A Novel Approach, Favourite Books and a Free Story

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for supplying many of the photos for her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I welcome #JenniferCWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today.

This time, we discuss her venture into non-fiction with her recently released book, A Novel Approach.

The theme for this summer on CFT has very much been one of changing direction and Jennifer’s interview continues that idea.

Do check out her thoughts on the benefits of finding a good writing group amongst many other gems here.

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but interviews, I think, are the most fun of all. Why?

Because I always learn something useful, interesting, entertaining, and often all three from my guests. (So thank you one and all!).

No one author can know it all and learning from other writers is a crucial part of how we all develop. Reading interviews and, in my case, hosting them as well, helps enormously here!😊

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We all have favourite books, many of which go back years. So what made you decide Book A was said favourite? Is it a question of working out what books you have you simply can’t manage without and favourite status is conferred upon them due to that?

In my case, one of my favourite books is definitely a nostalgic one as this was given to me by my late parents. Others, such as Josephine Tey’s wonderful The Daughter of Time I came across by accident and I was so happy to find it!

Still others are books written by friends and, not only do I love the stories, but every time I look at the books, I am reminded of happy times meeting up with said friends. (Usually at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing or Association of Christian Writer events it has to be said!).

So what are your favourite stories and why do you love them so much? Do you have room in your life for new favourites? (The answer to that should be of course!). Which book is your most recent addition to the favourites list?

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Am delighted to be welcoming #JenWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Jen will be talking about her change of direction into non-fiction writing with her recently released A Novel Approach. There has been a lot of this change of direction in the air this summer! It has definitely been my theme for this year for CFT.

Jen will be discussing how she came to write the book and shares her thoughts about what a good writing group can do for you amongst many other gems. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss especially if you are thinking about writing a novel.

Meanwhile if you want to check the book out do see the link.

 

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

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Free Story!

I couldn’t resist having another go at the random noun generator. This time I opted for three random nouns and what came up were “shirt”, “marriage”, and “ladder”. Now there’s an interesting mix!

Hope you enjoy the following. A humorous end to the week is always welcome!

THE SPECIAL OFFER

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign. “Buy a shirt and your dearest wish will come true”. I’ve seen plenty of dodgy advertising in my time. So I went over to the market trader and challenged him. How on earth could a shirt grant wishes? Especially such a bright one. Vivid purple was never my style fortunately.

‘You’ve heard of magical lamps and rings, why can’t a shirt be magical too?’ was his response.

I guess on logic alone, he had a point, but when I think of
shirts and magic, it is only in terms of being able to get leaky ink stains out of a shirt in one go in the washing machine. And that doesn’t happen often I can tell you. Unlike leaky ink stains going flaming everywhere.

‘Anyway,’ I told the guy, ‘how can a shirt know what my wish is to grant it?’

‘You tell the shirt when you get it home, silly.’

That was me told.

Now don’t judge me here. I did buy the shirt. I needed to get a present for my nephew so I thought a vivid purple shirt would be the thing. (You should see the colour of his trousers. You need sunglasses, I tell you, so a bright shirt would suit him beautifully. Okay, I didn’t envy his mother the task of washing the wretched thing. That purple would be bound to run but I’ve long told my sister she ought to get her boy helping around the house more so she can start by getting him to wash the wretched thing).

Did I make a wish? Yes. For a laugh. I know my sister is concerned about her lad’s prospects so I wished that his life would take off in a good way so she could stop worrying. Covers both of them and it’s a nice wish I think.

I didn’t tell my nephew, or my sister, where I got the shirt or about the advertising for it.

But I was taken aback when a week after I’d given the present, he and his mother came around with news. Robbie was to be married to the young lass who worked at the launderette and knew everything there was to be known about washing colours separately.

Apparently, he’d borrowed his father’s ladder, went around to the young lass’s house, and proposed at the top of the ladder on Valentine’s Day Night. He had meant to do so when he took her out for a meal but lost his nerve.

That is so like him. As was tumbling off the ladder but fortunately he landed in a huge shrub and no damage done. The shrub was all right as well apparently.

The marriage takes place next month and now I’m off to the market stall. If there are any more of those shirts, I’ll get him a load. I’ve made a list of wishes that will be of real help to a young, married couple.

It’s the least I can do.

Ends

Allison Symes – 21st August 2020

 

Flash fiction may be a quick read but it isn’t necessarily a fast write! I get a first draft down quickly but the work is in the editing (as it is with all forms of writing I think).

