Interviews and Good Stories

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Well, okay, I grant you, the weather HAS cooled down a lot since my last post but it has been a bit of an odd day here. Squally rain and blustery winds. What season are we in again?! It is June! Having said that, I am grateful for the temperature drop, as is Lady.

If you ask a writer to name their favourite book or story, they’ll usually reel you off a considerable list. (I am also guilty of this).

Ask us to name a book or story we don’t like and we might come up with a few but there won’t be so many. Part of that will be due to the stories in question being forgettable for us. We move on to what we hope will prove to be a more enjoyable read next time (and we do move on. Life is too short to do otherwise).

We want to remember good stories. We want our stories to be good stories people don’t forget.

Yet at the same time any negative reviews for our books and stories stick stubbornly in our heads like glue and those are the ones we SHOULD forget!

Funny old weather again today, though at least Lady and I didn’t get hot on our walk. Good to catch up with family in NZ on Zoom this morning (UK time). Then Zoom church which was lovely.

Also good to meet up with family yesterday for natter and nosh in the great outdoors. Lady had a wonderful time “hoovering” up. For someone who loathes the vacuum, she does do an excellent hoover impersonation. 😀😀

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit again soon and look forward to sharing the link to that in due course. I look at interviews in my spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog this month. Hope to share link on that tomorrow. I’m going to be setting some puzzles in my CFT post later this week too.

Drafting more flash fiction and am pleased with how the edit on my short story (1500 worder) worked out. Hope to give that story another read through and final polish before submitting later this week.

Have a good writing/reading/both week!😊

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and Association of Christian Writers –

More Than Writers – Interviews

It’s always a pleasure to write my monthly post for More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog. This time I talk about interviews.

I look at what I enjoy about them and how you can use them to outline your characters.

I also discuss using open questions for my Chandler’s Ford Today interviews and share some advice for those not yet published or who are just beginning their writing journey. Interviews are useful to think about NOW.

Hope you enjoy.

 

No chance of Lady and I being too hot today – rain for most of the day! Still, the park will look a lot nicer for it tomorrow. And my roses are blooming lovely. A friend gave me the ones I have at the front as the variety is called Allison. They smell nice too (and I do usually as well! 😀😀😆😆!).

Have got a few things coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today which I look forward to sharing when I can. Will be brimming with useful information. That’s about all I can say for now.

Plans for the week including prepping the above things for CFT, giving an edited short story the final read through and then submitting it for a competition, and continuing to work on my longer term projects.

Also plan to write more flash of course. The nice thing with that is when I’m really pushed for time and I know I’ve only got 10 minutes, that’s when I jot down a very rough draft of a flash tale, knowing I can finalise it later. Those 10 minute slots add up over the course of the week and you can get a fair bit done in them. So if you only have little slots of time, use them!

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What do I want my flash stories to do?

Chiefly to entertain of course. Books and stories are wonderful forms of escapism.

While I have nothing against “real life” writing, far from it, I do want stories to amuse, entertain, and/or inform me, but not depress me about the state of the world. I can get that from watching the news.

I do want to be able to identify with the character, whether or not I agree with what they’re doing and/or their attitudes. I want them to be able to make me react, whether it is to inspire pity, make me laugh, or what have you.

The difference with flash is all of that has to be done in a compressed word count but it does make you focus on what matters to your character. You should have no doubt that this story has to be told “by” this character and that what they have to reveal is vital to your readers.

Sometimes that vital element is to make your readers laugh! Both P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett did rather well out of that though neither were up for the Booker or anything like that. I am all for the laughter makers, always have been, always will be.

In between the laughter, that is when I will look for a story to move me in a different way so I come back to the lighter hearted forms of fiction, ready to enjoy that all over again.

But a story that doesn’t make me react in any form is not something I’m going to read again. Indeed it is highly likely I won’t get beyond the first paragraph.

And that serves as a useful pointer for me with my writing. What impact do I want my story to have on others? It is a good thought to keep in mind.

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I’ve just listened to the wonderful Pachelbel’s Canon in D on Classic FM and it made me think of repetition as its theme is repeated throughout.

Repetition can be a useful device in a story though for flash it has to be used sparingly. I don’t use it often because I want to use my restricted word counts in better ways but sometimes it IS the thing to do when the type of story or character needs/would come out with the kind of emphasis repetition gives you.

For this kind of story, I tend to repeat an odd word in close succession to build a “beat”. I used this technique in my story Why Stop Now by repeating the word “here” in the opening sentence (and more than once too!).

I did it for emphasis and it also shows something of the character who is doing the repeating. (Clue: this is one of my tales where it even gave me the creeps so I hope it does the same for you if you read it – it is meant to!).

I think it is true for any writing device that you need to think carefully about why you want to use it and why it is the best thing for your particular tale/character. If you can tick the boxes on those two thoughts, go ahead. It will be the right thing to do.

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I’ve been talking about interviews tonight as it was the topic of my ACW blog spot this month for More Than Writers. I’ve also interviewed my own characters from time to time.

I work out what it is I want to know and then ask a series of questions. Good questions to consider include the following but I’m sure you can think of loads. It really is up to you to work out what you need to know and frame the questions around that.

1. What do YOU think is your best quality? (You can use this one as a test as to whether your character is deceiving themselves or not).

2. What is your biggest weakness? (Again, you can use this to test how honest your character is).

3. What do YOU think others think of you? (You can also get an indicator of how much your character is likely to care about this depending on their response!).

4. What is your biggest fear? (Naturally as author you will make them face up to it too!).

Now for the shorter flash fiction stories, I tend to look at what my characters’ main traits are and how these are likely to land them right in it. (Such good fun that!). And for longer stories, you might want to ask more questions. But I have found, regardless of length of story, for that tale to work I’ve got to know my character inside out and questions like this help a lot with that.

 

I was watching one of the old Ealing comedies late last week (The Lavender Hill Mob starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway). Great story, fab acting, and all packed into about 75 minutes or so. (Flash film, anyone?!).

My overall favourite Ealing comedy is The Ladykillers which, if you’ve not seen it, is dark with its comedy and worth checking out. Again stars Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers. We probably wouldn’t think much of dark comedy being such a “thing” now but back when it came out, I think it may have been a different matter.

What these films have in common is a tightly controlled storyline. Not a thing is out of place. Not a thing could be taken out without the films losing something important. Good lessons for story writers there, regardless of what word count you work to!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Habits That Annoy!

Aside from the obvious one of people turning down corners of books (which is even more irritating when they’ve borrowed the book from you!), what annoying book habits “get” you?

1. Feeling yourself about to nod off when you’ve been looking forward to reading all day and you’ve managed to read about two minutes’ worth of glorious prose. Yet you know if you make yourself keep reading, you will wake yourself up and then not be able to sleep properly when the time does come for lights out.

2. Not being to make up your mind about reading from your Kindle or paperback bookshelf and by the time you’ve decided, guess what? It’s lights out time again.

3. Looking for THE one book you’re longing to read, knowing you’ve got it somewhere, but can you find it when you want it to hand? Surprise, surprise – no!

4. Managing to pick up that hardback you’ve been looking forward to reading and end up dropping it on your foot. Some of these big beasties hurt when they land on your toes!

5. Having two books come out at about the same time by your favourite authors and not being able to decide which one to read first.

