As One Season Ends…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

As part of my CFT post this week, As One Season Ends, I look at how getting older has helped me as a writer. I prefer to use the term mature, though I appreciate that may put you in mind of a fine wine or a good cheese! I am proud to say though my “wine/cheese” still has plenty of life in it and I’m well ahead of my Best Before Date.

One thing I love about writing is it is not the privilege of one age bracket only. Debut writers have had successes when young or old and I find that tremendously encouraging. I hope you do too.

Image Credit: As ever, the marvellous Pixabay. Captions on CFT post.

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What I love about character creation:-

1. You literally get to invent people. People with traits you’d like to have. People with traits you’re glad you DON’T have. It’s huge fun inventing a new person (I suspect Baron Frankenstein may have had similar thoughts but with much more questionable results in his case!).

2. You have great fun inventing dialogue for your characters and I love it when “they” come up with something that surprises me. I then look at this again and think, yes, that suits the traits I’ve given them. It’s proof to me this character is live, working, “their own” person and likely to be distinctive to the reader.

3. You have even more fun dropping said characters right in the mire and finding out how they get out of it (or not as the case may be. In the latter case, does someone else help them out? Why? What do they hope to gain? All sorts of story possibilities there).

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Well, the weather was cooler today, much to the relief of both Lady and me. (The same can’t be said for the political atmosphere in the UK at the moment and that’s all I’m saying about that).

Writing wise, while I believe there is a lot of truth in there only being so many plots in the world, I also believe there are infinite possibilities with said plots. Why?

It’s all down to the characters. Character creation fascinates me as a tweak here or there can make a huge difference to how your character is going to respond to situations and therefore what conflicts ensure. If they’ve got any kind of spirit they will be the cause of problems AND be the type that resolves them (or those caused by others who are worse than they are!).

A meek and mild character is not generally going to be the hero/heroine (I never did like Miss Price in Austen’s Mansfield Park, far too wishy-washy for me) but they can be an irritant (however unintentionally) to your main character and be the cause of further problems for your lead to sort out. So even this kind of character can be useful.

Have fun with your people, people!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I was putting From Light to Dark and Back Again together, I didn’t have an overall theme in mind. The stories were a nice mixture of humorous and dark tales and that directly inspired the book’s title.

When writing individual flash fiction stories, I focus on who the character is going to be, what their major trait is, and whether the story is going to be a funny or dark one.

If I’m writing for a competition with a set theme, then I work out different ways of how that theme could be taken and then go with the one I like best. It is very rarely the first idea I came up with either.

It is true for me when brainstorming ideas I do have to get the dross out of my system before coming up with something that has real possibilities. The important bit is not to worry about the dross, after all you’ll be discarding that, but get to those deeper ideas and that’s where you will find promising story ideas and characters to work with.

Open theme competitions can sometimes be more difficult precisely because they’re open. I set my own theme for these and then work to that. I have to have some parameters and then away I go. All I can say is that it works for me.

Whatever you’re writing this weekend, have a fab time doing so!

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My favourite kind of ending for flash fiction stories is the twist one. I like trying to guess at it and feel pleased when I’m right. I’m more pleased when I’m not as the author has kept me guessing and wrongfooted me (and I really don’t mind that at all!).

It’s a tough thing to get right though.This is where I think knowing what your twist ending will be and then working backwards to get to the start point would pay off. I’ve found this to be a technique that works for me and I’m in illustrous company too. Agatha Christie was known to do this and I can see why.

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I hope you had writing fun with the random word, phrase, and number generators. The great thing with these is if you’re ever stuck for something to write about, use any of these and just go with what comes up. It doesn’t matter if what comes up is ridiculous. Have fun with it!

Just free write, say for a set period of time, and have a look at your work later. Don’t expect it to be perfect. It won’t be. (I doubt if there is any such thing as a perfect piece of writing anyway).

What I hope you will find is in having something to work with, it will free up your imagination for other writing projects you have on the go.

I find it to be a fun thing to do and I often do use the generators for flash fiction in particular. (Oh and another great prompt can be pictures of course. See what you can do with the great images from Pixabay below!).

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

– Appreciating Writing

How often do you take time out to appreciate writing – your own, as well as the work of others? Not often enough, I suspect, but this begs the question should we appreciate writing more? Wouldn’t we be better off just writing? I’d argue appreciating writing will help you improve your own.

Inspiring, Entertaining, Informing – all good things to aim for with our writing. Pixabay

Every now and again, I recall what writing has done for me. I look at what the work of others has done for me too. One novel changed my attitude to a king. (The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey if you were wondering. The way it is written is good too).

Appreciating our writing, and that of others, should help us, and them, develop as writers. Pixabay

I believe in realising why you must write and its effects on you (in developing a creative streak, if nothing else), you will end up inspired to write better.

It is in writing my stories and blogs I discovered the hard work needed to (a) keep these going, (b) to continue to be entertaining and, hopefully, share useful information, and (c) how hard other writers must work on their material.

I’m also grateful for technology. I don’t miss carbon paper and typewriter erasers.  Pixabay

I appreciate a great turn of phrase so much more now and often wonder how long it took the writer to come up with the final selection of words that made it into print.

In appreciating the writing of others, you can also analyse what it is you love about it. What can you learn here to apply to your work? There will be something.

In going to conferences and Writers’ Days, you appreciate the breadth of the writing world and find encouragement within your own sphere. Writing has taken me to places I’d never dreamed of reaching. (If someone had told me a couple of years ago, I’d happily take part in Open Prose Mic Nights, I’d have told them not to be so silly).

I used a bigger Olympia. It weighed a ton! I really appreciate not having to lug that around any more! Pixabay

Writing should stretch you and that is good. There is no such thing as the perfect piece of writing but what we can do is the best we can at the time and go on to do better as we learn more about our craft and pick up tips from other writers.

It is also lovely when you can share tips with others. Writing is a lonely enough profession so support and encouragement go a long way. Well, they do for me.

Writing is something not to be taken for granted then. I don’t write to give a message. I write to entertain. I hope my stories and blog posts can lift people when they need that. I see it as giving back to the writing world which has given me so much.

This is always a good idea. Pixabay

There is every point for “message” writing. There is every point just to entertain. We cannot know what hard times readers are going through but to give them opportunities to take time out for a while  is worthwhile. So never be ashamed of just writing to entertain. I do sometimes wonder if entertainment is looked down on as a reason to write. I don’t think it should be.

Fairytales with Bite – As One Season Ends

My CFT post, As One Season Ends, looks at the topic from a personal and writing viewpoint, but here I want to look at how your characters handle the changes in the seasons in their lives.