Honing a story to ensure every word justifies its place in the tale takes time. And I will often rewrite a section to maximise the impact of that part of the story.

I ask myself if the impact is strong enough? Will it affect the reader the way I want it to do? A change of word, sometimes where I place the word in a sentence, can make all the difference.

It is only when I know any further changes to a story would weaken it that I submit the story somewhere.

Was listening to #WendyHJones‘ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this evening and discovered a new term for what I call wasted words. The term was weasel words and I love that.

It is some comfort to know every writer has these literary pests (and mine are actually, very, and that, as I’ve mentioned before).

Still, when it comes to the edit, I know what’s coming out first and I find, with this done, it seems to get the rest of the edit off to a flying start. I find that helpful so maybe my wasted words have some use. They just don’t stay in!

Image of Wendy H Jones below kindly supplied by her. (Do check out her podcast. I was on episode 4 talking about flash fiction).

Fairytales With Bite – 

The Influence of Fairytales on Literature in General

The obvious influence is that fairytales are a genre in their own right, correctly so too. The next biggest influence I think is given most children’s introduction to literature is via fairytales, said stories act as a gateway into the wonderful world of books per se. That has to be a good thing! This was the case for me and I’ve never regretted having a lifelong love of stories and books as a result.

With that comes the influence on those children who go on to become writers. The marvellous Roald Dahl with his works aimed at children was, to my mind, clearly the successor to Hans Christen Andersen (especially as he knew children liked to read about characters who were not goody goody. Know your market always!).

Fairytales for children can lead to fairytales for adults and I would say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a prime example of that. What an influence that particular story has had on so many of us!

The idea of wrongs being put right isn’t just for crime writing! There’s a good case for saying fairytales were well ahead of the game there.

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This World and Others – Fascinating Facts

When it comes to creating your own fictional world, and thinking of how it is all going to come together, do some research. This is where non-fiction reference books can be so useful to fiction writers. A lot can be done online of course but do go for a variety of books. This will help in ensuring you get facts right but almost inevitably you won’t find all you want in one book.

You want to create a new planet for your characters to live on. Okay. What are they going to breathe? What are they going to eat and drink? What will their climate be like? All of those things you can research based on what you know/can find out here on good old Planet Earth and then adapt for your own purposes.

If you want your creations breathing something other than oxygen, what do they breathe instead and how do their bodies manage this? Think about fish breathing through their gills. What would your people do?

Have fun working this all out and then show readers what they need to know to make sense of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts on The Writing Game

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. A HUGE thank you to my fabulous guest authors for their pics, including book cover ones, for the Chandler’s Ford Today series, The Writing Game – and What to Watch For.

FINAL PART OF THE WRITING GAME – AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT.  Hope you find it useful and enjoyable.

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I’m thrilled to share the final part of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. HUGE thanks to all of my fabulous guests for the wonderful advice they’ve shared in this three-parter.  Do take a bow, everyone!

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Today my guests are from the world of independent publishing, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Association of Christian Writers. Some of them cross more than one category!

 

Feature Image - Part 3 - The Writing Game and What to Watch For

Many, many thanks to all of my fabulous guest authors for taking part in The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. This is one of those series for Chandler’s Ford Today I should’ve written a long time ago!

Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

Mind you, I can speak for all of my guests in that if this series stops one person going down the vanity press route, with all the heartache and expense that causes, we would be well pleased.

I know, looking back when I first started writing for publication seriously, the main problem is in NOT knowing what you DO need to know. As you start to make progress with your writing, you then REALISE you don’t know but your next issue is where do you turn to for advice? If you needed a really good reason to make writing buddies, this is it. And the best places to meet and make writing buddies?

Writing groups – online and otherwise. Creative writing conferences – day events and longer etc. At the moment so many of these have to be online via Zoom etc., but still take part in these things. You will get a lot from them.

Have a fab weekend!

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Delighted to say the story I was working on inspired by a #GailAldwin prompt is going to be published on Cafelit later this month. Will share the link when I have it. I hope this will be next week.