Of course, all of the above COULD just be me but I don’t think so!

Over to you then. Can you add to the list?

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Non-Fiction Journey and Author Interviews

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is always a huge pleasure to chat with fellow authors on Chandler’s Ford Today. There is always something interesting to learn. Every author’s writing journey is unique and I find that endlessly fascinating. Hope you do too.

This week I chat with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, about her venture into non-fiction publishing with her recently released Let’s Get Published. Not that she has left her (writing) life of crime behind, I’m glad to say.

I love reading as well as writing author interviews. Every writer has their own insights into the business of writing, as well as thoughts on the ups and downs we all face, whether published or not. It is also good to know you are not alone on those ups and downs. (It is also reassuring to know that is normal!).

Hope you enjoy!

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The current hot weather is one of the few times I bless living in a north facing bungalow. It is relatively cool in here. The heat doesn’t affect my writing much in that I still get on and do it but I tend to finish earlier than normal knowing I’ll feel tired earlier than normal. Still I compensate by starting my writing session earlier so that’s okay.

Looking forward to sharing my interview with Val Penny on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. She talks about her venture into non-fiction with her recent publication, Let’s Get Published. I’m always fascinated by other authors’ writing journeys. Each is unique to the writer and you can always learn something useful and interesting.

Am happily editing a short story which I hope will end up being published at some point! As ever, having a bit of time away from it has proved useful. That time away makes it much easier to see where the weaknesses are and therefore do something about them!

Have also been busy drafting flash fiction pieces.

I’ve also recently revised my Linkedin profile.

So not a bad old week so far but I must admit I won’t be that sorry when it cools down a bit. (And neither will Lady!).

Screenshot_2020-06-26 Allison Symes LinkedIn

 

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes I will start a flash fiction story by writing the ending first and work backwards from there. It’s a useful technique but I do sometimes find that by the time I’ve finished, I’ve thought of a better last line. But that’s okay. I just change it.

I remember I used to feel annoyed at that kind of thing. Why couldn’t I have thought of the better last line in the first place etc etc?

Now I know better than to waste time and energy fretting about that. Just change the line and move on. It’s a good sign the story has “go” to it when you can think of things to improve with it.

Yes, it would save a lot of time and effort if you could cut straight to the chase, but writing doesn’t work like that for me. I need to get some ideas down before I can come up with better ones.

What helped me to come to terms with that was on realising other writers find the same thing happens to them. It’s always good to know you’re not alone!

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One thing I’ve learned to watch out for when editing my stories is my pet phrases. Most of the time with my flash fiction, they are amongst the first things to be cut, along with my wasted words of very, actually, and that. (Very few examples of that are actually necessary! If the story works just as well without them, out they come).

Every writer has their pet phrases. Sometimes they’re useful BUT not each and every time! Pet phrases can act as a kind of shorthand for you but if they’re not useful to your readers, it is best said phrases come out. (Another meaning for the phrase “kill your darlings” perhaps).

 

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Finding ideas for flash fiction is generally not an issue for me. It is working out which are the really strong ones and worth pursuing that can be tricky at times.

But I find character outlining helps me with that. By the time I’ve fleshed out what I need to know about my lead character, I can tell whether they’re “up” to being in a story.

I can also tell the kind of trouble they’re likely to land themselves in (with help from yours truly of course as I love landing my people right in it!) and from that the story starts to take shape. Away I go and write it before resting it for a while before editing it.

I also find flash fiction writing to be a useful warm up or warm down writing exercise. From my viewpoint, it’s another piece of work produced which I can polish and hopefully find a home for in due time.

Whatever you’re working on at the moment, I hope the writing is going well and that you’re enjoying it. Enjoying your writing is so important. It helps to motivate you and to keep you going when all you seem to get are rejections or not hearing back from competitions etc.

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I’ve found it helpful to think of flash fiction as it being from the viewpoint of ONE main character getting across ONE vital point and there has to be transformation in it somewhere.

That’s why we read. We want to find out what happens to the character. Do they get their happy ever after ending? Do they muck it up big time but somehow manage to redeem the situation? (I LOVE those stories!).

One of the aspects of flash fiction I love the most and I think is one of the useful as well is that it does make you focus on what really matters to your character. You do have to work out what the story is so you can focus on it properly.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Murphy’s Law of Fairytales

So how could Murphy’s Law relate to fairytales then? I offer the following thoughts.

1. Never be unkind to the wizened old crone or man etc. They are bound to be a powerful witch/wizard/fairy godmother in disguise. It will be just your luck to cross them and be turned into something unpleasant. These things happen in the fairytale world.

2. Never be rude to passers-by. You might be glad of their help later on, especially if you HAVE crossed the wizened old crone etc. You’ll need someone to tell you what it is you have been turned into. Then and only then can you scream.

3. You know that downtrodden kid everyone ignores or is rude to? Watch them. They’re either going to end up marrying Prince Charming or somehow do something heroic. In the fairytale world, that kind of character is always marked out for great things. They like humility here.

4. It is best to assume the animals you come across can talk, are intelligent etc., and a quick word to the wise – if you do come across bears who live in a house, never ever pinch their breakfast. It won’t end well.

5. Actively be kind. You may be rewarded. You may not. But you won’t end up crossing the aforementioned wizened old crone etc.

6. If you come across a sweet covered house, run the other way as fast you can. (Well, you don’t want to risk a huge weight gain thanks to gobbling all that sugar now, do you?).

7. Don’t try and eat the Gingerbread Man. He resents that kind of thing.

8. If you need to cross a bridge and you are not sure if there are trolls in the area, see if you can get some friendly neighbourhood goats to cross the bridge first. They are excellent at getting rid of unwanted trolls.

9. If you think Grandma has suddenly become very hairy, it is not a trick of the light. She has. Go and get the woodcutter NOW.

10. If something seems too good to be true, it is. Mind you, that applies to all universes so is a good general principle to go by.

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This World and Others – 

Creating Something Out of Nothing

I was listening to Classic FM when it was reported a well known composer still suffered nerves when coming up with a new composition. They were still made nervous by the blank page, despite their many years of successful composition. Ironically, this cheered me up somewhat. It’s the same for any creator and I know it’s true for me. That touch of nerves before you start writing is the worst bit. Once you get going, you’re absolutely okay.

I’ve learned over time to just get the words down any old how. Editing and polishing happen much later. Nobody writes a perfect draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Austen didn’t. Dickens didn’t. I’m certainly not going to but that’s fine! So how can you get over the nervous start bit or, at least, make it not so bad and easier to handle?

I’ve found having a range of ways to get started on stories or blog posts helpful. I also find having brainstorming sessions every so often useful to jot down ideas and when I am struggling, I can turn to these and find something to inspire me there. My range of ways to get started include:-

1. Using a random word generator, pick three, and put them into a story. Using random words like this makes me think deeper and if there is no obvious link between the three words, even better. It makes me think again!

2. Look back over my old blog posts and stories. Often there will a link there I didn’t follow up at the time but might prove useful now.

3. Take a well known saying and use it as a theme or title (sometimes both) for a story or article.

4. Use a spider diagram or flowchart to flesh out basic ideas. That will soon show if ideas in the back of my head do have some “legs” to them or not. Naturally I go with the ones that do! This is especially useful when used in conjunction with a random word generator.

