Murphy’s Law For Readers

Time for some lightheartedness I think… hence my CFT post. More in a moment.

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

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I thought a lighthearted post would be useful for my slot on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – hence Murphy’s Law for Readers! Hope you enjoy this and do send in your own Murphy’s Law suggestions for Readers via the CFT comments box.

The post takes in readers and books, readers and libraries, and readers and book events etc and so I’ve taken a broad approach here! Hope you enjoy.

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It is always good fun to write humorous posts for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope the Murphy’s Law For Readers which is this week’s piece amuses you! It amused me when I wrote it so I hope that’s a good sign! (I wrote a piece on Murphy’s Law for Writers a year or so ago so that is everyone on the reading and writing fence covered now I think).

Many thanks to our church for sending a Good Friday service sheet for us to use at home today. It was great but must admit to missing seeing everyone and I hope it is not too long before we meet again. It really does not feel like Easter to me. Mind you, the weekends don’t really feel like weekends either at the moment.

I would be glad to have a writing routine anyway as I am one of life’s planners (as much as possible at the moment anyway) but am finding having this routine now to be incredibly useful. It’s a bit of normality in what is an abnormal situation for us all.

Nice lot of cheering in my neck of the words for the frontline workers. Well done all. (This is happening ever Thursday night at 8 pm in the UK for the duration of the lockdown here – I don’t know whether anything similar is happening elsewhere but I do think this show of appreciation is a very good thing indeed).

Looking forward to hearing where my choices for the Classic FM Hall of Fame come in this year’s chart. They count this down over the Easter weekend. My choices were:-

1. Jupiter (from the Planet Suite) by Holst
2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.
3. Danse Macabre by Saint Saens (and used as the theme for Jonathan Creek and the book trailer for my From Light to Dark and Back Again – see below! So this music will always have special meaning for me!).

Need a sort out of my writing desk so that is on the cards for me to do tomorrow. Yes, have been putting it off. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who does that.😆😆

Have resumed playing tennis on the old Nintendo Wii to help with my exercise levels. Well I say playing… let’s say I give it a go! Lady doesn’t like it though and goes and hides while I “strut my stuff” here. Of course it won’t help she can’t possibly get the ball here and no collie will like that.

Writing wise, am working on a book proposal for my non-fiction idea but that will take a while to do. Am also fleshing out ideas for a flash piece for a competition so plenty to be getting on with.

My CFT post this week will be a lighthearted one about Murphy’s Law for Readers. I wrote one about a year ago for writers so it is only fair readers get their turn! Link up on Friday.

Am slowly getting back to reading again which is good. I’ve had no problems writing but think my focus has been on ONE creative activity rather than two.

Reading is a creative activity in its own right in that, for fiction, you should be able to engage with the characters. For non-fiction, you should be gripped by what you are discovering and hopefully go on to find out more about the topic you’re engrossed with.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am happily drafting a flash fiction piece for a competition at the moment. Have got the character and her voice as I like it. But she’s spouting on a little bit too much for the word count requirement so she is going to be shortened! It is one of those cases where I know she can be shortened without losing her style and indeed her style will come through better at the reduced count.

This is where I need to work out what is VITAL for the reader to know. Anything that is not something I could honestly call vital comes out.

This is why I do like writing the longer flash fiction stories too as those give you a bit more room to play with and there you can have characterisation that adds depth and strengthens the story. This is where you can have that “little bit more” which adds flavour to a story.

I think it is a good thing to write a mixture of word count stories so you get a real feel for writing short and spare tales and longer ones with added “value” that you simply can’t put into a shorter story. But what I do know is when I’ve got my character and their voice right, the word count has to suit that. I know I can simplify what I’ve drafted for my current story and I should do that anyway. It should take me to the required count but there are times I really can’t get a story down any further without losing something important – so I don’t! You do get better over time I think at working out when to call it a day.

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One thing I have found useful with regard to having an Amazon Author Central page is having my book trailer on it for FLTDBA. I very much hope later in the year when hopefully Tripping the Flash Fantastic is out that a book trailer for this will also appear.

I have had some fun on my website with book trailers too. (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/book-trailers/)

As well as the ones for FLTDBA and the Bridge House/Cafelit/Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competition collections I’ve been involved in, I have created a basic trailer for one of my stories from FLTDBA. I hope to do more of this as and when but I mention it because flash fiction is ideal for this kind of thing! You want something nice and short that is easy to read on a screen… hmm… on to a winner there I think!