We all have such seasons and our characters should be no different. After all, there have been times in life when we have been students and other times, say, when we’ve been employees. So what seasons in life do your characters go through?

If your setting is in fantasy or sci-fi, do your characters have education as we know it? What do their young people have to go through to be considered mature? How do your characters cope with expected changes in life (their society expects them to do this and then do that etc)? How do they handle the unexpected ones (the sudden loss of someone special etc)?

Does your created world have physical seasons as we understand them here? If so, what function does each season serve? I would expect there to be some sort of growing season (which logically must be followed by some kind of harvest).

How do your characters mature? Are there rituals they must follow and what happens to anyone who defies that?

Plenty of food for thought there I think.

Image Credit:  As ever, the photos are from the fantastic Pixabay. The ones I originally used on this on FWB are up above under my CFT link. Here are some other beautiful seasonal pictures. I always love an opportunity to use photos like these.

This World and Others –

What Every Good Story or Non-Fiction Piece Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

Image Credit:  The fantasic Pixabay.

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Time, Heat, and Random Generators

Facebook – General

I wrote this while in the car on the way to a family do (on Saturday 24th August). Looking forward to seeing everyone again. Glad of the air con though.

I remember when that first came to the UK thinking it was a daft idea. With the exception of rare very hot summers, we’d never need that here, I thought. The States, yes; Australia, yes, but here?

Just how wrong can you be?! Very, as it turns out!

Where I am glad not to be wrong is in taking up writing seriously. My only regret is not starting sooner. It does take far longer than you anticipate finding out what it is you want to write and to develop your voice.

Give yourself plenty of time then and ensure you enjoy the journey, at least most of the time!😊

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Must admit I’m not enjoying the heat much (neither is the dog) and it’s hard to believe we’re almost into September. My plans for the last quarter of the year then?

1. To continue submitting work to competitions. I’ve entered more at this stage than I had done for the same period last year so I am pleased with that. I’m waiting to hear on some but will presume no luck if I don’t hear by the end of September. The good thing with that? I’ll have another look at the stories, do any further work on them, and submit them elsewhere.

2. To continue submitting flash fiction to publishers.

3. To hopefully get my novel out into the submissions process.

4. To complete and edit another major project I’m working on with the idea of looking to submit it early in the New Year.

5. To continue with my blogs on CFT and Goodreads. Am hoping to do more with blogging in terms of being a guest on others’ blogs and inviting more on to mine. That is a long term ongoing goal.

6. To revamp my website.

So definitely not stuck for things to do! And I’ve written my goals down too… (much more likely to achieve them or make progress towards achieving them writing them down).

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Just a Minute famously doesn’t allow repetition (except for the subject on the card) in its rounds. Do you find repetition creeping in with your writing?

I find favourite phrases tend to be repeated. I watch for these and limit my use of them. I might’ve written them down six times in my draft but they’ll only appear twice at most in the piece of work that goes “out there” (and that’s assuming I need the second one for emphasis or because it is a phrase my character would use like that).

Most of the time the repetition is not deliberate but I have learned over time not to worry about this when I’m drafting a story. The most important thing is just to get the words down and then tidy things up in the edit.

 

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Glad the weather is supposed to be cooler from tomorrow. Lady and I have drunk gallons (spread out over the day obviously), stayed in the shade etc, and followed all the sensible advice but we still feel more ragged than a ragged cloth that once belonged to a ragged man who lived in a ragged house on a ragged street in a ragged town. I tell you, a used teabag has more life in it than me right now!

Am so glad writing is something you can do sitting down! Moans about the temperature aside, I don’t find writing in high heat a problem. Writing takes me out of myself and I forget everything else and that helps a LOT!

Getting engrossed with characters or the latest blog post is a great situation to be in. It means you know you’ve got something viable. So back to it then….

 

Images:  Those of Lady were taken by Allison Symes. Thankfully side on face shots of dogs can work quite well. Just as well really…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Getting out and about during the summer can be fun, especially when you catch up with family and friends.

It can also be hell if transport is not all you”d like it to be – and it so often isn’t! If you want to test if your deodorant works, go on the Tube during the summer!

How easy do your characters find their journeys? Is their journey the story or just an important component? What difficulties are you throwing in their way?

In flash fiction, of course, the story is usually the character’s journey in terms of their development and/or how they change in some way. What it should always be is interesting.

I was pleased to get lots done writing wise while travelling to see family yesterday. I love Evernote.

Having said that, writing in the back of a car is not always easy. I use a stylus for writing and every time you go round a bend, the phone screen flips from vertical (my preference) to horizontal and THAT was driving ME round the bend. The Romans were definitely on to something with their straight roads idea…

For once I was focusing on drafting some blog posts rather than flash fiction so I will redress the balance there when I’m next out and about. Need to get some more work out for specific flash fiction competitions I think. (I am waiting to hear on some but it will be a case of only hearing if I do well. If I haven’t heard by the end of September it will be a case of revisiting the stories and then seeing what I can do with them but I never mind that).

F = Fantastic Fun to Write
L = Lines to be kept Tight
A = Action and Animated Stories
S = Super Characters who will keep you gripped
H = Heroics condensed (to 50 words, 100 words, 250 etc etc!)

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I’ve mentioned random word generators before and they can be a great form of writing exercise. But I’ve now come across a random phrase generator. You can select one or several phrases at a time. I think I’ll have some fun with this!

I selected three phrases at a time tonight and my selection came up as:-

Ride Him, Cowboy
Scot-Free
Throw in the Towel

Now there are options here:-

1. Use the phrases as titles for your stories,
2. Use the phrases as themes for your stories.
3. Use the phrases individually, combined or the lot in your tale!
4. Do any or all of the above!

So here goes then… (and this isn’t a story I prepared earlier, honest!).

RIDE HIM, COWBOY
‘Go on then, ride him, cowboy. You are supposed to ride horses, you do know that?’
‘Fine, Jake, but nobody said I had to ride that beast. It’s snorting and pawing the ground. That thing wants to hurt someone and I know it isn’t going to be me.’
‘So Dirk gets off scot-free with his taunting then, Joe. You’ll have a reputation for cowardice for miles. He is watching to see what you’ll do. He’s put bets on that you’ll throw in the towel.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I put 200 on. I came into some money. You know I had that lucky find. Well, I’d been wondering what to do with it and I thought I’d have a flutter. I thought I’d bet on you!’
‘Really?’
‘Yep. Now do you really want me to lose that?’
I gave Jake the look that said I didn’t care but I made myself walk towards the beast from hell. I ignored Dirk’s outright laughter. I knew I’d have to prove myself eventually and it may as well be now. Besides I had a trick up my sleeve and in my pockets.
I stopped within ten feet of the beast and held out my hands to him. He looked at me and came walking slowly over.
There isn’t a horse yet that can resist sugar lumps.
Dirk looked like he wanted to be sick and Jake was rubbing his hands in glee. What he didn’t know was I’d put that money out for him to find. I wanted to take money off Dirk somehow. That would hit him far more than anything else I could do against his taunts and bullying. I just had to do it indirectly.
As for the horse, well every time I see him now, I just stop for a bit and feed him sugar lumps. It’s Dirk’s horse, see. If he ends up with expensive veterinary dental bills for his horse, I’ll have taken money off him again!