5. Look up writing competitions. Sometimes I’ll enter said competitions. Sometimes I’ll just write up a story to the theme and not submit it deliberately. I will go back to that story at a later date to polish it up further knowing it is not ready for a competition yet but I can still write to the theme. Who knows? The story might end up in an anthology later. Themes come up reasonably often so there will be other competitions the story the might fit.

However you get over the blank page nerves, happy writing and good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning from Stories and Characters

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Writing characters is good fun, especially when you can think of suitable flaws that you know you can use to drop said characters right in it. The important thing is for the flaws to be realistic and not over exaggerated.

I have never really liked larger than life characters in fiction (with the honourable exception of Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows! That’s partly because we know he is OTT from the start of the story!).

I want my characters’ flaws to be reasonable based on what I’ve found out about them. For example, if I know a character is kindly, then their major flaw is unlikely to be anything violent etc. The flaw has to fit with the character.

In this case I would probably make the flaw irritability. This makes sense as a kindly soul pushed too much would be irritable. There should always be a flaw to balance out the virtues.

I find goody two shoes characters difficult to read too and I think most readers would. We want realistic characters, people we can identify with, even if we don’t always agree with them or their actions.

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What have I learned from stories I’ve read over the years?

The big lesson, of course, is I’ve discovered what I love and equally what I don’t!

What is more useful still is in working out why I haven’t liked something. It is almost always that the characters didn’t come across well enough for me. I then look at that and think about how I might’ve portrayed those characters and why.

For stories I love, I study how the dialogue flows,how the chemistry between characters works (and you can always tell the author has put a lot of thought into how their people will be on the page), and what I thought worked well.

From all of this, negative and positive, you can learn a lot to apply to your own tales.

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I use the Scrivener template for outlining my characters though you can easily devise your own. Work out what you think you need to know about your characters and outline from there.

One of the Scrivener settings is for character name. Okay, okay, I hear you say, why the fuss about that? Course you’ve got to know the character name.

That’s true but dig a little deeper and look at why you’re naming the character as you have. Names can reveal much such as likely age of character (Gertrude has not been a fashionable name for a while now!) as well as likely class background and things like that.

The template also has a lovely section on personality and that’s where I get to outline major traits. By the time I’ve done that I know what the character’s personality is like.

I’ve also found outlining like this speeds up the process of writing the story. Outline in place and away I go as I already feel as if I know the lead character(s) in depth.

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you later this week. Crime writer, Val Penny, will be looking at her venture into non-fiction with her recently released Let’s Get Published. We’ll be discussing the challenges of writing non-fiction and the aspects of that you simply don’t face as a fiction writer.

Got the first draft of a story for a competition done earlier today so that is now resting, waiting ready for my eagle editor’s eye to attack it with the old red pen!

I now know (by not hearing) a couple of my earlier competition entries this year have not got anywhere in the places I submitted them to but this means I can look at these stories again. Sometimes I can find an alternative market for them and I have been published that way too. So it is always worth considering this as a possibility.

Work might find a different home from the one you originally intended for it but that’s okay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash characters have to lead from the front given there is not a lot of room to tell their story. This is one reason why I use first person a lot. There is an immediacy about that which helps increase the pace of the story but it also takes you right into the character too.

So when I’m planning a story, I outline my lead character. They’ve got to have a story worth sharing after all. So what makes a character worth writing about?

It has to be someone who intrigues a reader. Intrigue can come from setting up a situation the character has to resolve and a reader wants to find out how they do. It can come from a character being the type that lands themselves in it and a reader wants to see if (a) that stops or (b) what their latest adventure is.

 

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Hope the writing week proves to be a good one for you. Likewise the reading one! And if you count under both categories, have a fab time reading and writing!

I’m reading a couple of collections on my Kindle at the moment and thoroughly enjoying them. I’ve found reading collections to be a good way of getting out of my thankfully temporary reading drought.

I’ve long hoped that flash fiction might also be a good way to tempt reluctant readers in to reading at all as you’re not asking them to commit to too much in one go for a start.

Well here’s hoping!😊

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared some flash one-liners with you. Time to rectify that then. Hope you enjoy these.

1. The elephant was in the room and looked around with interest, wondering who would be the first to try and make him leave.

2. Of all the last words she’d heard in her time, she’d never expected to hear “I don’t suppose you’re a vegetarian dragon by any chance?”

3. The witch incinerated the speed camera after she went through it at 180 mph as she didn’t fancy facing Lucinda who had gone through the same spot the week before at over 200 mph.

Allison Symes – 22nd June 2020

 

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Hope you enjoyed the one-line stories. They’re great fun to do. I’d also recommend having a go at this as (a) an interesting challenge and (b) as a warm-up writing exercise ahead of whatever your main writing event is!

One aspect to flash fiction is that all those writing exercises you’ve had a go at over the years might be able to be turned into stories you can submit to a publisher and/or competition. Give it a go! You’ve nothing to lose here. But as with any fiction writing, ensure all is as polished as you can make it before you send your work anywhere to give yourself the best possible chance.

Good luck!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Outdoor or Indoor Reading

Allowing for the time of year, do you enjoy reading books outside?

The only time I get to do this is when I’m on holiday. At home I tend to think I should be getting on with some gardening rather than reading a book.

I know! Allison, why don’t you tell the inner critic to go away? That is sometimes easier said than done though!

That said, I do find it easier to grab a magazine and read that outside while enjoying a drink or a bite to eat. (It’s also easier to use as a fly/wasp swat should the need arise!).

So how about you? I do find it far easier to read indoors and ideally at bedtime when my inner critic has gone away for the night and I can read in peace.

I also know my treasured books aren’t at risk of being rained on etc so I guess that comes into it too,

What matters though is finding time to read and unwind. And reading is such a wonderful way to unwind. I can only live one life but through books and stories I can get to experience many at secondhand. That is one aspect to stories I simply adore.

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Looking Back and Trailers/Videos

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I review last Friday’s online event for the Waterloo Art Festival’s Writing Competition for my CFT post this week.

It was great fun (though I admit missing getting together with the other writers involved in this. Still there’s always next year and I think Zoom has a role to play even when things get back to whatever comes to pass as being normal!).

I share the trailer for Transforming Communities, the ebook launched here. I also share a video where I read an extract from my winning tale, Books and the Barbarians. Enjoy!

Transforming Communities Full

It was a joy to review how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Event worked as an online only “get together” last Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I also share the book trailer for Transforming Communities. Also see below.

This ebook is a compilation of the fifteen winning entries and includes my story, Books and the Barbarians. I also share the link to the video I created for the Festival. I read an extract from my story on that. Hope you enjoy.

Zoom and other social media have been a lifeline in keeping some writing events together. Indeed as I write this I’ve just come off a very interesting Zoom session looking at marketing. (There is always something to learn with that topic!).

I take the view if I can’t together with author friends and go to writing talks in person then I will do so online whenever possible. I must admit though I am looking forward to the usual events being back again but I see a use for Zoom and the like long after “normality” returns.

I hope these platforms make events more accessible to those where transport is an issue for one thing. There is great good to be kept there I think.

