dialogue works properly, and so on. Once your work is out there, and you get the chance to read before an audience at events such as the Waterloo Arts Festival, Open Mic nights etc, give it a go.

You are getting to engage directly with people who love stories so your audience will be broadly sympathetic to begin with. But what is really lovely is when a part of your story which made you laugh as you wrote it generates the same response in your audience. It is a fantastic feeling.

Equally if your story generates any other response which is appropriate to that tale, then you are receiving invaluable feedback that this worked!

Writers need things like that for all the times work gets turned down. There should be an “up” side!

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Following on from my other post tonight, themes work best when open to interpretation. For example:-

Revenge is a dish best served cold – well you could come up with all sorts of ways to show whether that is true or not.

But something like Dreams, while you can get stories from that, for me this is a bit TOO open-ended.

It helps to narrow your focus on something specific so for me Fallen Dreams would be much better. There are stories to be told about how a dream could be fallen.

The other thing that comes to mind would be at least one story on how a fallen dream is overcome and doesn’t blight your character’s life. Equally, how it isn’t and it DOES blight your character (depends on whether you like sad stories I suppose!).

Have fun and play around with your themes but hone them so you have something useful to focus on and work with.

It’s always a thrill when a story of yours is published and I’m delighted to say Transforming Beings, the ebook of the winning entries in the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition, is now available.

My The Professional is in here and my character is one I would not like to meet in life! Naturally no spoilers here…!

If you like a good mix of stories, do give this a try (and if you can review that would be fab, thanks!).

Each story had to be 1000 words max so this is at the upper end of the flash fiction spectrum but there is a great variety here.

Books like this are also a reminder you can take a topic and come up with so many themes on it. Why not try it for your own flash fiction stories?

Link and cover image further up this post. If you do read the book, please review! Thank you!

For a flash fiction story to work well, you have to be totally convinced by your lead (and usually only) character. If you’re not convinced by them, nobody else will be.

That doesn’t mean you always love said characters. I can think of some of mine I loathe and/or would dread meeting in real life were that to become possible. The important point is I DO understand and get why they are the way they are and the story wouldn’t work at all without that.

Also, I think your characters have got to make you feel something for you to be able to write their stories with conviction. Nobody fell in love or hated a cardboard cutout (well at least I haven’t!).

The advantage of a character you hate is the effect they generate on a reader. It should be that your reader will want to read on to see if said character gets the comeuppance they so richly deserve and, if so, how. All good fun to write!

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Fairytales with Bite – Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes is the topic for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and I look at it in terms of volunteering and writing. Plaudits and encouragement needed in both I think!

For a piece of work, what would behind the scenes mean? Well, even in fiction, research can sometimes be necessary. This is especially true for any fiction which weaves real life events or people into the narrative. Facts have to be facts. (If it’s an alternative reality or history, that should be made clear at the outset). Just watch how much research you do. Research is fun but can also turn into procrastination when you should be writing. We’ve all done it…

Sometimes research can be as simple as drawing on what you know from life about likely human behaviours. You know humans can be like this in these circumstances so your characters should reflect that too.  Good fiction does reflect our humanity. Nobody said it had to flatter though!

Behind the scenes obviously includes your drafts and edits but also things like ensuring you meet the submission requirements for wherever you are sending work to, as no two places have quite the same needs here. Yes, there will be a lot in common – double line spacing, font size etc – but I take a week off any deadline for a competition to make absolutely sure I’ve got those details right as I don’t want mistakes there to disqualify my story.  (It’s not really fair when you have two equally good pieces come in to allow one that didn’t follow all the rules properly to win over one that DID).

Perseverance and patience are invaluable qualities for a writer though!

This World and Others – When Life Throws You Lemons

… make lemonade, as the old saying goes, but how can a writer do this? Are lemons such a bad thing anyway?

From the viewpoint of developing characters, the more lemons you throw at them the better.  Well, you do want to find out what your characters are made out of, yes? You want to find out their hidden depths, yes?  Chuck them in the deep end and have fun finding out how they get themselves out of it. If they need to resort to the help of friends to get out of said horrible deep end, what did they try to do first before calling for back up? Is the back up reliable? You want plenty of tension and drama and writing these scenes should easily produce that. You can work out later on what  you want to keep for your story and what might prove to be useful background knowledge to you only.

As a writer, when all that seems to come your way are rejections, firstly bear in mind nothing worthwhile was ever easy and, secondly, most writers go through this. Even after publication in one avenue, rejections still come in. I find it useful to look at work that has been turned down and see if I can revamp it and send it out elsewhere. Usually I can and I have had work accepted by another outlet after doing this. The important thing is not to give up but it is perfectly okay to change direction with your writing. If you decide flash fiction isn’t for you but the longer short story form is, then that’s fine. Play to your writing strengths. It is also fine to pause from writing. I generally only do this when on holiday or ill and I use the time to catch up on reading (I always have reading to catch up on!) and that helps feed the imagination beautifully.