ENDS.
Allison Symes – 26th August 2019

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Further to my post about random phrase generators, I thought it was time to give random number ones a turn! How can those be used to generate story ideas?

I found a generator where you set lower and upper limits. The number I generated from this was 313.

Thoughts on how to use this for a flash fiction story:-

1. It could be your word count (to include title or not, as you see fit).

2. You could use a number like this as a time – 3.13 am or 3.13 pm and that time has to be important to your character for some reason. (For numbers that don’t fit with the clock, generate more that will! Or you could use, say 499 if that was the number generated, as a countdown for something. For example your character had 499 minutes to rescue someone).

3. You use the number in some way in your story (for example your character has to run up 313 steps to get away from someone else).

4. Does your character have a number phobia? Can’t bear to see anything with the number 13 in it, for example, and then you put them in situations where that is all they see. How would they react? Would their phobia bring them to a screeching halt or would they find ways of overcoming it so their life isn’t crippled by it any more?

5. Could be a house number either for the character or somewhere the character has to get to or avoid.

Definite story idea triggers there. Have fun!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading for Inspiration

Do you read specifically to be inspired for your writing?

I don’t as such.

What I do is read in subject areas of interest to me, fiction and non-fiction, and expect sparks for story/blog ideas to come. I’m rarely disappointed!

Sometimes I know I need to research and then I target my reading appropriately. But usually the spark ideas come as a nice surprise. I know I will find the sparks, it’s just the form they’ll take I can”t anticipate.

But that’s a good thing. In having an open mind, I can make far more use of those sparks when they turn up.

And I increase the amount of reading I do. Win-win!❤😊

 

 

Back to Earth, Special Moments for Writers, and Publication News

Publication News

My story, The Delivery, is now up on Cafelit. It looks at what can happen when you fall foul of the old boss and not just any old boss, come to that. Hope you enjoy. It was good fun to write!

brown envelopes in mail box

The Delivery! Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week was a real labour of love. (They all are but this one is particularly so). I get to talk about Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! I also look at why seeking to develop and feeding your mind is so important to a writer.

The lovely thing is you feed your mind through fabulous things like reading and interacting with your fellow writers! The best forms of development should be fun (otherwise you won’t stick with them, will you?).

Image Credit:  All Swanwick images taken by Allison Symes, except those of me reading at the Prose Open Mic Night. A huge thank you to Penny Blackburn for those. Captions as ever on the CFT post. (Also it was great to include here a photo of Jennifer C Wilson of the Kindred Spirits series at her Social Media for Writers talk at Swanwick, which rightly was very well received).

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Tough questions to answer:-

1. Why does time drag when doing anything boring yet flies by when you’re enjoying your writing and/or reading? The latter is when I want time to slow down, thank you. I wish there was a way we could control these things.

2. Why do you run out of paper and/or printer ink half way through printing a MSS you want to work on? Why can it never be at a convenient moment? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to re-run a significant portion of a MSS because I went and did something else during the printing, only to come back and go “argh” (or swear, much depends on my mood!), as I discover the last 30% or so is not readable.

3. Why are there either loads of writing competitions you want to go in for because you know you can meet the brief or none at all when you could do with them? You either have the dilemma of working out what you can do in the time and miss out on entering some because you know you can’t do them all, or have nothing to submit to, and neither is good!

Special moments for writers:-

1. Finishing first story/article/book. Just getting to the end is a huge achievement. Well done! (Many say they will write, many will start, not all will see it through and complete the work).

2. First rejection. I know it sounds odd but it is proof you are getting work out there. Also, all writers get them. You’re not going to avoid this (so it’s best to face up to this and remember it is never, ever personal). This is where it can be helpful to have a couple of pieces of work out there at any one time. There is always something then that might do better.

3. First publication.

4. First writing conference (and knowing you fit right in!).

5. First acceptance of a previously rejected piece of work. You’ve looked at the piece again, edited it again, and send it to another competition or market. They take it. I believe no writing is ever wasted. So what might be rejected now might, with more work, be accepted somewhere else later.

6. Discovering new competitions/markets to submit to – this is fun!

7. First review of something you’ve written (on the assumption it is a good one).

8. First shortlisting in a competition.

9. First book signing.

10. First taking part in a book fair etc with other writers. (Okay, getting sales is another matter but it is good experience and usually fun too. They can be great opportunities to engage with readers. I’ve nearly always found, after an event, my Kindle sales have gone up even if I didn’t sell many paperbacks).

Can you think of others to add to this list? I’ve treasured all of the above (and still do).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to have my story, The Delivery, up on Cafelit today. Hope you enjoy.

Will be out and about over the weekend so hope to get more work drafted while travelling. It’s a great use of time!

 

red mail box

See the link to post in The Delivery. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

 

Which writing exercise do you find the most difficult?

For me, I think it is where you have to put a certain line in the middle of a story. I have written these but not often as I much prefer an opening line or a closing one.

With closing lines, I will “outline backwards” before writing the story up to make sure I get to the required line in a way that makes sense. Once I’ve got my outline I will look to see if I can improve on my initial thoughts. I nearly always can and then when happy with the outline, I write the story up.

But with a middle line, I’ve found the temptation is to cut the story into two halves. The problem with that is it may well come across to the reader as a story of two halves, which is not what you really want. So the trick there is to ensure you can’t see the join, as the wonderful Eric Morecambe so often said to the equally wonderful Ernie Wise!

What is your favourite writing exercise?

I love them all but I think for me it has to be the opening line. Why? Because a promising opening line can take you in all kinds of directions and that’s very addictive!

Usually with this I jot down a few thoughts as to where the story could go and then pick the one I like most and away I write. I do look at the ones I discarded again later and occasionally pick up on another one or two on the list. Why only occasionally?

Because inevitably those at the top of my list are the “obvious” ideas and while there is nothing wrong with them, a competition judge will have seen them all before. You want your own take on the theme that has been set which still meets that theme. You have to dig deep to find the gold.

One wonderful idea that came from Swanwick was to write down your first ten ideas. Having to come up with ten forces you to think more deeply (and laterally) about the topic and that is never a bad thing. And this can be applied to whatever kind of writing exercise or prompt you use too.