 

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C = Creating new fictional people is always fun.
H = Heroes or Villains? You need both.
A = Aspirations of the characters are something a reader should identify with; ideally the aspiration of the villain should be in direct contrast to that of the hero.
R = Reasons for behaviours, attitudes etc of the characters should be sensible to them and a reader should be able to see where they come from here.
A = Agreeing with those reasons is not necessary!
C = Conclusion of the story should result in resolution of the conflict between your hero and villain.
T = Tension should ratchet up throughout the story as hero and villain race to try to achieve their objectives, knowing one of them has to fail.
E = Energy should come from your characters so your readers feel these people could be real in some world somewhere.
R = Rationality is in the eye of the beholder; a villain will find reasons to justify their actions and those reasons will be rational enough to them.
S = Super stories as a result of the above? But of course!

Happy writing!

 

I’m a fan of the quiz show Pointless and love the word rounds. No surprises there to be honest. I like Scrabble and the quick crosswords, things like that. What word games do you like? Do you find they help your writing?

When I have time, I sometimes use word games to help me relax AFTER a writing session as they can be a good way for me to wind down yet still have fun playing with words.

Many decades ago, I used to write wordsearch puzzles for our church magazine (and to show how long ago that was, the magazine was produced on an old Gestetner duplicating machine. (For younger readers, these are the days before the photocopier became readily available. The last T-Rex had just left the earth.. you know the kind of thing. 😆).

Words are fun. They’re even more fun in a story or blog post!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was good to see some fellow flash fiction writers as part of the Zoom course I was on this afternoon. I learned a lot. I was also encouraged a lot by it too. I also hope to put some more things into practice over the next few months!

One nice thing about flash fiction in particular is it is an easy form to share online. The reduced word count means it is easy enough to share a story and it is the best way I know of showing people new to the format what flash fiction is all about.

And it is lovely to share some new stories on this page too from time to time. I find it great fun to do and I hope to share some more before too long.

I hope to catch up with some story writing over the weekend. Whatever your writing and/or reading plans are, I hope you enjoy them!

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Although flash fiction is necessarily short, I still mix up the length of sentences in my stories. I like a nice balance of short and longer sentences to give my tales a sense of rhythm. To me, this seems more natural to read. Nothing is at a fast pace all the time. Even in a flash story there can be pauses even if it is a pause of one line before the action starts up again.

Happily listening to Holst’s The Planet Suite on Classic FM when I drafted this. My favourite from it, Jupiter, is always one piece I turn the volume up for!

What I love about this suite is that each piece within it reminds me of a musical short story/flash fiction. Each piece represents each planet and they are so different. It is, to me, as if each piece is telling its own story.

And so nice to write and/or relax to as well!

Do you listen to music while writing? What kind helps most and why?

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

Ten Things I Look For in a Good Story

I suspect there won’t be any great surprises here but each one should be a challenge to all of us to ensure we keep doing these!

  1. Characters I love or love to loathe. They’ve got to be memorable.
  2. Situations which are critical for the characters. They’ve got to strive for something important.
  3. A setting I would love to visit! (Anyone fancy a trip to The Shire in The Lord of the Rings? Mordor, I’d be happy to miss!).
  4. Great pace. Absolutely no boring bits!
  5. It’s a story I’d be happy to re-read at any time and enjoy it all over again.
  6. Humour, where apt for the story and the characters. I have a very soft spot for irony.
  7. Tragedy, when necessary as it often is, not to be overdone. (I think tragedy has much more of an impact when it does not become melodrama).
  8. Snappy dialogue.
  9. Catchphrases I can remember – and enjoy doing so.
  10. The story shows me something of the human condition which I’d either not considered before or reaffirms something. Funny stories can do this surprisingly well.

What are the most important elements to a story for you?

 

This World and Others –

Where to Find Ideas for Creating Your Fictional World

The best way by far is to read plenty of books across all genres and I do mean all. You can obviously learn directly from science fiction and fantasy as to how their worlds are set up. You learn a lot from what the writer decided you as the reader needed to know. But bear in mind you can also learn from history (fiction and non-fiction).

There is a lot of truth in the saying “the past is a different country, they do things differently there”. For a writer that’s wonderful stuff. So consider going back in time and having your fictional world set there. But do your research.

For example, readers may not need to know every detail of King Henry VIII’s court but they do need to know how many times he was married and how that affected life in the country (clue: it did and in a massive way!).

As for crime novels, again look at what the authors decided you needed to know. Setting is often used almost as a character in its own right in crime novels. What can you learn from that and apply to what you’re writing?

Work out a list of what you think you need to know. Then do a second one working out what it is a reader needs to know so they get the most from your story. And good luck!

 

Waterloo Arts Festival Online and Story News

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels generally unless stated otherwise.

Plenty going on over the last few days… phew!

Facebook – General

Had a wonderful time at the online Waterloo Arts Festival launch for Transforming Communities last night (Friday, 12th June 2020). Great to see many friends there and the readings were fantastic. Well done, everyone.

I’ll be sharing a book trailer for Transforming Communities later in the week but meantime I thought I would share this…

Hope you enjoy. Video also below.

As well as my video being here (with a taster of my story, Books and The Barbarians), there is a great intro for #MaxineChurchman too.

There is a series of these Meet the Winners posts, each combining a video with a short text from two winners. These will give you a good flavour of the wonderful mix that has gone into this ebook. Do check it out.

 

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. This one has been really nice for me. I

Loved being part of the Waterloo Arts Festival online on Friday. It was good fun and it was great to see everyone. I always love hearing extracts from stories. What’s not to like about that?

For the first time since lockdown, my sister and her partner came over for tea and cakes in the garden and a lovely time was had by all. Amazing how the simple things can boost your morale the most at times.

And I’m reading some smashing short story collections on Kindle at the moment so my reading drought is over. Hope to review in due course.

I’m preparing interview material where I’m on the receiving end of the questions AND where I’m setting them. Watch this space as they say!

And the ebook of Transforming Communities is now on my Amazon Author Central page. It is lovely to see the number of books increasing here! I can’t wait to be able to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic up on here too!

Hope you have a fabulous week.

Facebook – General – Further Publication News!

Lovely start to the week. My story It Is Time will be published in Bridge House Publishing’s Mulling It Over anthology later this year. Always a pleasure to return a signed contract to a publisher! I could do with more Mondays like this…

Many congratulations to all of the other wonderful writers in the collection. Good to see some familiar names here and equally great to see names that are new to me in this anthology.

I am very much looking forward to reading the collection in due course. What can be guaranteed is a fantastic mix of stories in terms of style and mood.

 

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Many thanks for the good wishes and congratulations yesterday on my recent publication news. Very much appreciated!

My CFT post this week is going to be a look back at how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition Event worked as a purely online Zoom affair. It is the first time I’ve taken part in a festival in this way. All good experience! (And for the WAF running it too I should think!).

On to other issues and question of the day is what it is about stories you love the most?

For me, it is always about the characters. I’ve got to be intrigued enough by them to want to read what they get up to but how about you?

My big problem with books, though it is a lovely one to have, is having too many I want to read and not enough time. Doesn’t matter if they’re paperback or ebook, I have the same dilemma. Still I’m never short of a good read! How about you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Waterloo Arts Festival ebook launch for Transforming Communities went very well last night. Great mixture of styles and stories. Was lovely to hear the extracts and I enjoyed reading mine too.

If you want to check the stories out in full, see the link above or my Amazon Author Central page (link further up this blog post)!