It was great fun to write (and thanks to Gail for a great idea here. Given my love of chocolate, writing stories inspired by sweets could keep me busy for a while! Mind you I still have well over 200 prompts to work through in Gill James’ excellent Prompts book! Still they say slow and steady wins the race. If true, that means I’m in for a brilliant result!).😆😆😆

Fence news: have finished creosoting the wretched fence. Lady was most upset I would not allow her out to join me but I really didn’t fancy going back indoors with a Ronseal “Matured Oak” coloured border collie! (There is no way she would have kept her nose out of the tin either!). Not sorry to have this done ahead of the heatwave due this weekend – and yes, Lady will be kept nicely cool.

I’m looking forward to sharing the concluding part of my CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – on Friday. My guests this week will be from the world of self publishing, the Association of Christian Writers, and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Fabulous tips and advice to share once again. A big thank you to all of my great guests over this series.

Have been happily drafting a new flash fiction piece where the prompt was to write about a sweet. This was a prompt suggested by #GailAldwin in the Prompts Book by Gill James.

I’m slowing working my way through the prompts though it is going to take me well over a year to get through them all! I hope eventually to get another collection out of these pieces in time. I also hope to share some of them via Cafelit in due course too.

But what is lovely about writing like this is it means I can get a flash piece drafted in those short pockets of time which might otherwise be wasted.

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The final part of my The Writing Game – and What to Watch For is now up on Chandler’s Ford Today. For the next couple of weeks, there will be some fab interviews with writers who are changing direction with their most recent publications. Looking forward to sharing those. Lots of interesting insights.

I love reading, as well as hosting, author interviews. There is always so much to learn. But that I think is one of the great things about writing. It spurs you on so. You take the view that “I’ve done this before, I can do it again, but can I do it better?”. The answer to that one is always yes, incidentally!

And that is the way it should be. You always want to strive. It is the striving that will make you the better writer. With flash fiction, I’ve had a lot of fun recently with haiku and hope to continue that. I’m sure there’ll be other kinds of flash to have a go at somewhen as well.

Have a fab weekend! (Must admit I am NOT looking forward to the heat. Lady and I will be doing all we can to stay cool).

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I’m aiming this year to have something submitted to Cafelit once a month. Am glad to report a story I was working on the last day or so will be on there later in August. Will share the link when I have it.

Submitting stories regularly helps give me focus. I can vary the length of story I send in and I sometimes use the Prompts book Gill James produced to trigger my submissions. (Many of the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors contributed to the Prompts book including yours truly. Do check it out. It’s a fun book to work through – and you could play “lucky dip” with this too. Pick a page and write one or two of the ideas up from that etc. Pick an idea and write it to different word counts etc.).

 

Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I’ve been drafting some work from the Prompts book by Gill James, as I mentioned over on my author page here, but what are the advantages to working to prompts?

1. The prompt gives you a framework to write your story to and I’ve always found that so helpful. It is why I prefer a competition with a set theme rather than an open one as a rule. I’ve got something there immediately to have a crack at!

2. There’s nothing to stop you taking the prompt and writing one story, two stories, three tales from it. Why not take the theme in two or three different directions and see what you can do with it? If you get two or three different stories to submit, fabulous. If not, you pick the one you think is strongest and submit that one.

3. If you find you’ve written a story to a prompt and you really like the character, again why not write other fiction for them?

4. Writing to someone else’s prompt can “prompt” your own imagination to come up with ideas you might want to note down for future use. This happens a lot with me but that’s fine. It means I’ve got a good store of ideas to write up as and when I can.

Happy writing!

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Fairytales with Bite – 

Who Defines the Goodies in Fairytales?

Yes, I know, the writer does obviously BUT a lot depends on the reaction of the reader too. I can’t help but think of Alan Rickman’s wonderful portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The out-and-out villain almost had people rooting for him to win! Now that was not supposed to happen was it?!

And Shrek turns the idea of the ogre being the bad guy on its head. There is a lot of fun to be had writing fairytales from alternative character viewpoints. This is something I’ve done a lot and my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, was written from the viewpoint of the youngest “ugly sister” to good old Cinders.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am rooting for the good folk in fairytales but bear in mind good can also encompass those who’ve been misunderstood. (I’ve not seen Maleificent but believe that is the crux of the plot there).

What makes a character good to me is that their actions and motivations are understandable and do not harm others. Courage in facing up to evil usually comes up to it somewhere too. (What is even more interesting is when a character realises the evil can lurk within themselves and takes steps to fight that).

So who are your good people in fairytales and why?