Fairytales with Bite –

Top Tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale?  Top tips include:-

1.  Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2.  You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3.  Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story).

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This World and Others – Back to Earth

I had a wonderful week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and now it is back down to earth once more. I share a little of what it is like at Swanwick on my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I do think you need at least a week to get over a holiday, wonderful writing school or what have you.

How do your characters react when they have to come back to reality after their adventures? Most of the time we don’t find out of course because the story stops when the adventure does. One thing I love about The Lord of the Rings is it does show that things are never the same again, particularly for Frodo, when he finally returns to Middle Earth. I won’t say more than that but I thought this part of the story is realistically done. Frodo would be affected by all that he has gone through.

All stories should show that your characters (especially your main one) have changed in some way, otherwise there is no story. Changes can be positive or negative. Now I must admit I generally prefer positive changes but there is a place for the opposite. What would work best for your character and story?

 

 

Post-Swanwick and Reading Time

Publication News

Another story, The Delivery, will be on Cafelit very soon. Will share more details and the link next time. One thing I absolutely love about writing is the thrill of being published never diminishes.

Facebook – General

I expect the post-Swanwick blues to hit me on Monday when up to neck in the daily chores once again. What will keep me going is (a) looking forward to next year’s event (can’t start that too early, can you?) and (b) cracking on with my writing goals.

There was a four letter acronym at one of the courses which I’m not going to forget in a hurry and which I won’t repeat on here. (Get On With It is a politer version!). Let’s just say it’s all the motivation I need when the blues strike!

And one of the things I love about writing is the fact it DOES take you away from the world for a bit. I always feel better after writing, whether it is a short session or longer one, and that, for me, will always be reason enough to write at all.

 

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Catching up with some reading now I’m back home again. It does seem odd NOT to be talking writing and books all the time (but for the sake of my family and friends, it is just as well!).

Have written down some goals and a rough timescale in which to achieve them. When outlining my stories, I do actually then get on and write them so am hoping the same will happen with the goals I’ve set myself. (It does seem more real putting them down on paper, which is vital).

Have some blog posts to prepare so time to get on but I’ll leave some mottoes for genre writers to consider!

Fantasy Writers – Off In a World of Our Own

Crime Writers – Desperately Seeking Someone Annoying to Kill for Next Book

Horror Writers – It is Always Fright Night

Historical Fiction – The Past IS my present (career!).

Delighted to say another story of mine will be up on Cafelit soon. More details later in the week.

I’ll also be sharing a few thoughts on why I love Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT on Friday. I will also be looking at why writers should keep developing and honing their craft (which is only one good reason to love Swanwick as you have plenty of opportunities to do this there!).

Whether you go to conferences or not, getting out and about every now and then is a good thing for a writer. Trips out are splendid opportunities for people watching and you never know what you will come across on a visit.

One of the issues I have, given I write fairytales with bite, is it does make it difficult to find a place of direct relevance to my storytelling! I’ve yet to come across Fairyland…!😀😀 (And I am NOT the right age for Disney!).

But what I do is look for points of interest that may help feed the background of my stories later.

I went to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight a couple of years ago and came across a psaltery there. You were allowed to play its strings and the sound was beautiful. Have not used this recollection in a story yet (note the yet!). It is funny what images and sounds stick in the memory though. What I do know is those images and sounds will come in useful for stories at some point.

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Well I’ve had my Slimming World weigh in. Only half a pound on, which is my best ever result after a week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! Now if I could only manage that at Christmas…

One downside to writing is it that it is not conducive to exercise! Exercising the little grey cells to come up with the next blog post or story doesn’t exactly shed the calories. My main exercise is walking Lady at least three times a day (though one of those walks is her sprinting after her ball. She’s been playing lately with an 8.5 year old collie called Mobi and it has been great hearing a thundering collie gallop in perfect stereo!).

My other exercise is swimming. I did thnk when I first started swimming, I would be bound to come up with story ideas etc during it. Not a bean! Aside from ensuring I’m not in anyone’s way and getting round those who may be in mine (!), I tend not to think of much at all. But that I guess is where the relaxing side to swimming comes in. Freeing the mind for a while frees it up later to be creative again.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was “mugged” by the dog on my return from Swanwick so I was in no doubt she WAS pleased to see me back!😃😃 Dogs are very in your face about how they feel – literally so at times. There is no pretence about them, which is one of their great strengths.

Humans… well that’s another story. We have to work out how people are feeling (or guess at it) when there are no obvious clues to work with.

How do your characters show emotion? (Not in quite the same way as my dog I presume!). Are they “open” emotionally or is it hard work to get any reaction out of them?

In a flash story, there isn’t much room for detailed emotional relationships. I tend to focus on one main character and love to show what their emotional state is via their thoughts. It is direct, saves a lot on the word count, and you as a reader see what the character really thinks (even if the character is kidding themselves).

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F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s “oh my” moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

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Sparks for flash fiction ideas have come to me from:-

1. A scene in classic Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers.
2. Pride and Prejudice.
3. Historical events.
4. Fairytales including narrating from the fairy godmother’s POV
5. Frankenstein
6. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
7. St. George and the Dragon (though my take on this is not the usual one!).
8. Crime stories
9. Nursery rhymes
10. Owning a dog!

The more you can mix up where you get your sparks from, the better. The more you read and take in from different genres including non-fiction, the better. Yes, watching film can help too. (When all is said and done, you are taking in a story this way. It’s just in a visual format).

Happy ideas sparking!

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Unless I’m writing for a specific competition or market, I don’t always know what word count my flash fiction will end up being. I’ve learned not to worry about this.

I write my idea up and then see what I have to work with. I then edit it and polish it, and check the word count then. If it is close to a standard format (e.g. 110, 40, 230 etc), I will edit it to get to that point (e.g. 100, 50, 250). This makes finding a home for the piece easier to do.

If I really can’t polish the story any more, then I submit it to a market or competition which is open on word count. It really is a case of finding the right home for your story and sometimes that takes a little longer than I’d like but it is the only way I know of to increase my chances of story acceptances.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Time

I’ve not long got back from the fabulous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and, naturally, I picked up some wonderful books from the Book Room here.

What I didn’t get while I was there was any time to do any reading! After a full day of courses, workshops, catching up with old friends, and making new ones, I was far too tired to do much in the way of reading.

I managed to read two magazine articles while I was there! Hmm… not much at all in six days.

Of course, this has meant my TBR pile has increased but there are worse problems in life than that one!

Having said all of that, I was taking in plenty of great material via the course presentations etc and that was the important reading I did want to focus on.

Catching up with my reading will cheer me up immensely as the post-Swanwick and back to the real world blues hit home.

