Continuing Professional Development

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Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my post on Continuing Professional Development for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Mind you, I could easily have called this post Continuing Personal Development as I think it benefits writers, every so often, to assess where they are and where they would like to be, say in a year’s time.

It is an oddity that even in this technological age, if you write down something, you are more likely to do something to try to achieve that same something. I sometimes brainstorm not just ideas for stories but ideas for writing (competitions etc) I’d like to try at some point.

Inevitably I get around to some but not others but I still achieve more than if I had not written my thoughts down. So yes there is still plenty of room in a writer’s life for the good old notebook and pen!

CPD also means getting to grips with the social media platforms that best suit you and engaging, not just with potential readers, but with other writers. There is nobody but nobody like a fellow writer to understand the ups and downs of the creative life, as I mentioned yesterday. And the best way to meet and make writing pals especially at the moment is online.

So you seek to develop writing friendships, you aim to be as creative as possible within your chosen sphere, and every so often, be brave and step out of it. After all it is how I discovered flash fiction. Have fun exploring other forms of writing.

Writing should be fun (for most of the time). You want to build on what has gone before and if you can look back at your work over a year and see where you’ve done that, well done. I hope this particular post proves to be an encouraging one! (Encouragement is always welcome and never more so than this year I think).

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The creative life has its ups and downs and it takes time to work out how best to handle this. But I’ve found small steps lead to more small steps and, given time, you can look back and see how far you’ve come. It will be further than you expect.

The Plus Side

  • Obviously having work accepted. Cherish the moment. You’ve worked for this. Add your work to your writing CV.
  • Receiving likes etc on Facebook posts you’ve written. Cherish those too. It shows people are engaging with what you write (and that is so lovely).
  • Receiving good reviews for your work. Cherish those as well. (And if there is a book you’ve loved, do the writer a favour and leave a review. They do help and it makes sense to support the industry you want to be in/are part of).
  • Getting something done you’ve not tackled before. This can be anything from having your own website/blog/both and posting to it regularly or trying a new form of writing and having fun with it. This stretches your creativity and you’ll be achieving more, even if that achievement is discovering you’re not cut out to be a playwright after all but flash fiction is more your forte.

Cherishing positive times like this matters. It makes you feel good (and so it should. You’ve worked hard to get to this point).

The Down Side

  • Rejections. They suck. They always will. Having sympathetic writer buddies helps a lot here. We can be shoulders to cry on (and maybe in time you will be that shoulder for someone else. What goes around comes around is a true saying and it happens in writing too).
  • Not hearing. I think this is worse than receiving a rejection because at least with that, you know. The one comfort is this happens to everybody. One way around it is to have work on the go, work “out there”, and work to edit so you know you’ve always got something to do. I’ve found keeping busy writing wise helps a lot here. If I don’t hear from Publication X after a certain time, I assume it’s a no and submit work elsewhere.
  • Not receiving responses to your social media posts. This doesn’t mean you necessarily want to hear from readers all the time but if there is a long period of silence, it can be disheartening. So if there is a post you like, do let the writer know. We like to know you are out there enjoying what we’ve written.

It has helped me a lot to know other writers feel this too. It’s important to know you’re not alone so if you’ve not done so, build up a good writing buddy support network. You need people to celebrate with and sometimes whinge with and they will be glad of your support when they want to celebrate or whinge!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

CafelLit is a wonderful online writing community and very supportive. Image created by Allison Symes using Book Brush.

Book Brush - Cafelit 9, Mulling It Over, Transformations

Appearing in anthologies is another way of supporting other writers as well as yourself. You all want tthe books to do well! Image created by Allison Symes using Book Brush

person holding white ceramic mug

Photo by Diva Plavalaguna on Pexels.comThe support given by other writers online has been a real boost to everyone this year. Keep it up, folks!

My CFT post this week will be on Continuing Professional Development and how this can apply to writers. I share something of how I’ve developed here and look ahead to how I hope I will continue to improve on what I do. This applies to the writing itself and to the marketing of it.

One positive thing about writing is that it should stretch you in terms of coming up with new ideas for new stories, stretch you in terms of what you learn from writing conferences and the like, and in working out the best way for you to come to terms with social media. And it is a question of coming to terms with it!

All writers have to find ways to market what they do (and to a certain extent themselves as well) and it is vital that, whichever route you take here, you enjoy it. That is important. Readers will pick up on whether a writer is writing to entertain a potential readership or whether they’re doing this because they feel they have to do it.

Also, enjoying what you do social media wise means you are far more likely to keep it going. That is important too. Readers like consistency (as do publishers and agents). Link up on Friday.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just sometimes I work on a flash fiction story and I realise it’s going to be longer than I expected. I’m working on one such at the moment. Do I worry? No. If it ends up being a standard length short story (1500 words or so), then that’s fine. I’ll leave it at that and find a different market/competition to send it to and then work on another piece of flash fiction.

