Favourite Lines, Talking Flash, and Getting It Wrong

Image Credit:- 

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Weather all over the place here – it feels more like March than May right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post about Favourite Lines. Great to see good comments coming in on this already. Keep it up, folks! And do share your own favourite lines (but keep them suitable for a family audience, thanks!).

Do you find you remember a favourite novel or story by one particular line? I do. It can also apply to favourite shows. (Lubbly jubbly, anyone?!).

I also look at the role of catchphrases and repetition in helping favourite lines to become so well loved. Repetition is a strange thing here. Generally, we don’t want to repeat ourselves in our work.

This is especially true for flash fiction. I’ve got to make the most of my limited word count so am not going to want to waste words by repeating some!

But for catchphrases, repetition is unavoidable because they can’t become catchphrases without that repetition. The positive thing here is that the repetition leads to stories and books becoming well loved and cherished because we hone in on what we love best. And often it is what we remember the most clearly.

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Just to say Favourite Lines will be my topic on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the role of catchphrases and repetition (used in a good way) to help develop said favourite lines amongst other thoughts shared here. Looking forward to sharing that.

Many thanks to all who have recently signed up to my author newsletter. Welcome aboard, everyone! Do see my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more.

Am looking forward to Wordy Chat a little later this evening. Given I produced a flash fiction tale about a ping pong ball’s contents from the last one, it will be interesting to see what comes up in tonight’s chat!


Funny old day with the weather and still strong winds. I thought it was March that was meant to come in as a lion, not May. Oh well. Lady had a splendid play session with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and another pal, Coco. Lady came home happy but very tired – and I assume her friends did the same!

When I’m not writing flash fiction and short stories, I draft a lot of blogs. Some of these I use immediately but others I draft for use later. I know there will be times when I am short on time so having a blog prepared “good to go” is a useful thing.

Murphy’s Law being what it is, I find it often happens when I’m drafting a blog, I get some ideas for flash tales! So I jot the ideas down and come back to them later. If they still seem promising, I write them up. And yes, when I’m writing fiction, ideas will come for blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today etc. So I just jot those ideas down and again come back to them later. Sometimes an idea which seems a cracker at the time proves to be a damp squib after some time away from it and coming back to examine it in the cold light of day.

So it always pays to have a notebook or something useful to jot down notes! And it pays to give yourself time to assess your ideas well enough. Distance away from them will show up whether these really are “goers” or not.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I talk about flash fiction one of the first things I stress is what it is not. It is not truncated prose. Each piece has to be a complete story with a proper beginning, middle, and ending. It is just shorter than the standard magazine type short stories you see.

But if you have ever completed writing exercises while on a course, in a writing conference etc., do take your notebook back out and have a look at what you jotted down. Could you polish those drafts up into flash fiction tales to submit to publishers and competitions?

It is also encouraging to see that if you do a quick web search, numerous flash fiction competitions come up. This is useful. This is how I found #FridayFlashFiction and I am delighted to say my latest story, Getting It Wrong, is now up on site. Hope you enjoy it!


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Yet another lovely thing about flash fiction is it is easy to share on social media and can be a great way of giving “value” to those who follow your blog, postings on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. I’ve found with the latter the very short stories work best. (Basically 50 words or under. When I first started making the story videos, I did use some of my longer pieces but I think the impact is better with the shorter tales).

One other use for flash is in giving new life to those writing exercises you had a go at when going to (at the moment on Zoom!) writing workshops and the like. Polish your creations up and see if you can submit them to a market or competition. I use the Writing Magazine’s competition guide, which comes out twice a year, but also Mslexia have a directory of competitions in their quarterly magazine, which is always worth looking at.


I write a lot of my flash fiction in the first person. This hasn’t been deliberate. I certainly didn’t foresee that happening when I started writing flash fiction.

But there are times when I’ve come up with a character where I’m better off showing them as an “I” character. They have a strong voice. They want to make their voice heard and a name would not add to their qualities, could possibly detract from them. It can also be something that is not the most relevant thing about them. It is what they do and say that is.

When I do name a character, you can be sure that name is important to the story and my character portrayal. Sometimes I use a name to indicate the character is not of this world. I sometimes use it to indicate social status. And sometimes for my creepier tales, it is more scary to keep my character as an “it” or an “I” so you, the reader, wonder just what these creatures are.

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Fairytales with Bite – Twists

Fairytales have often used twists but we now recognise these things as standard “ingredients” for a fairytale. For example the old crone or man who turns out to be a powerful witch, fairy godmother, or wizard in disguise and turn the tables on another, usually arrogant, character. Beauty and the Beast is a good example of this in that the beast’s curse was put on him due to his arrogance.

But when this idea first came out, it would have been seen as a twist in the tale. Old crones and old men are usually just that! The idea of them being powerful beings in disguise would’ve been a surprise.

The ultimate twist for me here is that fairytales generally do see wrong righted, justice done etc., when we know so often in life it doesn’t happen. (It is one of the comforting things about fairytales for me).

And usually the underdog does come out on top in a fairytale.

So the twists are there – given again, in life, it is far rarer for an underdog to come out on top – but they are hidden in plain sight so to speak.

When it comes to writing our own fairytale twists, a good thing to consider is whether an aspect of your character’s life is where the twist comes from. For example, if you have a character who has a talent for art, can the twist come from them using that talent to help someone or even turn the tables on that same someone who perhaps has humilated them?

A successful twist has to seem reasonable to a reader based on what they know about your character(s) and also the setting of your story. If it is a clear fairytale, then those standard ingredients (the tropes) will be expected and it will be a question of working out how you can use them to best advantage for your creations.

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This World and Others – Differences and Similarities

One of the joys of reading fantasy and science fiction in particular is spotting the differences and similarities between the created world and what we know here. But take that idea further and look at the differences and similarities between the characters in those stories. Can you apply any of what you spot here to your own creations?

If in the fictional world, everyone has to have a certain amount of magical ability in order to be able to survive, can you compare that to our need to have a certain amount of money in order to be able to survive? Will your characters do anything to get the magical abilities they need? Are they driven by greed to get more than they need?

How do they treat those who are not as “well off” as they are? If they are at the bottom of the pile, what do they do to improve themselves? And does anyone rebel against the system because they can see the cruelties of it and want nothing to do with it?

Using the traits we know about ourselves is a fabulous way to create characters. Using what we know about our planet can fuel ideas for how you create a world that is far removed from our own as it can be a great place to start. We need oxygen. What would your fictional world need for your characters to survive?

Give some thought as to how sustainable your world is too. If it relies on magical energy, where does that come from? Is there any danger of it running out?

Great fantasy and science fiction stories can take what we know about this world and reflect it back to us in fictional worlds we love to read about. And you can use that thought for your own writing.

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Twitter Corner

 

 

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Late Running, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, and Why Books are Special to Me

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her. Many thanks to Janet Williams (my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today) for the image of me reading at a book signing at our local railway station (yes, really!). Also to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for their images of me reading at various Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night events. All great fun.

And I think I’ve finally cracked the “most unusual title for a blog post” category! Read on to find out how the inside of a ping pong ball is relevant for my flash fiction writing this week. If you had asked me last week whether I would anticipate such a thing, the answer would have been a firm “no”! How much can change in a week?!

Facebook – General

A huge thanks to the #DundeeCityWriters – I was talking to them over Zoom last night on the topic of flash fiction (naturally!) and it was such fun. Many thanks for hosting me.

(Also one of the best ways to show what flash fiction is to read some out and I always enjoy doing that. I’m hoping the Open Prose Mic Night will be on again at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year. Flash works well for this kind of thing. You can’t go on for too long for one thing!).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is on the subject of Favourite Lines. I’ve touched on this topic before but for this post I will also be looking at how catchphrases and repetition can help us form said favourite lines. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday.