 

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What do I like best about story and flash fiction collections?

I like the range of moods that can be contained in one book (which directly inspired the title for my own From Light to Dark and Back Again of course).

I love being able to dip in and out of such a book, whether I read it in paperback or via the Kindle.

I love them as they are brilliant for those times when I don’t have time to read or don’t feel like reading a huge amount. Indeed it is often the collections that get me out of the latter mood and into reading novels and non-fiction again.

I also just love the whole idea of reading a book full of little self-contained worlds with a host of characters. They are just fun!

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

I’ve loved fairytales for more years than I care to remember, encouraged no doubt by my parents buying me The Reader’s Digest Complete Collection of Fairytales. This is a two volume set which I still have. (One of the books is bound up with tape to keep the spine together!). I spent hours reading the stories and admiring the wonderful illustrations. So what have fairytales done for me as a writer then?

  1. Fairytales have a strong message which they get across without lecturing and in an entertaining way.  I find that inspirational (and a challenge to always “raise my game” here).
  2. Fairytales don’t shy away from calling something evil that is evil. There is no mistaking the goodies and baddies here. The characters are clear cut and their actions and thoughts are consistent. That’s all useful stuff for writers.
  3. Fairytales have endings which are appropriate. Generally these are happy ones but there are exceptions and that’s  okay too. What matters is the ending is appropriate to the story.
  4. When magic is used in a fairytale, it is always used to assist and it is rarely the first resort. Characters still have to use their intelligence and take advantage of others forms of help coming to them.

 

This World and Others – The Arts

What place do the arts have in your fictional “other world”? Is there music? Painting? Creative writing? Are these things valued or despised? Does everyone have access to them or only the privileged few?

For your characters, what do the arts mean to them? What role can the arts play in their story?

When fleshing out your creation, think of the arts as a way of adding culture and depth to your created world. You can always use things like statues as well known landmarks your character has to reach to meet someone etc. That tells a reader there is sculpture in your world at least (and therefore likely to be other art forms too. It also reveals there is at least some appreciation of these things and this is a good indicator of likely intelligence levels too).

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Why I Love History

Image Credit:  

Unless otherwise stated, images are from the marvellous Pixabay.

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Just sometimes I write a CFT post where I have to stick to a very strict word count limit. I could go on at length about Why I Love History but that is precisely why I shouldn’t!

I’ve forgotten who it was who apologised to a friend for sending a long letter as they hadn’t the time to write a short one, but I know what they mean. (Whoever it was behind this comment would surely have made a great flash fiction writer – or at least had an appreciation for it!).

Captions over on the CFT site.

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This is one of those posts where I HAD to set a strict word count limit. Too easy to go on at length on Why I Love History. I take a look at how history gets everywhere, I discuss the importance of remembering, and how fiction writers use history. (Just to name one example, there will be the histories of our characters that we need to know to be able to write about them, though most of this will not end up in the stories themselves). I also look at the joy of local history. Hope you enjoy.

You found more in this amazing stained glass window the more you looked at it

The more you looked at this amazing stained glass window, the more you saw in it. Image by Allison Symes and taken at Tewkesbury.  History also gives you plenty of places to visit!

Why do you write? I write because I have to and that’s it. I aim to be published as often as possible yet know there will be plenty of rejections to cope with too. The former is a joy when it happens, the latter is a pain, but that is the writing lot, which is fine by me. Ups and downs are part of normal life, so they’re going to happen in the writing life too. It’s working out how you handle them that’s important.

I just cannot imagine (literally!) not writing. It is my way of playing with words. I was (and still am) useless at art but words are my way of being creative. I think everyone has some creative instinct in them somewhere. It’s a question of finding what is right for you.

I love the challenge of creating new posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, short stories, and flash fiction. Particularly for the latter, the challenge is to keep on coming up with interesting characters that will grip a reader (and said characters have got to start by gripping me first!).

Writing is a great way to keep the brain very active!

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Glad to report Nativity is now showing on my Goodreads page. Many thanks to the folks there for sorting that out for me.

I have had the joy of being published in other Cafelit titles though some of those stories made it into From Light to Dark and Back Again and naturally I’m going to focus on publicising that which is why is has a prominent place here!