Transforming Communities Full

 

I was having some fun with the random word generator tonight and selected choosing four words at a time. The ones that came up were:-

Experience, Elect, Rebellion, and Uranium.

Now there’s an explosive mix for you!!

So how could you use these in a story?

1. You could try getting all four words into your story in any order.

2. If you want to make your life a bit more difficult, get them into the story in the order in which they were generated.

3. Pick one of them as your theme and/or title but get the others into the story itself.

4. Ensure your first paragraph contains the four words.

5. Or finish your story with your last paragraph containing the four words.

The nice thing with the generator is you can choose the number of words you go for. So play around with things like this and see them as a generator for story ideas. The fact you don’t know what will come up forces you to think creatively around what DOES emerge.

Have fun!

 

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Great start to the week with my It Is Time being accepted for the annual BHP anthology. That will be called Mulling It Over and will be released later this year.

One joy of writing both flash fiction and short stories is while nobody should underestimate the time taken to produce these and edit them etc., because you are writing so many more of them, publication news can come in much more frequently than if say you were writing a novel a year.

That is one aspect to writing in the short form I like a lot! And I highly recommend it!

One thing I learned years ago was that if writing appears to read easily, regardless of whether that work is a novel, a play, a 100-word story or what have you, the guarantee is that the author worked hard for years to get to that point. And continues to work hard!

On that particular piece of work they will have edited, put aside for while, edited again and again.

I do find deadlines useful here. It can be easy to put off submitting something because you’re not quite happy with your story. Having a deadline (even if it is one you impose on yourself) is a great way of making yourself submit work.

I can’t recommend enough getting into the habit of regularly submitting work. It makes you produce more stories. The more you write, the more you will learn, the more chances you have of one of your pieces or more being “out there” and therefore in with a chance of being acepted.

I found it helped a lot when I recognised rejections were nothing personal, that every writer has them and keeps getting them, but you learn from what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!

Many thanks for all the support after yesterday’s publication news. It has been a good couple of weeks! 😆😆

Of course the reality is I wrote those stories a while ago. You can’t know if your work is going to be accepted or not. And stories I’m writing now or have done in the last few weeks… well it is likely to be at least a couple of months before I know anything about those.

I do know a couple of competition entries haven’t been placed (no hear basically!) so I will be looking at those again at some point and seeing what else can be done. There is always room for improvement in these things!

But taking the long view, having work nearly always out there or on the point of being about to be out there, ARE good things and I’ve found both very useful. No time to mope over no hears or rejections for a start! On to the next story. Allow a little time to go by. Look at the old story and see if it can be revamped or whether it is worth trying a different competition with it.

Always things to be working on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Ebook -v- Paperback

Now I must declare an interest in this topic. I’ve been published in both formats and so, naturally, I love both. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

My trusty old Kindle goes with me whenever I’m away at events or holiday (not that this is happening right now!). But when I want some comfort reading, I will nearly always turn to a trusty paperback.

Flash fiction and short story collections I nearly always have on the Kindle. Most of the novels I read are in paperback.

I have a nice mixture of ebook and paperback for non-fiction books. (And yes I do take advantage of special offers on ebooks. It can and does make the difference as to whether I buy a book at all at times and this is another reason why I have no problems with book format. I also don’t mind at all if my book and the anthologies my work has appeared in sell well in either format! Naturally, ideally I’d like them to do well in both!).

So however you read, enjoy.

Whatever you read, enjoy!

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Genre Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels unless otherwise stated.

REMINDER –

WATERLOO ART FESTIVAL – WRITING COMPETITION – LAUNCH OF TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES EBOOK ON FRIDAY 12TH JUNE 2020 FROM 6.30 PM UK TIME.

Just a quick reminder that the writing side of the Waterloo Arts Festival is on this evening, 12th June, from 6.30 pm to about 8.00 pm.

The event has to be online this year but it is free. You do need a ticket for the event but the link is here.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers.

Hope to see you!😊

Image from link above to the Festival.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction.  I share what I love about it and why I loathe the snobbery that can exist around it. Genre fiction is the bread and butter for publishing houses and helps fund literary fiction.

That’s fine but I do wonder if some of the snobbery is a hangover from the old “penny dreadfuls”. Though I’d argue even those had their place. They got people reading! Anyway, check out the post and see what you think. Do share your favourite genre books too. It’s another way of building up a reading list!

I’m taking part in the online Waterloo Arts Festival – Writing Competition Ebook Launch later on this evening and hope to report back on that for my CFT post next week. I hope some of you can “pop along”.

Zoom has been a lifeline for many writing events and I hope the good from that continues once we are back to any kind of normality again. It will make events more accessible for more people I think and that’s a good thing always.

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Funny old day weather wise here. Sun, thunder, lightning, heavy rain, sun again. Still it IS only June…!

Stages of Storytelling for me:-

1. Get initial idea for a character and flesh that out.

2. Get initial idea for a situation to dump them in and flesh that out. Well, I’m not going to make their life easy for them. There’d be no story otherwise.

3. Write first draft and put aside.

4. Start thinking of other story ideas and making notes.

5. Back to story 1 after a suitable gap away from it and re-read it on paper. Immediately notice lots of ways to improve it and do so. Put aside again.

6. Start fleshing out story 2 following steps 1 and 2 above.

7. Re-read my story 1. Less to improve on this time but I can see the odd awkward phrase so reword that. I can see how a change of phrase will make the flow of the story more even so go with that. I finish correcting any typos and grammatical errors.

8. I write the first draft of story 2.

9. Final read through of story 1. I often read dialogue out loud to make sure a reader won’t stumble over it and make any final changes.

10. Knowing the story is as good as I can make it, I ensure I am following publisher/competition guidelines and submit the story, well ahead of the deadline.

And then back to story 2!

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction and what I love about it. Great fun to write. Hope you’ll share some of your favourites in the comments box when the post goes live on Friday.

I’ll also be interviewing authors over the next few weeks and am on the receiving end of the questions for an interview I’ll be taking part in. So busy busy and that’s how I like it.

Looking forward to Waterloo Art Festival on Friday night. I will share the link again for where you can get a free ticket at some point during the day on Friday so do keep a look out for that.

I hope to report back via CFT on how everything went. The strange situation we’re all in pandemic wise has led to some creative thinking about how we do things and I hope the good from that continues long after the pandemic is over (or as over as it ever will be).

Facebook – General – and Book Cover Challenge

See previous post for Days 1 to 5!

Day 6

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #FranHill who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. Wonderfully funny.

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A wonderfully funny writer!

Day 7

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #DawnKentishKnox who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. I love the Discworld series and this has two of my favourite characters in it – Sam Vimes and Moist von Lipwig. It’s also about trains and I have a soft spot for them too! Great storyline.

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One of my favourite Discworld stories.

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

Where does the time go? I was looking through my Cafelit stories and came across my first 100-word tale on there. A Study In Magic appeared all the way back in 2013! This story made it into FLTDBA and I’m looking forward to sharing more details about Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course.

I must admit I couldn’t imagine my writing life without flash fiction now.

Can I see how I could improve this first flash tale now?

Of course. I’m not saying how though! Why? Simply because you write to the best of your ability at the time you write. Hindsight is a rotten mistress!

What you do though is pick up on how you can improve things and apply that to the next story, the one after that and so on. The idea is to try to continually improve on what you do. Doing that stretches you and, for me, it makes writing more fun.