There is much to be grateful for when it comes to reading!

My usual routine is to give myself enough time to read before sleeping and I will often dip into a magazine at lunchtime, say. That was out of the question while I was away but being immersed in a world totally dedicated to reading and writing stories, books, scripts, non-fiction etc. was fantastic.

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Swanwick Report 2 (This Time It’s Personal!)

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I was on way home from Swanwick as I drafted this earlier this afternoon. Not sure I’m ready to face the real world yet but the weekend will help.

Mind, it was lovely getting home to the family again, and I was mugged by Lady in a totally good way as well! One happy dog…

My CFT post this week is Making Space Part 2 and here I share thoughts and tips on this for writers. Hope you find at least some of them helpful.

Planning is key to my getting writing done at all and it pays to make space for that planning. It really does help you be more productive. Try it and see!

Image Credit:  Pixabay.  Captions on CFT.

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Publication News:  Cafelit

Busy night for me! I forgot to share this earlier this week but better late than never…

Am pleased to say my story, Life is What You Make It, went up on Cafelit on 12th August. Hope you enjoy.

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Why does Swanwick week always speed by? Glad to see sun come out in time for the Dregs Party held on the main lawn though.

Really encouraged on the non-fiction front and have written flash fiction stories too. Plenty to be getting on with when I get back home (and not just my laundry!).

The joy of writing is in being creative and discovering and enjoying new forms in which to write.

The joy of Swanwick is you know there are close to 300 people there with you who totally understand that.

Image Credit:  Swanwick pictures taken by me but a huge thank  you to Penny Blackburn for the one of me reading at the Open Prose Mic Night.

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I picked Getting Lost, Mirrored, and Test Pilot to read at the Swanwick Prose Open Mic night. Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for the pic (above).

Another full day of inspiring courses and workshops. It takes a while after you get home to process all you know will be useful to you but that’s fine. Knowing what you want to do is key and coming to Swanwick can and has been helping me hone in on that.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have three flash stories drafted as a result of Swanwick. All need polishing though. I never get as much writing done as I think I will at Swanwick, because your head (and notebooks) are full of ideas to follow up when you get back.

I also want to cherish time spent with other writers, most of whom I won’t see for another year. This is where social media is such a blessing in that it makes you able to stay in touch that way.

What was great was coming across a number of other flash fiction writers. The form is growing and that will lead to more fantastic stories. Win-win there!

The nice thing with writing for competitions is if a place doesn’t get placed, you have a story you can look at again and rework and submit elsewhere.

Most of the time you won’t be placed. Does that sound depressing? Perhaps but on the assumption there’s nothing wrong with your story, other factors happen such as:-

  1. The judge has already read a story very similar to yours and, for whatever reason, the other has the edge. There’s not much you can do here other than make your work as polished as possible and try not to go for the too obvious interpretation of a theme.

  2. For open competitions especially, judges may genuinely have a preference for a particular story type or genre and yours doesn’t float their boat. Just get the work out somewhere else appropriate.

Good luck!

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I love it when flashes of inspiration strike though nobody says they have to come at convenient times, unfortunately.

My awkward-to-get-to-a-pen moments include:-

Being in the shower when a real cracker of an idea turns up.

Being on the loo when etc etc.

Being stuck in traffic and I’m driving.

Longing to write when on a train but you’re packed in so tight even an exceptionally skinny ant would have trouble finding space. {Anyone come across an obese ant? Just thought I’d ask!).

Oh well…

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Fairytales with Bite – Making Space

My CFT post this week discusses why Making Space is a great idea for writers. See http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/making-space-part-2-the-writing-view/

I believe fairytales and fantasy fills the spaces between reality and chaos. Why? Because so many tales in these genres reflect what we can be like, while others give strong moral messages. Why do we need such things?

  1. To guide us as to what our behaviour should/should not be;
  2. To show us what life could be like without kindness, gratitude etc. Would you really not want things to come right for Cinderella, for example?

As writers, we also need to give our characters space to develop in themselves and as part of the plot development. A character who doesn’t change will be of little interest to readers.

This World and Others – Entering Another World

You do feel as if you enter another world when you go to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. For a week, I do! Coming out of that world again can be a wrench too.

Image Credit:  Photos of Swanwick taken by me with the exception of my reading at the Open Prose Mic Night. Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for that. ALREADY SHARED ABOVE.

But going home with ideas to work on will take me back into the fantastic world of the imagination in no time. So that’s all right then!😀 The really nice thing about this?

It applies whether you write flash or other fiction and non-fiction.

When you want to escape this world for a bit, write!

Your title needs to make an impact quickly and especially if writing flash fiction as it can set mood and save you word count - PixabayThe first title idea you have may need to change later but that's okay - PixabayAnd the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay918521_S.jpg

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Still room for pen and paper drafts. Pixabay

 

 

Swanwick Report 1

Facebook – General

Am at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School as I write this. By the time I get home again, I’ll have:-
A list of ideas to follow up;

Books (nothing keeps me out of the Book Room for long!);

A confession to give to my Slimming World consultant (but know I won’t be the only one!)

Be buzzing with inspiration and encouragement, having had a fab time with writer friends, old and new.

Made progress on a project I’ve taken with me.

Re-read my novel with a view to submitting it in the autumn (hopefully – best laid plans etc etc).

Whatever your writing plans are, enjoy them and good luck!

Have had a wonderful first full day at Swanwick Writers Summer School. One really nice aspect is meeting up with people you only “see” online for the rest of the year. The encouragement and support is tremendous.

Why does that matter? Simply it’s because you spend most of the rest of the year at your desk, working alone, and the validation aspect shouldn’t be overlooked either. Most writers have to fight self-doubt. If only it was one of those things you fought and beat the once and that was it! But alas…

Splendid day at Swanwick. Much encouragement, many ideas to follow up, wonderful conversations with other writers who understand the passion to write.
Am due to take part in the Prose Open Mic later. Loved that last year. Fantastic range of stories to listen to – great entertainment. I’ve picked three flash stories, all of which are on Cafelit.
Tomorrow’s a quieter day with workshops in the morning. Have projects to work on in afternoon.

When you take time out to think about it, ideas for stories/blog posts etc come from a huge range of influences.

This is why any writer will groan (or swear or kill you off in their next book/story or any combination of these) if you ask us where we get our ideas from.

There is no one quick answer to that!
My influences include fairytales, crime stories, history (fact and fiction), quirky facts picked up from all over the place, amongst others, and these influences will expand depending on what I read next.
So don’t ask! Your eyes will glaze over long before we finish telling you, assuming we haven’t sworn or mentally killed you in a dozen different ways!