Glad that I’m finally getting a grip on things like my Goodreads and Amazon pages though. It is easy to overlook things like that. (Also nice to find I’ve now had work in 12 books, including FLTDBA though there is one book missing from my Amazon page. I had a piece in The Shamblelurkers Return, a charity book edited by #MaritMeredith, many moons ago, which does show up on Amazon but is unavailable. It was good fun to take part in though! Many thanks, Marit!).

Nativity by Bridge House Publishing is a great example of several authors working to the same theme but taking many different takes on it. If you needed confirmation all authors have their own unique voice, anthologies like this prove it. I concede though it can take a while to work out what your voice is! I know it took me some time to do so. I think you know you’ve found what your voice is when you write in a certain way and know that IS the way for you to do it. When you can only write the way you do…

That doesn’t let you off the hard graft of editing and polishing your stories and articles to give them the best chance “out there” though. Knowing what your voice is and using it is just the start! But a reader should be able to read several pieces of yours and hear your voice through the way you present your characters etc.

 

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t often use adverbs in flash fiction. They don’t give me enough of an impact to justify their inclusion. For example, what makes the most impact out of these two sentences?

1. She ran quickly.

2. She ran as if the hounds of hell were after her.

Sure, the first one is economical in terms of word count but to me it is meaningless. When you run, you usually do it as quickly as you can for a start!

The second one, while longer, is much more promising. It conjures up much stronger images and I would definitely use this one. If I needed to reduce a word count down to say 100 words and this phrase took me over it, I would be looking to make cuts elsewhere in the text OR submit the piece to a competition with a higher word count limit.

Impact on the reader is by far the most important consideration when working out what to leave IN a story.

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Top tips I’ve found useful for writing flash fiction include the following:-

1. Keep the pace taut. (Short sentences and paragraphs work wonders here).

2. Stick to one major character if your flash fiction story is sub-500 words. The idea of flash is to focus and limiting how many characters you have in your story helps enormously with that focus. The character themselves can refer to other characters – I use this technique a lot to show what my lead thinks of the others who are “off stage”. That in turn shows up what this character’s attitude is and as the story goes on, the reader should find out whether the character is justified or not in their stance.

3. Vary how you create your flash stories. I sometimes start with the closing line and work backwards to get to the start. Mixing up your methods here keeps things fresh and interesting for you and I believe some of that filters through to a reader.

Have fun!

 

 

Quick bargain alert: From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at Amazon. Paperback and Kindle versions are at the same price. If you know someone who likes quirky fiction… 😊

One of the things I would love to become true, if it isn’t already, is that flash fiction helps reluctant readers overcome that reluctance to read. After all, none of us started off by reading War and Peace, did we? Oh… that was just me not doing so then…😀😉

Children are encouraged to read and with the wonderful world of children’s literature out there, they have such fantastic choices. “Grown ups” (the jury’s out on me!) also have fantastic selections but I’ve heard people say at book fairs etc that they “don’t read”. That strikes me as being incredibly sad. They are missing out on so much.

But what can we as authors do to encourage people NOT to stop reading much later on in life? To see reading as every bit a valid form of entertainment as TV, cinema etc? Thoughts welcome…

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Image from Chapeltown Books

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

SG PART 2 - Warning - poems, blogs, stories, novels, all writing alike benefits from good editing - image via Pixabay

Warning: Writer at Work. Pixabay

Ideas, the spark for writing competitions, image via Pixabay

Read widely to inspire these. Pixabay

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Fairytales with Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” Part 1

This is what I think fairytale rules might consist of – see what you think.

A = Always Believe. The lead character usually has to!

B = Be Humble.  Characters who are not tend to get their comeuppance.

C = Charity Welcomed. Think of the characters who have been kind to little old men/women who then turn out to be powerful wizard or fairy godmother in disguise.

D = Deserving. Characters who are considered to be deserving of assistance get it – Cinderella is the classic example of this for me.

E = Energy.  The best fairytales are full of energy and zip along. There is not one dull moment, something all writers need to aspire to with their own work.

F = Fairy Godmothers. These turn up when needed. They always turn up to characters who aren’t expecting them. There has to be a rulebook about this somewhere…

More next time…

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This World and Others – Setting Your Sights

When coming up with your characters, how much of the world you’ve put them in are you going to show to your readers? How much do readers need to know? How much do you need to know that never makes it on to the page but which is crucial for you to create your characters and their setting with conviction?