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Flash fiction has to be to the point but that’s a good thing regardless of word count. Any story needs to reveal what a reader needs to know to make sense of it but no more. Flash fiction forces you to cut the waffle and I know that has gone on to help me with my blogging, short story writing, etc.

I keep some questions in mind for when I’m editing a story and have found these useful. Hope you do too.

1. Does this contribute to the story in any way? (If no, cut immediately!).

2. If yes, how vital is it? Is it something a reader absolutely has to know? If yes, fine. It stays as it is.

3. If no but the information is important enough to add depth to the story, then note it. At the end of your first edit, prioritise what information the reader has to know. Is this particular piece STILL vital after all of that?

4. If yes, keep it in. If no, then look at whether you can get this information into the story another way so it IS vital. If that’s not possible, then the information almost certainly isn’t as crucial as you first thought!

5. Does everything in the story move it on to the conclusion? If there is anything in there that doesn’t move the story on, then I’d remove it.

Happy editing!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when it comes to Open Prose Mic Nights, you know you’re not going to send your audience to sleep. You’re not on for long enough!😆😆😆

Joking aside, flash fiction does work really well for this. You haven’t long to keep the audience’s attention but you are only reading/performing a short piece so that helps.

And of course you can also make a story trailer/video for your website and use that as an advert for what you do, writing wise.

On my book trailers page on the website, there are videos for FLTDBA, Nativity, The Best of Cafelit 8, and I experimented with one of my stories, Job Satisfaction, from FLTDBA too and produced a trailer for that. I hope to do more of this. It’s good fun to do and helps add interest to your website.

 

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).

Let your writer charge up their batteries and give you the proper star billing in the story.

 

This World and Others –

Do You Have Favourite Characters?

So do you have favourite characters of your own making and, if so, should you?

I must admit I can’t see how any writer can avoid having favourites amongst their characters. There are bound to be creations we prefer over others, simply for things such as we like Character A’s sense of irony, which Character B, noble as they are, simply doesn’t have. What DOES matter is that we are scrupulous about how we create our characters.

By this I mean when planning out characters, we should ensure each and every one of them has flaws and virtues. Each and every one of them must have good reasons for acting the way they are. Each and every one of them should feel real to a reader. No cardboard cut-outs here!

You, as the writer, have got to know what makes them all tick. You need to know what drives them, what would frustrate them, what would tempt them away from the path they’re supposed to be on, and how they handle weakness in themselves, yet alone in others.

A good sign of a “proper” favourite character is knowing you’ve created a character that for many reasons you dislike (e.g. you disagree with their attitudes) but have brought them to life in such a way your reader will be intrigued by them and there will be no sign of your antipathy towards them either. Good luck!

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AUTHOR SERVICES/ONLINE EVENT NEWS

Image Credit:  Pixabay or Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

NEWS

A lot has happened writing wise over the last few days.

Firstly, I now have an Author Services page on Allison Symes: Collected Works as I now work as an independent editor, as well as an author. More details below in the relevant post with the appropriate link.

Secondly, the launch of the ebook Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s Waterloo Arts Festival is this coming Friday, 12th June from 6.30 pm.  There will be videos, you can meet, via Zoom, the authors including me and more details follow in the post below. You will need a ticket but the event is free. Link is below. Hope to see you there!

Cyberlaunches are a good chance to promote you and your work but you need to engage with people rather than boom at themDo invite people to your launch - you do have to actively invite them and then hopefully entertain them with your launch too

Facebook – General – and Author Services News

There is often a lot of “behind the scenes” work with writing. I find it bubbles away nicely in the background for ages and then, oomph, it is all ready for sending out to a publisher or a competition or what have you.

Or you are preparing various things ready for taking your writing journey on to another stage and I am at that point now.

I have updated my website as I now have an Author Services page available.

Some of you, I know, will already know I carry out editing work. Details are on my Author Services page.

There are two sides to this page: one is my work as an author. I am happy to give talks and run workshops etc. The other is the editing side.

Full details of how to contact me are on the Author Services page.

And for other writers taking new steps on their writing journey, may I wish you the best of luck as I take new steps on mine!

And from FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN FACEBOOK PAGE

I don’t think there can ever be said to be THE perfect time to do something new! It’s a question, I think, of doing what prep work you can and then picking as good a time as possible as suits you.

Just to say I now have an Author Services page on my website (link below) and there are two sides to this. One is for my work as an editor. Full details of what I do and how to contact me are on the page.

The other is for my work as a published writer. I am very happy to give talks and run workshops on flash fiction. Do see my page for more details.

Allison Symes and published works LARGE VERSION

Facebook – General – and Waterloo Arts Festival News

This Friday night is Waterloo Arts Festival night – well the writing side of it is!

Of course, it has to be online but the event is free. You do need a ticket for the event but see the link.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers, including yours truly.

Hope to see you!😊

 

Now on to the rest of this round-up!

Facebook – General –

The Book Cover Challenge – Days 1 to 5

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

 

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A wonderful detective novel.

Day 2
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #RichardHardie who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Epic fantasy. And one of my favourite film adaptations too.

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Epic in every sense

Day 3
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #WendyHJones who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle. Great stories with the most intriguing detective ever, I think, and the forerunner for EVERY flawed one that has come since too.

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A timeless detective in many ways.

Day 4
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #JenWilson who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? A ChristmasCarol by Charles Dickens. My favourite ghost story (and I love the Muppet version of it too).

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Not many writers get to add to a tradition but Dickens did/has.

Day 5

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #SharonBradshaw who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A classic and brilliant example of irony in romantic fiction.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says "The Penguin English Library JANE AUSTEN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE"

This book introduced me to irony in fiction and is such a wonderful story.

Days 6 and 7 will feature in my next post.

Facebook – General

I’m taking part in a Book Cover challenge on Facebook at the moment (see above) and it is making me think about what books I’ve chosen and why.

I’m also trying to marry up who I nominate to take part with books I’ve chosen I think they’ll also be fans of and not to make their life more difficult here, honest! Rather it will free them up to choose other huge favourites in their selections because we will all have the same dilemma. We can only choose HOW many?!

It is difficult limiting yourself to 7 books given the challenge lasts for 7 days but as a celebration of stories and books in general, this is great fun to take part in! Many thanks to #JaneBrocklehurst for nominating me.

I wrote a Chandler’s Ford Today post a while back about what books I would take to a desert island. Hope you enjoy. And do share which you would take with you and why.

 

Saddened but not surprised that Swanwick has been cancelled for this year. Will miss seeing everybody but am already looking forward to next year’s event. 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s unlikely to crop up as one of people’s all time favourite years, is it?!

Yet ironically good things are happening. Zoom has brought people together (and my social life has perked up a lot thanks to it though I guess that does say more about me!😆😆).

Talking of Zoom, I’m looking forward to the online Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition event on Friday night. Will report back in due course. (And do come if you can. Link to event to follow further down).

And I hope, after the event, to share the video I made for this after the event where I read an extract from my winning story. It was great fun to write and I look forward to sharing that.

It was good fun making the video too and it’s not something I would have thought to have done, had events gone on as they usually would have done.