Image Credit: All images were taken by me, except the Open Prose Mic Night one. Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for taking that.

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I expect to have fun with writing exercises while I’m away at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this week. Two exercises from last year became flash fiction stories and went on Cafelit – The Balcony Seen and The Art Critic.
The latter will be in print in The Best of Cafelit 8, which is due out in December.
Am looking forward to what comes out of this year’s Swanwick in this department!

Loved the writing exercises set at Lift Up Your Pens, which was the first session I went to at Swanwick Writers Summer School today.
Let’s just say that’s two new flash fiction stories drafted so win-win!
What I often find at courses is, as well as there being lots of useful information for you to act on, ideas for stories and posts spark too. Now for the time to write them up!

All stories illuminate truth in some way. What flash does is take a blooming great torch and focus intensely on one point.
So when thinking of a new story, I work out what I want the point to be and which character would best suit that.

I was listening to a fab talk on plot twists at Swanwick this week and reflected on my use of them.
A plot twist is something that changes the direction of the story in unexpected ways but for flash, it can work well in bringing the story to a powerful ending.
You still set the clues in the story, you still must make the twist feasible, you still DON’T try to be clever (it never works and will irritate readers), but the change of direction can be to an ending.
What should happen is you then see the change in the character. The “yes, that ending makes sense, that would happen to a character like this”.
My Calling the Doctor has the character reveal something at the end which ties in with what went before but will still surprise (and hopefully make your blood chill!).

Goodreads Author Blog – Books, Glorious Books

B – Brilliant entertainment
O – Own portable library in print or on Kindle
O – Only lack of light or tiredness stops me reading
K – Kindle has transformed reading for me
S – Stories – so many, so little time!
G – Genre – there is at least one to suit you!
L – Libraries will always need support and can be a great way to try out authors new to you.
O – Originality in story and characters is hard to achieve but your take on such should be original.
R – Reading (what else?!)
I – Imagination. Reading and writing books should fuel this.
O – Only one book at a time or several on the go? Which camp do you fall in?
U – Unsung heroes in books – I love these. Best examples for me are Sam Gamgee and Mr Tumnus from The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe respectively.
S – Sagas. Not my thing but I admire those who can write them. So many threads to tie up!
B – Best books of all? The ones you re-read and the ones you recall from years ago without re-reading.
O – Omnipresent narration. I do still have a soft spot for this.
O – Oily characters like Wormtongue from TLOTR are the ones you love to loathe.
K – Kindle again but it has saved much packing anguish!
S – Selective reading. I tend to read crime for a while, then fantasy, etc. I want to make sure I cover all the genres I like!

Making Space and Variety

Publication News

Another story, Life Is What You Make It, will be up on Cafelit on 12th August. Am sharing link to my author page here but do check out the other writers on here too. There is a wonderful range of writing here.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week on Making Space is a two-parter and was inspired by a recent visit to the Sky Gardens in London. I had great fun spotting so many landmarks from a literally great height!

Making space to write is fundamental and, for me, this involves planning out my writing slots and how I’ll use them. I know that without the planning, I would get far less done, far less stories sent out (and less chance of acceptances too) etc.

I’ll share some tips I’ve found useful here in Part 2 of this post which will be be up on 16th August. And, yes, I’ve scheduled it! I should schedule posts more often but my problem is finding time/making the space to draft several blog posts in one go. I also do like writing posts like this “live” as it keeps me on my toes, which is never a bad thing.

The happy answer of course is to do a mixture of both but I find that I do most of my scheduling ahead of things like Swanwick or my holidays. I suspect that may be true for many of us!

Image Credit:  The images of London from the Sky Gardens were taken by Allison Symes on 27th July 2019. The other images, as ever, are from the marvellous Pixabay. Captions are on the CFT post.

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Have set up a list of tasks on Evernote for me to start drafting while on the train to Derbyshire on Saturday for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Hit the ground running so to speak!).

Discovered recently the Slimming World HQ is near where I’ll be going too. Have no plans to call in (especially towards the end of next week. They do look after you very well at Swanwick!).

Will be taking a couple of projects to work on as well. How much time I get to spend on them remains to be seen but I always like to have something to work on. (I usually do get more done than I might have done at home).

Have I made up my mind about what courses/workshops I’ll go to? Of course not! Yes, I’ve a rough idea, but I know I’ll change my mind yet again before getting there! But that’s the fun of it….

Anticipate meeting up with old friends, making new ones, learning loads, and ending up with a head and notebook crammed full of ideas to work on. Now what’s NOT to like about that?

Image Credit:  Images from Swanwick taken by me. It is such a lovely place to be. A big thank you to Geoff Parkes for taking the image of me reading at the Swanwick Prose Open Mic night last year.  All other images are from Pixabay.

 

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My CFT post this week is a two-parter on Making Space. Part 1 focuses on making space in cities, making space in packing (apt given I’m about to go to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School!), and I also discuss decluttering and books.

Mind, you can probably guess what stance I take on decluttering when it comes to books.

I also share my thoughts on white space and share my favourite quote about packing/going away which always makes me laugh out loud when I re-read it. Hope it does the same for you!

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Transformation stories can work well in flash fiction. My Getting It Right is an example of this. It is written from the viewpoint of Snow White’s evil stepmother as she transforms into the old crone. I ONLY show that moment and her thoughts on what has led to it and that’s all. It’s all that’s needed.

Flash is brilliant at making you focus on the core of the story, which is another reason I love it. I like to think of it as precision writing given every word must punch its weight to justify staying in the story.

 

Key ingredients for a good flash fiction story:-

1. Strong leading character.
2. A focused incident/point of change. Less IS more here.
3. Dialogue (if used) or internal thoughts to be to the point.
4. Promising opening line (which can keep a reader guessing).
5. No sagging middles!
6. A powerful ending that fulfil the promise of the opening line.

Last but not least:-

7. An intriguing title which can be open to interpretation.

Why put that one last especially as I have to a title to get me started on any piece of work?

Because an intriguing title is fab but without the other six ingredients being in place, said title will fall flat.

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What makes a good flash fiction story become a great one? My thoughts on that are:-

1. The story has to make me react – a story that is meant to be funny DOES amuse me, a scary one DOES make my blood run cold etc.

2. A powerful beginning which is backed up all the way to an equally powerful ending. No “sagging bits”.

3. Unforgettable characters (whether I love to love them or loathe them).

4. I am a sucker for a good punchline, I admit, or a twist ending that I didn’t see coming. What I love with those is then going back through the story again and spotting the clues the author did put in. On first reading, I am always keen just to see how the story pans out so it easy to miss something enroute. A really great story will withstand repeated readings and will give you something new with each read too. (Sometimes that can just be an increased sense of admiration for wonderful characterisation. I love that – and of course it inspires me to “up my own game”, which is never a bad thing).