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This World and Others – Reflections

One of the joys of setting stories in alien worlds is they can often reflect on aspects of life right here on Planet Earth. The Lord of the Rings and The Narnia Chronicles both do that for me. What matters is being able to understand the characters and why they’re acting the way they are, no matter how outlandish their home planet is etc.

This can work both ways round of course. An outlandish setting could seem ridiculous to our eyes but you could write a story set here in such a way it actually makes what we know the daft option!

Fairytales have, for centuries, reflected aspects of human nature. They’re not flattering when it comes to showing what characters (and therefore us) could do. The motivations of the characters are all ones we know about too.

So how can you make your world and characters understandable to us?

No matter what your setting, your character has to be striving for something important and the readers have to care about the outcome. So outline what your character could need to do and what is in it for them if they succeed and, even more importantly, what would happen if they fail. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death thing (though it could be) but it DOES have to matter and the reader should be able to pick up on that.

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Further Thoughts On The Writing Game

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay unless stated. A huge thanks to my guest authors on this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post for their author and book cover pics.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to share the second part of my CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For Part 2. Plenty of advice and tips here, Hope you enjoy. A big thanks to all of my guest authors. This week I feature guests from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Topics include handling professional jealousy and checking contracts.

This series is the kind of one I would have welcomed when I was a new writer especially. Why?

Because you don’t realise at the outset how much there is to learn. You don’t know what the pitfalls and hazards are. You’re not aware, to begin with at least, of the difference between vanity publishing and real self-publishing.

It is only when you’ve been writing for a while and you make author friends that you pick up tips and good advice from them, as well as from organisations like the Society of Authors.

If there is only ONE reason to go to writing conferences and events (when such things are possible again), the learning from others is, for me, the most important one. No one author can know it all.

Mind you, there are LOADS of other excellent reasons to go to writing events when you can and via Zoom etc in the meantime.

The nice thing about all of this? Later on, you can share what you have learned with others who, in turn, will share it later. What goes around literally comes around in writing circles – and it should always be to the benefit of the writer!

Hope you enjoy.

Many thanks for my guests this week – #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #AmandaJones, #PaulaCReadman, and #AmandaHuggins.

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Have gone from walking the dog before it became too hot, creosoting fence panels, to editing to about to have a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. Full of top tips, this week’s installment shares advice from writers from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Link up tomorrow.

Need to get back to flash fiction writing but hope to do that over the weekend. Am also enjoying preparing material for a blog where I will be a guest. Now off to chat!

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Facebook – General – and the Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – The Reading Challenge

I talk about The Reading Challenge in my monthly spot on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

This month I ask if writers SHOULD find reading a challenge.

So over to you. What do you read that challenges you? What benefits do you find from that? Do you read outside of your usual genres and how do you find that works? Has it inspired your own imagination and, if so, how?

 

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Many thanks to my lovely guests for their advice and tips in Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my new CFT series.

As well as avoiding the scams (as we all must), the writing game does have a fun side to it! There are so many kinds of writing to explore so if you’re not sure which is for you, try different ones out. You’ll soon know which you are likely to stay with, which you might write occasionally, and those you loathe!

Exploring different forms of writing led me to discovering the wonderful world of flash fiction and blogging. I have no regrets about either!

Whatever you’re working on this weekend, I hope you have a splendid time writing.

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Mixing up how you find ideas for stories is always a good thing to do. It’s fun too. I think that was the major thing that I took from the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on recently.

I’ve mentioned before that I will sometimes start my flash fiction with what I know will be the closing line and work backwards to get to the starting point. At some point I ought to try a line that would work best in the middle of a story and see what I can do with that. To work forwards and backwards would be a good challenge!

Stretching yourself in writing in different ways helps you discover what you like and, best of all, find new ways of writing stories you also develop a liking for – and it keeps you on your toes.

 

What have been the differences for me in writing FLTDBA and my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due soon?

I’ve had more fun with TTFF in terms of where and when I set my characters. I’ve also written some linked flash fiction for this one, which is a first for me, and I hope to do more of that. I strongly suspect some haiku flash fiction tales might make it into my next one!

Again themes have emerged as I put the collection together but I hope to talk more about that later. I am planning to have a cyberlaunch in due course and am looking forward to that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Reasons to Love Fairytales

Nobody really needs a reason to love fairytales, of course, but for the less convinced I offer the following:-

1. They are often the first stories youngsters come across and are a gateway into the wonderful world of reading. Once that spark is lit, there should be no turning back. It is no coincidence that those who read more develop a larger and more wide ranging vocabulary.