Meanwhile I’m writing away and looking forward to answering interview questions I’ve been sent. In some ways lockdown hasn’t changed my routine at all. I sit at a desk and write! But it is the not seeing friends and going to book related events I’m missing the most.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

These things are all relevant to a cyberlaunches which are often used to launch a book at a discount rateImages like this help set an online party atmosphere

 

A good opening line either sets up an intriguing premise OR lays out a problem you know has got to be solved by the story’s end.

A good closlng line either delivers on that premise OR resolves the problem.

What is talked about less often are the lines in between! They matter too, obviously.

One thing I like about flash is it forces you to ensure every word, every sentence moves the story forward, so no saggy middles here! But there’s no reason why you can’t use that same technique of asking yourself DOES this line add anything useful to what ever kind of fiction you write. And that question I’ve found useful so many times. It helps me focus on what really matters after all.

My top tips for flash fiction writing would be:-

1. Limit the number of characters. Especially for those stories under 500 words, you may well get away with only one character.

2. Focus on what the situation is. There has to be a moment of change so what is the single most important thing we the reader have to know about your character and the situation they’re in? That is the story.

3. Your opening line needs to lure your reader in but don’t worry if you need several goes at this. Often I will draft a story and a better opening line comes to me when I’m editing.

4. Your closing line needs to deliver on the promise of your story so ensure it does. I love twist endings, punchline endings, etc., but deliberately mix up the type I write as I don’t want all of my stories to be finished using the same format each time. The ending has to be appropriate to the character and tone of the story too.

5. Read your story out loud if you can. Listen for the flow. Look out for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you do, a reader will.

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Time spans for flash fiction, appropriately, are best kept short. I focus a lot on one character, THE important event in their story as that IS the story, and the action is usually wrapped up fairly quickly. The pace is quick too.

I do, however, sometimes write more reflective pieces where a character looks back at their life. My They Don’t Understand is a good example of that.

I also sometimes have characters filling in important information as they are doing something. Time for Tea starts like that and you get to see more of the character’s attitudes, thoughts, and plans as the story unfolds. It is clear those thoughts etc have been building up over a long time but it is NOW they are doing something. That, of course, is the hook for a reader – to find out what that something is and does the character achieve what they think they will?

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – 

The Right Time For a Good Book

I prefer to read in bed but the right time for a good book varies from reader to reader of course.

What is your preferred reading time?

Mind you, I am pretty good at sneaking in extra reading over lunch, though I usually read magazines then. Still it is all grist to the reading mill and I get more read so win-win!

Reading for me is principally a form of entertainment.

Secondly, it is a form of widening my experience of the world. When life is tough, I will always go for books that make me feel better, often tried and tested favourites.

When life is okay, I will want to stretch myself with my reading and that is when I will read books and authors new to me. The good thing is with life being so full of ups and downs for everyone, I get to “do” both kinds of reading over time. So that’s okay.

I like the Look Inside feature on Amazon when trying out new authors and most of the time I do end up buying, having liked what I’ve seen.

I tend to go through phases here too when I will be downloading a few things, none for a bit, and then downloading again. Just as well really that an electronic book shelf cannot give way!

When do you decide it’s time to widen your reading horizons? Is it just based on friends’ recommendations or do you have to be in the right frame of mind to “bite”?

Usually I will take a look at a book a friend recommends and if the blurb, the cover, and the Look Inside attract me, I download. But all of it has to appeal.

And that’s something I try to bear in mind with my author hat on. How can I get these details right for a potential reader of mine?

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Changing Direction

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post this week looks at why changing direction in writing can be benefical and why it is inevitable at some point. After all when you start writing, you cannot know at that point for sure you will always write short stories, say. You may decide to write a novella or a play or what have you.

I share some thoughts about my own changes of direction and flag up a new one but see the post for more on that.

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Did you know what you wanted to write when you first began creative writing? Or was it a case of wanting to try different forms until you found the one you were most at home with?

It was those questions which led to my writing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post on Changing Direction.

Writers are often urged to not give up and rightly so. Persistence does pay (it has for me) but it should also be said that it is perfectly okay to change direction if you want to do so. It was a turn of direction that led me to discover flash fiction after all. I hadn’t anticipated this at all when I began writing.

And so often writers will start by writing short stories, say, go on to write a novel, and then come back to the short form again.

The writing journey is not a straight line by any means. What it should be though is fun (at least most of the time!).

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Facebook – General – Book Cover Challenge

I was nominated to take part in this on 5th June. I thought I would share my posts here (and again on my next post) as there are some wonderful books to share. If you haven’t read them already, do consider adding them to your TBR list. (I will repeat this post next time so all of the book covers are together). Oh and do check out the writing of the authors I nominate too!

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

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Facebook – General

It can sometimes be difficult stopping a story because you really love the characters and the setting and you want to keep writing but, of course, you can’t.

The story has to end at the right point for that tale. There has to be a point of change and we should see the results of that change. Literally end of story.

One advantage of writing flash for me is the fact I have to make myself move on to tackle the next 100-worder or what have you. The lower word counts with flash means I can’t have too long to fall in love with my characters and therefore face the temptation of extending the story out beyond where it should really go.

 

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Do you have pet phrases you like to use in your stories? Or do you find yourself coming out with the same turn of phrase more than once in a story as if you are on “hit default phrase selection” mode?!

Writing flash does help against that given the need to keep inventing new characters and situations. What I DO have to watch are my infamous wasted words and ensuring I don’t start each story in the same way. (That is particularly easy to do if you use the first person. Every story starts “I, I, I” etc etc).

I think it is useful to be aware of things like this so you can look out for them in your editing.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

Do you work out your themes in advance of writing your story or does the theme arise naturally out of the tale you’re writing?

It has been a case of both for me. For example, I think I’d like to write a poetic justice story so I then plan out a character and a situation where that theme emerges.

The nice thing with that theme is sometimes poetic justice can have a humorous element to it (and I do enjoy writing and reading those kinds of stories).

There have been cases where I know who my character is and where they’re going plot wise and the theme then comes out of that.

Though in both cases I do like my heroes/heroines to have some fire in their belly. No time for wishy-washy characters here!😆]

I expect my characters to justify being created in that I WANT to write about them, there is no problem finding things for them to do or land themselves in or so on.

For my quieter characters, I want their trait of quiet determination to win through so it is clear to a reader that there is more to them than meets the eye. Any character like that intrigues me as I want to find out what that “more” is and I would hope a reader would feel the same for my people here.

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What do I like in an opening line, especially for a flash fiction story? Some of the things I look for here include:-

1. An interesting situation or character that intrigues from the start.

2. Dialogue that sets the scene and, usually, indicates the problem the character has to overcome.

3. Internal thoughts of a character showing them in some sort of turmoil. My story, Rewards, has as its opening line: ‘”She must go,” Becky thought.’

I referred to this story when I was on #WendyHJones‘ podcast The Writing and Marketing Show a little while back.

And the reason I went for this as an example of an opening line to hook the reader immediately is because I would hope you would want to find out who the “she” is and why Becky thinks she has to go. After that you would want, I hope, to find out if Becky did get rid of whoever “she” is and how.

I think the ultimate “rule” here is that an opening line which makes me HAVE to find out what happens next means that opening line has done its job!

Now just to deliver on the rest of the story!

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Motivation

Character motivations can cover a wide spectrum. There are the “obvious” ones of love, revenge, seeking justice etc but motivations can be more subtle than that – for example the wish to prove someone wrong.

