Onwards and Downwards

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General

Making progress on editing my flash competition story. You get to a point where you remove the “obvious” unnecessary words. (As you know, I get to cut very, actually, and that out as these are my pet wasted words. I still haven’t found a way of stopping myself writing these things in the first place but hey that’s what the first edit is for!).

The tricky bit is now when I’ve got what I want in place but need to find ways of rephrasing without losing meaning. There’s the challenge of flash fiction writing. I know this story will work well at the word count I’ve got to get it to. It’s whether I’m up to the job of doing it that is the issue here!

Onwards and downwards then (with the word count!).


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Am enjoying listening to the Classic FM Hall of Fame for 2020. Disappointed though one of my choices, Danse Macabre, has slipped down in the rankings, though I expect I’ll hear my other two choices sometime tomorrow. (Jupiter from the Planet Suite by Holst and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams).

Classical music is a wonderful relaxation aid which is why I have this on while writing. The more relaxed I am, the more I write.

Almost there on my flash fiction piece. Want to put it aside for a while so I come back to it with a fresh eye. It is amazing what a difference that makes. You spot things you missed etc. Also I look for how the story makes ME feel when I’ve had a break from it. If it still makes me feel the way the story is meant to make me feel, then it will do the same for a reader.

I was so sorry to hear about the loss of Tim Brooke-Taylor. Was a huge fan of The Goodies (and still am. Favourite episode? Hard to pick but Goodies Rule UK and the giant Dougal from The Magic Roundabout is an image that is hard to forget!).

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It hasn’t felt like a Bank Holiday Monday, has it? Still on the plus side, the bluebells and primroses are out, we are successfully wearing Lady out so know she is definitely getting the right amount of exercise, and the writing and editing continue apace.

Two of my nominees for the Classic FM Hall of Fame dropped places this year (yes, I know. I am beginning to wonder if there is an Allison effect here. If there is, it’s not a good one!). Jupiter, appropriately, rose though! Well done, Gustav Holst!

I’ll be looking at Reasons to Be Cheerful in my CFT post later this week and yes I am of an age to remember Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

My favourite picture, taken today, is of Lady with one of her favourite toys in her mouth, as if it was an overgrown dummy. Enjoy (she did – and promptly dropped the ball on realising Mum was trying to take pictures again!).

Lady with dummy

Lady with dummy! Image by Allison Symes

Coping with the downside of the writing life (rejections, competition entries not getting anywhere etc) takes time but it does get better over time. Why? Because I’ve learned if a story hasn’t done well in one place, I can look at it again, see if I can improve it, and submit it somewhere else. I’ve had work published by doing that.

Oh and I almost always can improve a piece of work. The one thing I’ve learned years ago is that nobody writes a perfect piece of work. All you can do is the best at the time and seek to grow and develop from that point. Yes, I look back at work I’ve had published for a while and I can see now how I could make it better, but that was where I was at as a writer at that time. What matters here is moving on and always striving to improve what you do.

That’s the challenge for any writer, published or not. Enjoy what you do, that’s crucial, but also seek to get better at it. In the striving, you WILL improve.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I look for in a flash fiction story when I’m reading works by other authors?

1. I want to be entertained. (Hey I’m just like that!).

2. I want the story to have emotional impact.

3. I want the point of change to be a good one with a real problem for a realistically drawn character to resolve.

4. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been added to the story.

5. I want to feel as if not one word could’ve been taken out without the story losing something important.

6. I want to feel something for the lead character, whether it is to empathise with them, or to heartily hope they come to disaster because they’re a well drawn villain. But that character has to make me feel something (and separately to what the overall story makes me feel).

7. I want to read more by that author!

Naturally all of these points are a challenge to me too but that’s a good thing. There is no such thing as a perfect piece of work. It is the best you can make it at the time. What you want is for it to resonate with readers and for them to enjoy where you’re taking them with the stories.


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How do you know when you’ve found your writer’s voice? I think it is when you come up with a piece of work in a way that seems the most natural way to you. You see a competition, say, like the sound of it, and know instinctively how you’re going to approach it. Ideas may start coming to you based on how you’ve approached competitions before and obviously you go for what worked best for you.

In my case, I know I’m going to outline my character, then a story they could be in, and away I go when I’ve got that in place. The style of writing is an indicator. There is a lot of humour in my flash fiction but it is generally shown through the characters themselves. So based on that alone a competition which calls for a darker style is probably not going to be for me. (I’ve got to get a little humour in it somewhere and that’s not suitable for all topics/competitions).

Learning then where your strengths are and where your writing cup of tea is, I think, crucial to you finding your voice. Once you’ve got that, away you go.

Story time I think. Hope you enjoy. Hayfever sufferers, this one is for you.


After a fraught day in town, Hattie told Betty a soothing walk in Meresfield Park Gardens would do them both good. Tea and cake would follow.
The smell of the tea roses was so strong Betty thought she was being bathed in it.
It was a pity she suffered from hayfever.
It took her a fortnight to stop sneezing altogether.
It took her a month to speak to Hattie again.

Allison Symes – 13th April 2020

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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).

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.

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.

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.

A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.

No sagging middles!

A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.

To be a good advert for the other writing you do!



Goodreads Author Blog – Entertainment and Escapism

I can understand why, after the coronavirus is over, there will be lots of books and stories dealing with that topic. It’s just I can’t bring myself to write stories like that. I’m not sure about reading them either. Why?

For me, in times of trouble, I want books and stories to make me laugh and give me some escapism for a while. I don’t think that should be undervalued.

I raise a hearty three cheers for all who, by writing, seek to entertain and amuse us. It is not an easy thing to do.

So I shall continue to look for escapism and entertainment. Those can be very good coping mechanisms and books and stories are great vehicles for delivering on those things.

I do hope and pray though that the bookshops, particularly the independents, will recover well from this. I hope online buying of books has proved to be a lifeline.

The one thing that is clear to me is people still want stories. And I doubt if I’m the only one who wants entertaining right now!












2 thoughts on “Onwards and Downwards

  1. Rosemary Reader and Writer says:

    I also like to live someone else’s life. This is what attracts me to writing historical fiction, the chance to live in another age.

    Liked by 1 person

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