Many thanks for the wonderful responses to my rather unusual tale, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which I posted yesterday (see below) in reply to a writing challenge set by #WendyHJones on Wordy Chat. (The latter is a Facebook group set up by fellow Association of Christian Writers member, Maressa Mortimer – lots of giggles and chats about the writing world – naturally we meet on Zoom).

I have two standard ways of getting into a story. By far my favourite is working out who the character Is, what their main trait is etc as that usually gives a pretty good idea of the kind of story in which such a creation would appear. But my other way into a story is with a promising title and that was the take I took on this one.

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball not only gave me my title, it set the tone (with a title like that it had to be a humorous tale), and therefore the kind of character likely to be in it.


As promised yesterday, here is the flash fiction tale I wrote in response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat the other night. The story title says it all!

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball

Look, don’t blame me. I have to travel in whatever vessel I can find and blend in with my surroundings. I am in what you humans call a sports hall doing various horrid things with balls and bats and making yourself all sweaty. So gross!

But it means I am currently curled up inside a ping pong ball. It’s cramped in here. I’ve had to shrink my normal size down by well over 80% to get in here. Trust me that is not a comfortable experience.

I am here to study you lot on the order of the big bosses. Personally, I would far rather have gone to the seaside.

But I have to go where the bosses tell me to go. (Would so love to tell them where they can go but they’re not forgiving of any kind of insubordination and I do like living so that rules this out).

To be honest with you, I think they’re preparing for an invasion.

I’m going to tell them not to bother.

I’ve seen the way you treat other ping pong balls. Smash them about with absolutely no thought. What would you do to the likes of an alien invader?

I tell you it is terrifying to think about.

So you lot have won. And I must get out of this ball before…

Arggh! Too late.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 2nd May 2021

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Hope you have had a good Saturday.

New author newsletter from me went out earlier today. See https://www.facebook.com/501180463318271/posts/3429068970529391/ if you missed this.

If you would like to receive the newsletter regularly, please sign up at my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – on receipt of the welcome email, you’ll get a link to a giveaway as well.

I’m enjoying putting the newsletters together and, unless there is some specific time urgent news, will keep these to monthly send outs.

In other news, as they say, the next couple of topics for Chandler’s Ford Today will be on Favourite Lines and Understanding. I look forward to sharing those blogs as it is always a joy to talk about favourite lines from books and I make the case for how reading encourages empathy in the latter post.

Am currently drafting a flash fiction story based on what is probably the most unusual location I’ve chosen to date. Well, I say chosen. It’s a response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat last night, where a group of writers from the Association of Christian Writers get together for a good giggle and lots of talk about writing related topics. Those who were at Wordy Chat last night will know what the location is but will share the story tomorrow! (See above – and I hope you enjoy it. I loved writing it).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the lovely responses to my story video Late Running. (See below for video). Also to The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball. (See above for story).

One lovely thing that came up with the latter was I used it in my talk to the #DundeeCityWriters group I spoke to via Zoom yesterday about flash fiction. I used it to prove my point that flash fiction lends itself beautifully to being able to set characters anywhere!

And the great thing? Dundee City Writers is led by #WendyHJones who set the topic of The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball at last week’s Wordy Chat!

What goes around etc etc!

Still, I think I am going to have to try very hard to think of a more unusual setting for a flash fiction story!

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Pleased to share my latest story video. Hope you enjoy Late Running. Pun intentional (and indeed for a lot of my flash fiction it is a case of no pun knowingly overlooked! Why the fondness for puns? I love them anyway but for flash, having words and phrases that can carry double meanings helps with (a) impact and (b) keeping that old word count nice and trim!).

Over on my author page at https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50 I’ve shared a flash fiction story, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which was written in response to a writing challenge set by Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. It is certainly a top runner for the most unusual writing challenge I’ve responded to (!) but it was great fun to do.

And it is important to have fun with your writing. Okay, there are times when it won’t feel that way. I find being over-tired can sap the joy out of writing (and everything else come to that) so I try to avoid getting into that state.
But one lovely thing about flash fiction, especially if you’re working on a longer project and it is proving to be a slog-fest, drafting a very short story can be a refreshing break from your main writing work and you have something else to submit elsewhere later.

And when I am tired, just jotting down a couple of hundred words, whether it is a full flash tale or will end up being part of a longer one, still makes me feel connected to the creative process. That in itself makes me feel better.

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One of the best ways to demonstrate flash fiction to people is to read some to them! I’ve done this a few times now at things like the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic and even at book signings. (That led to sales -win-win there!). I’ve found the 100-word stories (aka the drabble) work best for this. They don’t take too long to read and demonstrates the capacity of flash fiction well, especially for impact on a reader.

I’ve mentioned before here and on my author page that reading work out loud is great for literally hearing whether your dialogue is as smooth as you think it is. What looks good written down doesn’t always work so well when spoken out loud. But this technique also works for the rest of your prose. If you stumble over something, you can be sure your readers will too. And again with flash it is easy to read a piece out loud and hear whether or not something is working.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Why Books are Special to Me

I could write chapter and verse on this week’s topic, appropriately enough. So where to start on why books are special to me?

My love of books and stories comes from my late mother who encouraged my love of reading and taught me to read before I started school. Books were regularly given as presents. I would often buy books with pocket money and money gifts sent by my relatives for Christmas etc. I went to the library a lot.

Best of all, Mum had a lovely collection of books herself, which I now have. And I so wanted to have a collection of my own (which I have). As well as being read to as a child, which is so important, I saw Mum read for pleasure herself more often than I could say. It sent the unspoken message that this was definitely an okay thing to do – and it is!

Then there are the books with particular meaning. I treasure the Bibles given to me by my late parents and the one given to me by my son.

I love The Reader’s Digest of Classic Fairytales two volume set. I spent hours reading those and loving the beautiful illustrations. I remember the shock I first had on reading The Little Mermaid in here and discovering fairytales didn’t always have happy ever after endings. I identified with the way The Ugly Duckling felt and cheered when all did work out well in the end. (You know full well as a kid it doesn’t always work that way in life, You know it even more as an adult).

I treasure my paperback of The Lord of The Rings and my copy of Pride and Prejudice.

For me, there is absolutely nothing about a book to dislike.

I like my paperbacks, my hardbacks, my audio and ebooks. The format doesn’t matter. The fact it is a book does!

Happy reading!

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Finding Ideas, Themes and Judging a Book by its Cover Part 3

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to my guests for Part 3 of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Author and book cover pics were supplied by Amanda Huggins, Dawn Knox (with Colin Payn), Gail Aldwin, Alyson Rhodes (who writes as Alyson Faye), Jim Bates, and Paula R.C. Readman.

A huge thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks. It has been a joy to discuss and share book cover thoughts! Hope you have all had a good week. Looking forward to giving another talk about flash fiction via Zoom next week.

Oh and my author newsletter goes out tomorrow, 1st May. Do sign up at my landing page – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – for more details.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share the final part of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks for their fabulous contributions. For this post, I chat to guests from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Also a shout out goes to #WendyHJones as a comment from her gave me the spark for the idea for this series. As I mentioned for the More Than Writers blog spot I shared yesterday about Finding Ideas (see below), ideas are there. The trick is to spot them and yes they can come from comments from other writers or things you overhear. The clever bit is gathering those ideas up and running with them! (It is also why it is a good idea to keep a notebook on you as we slowly go out and about in the world once again. Never rely on your memory to record a good idea. You do forget!).

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Bonus Post – My Interview by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website

A little while ago I was interviewed by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website. Francesca has been a guest on Chandler’s Ford Today too.

Delighted to now be able to share the link to that interview. Hope you enjoy it and a huge thank you to Francesca and Authors Reach for hosting me.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers blog spot

Pleased to share my latest blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I discuss Finding Ideas and hope you find it useful. I share a few thoughts on how I find ideas.