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Fairytales with Bite – Variety is the Spice of Life

Variety is the spice of the writing life. Last week’s CFT post was a review of a wonderful spoof staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group and this week I discuss Making Space.

I love variety in reading and writing. The former inspire ideas for posts and stories (and the wider you cast your net here the more opportunities you have for being inspired. Literally keep an open mind and feed your mind well with wonderful material from other writers!).  The latter keeps me on my toes. I love meeting the challenges of flash fiction and short story writing. I love meeting the challenges of non-fiction writing too.

But there’s nothing wrong with sticking to one genre if that is what you prefer to do. So how can you bring variety in here? The crucial point is to enjoy what you write, whatever it is you go in for. If you’re bored, that will show through in your writing (and I think will eventually lead you to stop writing altogether). For story writers, it is all down to characters as you can come up with so many combinations of characters and situations to write about. For me, a story is all about the character. It’s then fun to find out what happens to them.

For non-fiction, I look at themes that interest me and write articles and posts around those. One obvious theme is writing. I love reading and writing about writing (and I enjoy sharing tips I’ve found useful. I am grateful to authors who have likewise inspired and helped me here. One of the loveliest things about the writing world is, with few exceptions, it is a supportive one. You learn something, share it, someone else learns, their writing benefits and overall literature benefits too. We will always need a supply of writers across the genres and age ranges).

This World and Others – Making Space

I start a two-part series on Chandler’s Ford Today this week on Making Space and next week’s part will share some thoughts on this from a writing perspective. Meanwhile, where does making space come into your creation of characters?

I think the best way to answer that is to list what I think a truly great character needs to have. Also, it really does pay to take time out (make space) to think about your characters in advance and plan them out. It doesn’t mean you have to plan everything but you do need to know about your people in enough detail to be able to write about and for them with utter conviction. You need to decide what you need to know first!

I am convinced that when a writer writes with conviction something of that does show through in your writing and readers subconciously pick up on that. I also think they pick up when a character really doesn’t work and I know, for me, when that has happened, it is nearly always due to my not taking the time to flesh my character out properly in the first place.

So a truly great character should:-

  1. Be Memorable (and that usually means having distinctive traits a reader will love to love or love to hate. Both work but not usually in the same character!).
  2. Be someone a reader would want to identify with or be happy they’re nothing like them!
  3. Be put in situations a reader has to find out whether the character resolves or not (and how.  Failure to resolve something can ironically be a resolution of sorts. For example, a character wants to achieve a goal, they find they can’t do it, but they do achieve something positive they had not done before despite the overall “failure”. Readers will pick up on something being achieved, a positive point of change for the character, and everyone accepts not all endings are happy ones necessarily. Endings do have to be appropriate).

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Work In Progress/Flash Fiction Ideas

Image Credit: Unless otherwise stated, all pictures are from Pixabay.

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A week today and I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School again. Can’t wait! Always good to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and learn so much from the different courses and workshops. The usual dilemma of which ones to go to applies… but I know I’m in good company with that!

Many thanks to all who’ve read Stolen on Cafelit.

Hope to get another story off for a competition this coming week. Am making a conscious effort to increase my throughput (so to speak) and am pleased I’ve done better this year on this than I did at the same time twelve months ago.

As for where I don’t hear what the results are or where I receive outright rejections, I will review those stories later in the year and see if I can submit them elsewhere. Usually, I can. Sometimes I can spot something, after a break away from it, that could do with strengthening so I work on the story and then re-submit it. Very little is wasted!

Update:  Am pleased to say I will have another story up on Cafelit on 12th August. More nearer the time.

And the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay

I can’t remember what the first story I wrote was. It was not published but to begin with I didn’t write with publication in mind. My first thoughts were to see if (a) I could write a story at all and then (b) can I repeat the process?

I kept doing that for a while until I had a reasonable number and then started submitting work (on the grounds I had absolutely nothing to lose so may as well give it my best shot. If I was published I’d be thrilled to bits. I was – and I was! I still love that thrill of knowing something of mine has been accepted for publication. That’s the nice thing. That thrill does not diminish!).

I will always remember the first story that was published though! (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I suspect time will stand still long before I forget that!).

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Pleased Just a Minute is back on Radio 4. That and Clue are the main comedy shows I listen to now. JAM is a wonderful way of discovering just how hard it is NOT to repeat, deviate, or hesitate when talking on a topic. Know I couldn’t do it.

Repetition in writing is something I have mixed feelings on. I sometimes repeat a word or phrase deliberately for emphasis. Sometimes I get a character to use a particular word so whenever it comes up, you know it’s that character who is speaking. (I avoid tags as much as possible but generally stick to he said/she said/it said when I do need to use them).

When I edit, I’m looking out for the repetitions I didn’t mean to do and there are always some! (This is another reason for reading work out loud by the way. I’ve found I’ve missed things even looking at a printout. Reading the work out literally brings home your repetitions and other failings as you hear yourself speak and realise you’ve used a phrase several times when you didn’t need to or mean to).

Delighted to say I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week too. More details a bit nearer the time. Looking forward to sharing the link while I’m at Swanwick too.

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I don’t schedule posts as often as could but I will be preparing a two-part CFT article on Making Space, which I’ll schedule for this Friday and the one after. (I will be very tired but happy after a wonderful week at Swanwick for the second part of my post, which will focus on making space as a writer. More details on the first part tomorrow).

I usually schedule posts for when I’m due to be away but, increasingly thanks to Evernote and a smartphone, I’m drafting posts and then putting up later the same day. I often use train journeys for this as well as my flash fiction. It means I get a nice mixture of writing done.

I need to try to write up posts in batches more often and schedule them, as I’m sure that will prove to be more efficient. The nice thing is as well is if something topical comes up, you just change your schedule for whatever you WERE going to post. You can always use that another time. The only thing to watch is to ensure any batch posts are all timeless and could go up at any time.

Pleased to say I submitted another story yesterday for a competition. Have submitted more work at this time this year than twelve months ago so pleased with that. Need to catch up on the writing prompts in my diary too as I know those will trigger more stories.

As you can no doubt tell, I don’t have time to get bored! But that is a very good thing indeed…

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Favourite things about flash fiction for me:-

1. Can read a story in one sitting. (Invaluable when I’m short of time).

2. Great for twist endings (which I adore).

3. One-liners and punchlines work well here too and again I adore those.

4. You can set your character in any genre you want. It is only the word count you’re watching. I’ve found as a result the story has to be character led as that is more direct. There is no room for descriptions or interaction with many other characters after all.