You need to decide whether it is best to set your sights on a tight focus – i.e.  you show your characters living in one specific town, say. Or would your story be better served showing the complete world in which your characters live and the contrasts between areas in that world?

Only you can answer that one but it pays to set your sights as early on as possible and then focus on whichever route you’ve decided to go. If your story world has a major affect on how your characters act and react, then you probably do need to show the reader as much of that as possible so they understand why.

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The Writing Life – and Publication News

Image Credit:  As ever, all images, unless stated, are from Pixabay

 

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I thought I would look at what reading non-fiction has done for me.

I was a huge fan of the Simon Schama History of Britain TV series so got the books too. They are a fascinating read both in terms of content and how they are structured. Lots of useful pointers there for a writer.

I love guide books. Whenever I visit a historical place, I always get the guide book (and usually a nice pen too!). I learn so much from the contents but also from the human interest stories that often form part of these and how they fit into the factual narrative. Again, things to learn about blending material there.

I sometimes read specific books around a subject but I also love dipping into encyclopedias and other reference books (Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable is a favourite) and seeing what I find out! It is a lot of fun exploring avenues here and makes you think along ways you wouldn’t have planned. Ideas for stories and blog posts do spark from doing things like this. Give it a go. If nothing else, you expand your reading!

Pleased to bits to have my first review for From Light to Dark and Back Again on Amazon.com – the simplest thing people can do to support authors is to review their books. Reviews don’t have to be long either. Honesty about what you liked (or didn’t) is key.

So please, please review!

Also pleased to say that the Kindle version of The Best of Cafelit 8 is now available. There will be a paperback later in the year. My flash stories Dignity and Injustice and The Art Critic are here. The book is now on my Author Central page.

Last but not least, I’ve finally sent off a pitch for an idea I’ve been working on. Got to have the old hat in the ring after all to be a contender!

Do I still get nervous about submitting new work? Oh yes. Do rejections still leave me feeling flat? Oh yes. But, over time, you do get used to this being a normal part of a writer’s life. You do dust yourself down, look at your idea again, think about reworking it and so on.

Sometimes when an answer is no, the real answer is not yet or not here. What you can’t know when you submit material is whether similiar ideas have been received by whoever it is you’re submitting work to and so, of course, they can’t have something that is too like work they’ve already accepted. Park the idea, revisit it later, and if you can think of a suitable alternative market, go for it. The worst that can happen is they say no but, even after all the years I’ve been writing, you still have to fight the nerves and get that work out there!

Of course, you can’t beat the feeling when you receive acceptances! I only wish I could bottle it.

Open Prose Mic Night Swanwick 2019 - image by Penny Blackburn

I read The Art Critic at Swanwick earlier this year. Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for the picture.

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Love having my creations around me! Image by Adrian Symes

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My flash fiction collection. Image taken by Allison Symes.

that lightbulb moment is a wonderful one for writers - pixabay

The lightbulb moment of inspiration for writers is wonderful. Pixabay image.

much easier to cut and paste and edit on one of these - pixabay

Write to screen but edit on paper. Pixabay image.

Glad to report The Best of Cafelit 8 is now up on my Amazon Author Page (see link above). Looks good on there! (Am also looking forward to the paperback coming out later in the year and the Bridge House Publishing event in December. Always good fun).

How do you find writing works for you when you’re tired? I find that shorter pieces of writing perk me up and I save the marathon sprints for when I have more energy. I do get ratty if I can’t write at all as those nearest to me would testify.

I have got to write something creative even if it is just the outline for a flash fiction story. Having said that, once I get started, I find the creative instinct takes over and often I’ll get to the end of a session having written more than I thought I would. So that cheers me up no end. Mondays ARE the worst day of the week for me for this. Do you have any bugbear writing days? How do you manage them?

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My favourite part of writing is when I’m drafting a character’s thoughts. Why? Because I can get the character to show something of themselves without them being aware of it! It is the reader who will make judgements about the character based on what they read of their thoughts and actions.

I also like writing thoughts because they can be a great way of a character revealing what they think of themselves and what they feel other characters think about them. They don’t have to be right on either of these! (There’s potential for comedy or tragedy there).