Earlier this week I came up with another useful method which was to use a random word generator to come up with a random word and then use that as a topic for the picture site, Pixabay. I then used a random picture from them based on that topic to inspire me to write a story to fit the theme. Good fun and I hope to use that method again.

For my MTW blog, I also take a quick peek at how I find ideas for blogs. Well, that is useful to find ON a blog, yes?!

Hope you enjoy.

Hope you have had a good day. (Lady went bonkers, in a good way, with her girlfriends, Khaya and Coco, in the park today. Wish I had half their energy but there you go).

Have a new ACW blog post to share tomorrow and the final part of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Submitted my flash piece to the Bridport Prize. Glad to get that done well ahead of the deadline (end of May so there is still time to enter if you’re interested. There are other categories too including short stories and poetry).

I chatted over on #Val’sBookBundle earlier about whether poor proofreading would put you off reading the story afflicted by it. It wouldn’t necessarily put me off. It hasn’t put me off the book I’ve just read which had so many poor word end splits. But I was itching to get my red pen out. And that is never a good sign.

What is important to remember though is, while books do get out there with this kind of thing happening, we still need to get our books and stories out there and ensure they are at the highest standards possible. We owe it to our wonderful stories to make them the best we can make them so they have the best chance of attracting readers. So take your time over your own proofreading.

For short stories and flash fiction, check them several times before you submit them everywhere.

For a novel, you do need an independent editor here.

The big problem every writer has is we are far too close to our own work to always spot things that need correcting. So it is a question of accepting that and being prepared to invest in our work.

The dream ticket here is having a writer who has got their work polished as much as possible before it goes to an editor. That editor will see what the writer has done, will understand the story, but will pick up the things and ask questions the writer may not have thought of but which, when answered, will strengthen that book and give it a better chance out there.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Will be sharing my author newsletter tomorrow. I issue this once a month on the 1st and I share exclusive flash fiction tales here. I hope later on to gather some of those into a further collection but you do get to have the first read! For more do go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

It is hard to say what I love most about flash fiction. Yes, I am always going to have a very soft spot for the form given it was my way in to having books published with my name on them (and on the front cover too!). But I’ve always loved inventing people. That, to me, has been the big thing about stories so getting to do this all the time for various flash fiction tales is a win-win for me.

I suppose the foundation of all storytelling (and this can apply to non-fiction too) is to have a curiosity about what makes others tick. There has to be a certain amount of curiosity to make you want to find out what happens to the characters or what the writer of the non-fiction piece comes up with as a conclusion.

So my job as a writer is to try to make my characters as intriguing as possible so others will want to read about what happens to them. If I’m intrigued by the characters, others will be too.

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Do you have favourite themes for stories? I’m fond of the “underdog” winning through kind of tale (and you can set those in any environment. A lot of fairytales are based on this). I also like to see justice being done stories (again fairytales often have this as a theme, though not always. You could argue there wasn’t any for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen).

I also like characters who are not all they appear to be and the great thing with that is you can take this in two directions. Make the character turn out to be a villain or a hero. You can have great fun going with either of those options. Though I would add there should be some indication early on this character is not all they’re cracked up to be otherwise a reader may feel cheated.

I love it when I read a story like this as I look back at it to see where it was the author planted the first clue to flag up to me as reader I really should look out for what this character is going to do and be. I can learn from that for my own writing and I love that too.


A huge thank you to the wonderful response to my story, Hidden Gems, yesterday. This story came about as a result of using the sixth random word to come up on a random generator. That gave me a topic. I then put that topic into the Pixabay search bar and used the sixth image that came up. I then based the story around that image.

I will certainly use the random word and random image idea again. It made me think outside the box and that is always a good thing.

Am looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter (1st May) and I often share exclusive flash fiction stories here as well as useful tips. If you would like to know more please sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

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Fairytales With Bite – Defining Happy Ever After

Do your characters have a happy ever after or just a happy for now? And how do you define what happy is anyway? So much depends on what your characters want and whether they achieve that (or something better).

Also does one character’s happy ever after mean ruin for others?

That usually is the case with fairytales. Cinderella is a classic case in point but there is no question that the wicked stepmother and the Ugly Sisters had that ruin “coming”. But you are not told that. You see the “coming to ruin” play out as the story goes on and the attitudes and actions of the characters show you whether or not said characters deserve to be brought down.

So we need to set up our characters so a happy ever after or happy for now is seen to be merited. You want the reader to root for their success. (Wishy-washy characters simply don’t do that for me which is why I dislike Miss Price from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).

Likewise the characters deserving to be brought down – they too need to be fully rounded individuals, who by their actions and attitudes, show the reader they’re not going to be redeemed. And again you get the reader rooting for these folk to get their well deserved comeuppance.

All stories focus on actions and consequences, conflicts and resolutions so a happy ever after or happy for now has to be the logical resolution to what comes before.

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This World and Others – Making Your Characters Stand Out

How do your characters stand out? What is special about them? I feel it is vital for the author to be totally committed to their characters to be able to write their stories up effectively. Therefore something about the character has to grab the author. That same something is likely to be the element which grips a reader.

So ask yourself what is it about characters you yourself love to read about? Can you apply that to your own characters? If you like characters who are feisty but with hearts of gold, those are the kind of characters you want to write because you will write from the heart because you yourself love these.

It may help to list qualities you want to find in a character (and don’t forget the villains here. You need to give plenty of thought to them too. Your hero/heroine has to have an opponent who will test them, bring out the best in them and so on). Then work out ways in which you can show those qualities.

For example, if you love honesty in a character, then you can use that honesty to land that character in trouble. (This could make a great comic piece). They are bound to say things that, with hindsight, might have been better expressed and with less bluntness, for example. That will have consequences.

It will also imply they have got to come up against another character who doesn’t appreciate that honesty. And the second character has to have good reasons not to appreciate it so work out what those reasons could be. Perhaps they dislike being spoken to like that because it reminds them of a family member who used to do so and it caused great upset. Perhaps they don’t like the main character speaking out because the second one is up to no good and they’re concerned they’ll be found out.

Have fun playing with ideas here. But think about the one thing that will make each of your characters stand out. What is it they are best known for? How does that play out in your story? What makes your characters deserve to be written up?

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Snow, Stories, Patience, and Fish

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Lady wondering why I’m excited about a box of books was taken by Adrian Symes

An interesting title choice I think – see below for how these link up. Two of them are to do with stories I’ve produced this week!

 

Facebook – General


Many thanks for the great responses to my post yesterday.

Happily drafting more stories for what I hope will be my third flash fiction collection. I’m almost there at the word count requirement but know the draft needs a heavy edit (or several) so plenty still to do there.

Am also revising my non-fiction project. Generally happy with it but am tweaking at the moment. Next stage there will be to draw up a list of publishers I want to approach with it. Am hoping to get that out for submission in the next couple of months or so and I’d love to be able to submit the third flash book by the end of the year. Yes, that is my 2021 taken care of nicely!

I find once I get started on a writing session, it is like someone has fired the starting gun and off I go. It can be the getting started that can be tricky, especially if you’re tired etc as I mentioned yesterday.

My tip here is be gentle on yourself, don’t commit to too much, and on days when I feel like that, I focus on small amounts of writing I can polish up later. There will be places for a 100 or 200 word story later, that’s for sure, and I feel better for having got something down I know I can send off later.

Still no snow today so that’s promising! (I know, I know! Famous last words and all that. We’ll see!).

Not impressed with the recent wintry conditions in the UK. Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.

Snow again this morning. Other than that, it has been an okay but busy Monday. Hope you have had a good day.

Glad to hear Just a Minute on the air again. It’s not the first time they’ve used guest presenters but it is odd that the much missed Nicholas Parsons is no longer part of this wonderful game.

