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!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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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