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The Good Writing Fairy, Research and the Waterloo Arts Festival

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Which writing books have you found most useful? I’d have to list:-

On Writing – Stephen King

Scrivener for Dummies – Gwen Hernandez

Wannabe a Writer?/Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? – Jane Wenham-Jones

Story – Robert McKee

There are loads of others I’ve found useful, for different reasons, over the years but these ones stick out. I’m also fond of The Seven Basic Plots which is a detailed book and gave me plenty of pause for thought.

What do you want from a writing book? Encouragement, yes. Honesty, yes. (You do need to know you need stamina and persistence but that it is also okay to change direction if you want to do so). Useful tips you can apply to your own writing, yes. A friendly and easy to read style – in most cases, yes. For something like The Seven Basic Plots, the style is more academic but is still a fascinating read.

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Have caught up on a few writing prompt exercises in my diary. One was based on a lovely picture of a dog having fun at the beach (my Lady could so identify with that!) and another was to list 10 words associated with a train journey which I then had to use on a piece of writing. Very good stretching the imagination type work though what came out was a couple of very rough poems rather than flash fiction.

Whether these pieces will stay as rough poems (and they are VERY rough right now!) or whether I’ll transform them into stories later, I don’t know, but there is something liberating about a writing exercise where you can use any form you like. You don’t feel compelled to write to your normal form. You have fun playing around with words and seeing what happens.

 

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How much research do you do for your writing? I suspect your answer will be the same as mine – it depends on what I’m writing. Correct!

Do I need to do any research for my flash fiction stories? Yes, sometimes. For historical stories, I have to ensure any dates used are accurate and so on. If I mention a piece of furniture, for example, I need to ensure it WAS around at the time I’ve set the story.

For my CFT posts, I have to do more research of course. Can research become procrastination unless you know that’s a risk and don’t allow it to happen? Oh yes. Is it too easy to go down all sorts of interesting byways and be distracted from the task in hand? Oh yes.

But being aware of that risk can help nullify it.

Looking forward to the Waterloo Arts Festival on Saturday and meeting up with fellow writers there. Hope everyone is in good voice. Am looking forward to hearing the different stories. It is a real treat being read aloud to at events like this.

What I like about this is all of us have had to write to the same word count and on the same theme, but there will be 16 different stories here. You can’t have a book with 16 stories all with the same take on the topic as that would be boring to say the least.

This kind of event proves the point that what makes a writer unique is THEIR voice, THEIR take on a topic and nobody can write as YOU do with YOUR voice. So write away!

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The story in one sentence exercise is great for stretching the brain AND cutting your word count, but other uses for it are:-

1. Using what you come up with as an opening line. For example, “She refused to part with the key. This was the beginning of things going wrong for Sharon…”

2. Using what you come up with as a key to “twist” the story. For example, “She refused to part with the key” could lead to a twist being that she knows the key is useless for the purposes her partner in crime wants it for but cannot say how she knows.

3. Deliberately using what you come up with as the closing line. For example, “It was no good Bill arguing. Mary had been consistent. She refused to part with the key.”

Have fun with your one-liners then and put them in different places and see what impact they have.

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I use Scrivener for my writing and one of the things I have found most useful for my flash fiction work is being able to set the word count target you want. I love seeing the bar change colour as I near my target. I know it sounds silly but watching that colour change is great incentive to keep on writing (and especially when you might feel like giving up).

I use the short story character and setting templates for longer stories and these effectively help me get my outlining done. As I flesh out who my character is, what their traits are etc, ideas are beginning to tease away at just what awful situations I can dump that character in (nobody said a writer had to be nice! This is also so much fun!).

In organising my writing in a better way, I do get more done. I don’t use all of the Scrivener features by any means but select the ones I know I’d find most useful. The word count setting is brilliant for flash fiction writers as I can adjust it to take account of those markets where the title IS part of the word count and for those where it ISN’T. I know I’m not going to get it wrong.

The screenshots of Scrivener below were taken by me. It’s also useful being able to see how much you do in a session.

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What do I look for when reading flash fiction? There is no one definitive answer to this but I would include the following.

1. It has to be an entertaining read.
2. It should show me the most important point of change in a character’s life, especially as there won’t be word count room for anything else.
3. It can take me back or forwards in time.
4. It can show me new worlds or make me look at this one with new eyes.
5. The ending should be a powerful one.
6. Any twist should have clues within the story that I can go back and check later on those occasions when I fail to pick them up immediately!
7. I like slices of life stories but would like to see more humorous tales.

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If the good writing fairy turned up, what would most writers wish for? Aside from wanting to know why she hadn’t turned up earlier in my writing life (!), my wishes would be:-

1. To have as much time as possible for writing and to use that time well. (She may count this as two wishes in one here but I’d chance my luck here and see if I could get away with it counting as one!).

2. For reviews to appear at a steady rate against FLTDBA and the Cafelit and Bridge House anthologies in which my work has appeared.

3. To never run out of ideas to write up and energy with which to get on and do so. (Again, she might count that as two wishes. I’d argue it was two sides of ONE coin so ONE wish).

Now while waiting for said fairy to turn up, I’d better get on and write!