I’ve mentioned before I tend to write less on a Monday given it is one of my busiest days and tiredness takes its toll. But that’s fine. I know I’ll make up for it during the rest of the week. I don’t set myself a word count per day. I just want to write daily and there will be some fluctuations. It is a case of going with the flow. And that’s fine too but it has taken me some time to get to that point and to learn not to be too hard on myself.

 

Lady helps out! Image by Adrian Symes.


Still can’t believe how cold it is. Doesn’t feel like April at all. Oh and we had snow again today. Thankfully not for long but I suspect it will still be a while before our heating goes off!

Writing wise, I start my new Chandler’s Ford Today series on Friday. Called Judging a Book By Its Cover, this three-part series will see a range of guest authors and myself share our latest covers and talk about what we think of these. We also share some useful tips. Looking forward to sharing that later in the week.

Don’t forget I do have an author newsletter now. I send this out monthly and share exclusive stories and writing tips here. To find out more sign up (and receive a free giveaway) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am busy preparing the newsletter for May, working on my third flash fiction book, and editing my non-fiction project.

And the best thing of all about writing?

I get to write in the warm!

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Delighted to say I have another piece, Patience, up on Friday Flash Fiction. Day late sharing (sorry!) but if you like your stories on the darker side, this is one for you. And it is good to be writing drabbles again. Some of my most recent flash pieces have been on the longer side so it is great to be back to my first flash love here. After all it was the CafeLit 100 word challenge that drew me into writing flash at all!

Lady has had a good day. Got to see her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, on our way back home from the park so on a convenient corner, well out of the way of anyone, the two dogs had a playfight – as you do. Two tired and very happy dogs went home! (Would love to know how dogs can chew each other’s ears without causing any damage incidentally).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views on my Fish Out of Water story video which I posted yesterday. (Coming up below!). These mini-tales are great fun to write and then put into a video format like this. I like to mix up the mood of what I produce here and it was more than time for a lighter piece.

Incidentally, talking of mood, I should add that character mood does not necessarily match author mood. This is just as well for (a) all my author friends who write crime, (b) all my author friends who write horror, and (c) me when I’m having an off day! Also, thinking of some of the characters I’ve come out with in my time, it is just as well my mood would never match theirs!

Never assume a character’s mood is the same as their author’s one! Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.


Hope you enjoy my latest story video on Youtube. Fish Out of Water is one of my lighter tales. Well it is From Light to Dark and Back Again here! Also pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week, which will be one of my longer flash tales. More details on that nearer the time but it’s lovely to have an acceptance at the start of the working week!

 


One thing I am loving about submitting drabbles to #FridayFlashFiction is the feedback on my stories. Many thanks, everyone, for that. For my latest story, Patience, I have deliberately not specified the creature that is the “lead” in this.

This isn’t a word count issue, funnily enough. I am going for effect here. One of my earliest introductions to horror was the film Duel which I think was the first directed by a certain S. Spielberg Esq. It works because the plot is simple, scary, and you never see the enemy. I think it would have lost something had we been able to see who the enemy was.

This is another reason why I don’t always give a gender to the non-human creatures that turn up in my stories from time to time. “It” for me conveys a sense of horror when used in this context. 

 

Sometimes the creature in a story is best left unspecified. Doing that can be a more scary effect for a reader than if you spell everything out.

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. Still cold!

When do I know a flash story is going to “work”? When I know the characters convince me is the answer to that. If they convince me, they should convince other readers. And to convince myself, I’ve got to want to read their story and find out what happens! How can that be for the person who wrote the story?

Simple. I put the story aside for a while and then come back to it after a week or so. Only then can I look at it with fresh eyes and assess it as a beta reader might.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Greatest Characters

The greatest characters in any story are for me the ones where I’ve got to find out what happens to them. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is an obvious one for me here, as was Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (especially after the sacrifice scene).

But characters who back up the main leads grip me too. I have a very soft spot for Sam (and Frodo would have failed in his mission without him). I also have a soft spot for Lucy in the Narnia Chronicles.

Any great character, for me, is one where I can identify with them in some way. They’re not perfect. Good. Neither am I. They have virtues I aspire to and flaws I’m glad I don’t have as well as some I know I do! But they come across as fully created beings I want to find out more about even if they’re not human.

Great characters for me include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (though he makes my skin crawl with his miserly ways at the start of the story).

Great characters can also be redeemed as Scrooge shows and the theme of redemption is a powerful one.

So who would you nominate as your greatest characters?

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Reviews, Book Covers, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week.

To those who celebrate Easter (as I do), may you have a blessed one.

Writing wise, not a bad week and there’s another story of mine up on Friday Flash Fiction. This site is a great way to encourage me to write a drabble (a 100-worder) every week! More below.

Always fun to find out what happens next, writing wise!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today – Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

Delighted to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is on a topic close to many a writer’s heart – Reviews!

I look at why authors need them, my policy on reviewing (including when I review National Theatre Live productions and shows put on by our wonderful local amateur dramatic company, The Chameleons). I also discuss hatchet jobs and share my thoughts about those (!). I also share why paid-for reviews are, for me, a huge no-no.

Like so much in writing, building up reviews does take time and it has to be done the right way to avoid running into difficulties with Amazon especially. Even ignoring that, the policy of paying for a review does make my blood run cold. It just doesn’t seem ethical to me. I want reviews to be honest and with thought put into them.

The old saying goes that he who pays the piper calls the tune but for a review, I want that “tune” to be an honestly considered one and not “bought in”. You really don’t want to be muddying the waters here, to use another old phrase.

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Pleased to share a More Than Writers blog from #WendyHJones tonight. More Than Writers is the blog of the Association of Christian Writers. Wendy’s post this time is all about book covers and, as well as discussing her latest cover reveal (for the lovely Bertie The Buffalo), she invited some fellow ACW members to share their latest book cover and a few words about it.

Many thanks, Wendy, for inviting me to take part in this. And do have a good look – there are wonderful covers here.

(Oh and my CFT post is up tomorrow).


My CFT post this week is all about a subject close to many a writer’s heart – reviews!

I talk about why they are useful, my policy for giving reviews, and share a few thoughts on how to write a review that will be useful to an author.

I also chat about my policy when I review stage productions, National Theatre Live plays etc (and I am so looking forward to being able to go to these things again and review them once more! It has been a long year and even more so for our great local am dram company, The Chameleon Theatre Group).

I also discuss hatchet jobs. Now the big question is do I manage that without carrying out a hatchet job myself? Well, you’ll have to find out tomorrow when I put the link up!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Good Friday – 2nd April 2021

I sometimes start a flash piece by coming up with an intriguing title. For example, in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, one of my stories is called The Terrified Dragon. I had great fun working out what on earth could possibly terrify a creature that is renowned for causing fear in every other creature that is not a dragon!

I do sometimes use a simple flowchart or spider diagram to work out different possibilities and I then go with the one that I like the most. That choice is nearly always determined by the impact the idea has on me. If the idea makes me laugh the most, or makes me cringe in terror, then it will have the same effect on other readers. I am always thinking about potential impact on a reader and that’s a good thing. I want to write with a potential audience in mind, always.

And good news, I have another story up on #FridayFlashFiction. Nice way to end a week! Hope you enjoy this one. Called Mustn’t Tell. I do like an “open” title which hopefully draws people in!


My latest author newsletter went out earlier today including an exclusive flash fiction story. If you would like to sign up just go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

As well as sharing exclusive stories here, I share writing tips and news, most of which is related to flash of course. This time around I’ve also shared a writing challenge and set a 250 word count for it.

It wasn’t something I planned but the 100 to 500 word mark does seem to be my natural home for flash stories. I gravitate to that word length almost as if I’m on auto pilot. (I’m not by the way! If possible I would save auto pilot abilities for boring tasks such as the housework!).