2. There is a clear sense of right and wrong in fairytales. (That appeals to children and those who decided growing up was overrated).

3. Some stories can act as warnings.

4. The stories can reflect injustice and cruelty but also usually have those things stopped by the end. (In life so often these things are not stopped. It is good to have stories where matters are rectified, justice is done etc. This is something shared with good crime stories too).

5. They’re great stories (reason enough!).

In fairytales the dragon does not win. (Shrek inverts that concept but there the dragon is one of the good guys. Love that idea).

This World and Others –

What Every Piece of Writing Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

 

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The Writing Game – and What to Watch For

Image Credit:  Pixels/Pixabay. A HUGE thank you to my lovely guest authors in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series for their photos.

MAJOR NEW CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY SERIES

I’ll be sharing Part 1 of a major new Chandler’s Ford Today series called The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. The series will be packed with useful advice. It is particularly useful for new writers or those seeking publication. More experienced writers should find plenty of useful tips too. More on this in a moment but I wanted to give a big shout out to all of the lovely authors who are taking part in this.

Richard Hardie, Brenda H Sedgwick, Francesca Tyer, Teresa Bassett, and Maggie Farran for Part 1 – tonight’s post.

Dawn Kentish Knox, Gill James, Amanda Baber (aka Amanda Jones), Paula C Readman, and Amanda Huggins for Part 2 – next Friday’s post, appearing 31st July.

Jacci Gooding, Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, and Wendy H Jones for Part 3 – the following Friday’s post, appearing 7th August.

See the slideshow below. Do check out the posts, not just for the great advice given by everyone, but to discover for yourself what a wealth of talent there is here. The genres represented here cover such a wide range of writing – think romantic fiction to horror and so much in between too!

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You will gather from the above I am rather proud of this new series. Guilty, as charged! BUT this is the kind of series I would have lapped up when I was starting out as a writer. My guests and I all hope you find it useful and entertaining. Now to business!

Am pleased to share the link to my new CFT series – The Writing Game and What to Watch For. This is a three-parter and it’s the kind of post I would have lapped up when I was starting out as a writer.

Many thanks to the guest authors today and to the others who are taking part in the next two posts. Between us all, we have a wide range of experience in writing and cover a fantastic range of genres.

There is everything from YA fantasy to romantic comedy to horror. There’s flash fiction (I know, guess who!) to short stories to novelists. There are the traditionally published to those who have deliberately self published and have done a fantastic job doing so.

The tips and advice given here will be particularly useful for new writers or for those who have written for a while, but are now seeking advice about publication.

But, having said that, I’ve always found it to be true you learn so much from listening to or reading what other writers have to say so I’m sure there will be plenty of good “pickings” for more experienced writers too.

I very much look forward to sharing the next two posts on this topic. Today’s fab authors are #RichardHardie, #BrendaHSedgwick, #FrancescaTyer, #TeresaBassett, and #MaggieFarran.

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Am looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my new series on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow.

Called The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, I set guest authors three questions. These questions are:-

1. Which tip over the years has proved most useful to them?

2. What do they know now that, with hindsight, they wished they’d known when they started writing seriously?

3. What do you think a new author should most be wary about?

My guests have come up with fabulous answers to these and we all hope the three part series will provide a wealth of useful advice.

Naturally I answer the questions myself, one over the next three weeks, and share another Top Tip I’ve found invaluable over the years.

Guests come from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, the Association of Christian Writers, Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown, the world of self publishing, and some fantastic local (to me!) authors. Between us we cover a huge variety of genres including non-fiction.

Link up tomorrow. And a huge thank you to my guests for their great contributions and photos.

I’ve switched back to the old Facebook and lo and behold I can now add pictures! I was more disappointed not to have ANY responses to my Report a Problem comments to be honest. Still back to service as normal here. I’ll stick with the old school then! On a more positive note:-

Enjoyed the follow up Zoom creative writing workshop this afternoon (Wednesday 22nd July). Have a promising funny flash fiction tale from it so will work on that at some point as it needs some editing to sharpen it up. Both workshops have shown me new ideas for finding story ideas so will make good use of those I’m sure in time.

It has also been a while since I had to write something in ten minutes so it was good to get back to that kind of thing again. It keeps you on your writing toes which is always good.