What matters is whatever the motivation is, it is the be all and end all to your character, even if it seems to everyone else they’re making a fuss about very little.

A motivated character will do whatever it takes to get what they want and the important thing is to ensure your people are driven enough.

It’s not enough for a character to just want to stay out of trouble. But if your character goes to extraordinary lengths to stay out of trouble then a great deal of humour or tragedy can result from that.

What could be behind that? Maybe they’ve got a bet on with a friend to stay out of trouble for six days, say, and the friend has always been right in the past but this time our hero wants to prove them wrong and is determined to do so. They’re fed up with their friend being right all the time and finally want something to go their way.

There, the motivation is powerful enough and understandable. Your readers have to get behind your character to carry on reading their adventures after all. Naturally your character’s friend will know or be able to guess at their friend’s motivation here and will do all they can to scupper any chances of success.

Voila! Instant clashes and tension as you work out how your hero does or does not prove the friend wrong.

This World and Others – 

Top Tips For When Writing Isn’t Working As You Would Like

It happens. You go through phases where writing is either difficult or simply isn’t working out as you’d hoped. Lots of submissions. Lots of rejections. Few acceptances. Do you wonder if you should keep going? Some tips I’ve found useful to keep me going during difficult times include:-

1. Read More. Feed your own imagination. Remind yourself of why you love stories and why you wanted to write any.

2. Remove the Pressure. Deliberately write just for your own pleasure. Make up complete nonsense. Have fun. (Later, if you can do anything with the writing, even if it is just the odd line or two makes it into a story, say, then fab. Even if not, you’re taking time out to play with words and again remind yourself why you wanted to write).

3. Look at Where You’ve Come From Writing Wise. How much have you written over the years? Can you list publication credits (online and in print)? If not at that stage, have you had shortlistings? Are you simply submitting more stories for competitions than ever before?

Remember you define what success in writing is. Yes, publication is the obvious goal but it isn’t the only one. Saying you’ll write 3 or 4 stories and then try and get them published later is a fine goal too. Look at what you’ve learned as you have written more. Have you learned how to improve your editing skills? Have you picked up tips on the way that are helping you write better now (I would be surprised if you hadn’t)? All of these are good and worthy things.

4. Find supportive writing buddies via online groups or in creative writing classes. We all need to be reminded we’re not alone. Others do understand our compulsion to write. Others understand the frustrations of trying to get published. You need that support. It can make all the difference during low times, creatively speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ups and Downs

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay or Pexels supplied the images unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General

I love the buzz when I’m outlining a story idea and can’t wait to write it out properly. Always a good sign that. I find the same when preparing blog posts. I take the view if I like or dislike a piece, readers will have the same attitude so I make sure I darned well like the thing myself!😊

Am glad I tend to write in the evenings when it is cooler. That is really helping as I don’t cope with the heat well (I know, does anyone?). Lady is doing fine but she prefers the cooler temperatures. (And she is currently snoozing on the sofa – it’s a tough life and all that!).

 

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It has been a good weekend. I’ve sent back what should be my final edit on Tripping the Flash Fantastic and I now have the fun task of thinking of material for the back cover etc.

I also want to start thinking ahead for a cyberlaunch much later on in the year. If there is one thing I have learned from the one held for From Light to Dark and Back Again, it is that it is never too soon to write and prepare good material for use on such things!

I’m starting to plan out my next short story competition entry and it is one of those where I know I need to have the ending right and then work backwards to the start. This technique works really well for twist ending stories (which this one will be in due course) and it ensures that your twist is reasonable and well thought out. All good fun to do.

I’ll also be looking at Changing Direction as my CFT topic for Friday. I’ll share a bit more about that during the week.

Have a fab writing week and a fun one (I intend to!)! Time flies etc etc.

 

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Halfway point of the year already. Not that 2020 I think is going to be remembered with any great fondness once it is over. Still pressing on…

What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?

For me, it’s getting started but once I’m up and going, it’s no holds barred until the finish. This is why I outline my character(s) as well as the story plot line. I’ve found that overcomes the hesitation in getting started scenario. So naturally I’m going to stick with doing this.

What has been the most useful writing tip for you?

For me, it is to always edit on paper rather than on screen. You miss things on screen. Your mind fills in missing words in a way that doesn’t happen with paper.The gaps there are glaringly obvious and hit you between the eyes. Well they do for me anyway!

What is the most enjoyable aspect of writing for you?

For me, it’s having finished a piece of work and sent it off for a market or competition, knowing it is the best I can make it and, therefore, knowing it is in with a good chance.

Hope you’ve had a good start to your writing week.

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The writing life is full of ups and downs, of course. I’ve taken a lot of comfort from the fact that every writer experiences this. It is good to know it isn’t just you. It isn’t just me.

But I don’t know about you but every so often, a good “dollop” of encouragement is called for, so what have I found most helpful here?

This is not a definitive list and please add to it in the comments! What I hope is some of what follows is of use. I know it has been to me over the years.

1. EVERY WRITER FACES REJECTIONS

How you handle them though is up to you! My first reaction on getting them is to grimace and mutter a few naughty words. Later, if I’ve been lucky enough to have feedback, I study that for what I can learn from it.

If there is no feedback and it is a case I simply haven’t heard back from a competition or market (so know the piece is going nowhere fast), I look at the story again. Is there anything I can improve? Are there alternative competitions or markets where it might be worth trying the piece again?

I’ve done this a number of times over the years and have often, though not always, had a story accepted by one market where it had been rejected by another one. So this is always worth bearing in mind and I know I’m not the only writer who has found this.

2. CHECK OUT OTHER WRITERS’ TALES OF OVERCOMING REJECTIONS

You will find something to encourage you. And if you want somewhere to start here, I am going to recommend my Chandler’s Ford Today page at http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/ as I’ve had the great privilege of interviewing a number of writers and all of the have fascinating and encouraging insights.

Many of them talk about their road to publication and it can be a rocky one at times.

3. CHANGING DIRECTION

Changing direction and experimenting with different forms of writing is huge fun, often beneficial, and led me into flash fiction.

I’ll be talking more about this in my CFT post on Friday. So don’t feel bad if a change of direction seems the right thing for you to do. There is no one size fits all here.

In the depths of the “down” stage, I’ve found it helpful to recall the up moments. Publication is the obvious one but before that it was things like entering more competitions than I ever had before, getting feedback (and seeing more positive comments) and so on. Don’t discount things like that. They mount up.

I’ve found it helps to know that the ups and downs are normal. Having wonderful supportive writing friends is also a huge encouragement so thank you all. You know who you are!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as the random question generator, I also use the random phrase type. These are useful for sparking ideas off for themes for stories. Sometimes they can be used as phrases to be planted somewhere in the story itself.

For example, one phrase that came up just now when I looked on this was “Let Her Rip”. Now what could be done with that?

Firstly, it could be used as a title.

Secondly, it could be a catchphrase your main character uses.

Thirdly, you can take the story two ways here. What would happen if your characters DOES “let her rip”? And again what would happen if they can’t? And what do they mean by the phrase anyway? (I’d also like to know why her and not him and yes you could get a story from exploring that idea).

Often it is the getting started on a story that can be problematic. You know you want to write but where to begin? Using the generators is a good way to overcome that. You should find something comes up that sparks your imagination and away you go! Good luck.