Prep Work

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Busy preparing for Christmas here but at least the cards have been sent! It all counts as writing…!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is about Prep Work. Apt for this time of year of course! But I look at the topic from a writer’s viewpoint.

I share how prep work is an important part of my writing life, look at the benefits of it, and discuss how having a rough outline of what I plan to write when over the course of a week helps me stay on track and get more writing done overall.

Hope you find the post useful, especially if like me you are a planner rather than a pantser though I think some loose structure to a writing week would benefit most people. I know it has done wonders for my productivity.

Prep Work

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I’ll be discussing the usefulness of Prep Work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up tomorrow.

Also looking forward to sharing the link to Three Minute Santas in due course.

Just to flag up there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment. Looking for a last minute present for someone who likes short stories, especially quirky ones? See the link for more details.

And don’t forget the one thing you can do for authors whose work you love – leave a review! Doesn’t have to be long (indeed keeping it short helps make it more memorable and effective) but a thoughtful review is appreciated by every author.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 20-23-22 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

I was chatting about ideas yesterday and it is as I develop mine, I often remember books and stories which have influenced me. As I outline my characters, I know from books and stories I love the kind that work the best for me. (Not every book does this for me – I still dislike Miss Price from Mansfield Park and I love Jane Austen’s work as a rule but this case did show me what I don’t want in my characters so still useful!).

And I try to replicate what I like best in my “people”. I say people but then I have written flash pieces from the viewpoint of a mother dragon and responded to a challenge to write a piece about the inside of a ping-pong ball. My characters are definitely not all human but I still need to portray them in a way to either gain reader sympathy or to have readers happily root for them to fail, depending on whether they’re villainous or not.

All great fun and even more reasons to keep reading. I see it as research and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to hearing wonderful festive flash fiction on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM tomorrow. I hope to share the link in due course. I also hope to include it in my Chandler’s Ford Today post for Christmas Eve which will be a festive flash post.

Lighthearted stories take as much care to hone and polish as the more serious kind and I think even more in fact.

Why? Because you know the effect you want to produce in the reader – you are aiming to amuse and/or cheer and everything you write for this story has to serve that purpose. Also what one reader will see as lighthearted others will dismiss as frivolous. You just accept there is no pleasing everybody and you go for what your Ideal Reader would like. That Ideal Reader won’t be just you, honest!

With a sad story, you know what would make you sad, what would make most people sad so you can use that in your storytelling. But humour is notoriously subjective which is why it is not as easy to write as it might appear. It is good fun though and well worth the effort!

BookBrushImage-2021-12-17-19-5235Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate


Pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy All In The Blend.


Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes

The nice thing with flash fiction is it has more scope than you might think. You can set your characters anywhere and everywhere, in the present day or the past or the future, and don’t forget you can vary the genre too. I’ve written historical flash pieces, crime flash, humorous stories and so on. You can also vary the word count as long as you don’t go above the 1000 words limit.

So if a piece works out better at 500 words rather than 100 then that’s fine. You just can’t submit that piece for a 100-word competition or market but there will be others where you can submit it. When I keep a story at 500 words, rather than reduce it down, it is because there are telling details in that story I feel make the tale more powerful and the character more memorable.

If I feel the story would lose something vital if I were to cut further, I don’t! I leave it as it is and find an alternative market for it.

The trick is in working out what is vital. If certain details help a character make more of an impact on the reader then those things stay in. But you do have to ask yourself honestly do I really need this? Does this detail give the reader something useful?

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Looking forward to the Three Minute Santas broadcast on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on Saturday 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. My story, The Night Before Christmas, is on there and I am delighted to know other writing friends will also be having their tales on there. A great way to get into the festive mood.

I have a very soft spot for writing festive flash pieces. They’re light-hearted, just what you need I think at this time of the year, great to share on social (and other) media, and a bit of a reading pick-me-up. I will share the link to the show in due course if you can’t tune in on Saturday.

Oh and naturally I am going to love flash stories being shared in this way – it’s another method to get people into flash writing and reading I hope!

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Fairytales With Bite – Dressing Up

The most obvious example of dressing up is when the fairy godmother turned up to transform Cinder’s rags into a decent ballgown. But are there any opportunities in your stories for your characters to dress up? What events would they dress up for? And what would they actually wear? How is this different from day-to-day clothing?

Does your fictional world have tailors, clothes designers etc or is everything produced magically? If the latter, how does this work? Would your characters need to have some kind of currency to get a magical costume produced? And if they were poor, what would they have to “make do with”?

Occasions dictate costumes as well so what events would mean everyone, regardless of their means, has to dress up? How would the poorest manage this? And what elaborate costumes would the elite wear and why these? What is the history behind them?

Events usually commemorate something and, for everyone to have to join in, these would have to be of national importance. Can you link the history of your fictional world to what people are wearing now? As ever, with this kind of thing, there is always someone who will want to go against tradition – who, why, what are the consequences of them doing so? Does their choosing to dress differently inspire others to look at why they do things traditionally at all?

Clothing can indicate status too and you could use that as a shorthand way of showing how rich or otherwise your characters are.

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This World and Others – To Map or Not to Map?

Hands up time. I looked at the map in The Lord of the Rings once, maybe twice, on my first read of that wonderful trilogy. I was too engrossed in the story to want to go back to the map at all. So how useful do you find a map to be in fantasy works, especially the longer kind?

I can understand why the writer would need a map. Literally it is a visual aid to them to help them picture things and to thus write about their created world successfully. But do the readers need to see the map? Does film take away the need for such things now? Do feel free to comment!

I do know I couldn’t draw a map if paid to do so. I know I need an idea on setting for my flash and short stories though I find I need to know the characters much, much more. The characters will often dictate to me where they have to be set. I like that as it means I picture them and their location in one go.

And a lot of what I need to know about my characters doesn’t end up in the finished story. It doesn’t need to go in but I needed to know it to write that character up with conviction. Even if I could draw a map. I suspect the same would be true here!

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