And I really have loved the haiku exercise that was set so to finish for tonight…

When the midweek blues
Hit home always remember
Two days – it’s Friday!😊

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am listening to the theme from Dick Barton Special Agent on Classic FM as I type this. I don’t remember the original series (though it is repeated every so often on Radio 4 Extra) but the music IS very evocative.

It was great fun choosing the music for the book trailer for FLTDBA. I went for Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as I saw it as quirky music for quirky fiction.

I’m currently drawing up a shortlist of suitable choices for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Finding a piece that reflects either one specific mood of story OR has different moods within it which reflects the variety in the book is not always easy. But it is still great fun to try to do!

And of course it combines my two great loves – classical music and stories!😊I just need to find a way of somehow getting chocolate, prosecco, and a decent cup of tea into the mix!😆

 

My CFT series The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, which starts tomorrow, has a wealth of advice, especially for new writers or those who are seeking publication whether that is immediately or after having written for a number of years first.

I didn’t start out seeking publication myself. I wanted to prove to myself I could write and it was a long time before I actively sought to be published. I don’t regret doing that. I learned a lot. My ONLY regret with writing is not having started at all a lot sooner than I did.

One thing I could’ve added to this was be open to the types of writing you do. As I’ve mentioned before, it is how I discovered flash fiction. Also, taking part in writing exercises on Zoom this week, has reminded me of the importance of using different ways to trigger story ideas. You need to keep an open mind and to use things that are not immediately obvious story material. But it pays to look into different writing exercises and see what you can do with them. It’s fun too!

(I shall be writing more haiku for a start!).

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A writing exercise I took part in via a Zoom workshop today involved two objects (given from a list) and drafting a story about them. I’ve got a rough draft of a funny flash tale from that. Good fun to do.

It struck me that it was useful the list was set by someone else. There is a certain amount of the “you’ve got to get on with it then” syndrome here.

Could you scupper yourself by choosing your own objects? Possibly. The temptation would be to stick to the things you know you could write about. The whole point of the exercise is to make you think outside of the box and stretch yourself here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Quirky Characters

There are those who might feel that the reason I love quirky characters is because I am one! Hmm…

So what is it about quirky characters that appeals to me so much, both in terms of reading about them and writing them myself?

Humour – there’s usually a lot of humour, often irony, involved here. That appeals directly ever since I first came across irony in Pride and Prejudice which I read at secondary school many, many moons ago. That book was an eye opener for me in terms of how irony can be used (and the best kind is subtle with it too). It paved the way for me to appreciate more direct irony in the works of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, to name but two, later on

The Unexpected – The irony (!) here is you expect the unexpected from quirky characters. You’d be a bit disappointed to say the least if they didn’t come out with something. Often this is the pivoting point of the whole story too. What is fun is trying to guess what they come up with.

Memorable – You remember quirky characters. It’s why I’ve always loved Jo March in Little Women and George in The Famous Five. Again I wanted to find out what they could do and whether they could surpass what had gone before. It kept me reading! The trick for a writer is to achieve the same thing. It is also the challenge! What is it that makes your characters memorable?

 

This World and Others –

Elements of Worlds I Love to Pick Up On When Reading

In fantasy and science fiction, the created world can be a character in its own right. (The very name Mordor to me will always imply evil, for example). I don’t need to know the nuts and bolts of that created world. I just need to know what the main characters think of their world and that shows up in how they react to it.

The kind of information I do need is basic common sense stuff. If everyone in the world flies everywhere, how do they do it? What problems does that cause? How do they deal with traffic congestion at peak flying times (and I refuse to believe there isn’t any!)?

I needed to know in The Lord of the Rings that it was highly unusual for hobbits to go on adventures and they certainly weren’t considered as hero material by anyone one else in Middle Earth. I didn’t need to know the ins and outs of daily life as lived by a hobbit.

So what do you like to know when it comes to reading alien worlds? What does your reader know to know to make sense of the world you’re showing them?

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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.

At the moment, I’m tending to have a session or two during the week specifically for flash fiction (and I’m often using the wonderful prompts in the Prompts book by Gill James as my story triggers). In the fullness of time, I hope I will get another book out of these.

The rest of the week is for my CFT post, any standard length short stories I’m preparing for competition entry, and my longer term projects. So never short of things to do then!

The lovely thing with flash though,and why I will always return to it regardless of what else I write, is that it is perfect for those writing sessions when I don’t have a lot of time.