A screenshot from my latest author newsletter. I also share tips and writing prompts here amongst other things.



There will be a new flash fiction story from me in my new author newsletter, which will be going out tomorrow, 1st April. If you would like to sign up for this, please go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Have submitted another drabble to #FridayFlashFiction.

Am working on material for a third flash collection too so plenty going on to keep me out of mischief!

I’ve found the basic ingredients for a flash fiction story, regardless of length, are:-

  • A character (doesn’t have to be human!).
  • An action (sometimes a refusal to act can be the action).
  • Something indicating the story has to go on.

Get those lined up and you’re well on your way to producing a promising first draft!

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Fairytales with Bite – What Would Your Characters Wish For and Why?

Well, what would your characters wish for and why? Just as interestingly, is there any chance at all of them getting their wish granted? What would the consequences be?

Action and reaction. Cause and consequence. The basic building blocks of all stories.

A character outline is a useful tool for working out what your characters are likely to want and why. (I ignore the basics of wanting food, shelter etc because you can take them as read. Everyone wants those things, understandably). What you want to go into here is deeper than that.

Character A wants a loving relationship because they have had loneliness foisted on them all their life and they want to change that. (Interesting story here: who foisted the loneliness on them and why? Why wait until now to change things?).

Your outline would go into who Character A is, who or what has got in their way (and what happened to them incidentally), what they are planning to do to change things. You won’t have every idea immediately but what you should have is a glimpse into who Character A is and, as a result of that, how they are likely to try to change things. A shy character is going to use more reserved methods compared to an extrovert, say.

Just knowing that will get you off to a good start with your story (and finding things out as you go along is (a) fun and (b) should confirm whether or not you know your character well enough to write their story up.

You may well find you will find out more about your character as you go along and that’s how it should be but you should also find your outline did nail the core elements you needed to know about them before you got started. I always find that aspect reassuring.

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This World and Others – Limitations

What limitations do your characters have? How do they overcome these? Can they overcome them?

If they can’t, do they have ways of getting advantages from their situation? What limitations does your setting have? Can your people only live above ground for certain time periods due to restricted oxygen (or other gas) availability the rest of the time?

I write flash fiction and find the word count restriction there (1000 words maximum) doesn’t stifle creativity. It fuels it. Why?

Because I have had to learn to think laterally to get the most out of every single word I put into my stories. And you can do this with limitations on your characters and settings too. If your characters can’t use magic without weakening themselves significantly, they will themselves limit their use of it (and probably save it for life and death moments. You just would, wouldn’t you?! So what would they do the rest of the time?).

If your setting has limited capacity for supporting life, how would that capacity be used? Who would control it? Would someone find ways of boosting that capacity so more people could live?

All interesting thoughts to explore.

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Characterisation Tips and Happy Hour

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshot from ALCS website taken by me for purposes of highlighting their work.

What kind of a week have you had? Interesting one here. I share my latest ACW blog about Characterisation Tips and a new story video, Happy Hour. The latter is one of those where I don’t want to meet the character and I invented them! Ho hum… More below.

CHARACTERISATION - Outlining is a good idea

Facebook – General

Really nice day weather wise today. Lady got to play with a couple of buddies today, the lovely Coco, who is a sweet Labradoodle, and Lady’s “gentleman friend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear. Lady came home very tired but happy. The two dogs are happy to share their toys with Lady and she is happy to share hers with them (mainly I think because all of the dogs know the other will give their toy back so win-win here for everyone) so it was a great “play date”.

Many thanks for the lovely comments on my ACW post yesterday about Characterisation Tips and also to those who commented on my latest story video, Happy Hour. Links to both below.

Have sent in another drabble (the 100-word flash fiction type) to #FridayFlashFiction so happy with that.

I’m preparing a new Chandler’s Ford Today series which I hope to share more about soon.

And my new author newsletter will be out on Thursday. Sign up at my website (landing page) if you would like to receive! As well as news, I share exclusive flash fiction here (though I hope these will end up in a future collection) and writing tips as well as other interesting bits and pieces.

 

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers blog spot

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog More Than Writers and this time I talk about Characterisation Tips. I do love a list and a list of Top Tips is always useful. Hope you find these handy.

Writing flash fiction has honed my characterisation simply because I don’t have the word count room for lots of description. But that’s no bad thing. My favourite parts of the novel, say, are where the characters interact in dialogue and/or action. I find descriptions useful background information but it is not that which draws me into reading a book. It is always the characters which draw me in regardless of the length of the story.

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Missed my hour’s sleep now we’ve gone over to British Summer Time. It’s not summery at all right now though the next week looks promising. Hopefully it will mean Lady and I don’t get a soaking this week. (Good for the soul possibly but never feels great!).

Have just had the delightful task of reading through my two stories for The Best of CafeLit 10, which is due out later in the year. Nice that there were only a couple of amendments to be made. Always feels good pressing the send button sending the corrections back to the publisher.

Looking forward to sending out my latest monthly author newsletter next week. If you want to sign up for this just go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I share a flash tale here, writing tips, as well as news so would be glad to welcome you aboard. As for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I prepare as much as possible in advance and then wrap up towards the end of the month so I know the newsletter is good to go.

Thrilled to see my piece, One of Those Days, went up on the #FridayFlashFiction website this week. I like the idea here of having a target of writing a 100-word story a week so it is ready for the following Friday when the latest stories go live. You don’t copy and paste (and where is the fun in that anyway? As a way to generate new material, I think this is great. Will be getting on and drafting more shortly!).

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Am looking forward to sharing details of a new Chandler’s Ford Today series soon. Spent a lot of last night catching up with friends from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Association of Christian Writers via two separate Zoom chats. Many laughs on both and all great fun!

Delighted to receive my payment from the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society on Thursday. Every little bit helps, as a certain supermarket would say. If you want to know more about ALCS, do check out the link at https://www.alcs.co.uk/about-alcs

Membership of ALCS is free if you’re a member of the Society of Authors but even if you’re not, the cost is £36.00 for lifetime membership and they take the money out from the first payment due to you. What’s not to like about that? If you’re a writer with works out there, definitely check this out.

Screenshot_2021-03-30 ALCS

Facebook – From Light To Dark and Back Again

Glad to see my video Happy Hour has gone down well though I wouldn’t want to meet my character in this one. Mind you, that’s often the way. I can think of several characters of mine I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near. I take the view if they give me the creeps in the way that is intended, they will do the same for readers, again as intended!

And nobody says an author has to like everyone they invent. (Think about it. On that scale, where would Stephen King fit?! Does he like any of his creations I wonder?!).

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Pleased to share my latest short story video Happy Hour (though you’ll need to see the video to work out who the happy hour applies to!). (I really liked the music track for this).


One aspect to flash fiction writing I love is it is easy to share on social media, especially if you stick to the 100-200 words mark. That means I get creative writing and marketing done in the same post! I like that a lot!

And of course flash stories work well for book trailers too. Book trailers work best when kept relatively short and a great way to keep people watching them is to give them a story! We all want to find out what happens at the end, yes?

Flash and book trailers – match made in heaven there I think.

 

Publication News

Delighted to say my piece, One of Those Days, is now up on the Friday Flash Fiction website. There’s a lovely mix of stories here and I hope to submit more here. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories and there are categories for longer flashes.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this one!

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/one-of-those-days-by-allison-symes

Goodreads Author Blog – Reference Books

Reference books are dipped into rather than read through as such, but they are invaluable. Other than my combined dictionary/thesaurus, my favourite reference book is Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. But I have to watch how long I spent with it. Looking up an entry can so easily led me into looking up others I don’t really need at that moment. The book is a huge, fascinating world of words and their origins. What’s not to like there?!

So which reference books would you not be without and why?

I think it is easy to forget this “section” of the non-fiction world. I know many authors would be lost without these books, myself included. It is not a case of using the nugget of information directly. Often it can be a case of looking something up and that will then affect what I get my character to do. That in turn has a direct result on the story outcome.