5. I love writing dialogue. Not a lot of room for that in flash but what I can do is show you some of my character’s thoughts and I love writing those too. The great thing with that is you will pick up on the character’s general attitude to life. In dialogue they may disguise that especially if they want to impress someone.

Sometimes a flash story tips over and becomes a longer 1500+ tale and that’s fine. It just gets submitted to a different market/competition.

I’ve learned over time to let my character(s) have their voice. The trick is ensuring that what emerges IS relevant to the story (or deepens it and makes it more meaningful).

Writers need to come with an in-built “you’re waffling and you know you are, cut NOW” detector!

The critical test for me is to ask myself does a reader really need to know this? Will their enjoyment of the story be greater if this is in the piece? If it’s Yes and Yes, the material stays in. If there’s any doubt on either, out it comes.

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Loving listening to the Pink Panther theme on Classic FM tonight. (You’ll be humming it all night now. I know I will but it is wonderful music! Loved the films AND the cartoons. I don’t know how many other films spawned cartoons either).

So you have distinctive and memorable pieces of music then across the genres. The challenge for writers is to make OUR writing distinctive and memorable.

For me, the only way to do that is to have stand-out characters. It’s never about the plot for me. It’s always about whether the character engages me regardless of whether the story is a 50 word dribble, a 100 word drabble, or a 250,000 word epic saga!

I find working out what my main character’s chief trait is going to be a useful way to unlocking what makes them tick, WHY that trait is their chief one and so on.

For my flash stories (and especially the first person ones), I have to know what my character’s voice is before I start writing them. Are they whiny? Boastful? Remorseful etc etc? Only when I think I’ve got a handle on who they really are do I start writing the story. Outlining like this has saved me a lot of time later.

Where I’ve found ideas for flash fiction stories includes:-

1. Proverbs (to use both as titles and themes).

2. Advertising phrases

3. Taking a period of history I like and writing from the viewpoint of one of my favourite characters from that period.

4. Other well known phrases (e.g. my Circle of Life, Pressing the Flesh, and Coming Up Roses).

5. Turning stereotypes on their head (e.g. my George Changes His Mind. Let’s just say I have an alternative view as to what happened when George met that dragon).

6. Using an alliterative title and seeing where it takes me (e.g. my Pen Portrait). The more open to interpretation the title, the better.

7. Taking a book I like (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) and writing a snapshot story from the viewpoint of one of the characters (e.g. my Changing My Mind is from the viewpoint of Mr Darcy).

8. Picking a fiction genre and seeing if I can write a flash fiction story in it. (I’ve written what I call light horror such as my Calling the Doctor in this vein).

9. Posing a question as the title and again seeing where it might take me.

10. Using a letter format from one character to another to generate a story.

What I like most is mixing up the methods used. It keeps me on my toes and I think makes the writing more interesting. It is really important to have fun with what you write, I think.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Can’t Finish

I’m glad to say there aren’t many books I haven’t been able to finish but I guess this is one of those things that happens to most of us.

I always think it’s a bit of a shame when this does occur and I ask myself just why I couldn’t finish the book. The answer is nearly always that the characters didn’t grip me enough to make me want to find out what happened to them.

These days, given life is short and I have to TBR pile to be seen to be believed (and on my Kindle too!), anything that doesn’t hook me quickly is discarded.

It’s a good challenge to me as a writer to ensure I do put plenty of hooks into my flash fiction and short stories.

It also makes you appreciate those wonderful writers who can keep doing this book after book after book over many, many years. When I think P.G. Wodehouse wrote over 90 books and was consistently funny, well for me that’s genius and should be recognised as such.

Now back to my reading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Came from Mars and Other Top Tips

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

When a spoof works… CFT Review – They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning?

Delighted to share my review of this fabulous production, the latest to be staged by The Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford. It was huge fun spotting the references and recalling the musical links.
I also go on to discuss the “rules” for a good spoof and why I think humour is the hardest genre to write well.

Spotting all the references and gags here would take at least two visits to the show!

Images supplied by Lionel Elliott, Mike Morris and The Chameleons. A huge thank you as ever. Captions on the CFT post.

 

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Further to my earlier post about The Chameleon’s latest production, just why is humour so difficult to write well?

(Said production incidentally easily has the longest title of a play I’ve reviewed and I can’t see it being beaten any time soon! Well, what do YOU make of They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning? Try saying that quickly! Go on give it a go!).

So humorous writing – the pitfalls (and this is not a comprehensive list by any means):-

1. Humour is subjective. Not everyone gets your style of joke.

2. Sometimes you will come across people who really don’t like funny writing of any kind. My late mum loved books across a wide range of genres (including sci-fi) but just didn’t get funny writing. It was her blind spot. This happens. Nothing you can do about it. (And yes I went the other way and LOVE funny writing!).

3. Humour doesn’t always translate well between countries, cultures etc. So to get something that does cross boundaries is pretty special.

What is your favourite form of humorous writing? Where the humour is “in your face” or do you prefer the subtle one-liner etc?

I love all humorous writing but if I had to pick a favourite, I adore those one-liners which can turn a story on its head and make you laugh at the same time.

You can bet the writer would have written and re-written that line several times to get it spot on and it wouldn’t have just been the words themselves. The rhythm of a sentence can make a difference to how funny it is perceived to be. Punchlines are generally short for maximum impact for that reason.

As part of my CFT review of The Chameleons’ latest hilarious production, I’ll also be looking at what makes a spoof work and what I think some of the “rules” are. Link up tomorrow.

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My CFT post this week will be a review of the Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production. They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning doesn’t trip off the tongue but is a classic example of a title showing clearly what the story is – a spoof!

I will be discussing spoofs and comedy as well as part of the review. Link up on Friday.

What amazes me with the Chameleons though is I have seen them stage everything from Arthur Miller’s All My Sons to Blackadder to hilarious pantos and all of them have been wonderfully entertaining.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Five top tips:-

1. Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first thought of just isn’t making enough impact on you. (It won’t on anyone else either. Trust your gut here and don’t be afraid to play around with titles until you find one that does hit home).

2. Think about the emotional impact you want your story to have on a reader before you write it. Take a little time to figure out how best to achieve it. This is where outlining is useful, even if you do a broad outline.

3. Once the story is written, put it away for a while. When you re-read it, read it out loud. Hear how your dialogue sounds. Is there anything in it to trip you up or does it sound clunky? What looks good on paper or screen doesn’t always translate well into being read out loud.

4. Assume you will have to edit more than once. We all do! (But see it as getting your story into shape and helping increase its chances of being published).

5. Be open to trying new forms of writing as you may discover avenues you hadn’t considered but which you discover a skill for. I hadn’t started as a flash fiction writer! ‘Nuff said.

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