For those 10 to 15 minute slots, I can draft a flash story or two (depending on word count length). Those time periods mount up over time and it is how I put From Light to Dark and Back Again together.

It was going back over how much I had written that I realised I had enough material to send to Chapeltown Books and, for me, the icing on the cake here was adding in some extra stories that I knew had not appeared anywhere else.

So never despair of not having enough writing time. Do any of us really ever feel we have enough time? But learning to write to the slots you do have available is a really useful thing to do and will help make you more productive.

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As flash is, if you like, “concentrated” fiction, the emotional impact of it can be huge. The emotional reactions generated cannot be diluted by extra prose because there simply isn’t the room to have that extra prose.

There should be no extra prose whatever fiction you write incidentally. All that goes into the story should be relevant to the tale but with flash, because of the restricted word count, you do have to be more selective when choosing what details HAVE to be included. You haven’t got the room for sub-plots etc.

So how to go about ensuring that emotional impact is as powerful as you’d like it to be?

The best way I know, and this applies to other fiction too, is:-

Your character desperately needs or wants something.

You, being the thoughtful author that you are, stop them from getting that something!

Your character, being well thought out, will strive to overcome those obstacles and has some success until…

You, as ever thoughtful author, put a bigger obstacle in their way OR the character HAS to meet their objective within a certain time span and the clock is ticking…

Feel that tension ratchet up!

And if you feel the tension ratchet up as you write your story, a reader will too on reading it!

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How do I judge when to write a flash fiction story from start to end or to begin with the finishing line and work backwards?

It all depends on the line I’ve come up with. Some are obvious endings to a story, especially the twist ones. Others I could place at either end of the story because they would make a cracking start or a fabulous finish (I hope!).

When I have lines like that, I work out a few ideas and I go for the one that I like best, almost certainly because it makes the most impact on me (and therefore would the most impact on a reader). That usually tells me where my first line should be placed.

I find spider diagrams useful here for helping me to jot out ideas and then work out what could come from those threads.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Recovering From a Reading Drought

Occasionally I have a reading drought and I am glad it is a rare occurrence. It nearly always happens when I’m over-tired or stressed etc and it just means I can’t face reading anything for a while. I’m just getting over one now (and by something that is definitely not a coincidence, it started a week or so into lockdown here in the UK).

Now this is not the usual me by any means. I DO read all the notices on the fish and chip shop walls (when we’re allowed to go back there) and yes I read the back of the cornflakes packet eons ago!

I’ve learned just to bear with this drought because I know it will pass and it is only temporary. How do I get out of it again?

I turn to humorous prose, which is one of my great loves anyway. It rarely fails to cheer me and, once I’ve started reading again, the lure of books keeps me hooked, which is what I want of course.

I’ve had no problem writing during this lockdown. I do wonder if it is my subsconcious telling me “you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two!”

Any thoughts on how to tell my subsconcious to shut up and leave me alone so I can carry on reading would be welcomed!

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A moment I've hoped to achieve for more years than I care to recall...

MOODS AND THEMES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I finish my mini series on Writing Tips tonight with A to Z of Writing Tips Part 8 where I cover W to Z!  I discuss Writing, X-Rated (fiction),  Young Adult (fiction) and Zero Heroes.  By the latter, I refer to those storeis whre the hero is not particularly likeable but clearly the best of a bad bunch.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In Moods and Themes I look at writing to a theme and discuss how often mood can emerge from a story, taking even its author by surprise.  That’s happened to me quite a bit!  I’ve often written to a theme but rarely write to a mood.  How can you decide to write “funny”, for instance?  The “funny” has to emerge naturally or it will come acrsoss as artificial.

FACEBOOK PAGE – GENERAL

A bit of a mixed bag tonight.  I pay my own tribute to Brian Cant, who was one of my favourite children’s TV presenters when I was growing up.  I also discuss my holiday reading plans.  Whether they actually happen is another matter!  I also make a plea for dogs to stay at home in the very hot weather we’re currently having in the UK.  Dogs can literally cook in minutes if left in cars – regardless of whether you leave the windows open.  It really is kinder for the dogs to stay at home if you can’t take them with you.

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FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I discuss moods and themes again here tonight.  I also look at how easy (or not) coming up with titles is and throw that question open to you.  Comments welcome!  I have to have a title to work to, even if it changes later (and it often does).  It’s almost as if I need a “peg” from w hich to hang my story!