So let’s hear it for the reference books then!

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Share Your Story Summit and Musical Connections

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Book signing images for From Light to Dark and Back Again were taken by my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today, Janet Williams.

Lady looking on unimpressed as I signed Tripping the Flash Fantastic was an image taken by Adrian Symes.

Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit provided by them to all presenters (and am thrilled to share what follows!).

Details of the summit below. Will also be issuing a bonus newsletter shortly with full details of the summit too. 

To sign up for my newsletter (with giveaway) please sign up here.

3. writers IG 2021

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week. Musical Connections was a joy to write and listen to (see the post for some wonderful Youtube clips) and I hope you enjoy it. Many thanks for the great comments on this so far.

Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share a couple of posts on topics I hope will be useful. I plan to discuss book trailers and videos and give some useful pointers for where to go for down-to-earth advice when new to the writing game (though that will still be handy for older hands given timely reminders are always helpful! I know I find them handy!).

Thrilled to bits to be taking part in the Share Your Story summit later on in the month and am looking forward to giving a Zoom talk to a WI affiliated group just ahead of when the summit starts.

Slap bang in the middle of the summit will be when my recent interview with #HannahKate will be broadcast, link to follow in due course.

So lots going on but all of it fun and that’s the way I like it!

Quick reminder that my Musical Connections post is up on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow and I hope it leads to plenty of lovely meanderings down Memory Lane. It certainly had that effect on me!

But the big news is I can now share more details of the international writing summit I’m taking part in. This is the first event of this kind I’ve taken part in as a presenter (though I have been to others as an audience member and loved them).

I will be producing a bonus newsletter with full details over the next couple of days so please sign up to my newsletter via my website (allisonsymescollectedworks.com) if you would like that.

I’m planning to produce a quick Local Author News Update post for CFT probably sometime next week outside of my usual Friday slot as well. Will flag these up as and when they’re about.

Meanwhile, the main points:-

Summit is from 18th to 23rd March 2021.

Summit is called the Share Your Story Writing Summit and features a wide range of authors and topics.

There is limited free access with 3 to 4 presenters on any one day of the summit.

Each of the days (and therefore topics on that day) is available for 24 hours only.

BUT:-

Pre-sale Early Bird Pricing – If you would like access to everything (and why not!), then between the dates of 4th to 17th March, you would pay $47 USD. There are 23 presenters and 23 workshops. That is a lot of info for not much money! Bargain…

During the summit itself – March 18th to 23rd 2021 – you can get access to everything for $67 USD.

AFTER the summit itself – March 24th 2021 onwards – You would pay $97 USD

And there is an affiliate link so I will earn a small amount of money if you go for any of the paid versions. You also get to keep the talks and there is a wealth of experience and advice here, all of which will be useful.

So it pays, literally, to get in early, folks! No surprises when I mention my topic is on flash fiction! The link takes you to the summit landing page where you can choose the free or paid for versions. See https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq for more details.

#freesummit #summit #free #shareyourstory #creativity #write #shareyourstory2021

Am so looking forward to being part of this!



Looking forward to sharing news about the international writing summit I’m taking part in soon (from tomorrow onwards so watch this space). See above – I am rather pleased about this! I’m also looking forward to checking out the other topics on offer for this. The range is fantastic but don’t just take my word for it!

In other news, Lady had a fabulous time with her best buddy, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, this morning. You can always tell when a dog is happy when she walks home slowly, tail wagging all the way, gets home, has a drink, and then crashes out, perking up again when she senses my hubby or I are about to have lunch. It is Lady’s role to supervise us having our lunch, of course. We couldn’t possibly eat it all by ourselves.

Plenty of non-fiction work going on at the moment with talks etc., but am getting some flash fiction writing in (and producing the short story videos for Youtube upload on a regular basis helps ensure that too!). I’m starting to get material together for a third collection and that takes time but I am pleased to have made a start on that.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as the writing summit, which I flagged up yesterday, I’m waving the flag for flash fiction again in mid-March via Zoom to a WI-affiliated group. On 20th March, my interview with #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM will be broadcast where again I wave the flag for flash and blogging, (I almost typed flag the wave just then – lovely Spoonerism I think!).

Am also drafting flash fiction pieces though I will up the pace on that work once the summit is over.

I do love the variety of writing and try to ensure I enjoy it all. That’s important. Writing and marketing are hard work but a joy and having that joy helps you keep going when times are tough.

I still have “no hears” on submitting work and I always will but I know now I can always submit that work elsewhere when I can get back to the piece in question. Nothing is wasted in writing. What you can’t re-submit somewhere, you can analyse and see if you can work out why it didn’t get placed or what have you. It does pay to do that. I’ve picked things up on a piece later I didn’t see at the time of submission and you can take what you learn there and use it to help you be more successful with other work.

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The big news, as I mentioned on my author Facebook page, is I’m taking part in an international writing summit from 18th to 23rd March 2021. My topic is Flash Fiction – Why I Love It and Why I Think Every Writer Should Try It!

More details on the summit can be found at https://www.creativeu.ca/a/46030/yLSebqrq

The summit is free but there are paid for options if you would like to be able to access all of the topics or are not sure you can actually be about on the day in question for the relevant presenters to you. Bear in mind there are 23 presenters on 23 wonderfully varied topics so I strongly suspect you would find several of the topics would be of interest!

I will be issuing a bonus newsletter about the summit sometime over the next couple of days and you can sign up to receive this, and future author newsletters from me, at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

Allison Symes (1)

PS.  I never dreamt, when I first started writing seriously many many years ago, I would see things like the poster above. I can’t tell you how many rejections I’ve had in my time. I almost certainly could cover my walls with them had I kept them. So being open to trying new forms of writing – flash fiction in my case – has proved productive. Not giving up and developing stamina to take the setbacks on the chin also does. No short cuts but dreams can sometimes come true. (And no fairy godmother in sight either, which is a tad annoying given I write so many stories about them, but there you go!).


Always delighted to wave the flag for flash fiction and am looking forward to sharing more news on the international writing summit I’m taking part in soon where I do precisely that. (Hope to start sharing from tomorrow onwards so watch this space. There is a wonderful range of authors taking part on a lovely variety of topics so there will be something for everyone – see above and this will almost certainly be my big news for 2021, I think).

One thing I’ve found useful at “live events” such as the railway station signing I had for From Light to Dark and Back Again was it is easy to demonstrate what flash fiction is by reading some out! Entertains the public, it always give me useful practice at effectively “open prose readings”, and I’ve made sales that way too.

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Fairytales with Bite – What Counts as a Bad Week in a Magical World?

Well, what does count as a bad week in a magical world? Is it when every spell you use goes wrong no matter what you do? (See The Sorcerer’s Apprentice for more on this and with fab music too!).

Is it when there is too much magic flying about and the results are questionable to say the least? That wizard who wanted to change an annoying junior into a statue for half an hour to teach them a lesson finds it has backfired when that statue walks off complaining loudly and embarrassing him?

Now for your villains of course a bad week for everyone else would count as a good week for them. Hey, we’re villains, doing what we’re supposed to be doing. So what would they do to cause trouble for everyone else? Does it backfire on them? Does the rest of your society eventually get their revenge here?

And who decides whether it is a bad week anyway? How would your created society decide what was good and what wasn’t?

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This World and Others – What Makes Your Created World Stand Out

What makes your created world stand out so you have to write it into life? What attracts you to it? The good news is here is what attracts you here should attract other readers.

My view is your world has to have enough depth to make you want to write about it. Your characters have to be compelling but so does the setting in which you set them. So think about what would make you want to live in the place you’ve invented? Is it the magical elements? Is it the fantastic scenery free from all pollution etc?