Little is wasted in writing. It’s absolutely fine to take say a section of a story that didn’t quite work out for some reason and use it in another. And also I take the view that I will learn from what made this story not quite work out. How can I avoid that happening again?

For a story that is taking more room than expected, I need to accept the characters need the room and let them have that space. I very rarely throw work out. In all the years I’ve been writing, I’ve only done this a couple of times and that was because I hadn’t outlined properly and wrote myself into a metaphorical brick wall. Still I’ve learned from that. I always outline characters now to make sure I DO know them as well as I think I do.

I love using first person in flash fiction because I can take you the reader straight into the character’s thoughts, mindset, attitudes etc. That can be fun or horrific, depending on how I’ve portrayed the character!

The advantage of the third person is, I think, I can focus more on the character’s actions (and often you will pick up on likely attitudes to life and others from the way they act. Sometimes from the way they don’t act too!).

But as ever, and regardless of which option you go for here, you do need to know your character pretty well to write their story. So again a plug for the advantages of outlining your characters first!

How do you end your stories? Do you find the endings easy to write or do you struggle?

For me, so much depends on how I’ve written the story. If I know what the ending is first, I will write that closing line down and then work backwards to get to the beginning.

When I write stories the “right” way around, because I outline my characters before I start a tale, I usually have an idea of where said characters are likely to end up and that gives me the story ending. Where I have a choice of how the character could end up, I jot down both versions and then go with the one I think has the strongest impact on me (and therefore is likely to do the same for a reader).

Whichever way I do this, I’m looking for an ending that’s appropriate to what’s gone before and has a good impact on the reader. Impact is everything. Your ending has to wrap up the story of course, but you want to leave your reader having really enjoyed your story and with an ending that they feel couldn’t be anything else.

Yes it pays to write down different options here. Spider diagrams can be useful for working out different options. But I have found doing initial outlining saves a great deal of time later on.

Sometimes a stronger idea for an ending will come to me as I’m writing the first draft. I note it down and then look at it later in “the cold light of day”. Sometimes an idea that occurs like this seems brilliant at the time but in a day or two’s time… well, if it still seems brilliant, then go for it! But do look at it honestly. Does it have the impact you want for this story? Does it suit the character?

Fairytales With Bite – What Happens When The Sparkle Has Gone?

Well, what does happen when a fairy godmother hangs up her wand? Not everyone wants to leave their respective worlds permanently with their “shiny shoes” on after all. My thoughts on this are:-

  • She takes up gardening but refuses point blank to have anything to do with pumpkins.
  • She has a pet but will not have mice, rats, anything she might once have enchanted. She really does not want her past coming back to haunt her in her own home. Oh and cats are out too. Those are strictly for the witch fraternity.
  • She works on her cooking on the grounds she needs to eat and it makes a nice change to brew up something that is not going to be used on anyone else for magical purposes.
  • She collects nice shoes. No glass ones obviously. This fairy godmother wants comfort. And it is nice to put some business the shoe shops’ way rather than creating things magically. (Especially since she had not meant to conjure up glass slippers at all. She still doesn’t know what went wrong with that spell but is grateful Cinderella did not get splinters. Bleeding feet is never a good look).
  • She collects a wide variety of hats. She was not sorry to ditch the “upside down icecream cone” look which formed part of her fairy godmother uniform.
  • She reads widely, especially books from other worlds. She avoids spell books, fairytales (she knows how they end), and anything which might have any connection to her working life.
  • She makes sure she is not cheated on her pension. The one thing that might make her dig out her wand would be if she thought anyone was cheating her here. No strongly worded letter for this girl. Anyone attempting to cheat her here would find their life expectancy cut short or turned into a species with a huge number of predators. Fairy godmothers know how to get even.

Mind you, the chances of a fairy godmother getting to have a retirement in peace is remote. Someone would be bound to call her out in times of emergency. Her biggest problem would be in trying to resist that urge.

This World and Others – Celebrations

I know! 2020 the year for celebrations? Point taken and possibly not (though I hope Christmas proves to be a useful and cheer people up break, whether they share my Christian faith or not).

But in terms of creating your own fictional worlds, are celebrations a part of what your characters would know? If not, why not? Are celebrations of any kind banned or are only government sanctioned ones permitted? What are these? What happens to anyone refusing to take part or holding their own celebratory events?

What is the history behind the celebrations your characters know? Would we recognise any of the elements of these things? Food and drink are an important part of things like these so what would your characters enjoy? What would be the common items? What would be the luxuries?

And are any members of the community excluded from celebrations for any reason? Are birthdays acknowledged?

Now your story is unlikely to about these things directly, but details like this can add depth to your created world. We see in The Lord of the Rings celebrations for Bilbo Baggins’ 111th birthday and have enough details to be able to picture it, yet it is not the whole story or even the major bit of it. (It makes a great starting point though. Could you use your own world’s events to draw readers in and get the story off to a cracking start?).

Also you can contrast celebratory moods with what happens to the characters afterwards when they go off on their quest or have to contend with other threats to them.

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