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FAIRYTALE HEADLINES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Fairytale Headlines shares some lighthearted ideas as to what headlines you might see in a magical world newspaper, magazine, or advertising supplement.  I include tabloid reaction to the tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker and how the Three Bears might be involved in these publications.  Hope you enjoy!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Getting Feedback gives useful advice on something that should be of immense value to writers – reaction to what you have written!  I share what I look for when seeking feedback and also general pointers on competitions.  For example, I always look for a competition’s track record before deciding to enter it.  And while I haven’t mentioned it in this post (as I forgot!), I will add for newly set up competitions, I look at the people behind it.  There will be a track record somewhere for you to judge whether you have a go at the competition or not and, if in any doubt, always check things out with a reputable writing body such as, in the UK, the Society of Authors.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I talk about music in my post here tonight, what I listen to as I write and how this has changed over time.

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I listen to wonderful classical music concerts in the comfort of my own home.  Image via Pixabay.

I listen to wonderful classical music concerts in the comfort of my own home. Image via Pixabay.

Where stories emerge these days... Image via Pixabay

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Under the Influence asks who influences your characters and whether they break away from that or not.  Plenty of story ideas there.  I also go on to suggest who some of my favourite fairytale and other characters were influenced by.  For example, Humpty Dumpty was clearly influenced by the Acrobatic Society who told him it was feasible for an egg to be balanced on a wall and, more importantly, stay balanced.  There are times when you can’t be more wrong!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Making an Impact looks at what impact your stories and characters have on you and your readers.  Is it the impact you intended?  Is there more beneath the surface than you at first realized with your tale (generally that is a good thing)?  And I share a tip I’ve found useful in putting your work aside for a while before re-reading it.  Does the story have the same impact on you as it did when you read it the first time?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share an amusing incident today with regard to one of my darker tales in From Light to Dark and Back Again, my forthcoming flash fiction collection (Chapeltown Books).

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ideas-the-spark-for-writing-competitions-image-via-pixabay

Ideas are wonderful but are your stories making the impact you intended?  Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

Stories come in all kinds of formats including tapestries! Image via Pixabay.

YOUR DAY IS ABOUT TO WORSEN WHEN…

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Your Day is about to Worsen When shares tell tale signs you are about to go through some very hard times indeed as a character in a story.  For example it is never good when a wizard suddenly turns up on your doorstep, tells you that you’re about to go on a quest and, by the way, you can’t refuse as the powers of evil are already pursuing you!  Can you add anything to my list?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Why I Love Flash Fiction shares some of the advantages I think there are to writing these stories.  For example by their very nature, they have to be short and that helps put a good pace into the story.  What other advantages can you think of?

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

Just to say my post tomorrow is a review of All My Sons by Arthur Miller.  More details tomorrow but I discuss some of the history of the play too.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share the Amazon link to Baubles, Bridge House Publishing’s anthology for this year.  my story, Helping Out, is in there.  I also discuss what’s coming up in my next Chandler’s Ford Today post and what fiction work I’m currently getting ready for a competition.

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Bookshops are vital to encourage literary - image via Pixabay.

Bookshops are vital to encourage literary – image via Pixabay.

 

 

One of the best ways to escape is with a good book. Image via Pixabay.

ATTRACTIVE CHARACTER TRAITS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Attractive Character Traits discusses what I think are the most attractive traits any character can have.  Top of the list is persistence – and Andy Murray’s wonderful achievement in becoming world # 1 in men’s tennis (especially in this era) put me in mind of this.  See what you think about my list.  Can you add anything?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Escaping discusses how characters escape – from literal danger (escapes must be credible) to leaving behind daily work cares etc.  How do they do the latter?  What hobbies and interests do they have to help them achieve that sense of escape?

FACEBOOK PAGE

Being a tennis fan, I couldn’t let Andy Murray’s achievement today pass without comment but I also link it to hard work and persistence also being of vital importance to writers.

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CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

Just a quick thanks to all who have commented so far on my Top 10 Classical Greats post from yesterday.  Some pieces of music listed I know, others I don’t (but will look up and play!).

Hard at work. Image via Pixabay. Music (playing and listening) can be a great form of escapism, which is one topic I look at tonight.

Hard at work. Image via Pixabay. Music (playing and listening) can be a great form of escapism, which is one topic I look at tonight.