What would a reader find that was special about your setting? What would make them want to read more about how life is lived there?


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Editing, Author Newsletter, and Cherished Childhood Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And, here in the UK, spring is finally on its way! Have been delighted to see plenty of crocuses already out when walking Lady.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Saw first lot of blossom out earlier when I was walking the dog. It did nothing for Lady, she is far more interested in sticks and/or squirrels, but it did cheer me up. (Lady was cheered up when she saw a Persian blue cat. Looked lovely. Lady is always curious about cats, wants to play with them, but can never understand why they don’t return the feeling).

Right, writing wise, I’m planning ahead for a couple of my CFT posts. Talking about Musical Connections this week is a real joy as I can share some of my favourite pieces and how I came to discover them. More on Friday. I plan to be writing a couple of useful posts for the two weeks after that which will be of interest, I hope, to newish writers. More nearer the time.

Am also looking forward to sharing more details about the international writing summit soon.

Prep work for my WI talk is going well and am loving getting that ready. Just hope they enjoy it too though I should add it is a good sign when a writer enjoys their work. Why? Well, you are your own first audience to a certain extent and if you don’t like what you’re doing, why should anyone else? BUT it does pay to put some distance in time between what you write and when you evaluate it, otherwise you won’t judge it objectively enough.

You’ll either think this is the best thing since Shakespeare or it’s total rubbish, whatever made me think I could write etc. Neither is true.

What will be true is you’ve got something with promise that needs a darned good edit or two before you submit it anywhere. Now where did I put my red pen?!

Thrilled to bits to send out my first author newsletter today. All went well (much to my relief). If you want to know more do see (the landing page of) my website – I plan to keep the newsletters to monthly only.

I’m using Mailchimp and am discovering new things about it which I know I’m going to find useful. The writing journey is one where you learn all the time and that is a good thing. It is how you make progress after all.

Am busy preparing for a talk I’ll be giving via Zoom next month and that is a lot of fun. Learning how to present material in an entertaining way and thinking about audience needs again is keeping me on my toes but it is all part of the writing life. You need to engage readers with your stories so seeking to engage with a talk is merely an extension to that.

I’m going to be talking about Musical Connections in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and look forward to sharing that on Friday.

And I’m starting work on a third flash fiction collection too. I hope to have it ready for submission by the end of the year but know it will almost certainly take me that long!

I’ll be editing my non-fiction project fairly soon and hope to be submitting proposals for that during the summer. Normally with non-fiction you would prepare the proposal first but I wanted to prove to myself that I could write the book so I have got a first draft down. Not sorry about that but am always ready for changes! It is what the editing process is for after all.

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Hope your weekend has been a good one. Mine has been quiet but relaxing and lovely. Do you have any days of the week when you know your writing is going to be “down”?

My bad day here is Monday and I know it is because I am busy doing various things, so by the time I get to my desk, I’m pretty tired. So I focus on getting “little” writing tasks done and it is good to tick those off my list for the week. As the week goes on I have more time to write so can use those sessions for longer “creative sprints” – and I do.

So another reason to be glad when Monday is behind me I guess!

It has taken me ages to learn how to use my writing sessions In the most productive way I can but it’s a good thing to be able to do. Overall, you will get more done. Even if you don’t plan out your stories or what have you, planning how best to use your writing time is a good idea.

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NOT a lifelike representation of my writing desk. This one is far tidier!

And she doesn’t look like she’s had a hectic Monday either! Pixabay image


It is lovely to be enjoying some almost spring-like weather in my part of the world right now. It is semi-official as Lady enjoyed her first roll on the grass, upside down, “pedalling” her back legs for all she was worth and having a high old time of it, earlier this afternoon. It is the simple pleasures….! (Oh and before you ask she wasn’t rolling in fox poo or the like as dogs, bless them, are wont to do. I am lucky with Lady there. She doesn’t do it! I know, I know, famous last words and all that!).

Had a lovely couple of Zoom sessions with writing chums from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Association of Christian Writers last night. Great start to a weekend and a real tonic. Many thanks, all!

Just a quick reminder to say I’m launching my author newsletter on Monday, 1st March. When you sign up to my email list, you receive a welcome email and in that is a link to a free giveaway containing free stories and thoughts on flash fiction amongst other things. See the landing page for more.

Am currently drafting a flash piece which is making me laugh so that’s a good sign. The story is meant to be funny! It’s not such a good sign when the piece is meant to be serious…!

Am looking forward to sharing more about the writing summit very soon too.

Have a fab weekend!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my story video, Discovery, yesterday. (Video link below). I plan to chat a little bit about producing story videos and book trailers in a future Chandler’s Ford Today post. Will share more details nearer the time of that.

Writing stretches you in so many ways and it is good for you! I never envisaged writing flash fiction when I started out, I discovered the form thanks to a happy CafeLit accident. As for book trailers etc., they really weren’t about when I began writing seriously. (I’ve run the gauntlet of using manual typewriters to 486s and the modern laptop so I’ve been about for a while and trust me so much has changed! But generally all to the good. I can’t imagine my life without flash fiction now for one thing!).

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Pleased to share my new story video, Discovery, which I created via Book Brush and then uploaded to Youtube.This is probably the nearest I’ll get to a dystopian story. Hope you enjoy!

 

Do you find it easy to come up with ideas for stories of any length? I use a variety of methods to keep this aspect of things fresh to me and to encourage me to think in new ways when coming up with new characters and situations. From random generators to flicking through books of proverbs, ideas will start to form.

What you read/have read has an influence too and this is the key reason why everyone encourages writers to read, read, read, and then read some more. But bear in mind this reading can take many forms. What matters is taking in the stories. So I read books, I read on the Kindle, I listen to audio books, I read short stories, I read flash, I read novels, I read non-fiction and occasionally some poetry. So the wider you read, the deeper the pool you can fish from for ideas. Besides which it’s fun!

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Well, that’s February almost done and dusted. I like February as the early spring flowers are emerging and give us a hint of what is to come when spring is with us fully.

A good flash fiction story shows you what you need to know for a character in a moment but there should still be hints as to what the character is capable of outside of the story limits. For example, in my story Why Stop Now from From Light to Dark and Back Again, the character there is probably the creepiest one I’ve written. But you see through the narrative how that creepiness has built up.

Flash does have depths to it, despite its word count limit. I will often re-read flash tales to pick up on the hidden depths and in truly great pieces, I find plenty of those. And yes it is a challenge to me to make sure I do the same but that’s no bad thing. Writing should keep us on our toes. I want to find better ways of showing my characters, better ways of coming up with stories and so on. The writing journey is not a static one after all!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Cherished Childhood Books

I owe my late mother a huge debt. She encouraged my love of books and stories from an early age and she was thrilled to see my first story in print, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology way back in 2009. Sadly, Mum didn’t get to see either of my two flash fiction collections (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic) though my Dad did see the first one.

But thinking about them, and in particular, Mum, led me to recall some of my cherished childhood books. To name a few:-

Black Beauty
Heidi
The Famous Five – I had most of the set (close to about 20 books or so).
The Reader’s Digest Collection of Classic Fairytales – a huge two volume set beautifully illustrated too.

And then there were various Ladybird books as well. And I used to collect the old I-Spy books which were themed on topics and you scored points for everything you observed on that topic when out on walks etc.

The best gift that comes from having an early love of reading?

Well it’s a gift that doesn’t leave you and you keep on reading. What you read changes of course according to age and taste but there is a reading journey as well as a writing one. What matters is to ensure you thoroughly enjoy your reading journey (and if you have one the writing one as well).

 

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Writing Challenge, Advice, Story Video and Interview News

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. It has been a busy few days but fun!

Picture below gives you an idea of what is coming up (and I am glad to report my recording for the international writing summit last week went very well. Am looking forward to sharing more on that as soon as I can).

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Facebook – General

I had an interesting writing challenge today. Some of you may know I’m the Membership Secretary of The Association of Christian Writers and on our Facebook page today, I was “thrown the gauntlet” by #WendyHJones to come up with a flash fiction piece involving certain words. Those words were “gentle, throat, print, chairs, church”. Now I often use all kinds of random generators to come up with story idea triggers (e.g. random words, numbers, questions even).

So did I meet Wendy’s challenge? But of course… here is the result.

A gentle clear of the throat was all I needed as I looked at my work. The print run was done. The service sheets were on all of the chairs. I checked that three times. I can’t wait until I resume my old task and welcome people back to church.
Allison Symes – 23rd February 2021 – approximately 9.30 am!

I don’t often get to write a piece of flash fiction before I get to take the dog out for her big playtime/walk! Lovely creative and fun start to a Tuesday. Many thanks, Wendy.

Hope your Monday has gone okay. A huge thanks for the great response to my new Book Brush adverts yesterday (see images in next post down). I was pleased with how they turned out.

Finally nailed down a longer flash piece I’d been working on for a while, polished it, and submitted it. Sometimes it goes like that. I know I needed to tighten the piece up but didn’t see immediately how to do it. Time away from the piece worked wonders (so I do take my own advice, at least some of the time!).

Am looking forward to sending my first author newsletter on 1st March. I’ve gone for the 1st as it’s an easy date to remember. It would not surprise me at all if 99.9% of all authors with a newsletter have also gone for the 1st for their chosen date! If you want to know more do check out my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – you go straight to the sign-up page here. (I’ve changed my original home page to this one as it makes more sense).

If you want to know more about my flash collections, do go to my website and then on to my Books page where you will find my trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will repeat below too.

The plan with the newsletter is to share writing tips, news, and flash stories before they are published anywhere else. Hope to see you aboard (and many thanks to those who have signed up so far).

Newsletter advert

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again creating a couple of adverts for my website and books. See below! I love this kind of thing but have to make sure I “play” like this once and only once I’ve got my writing done for the day. It’s too easy to lose lots of time with this kind of marketing as it is so much fun.

Seriously though, given every writer has to market their books, you do need to find ways that you can enjoy (and therefore keep going for the long term). I haven’t engaged with Instagram or Pinterest at all but am loving creating the videos for my Youtube channel. So that gives me a visual medium to enjoy working with (and when I add free to use music tracks it’s an audio one too).

You also need to decide what you’re going to try marketing/social media wise, what works for you and what doesn’t, but I must admit I find the hardest thing to get right is apportioning time to writing new material/revising draft material and marketing. It’s not an easy balancing act and every writer I know faces this dilemma.

When you have a new or relatively new book out, you know you’ve got to concentrate on the marketing for some time to give that book its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world. What’s tricky is working out when to stop and back pedal a bit so you can get on and produce new writing that will make it into another book for marketing later on.

I try to make sure some of my writing sessions during the week are for purely writing (though this post counts as both writing and marketing!). Others are for purely marketing or developing materials to use for marketing, If I can look back over the week and see I have managed a good amount on both, I’m happy. I can’t claim any scientific method to this, far from it, but it works for me. I’ve also accepted nobody ever gets this totally right. It is working out what is right for you.

Delighted to share another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks #MaggieFarran.

Reviews help authors more than non-writers, I think, might always realise. If you wonder whether it is worth doing, basically the answer to that is yes, it is! And Maggie’s great example shows a review does not have to be long (or take long).

In other news, I spent Friday night recording my presentation for the international writing summit I mentioned earlier this week. All went well. I loved doing it. Many thanks for all the support and prayers from writing friends. I was calmer than I thought I would be and that helped a lot. And I can really worry when I put my mind to it, trust me on that.

The ironic thing here is you do need a certain amount of adrenaline going here. It helps fuel your creativity funnily enough but if you have too much of it, it tips over into anxiety etc and that definitely does not help you come across well.

As for the summit itself, I hope to have links etc in early March and am looking forward to sharing those.

Next week, I’m due to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her North Manchester FM radio show so am busy getting ready for that. All great fun and I love to talk about writing, specifically flash fiction, so this will be huge fun to do. Will share links for that as and when I have them though it will be after the show goes out. The nice thing here is my publisher, Chapeltown Books, is Manchester based so a nice link there.

Screenshot_2021-02-20 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my A Bad Day for A Fairy Godmother story video yesterday. See below. The Youtube videos are proving to be a great way to share one and two line flash tales. Those one and two liners in turn make great vehicles for humorous/slightly off the wall/both kind of stories, which I adore writing.

And it’s a sad day indeed when there isn’t time for a short, sharp, funny flash tale.

Now it is thought that Cinders’ glass slipper was a mis-translation. It was meant to be a fur slipper (though these days I would hope it would be a fake fur slipper and that’s as “political” as I get, folks). Having said that, the idea of it being the fairy godmother’s spell going wrong was fun to run with so I did! (Oh and no glass or any other kind of slipper was needed for me to do that!).

Am looking forward to being interviewed tomorrow afternoon by #HannahKate for North Manchester FM. Will share links as and when I get them but it will be good to wave the flag for flash fiction.

If you want proof anyone can have a bad day, check our my latest Youtube flash fiction video (made using Book Brush, uploading to Youtube, and then adding a free to use audio clip from Youtube’s audio library. A big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for putting me on to that. I’ve had a lot of fun picking music tracks for my stories – and music is wonderful for setting mood).

I’ve found over time (a lot of time!) my natural flash fiction “home” is the 100 to 500 words mark.

For the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition though, I had to write to 1000 words and for all three of my winning entries (Progressing, The Professional, and Books and the Barbarians), I came in at about the 990 mark.

Unless a competition or market says it has to be so many words, nothing more, nothing less, I always take off about ten words from the final count to allow for any changes to title and so on. There is always something at the last minute before you submit work that you need to change and you must factor that into your overall word count restriction and give yourself enough time to make any changes. No last minute submissions for me then. I like to know I am well within the date set for entries to be in by too.

Also bear in mind for the majority of these things, the word count is the maximum you write to and, unless the rules state otherwise, it is okay to come in at under that count. I like to do so to make absolutely sure there is no way I’m going over the limit. (In most competitions, going over by even one word is enough to instantly dismiss your entry because it is not fair to do otherwise on those who have stuck to the word count rules so it is worth making sure you do have this right).

For this competition, I felt an appropriate count for me, to give me word count room for changes etc., would be at about the 990 mark. I try to pitch these things so I am not far off the limit but am still under it. And it works!

A tip I’ve found useful is when you’re not sure what to write next, get some drafts done. In my case I draft flash fiction and blogs of course. When you haven’t got a lot of time but could draft something, do so (and the great thing with flash is with its short word count, this can be done in a relatively short period of time. I’ve drafted a 100 worder in 10 minutes for example). Why mention this?

It’s just that you get periods when you are busy marketing in some way so having the time to create something new can be difficult. You do run out of time but by having drafts to hand, I can pull one of those, work on it, ensure I’m happy with it and then get it out somewhere quite quickly. It means even when my main work has to be those other things, some new flash fiction is being created, based on those drafts written a few weeks back. It is worth having a stock of drafts like this.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Sells a Book to You

What would you say sells a book to you once you have read it? You’ve loved the cover, the blurb, and you’ve enjoyed the story but what was the stand out element for you?

For me, it is always about the characters. They have to grip me so I want to follow their story through. They don’t necessarily have to be likeable. They do have to be memorable. I have to understand where they are coming from, even if I disagree with the route they’ve taken. And if a character makes me want to shout at them or what have you, then that’s a good sign. It means they’ve engaged me, even if they’ve annoyed me! I then look further at why they’ve annoyed me too.

What I really dislike are insipid characters because you think what is the point of their story. No writer wants that one!

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