Also characters will think things they would never say out loud to anyone else (just as we do) and there can be fun to had there as a reader “watches” a character struggle to keep their real feelings for another character hidden.

If you think someone is a dingbat but they’re your boss, you’re going to think twice about saying so AND know you’ll have to suppress how you really feel to make sure nothing embarrassing unwittingly is “let out”.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do the seasons affect what you write? I can’t say I’ve noticed anything here but I can imagine it may be easier to write a darker tale when all is dark and gloomy outside. (You’ve at least got the atmospheric setting for it!).

Having said that, I often write cheerier stories during the darker months because I like something to cheer me up and I figure readers would like that too!

From a practical viewpoint, when the weather is awful, the lure of being at my desk in the warm with hot drinks on the go is too tempting to resist so I don’t! There is much to be said for bad weather increasing productivity!

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Managed to do some writing while I was away in glorious Northumberland for a week. As well as my blog posts, I’ve drafted two new flash fiction stories (of the circa 500 words variety. I know, that’s going on a bit by my standards! Good fun to write though).

Pleased to say The Best of Cafelit 8 is now out on Kindle. It is now on my Amazon Author Central page (see links shared earlier). My flash tales Dignity and Injustice and The Art Critic are in there. Very different moods too just on those two stories. What I love about the Cafelit collections is the range of styles and moods of tales they have. (Paperback will be out later in the year).

I’m a great advocate of short story and flash fiction collections for the obvious reason I am sometimes in them (!) but also because they are a fabulous way to get a feel for a writer’s work. Give them a go!

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I was away last week in gorgeous Northumberland and the scenery was amazing. The dog loved the stunning coastline and we all did plenty of walking.

I don’t usually go in for a lot of descriptions in my stories. There isn’t the room for them in flash fiction but if I ever set a story on a windswept beach with stunning views, then you can take it I was referring to either Dunnet in Scotland (right on the top edge of the country) or Duridge Bay in Northumberland! Would love to revisit both places next year.

Where setting is invaluable for a writer is where it is almost a character in its own right. Check out the crime writing series for great examples of these (Morse = Oxford is probably the best known). Mordor hangs over Frodo Baggins long before he gets anywhere near it. The latter is a great example as the very name Mordor implies dread and darkness. Well it does for me anyway.

(Oh and for Part 3 of my What Books Mean to Me series on Chandler’s Ford Today this week I will be featuring, amongst others, two Scottish crime writers who very much use their settings as a vital part of their stories. More later in the week).

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What is your favourite kind of character?

I like characters that can surprise me even though I created them.

I like characters who might seem a bit dodgy but really do have good hearts. (It may be a cliche but it’s one I love. I also think we need far more good hearted people in this world – can we ever have enough of them? I think not).

I love characters who can make me laugh. The character who is good at one-liners will always go down well with me, even if they’re a villain. (‘And cancel Christmas’ – Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a great example of that kind of character).

I love the underdog who becomes the hero/heroine. I like supporting characters who understand their role is to support the lead and don’t resent that. (Sam Gamgee of The Lord of the Rings and Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series are great examples there).

So what kind of characters do you really love to read about and, better still, write for?

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Holiday Reading

I drafted this just as I was packing up to come home from a fabulous week in Northumberland. Lots of walking and wonderful scenery.

As ever, I took lots to read, read some of it, and fell asleep far too quickly.

My best opportunities for reading came before an evening meal and even then I had to fight the urge to nod off. I blame the gloriously fresh northern air!

I mixed up the reading I did do. Naturally I took the Kindle, magazines, and paperbacks.

Do you find you read more or less when away?

I don’t usually buy specific holiday reading as I see holiday time as a chance to reduce my To Be Read pile a bit. It’s another matter whether I’m successful or not!

What matters though is whether you can read for five minutes a day or five hours a day, you ARE reading!

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Controlling the Weather and Writing Prompts

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

In my CFT post Controlling the Weather I share a flash fiction story of mine which is shorter than Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “it was a dark and stormy night”. Do see the post for the full sentence (and take a deep breath before you start too!).

I now know why Snoopy only ever quotes “it was a dark and stormy night” but no more as there wouldn’t be enough room in the caption bubble!

I rarely use the weather in flash fiction as the word count means I have to show you the pertinent detail(s) about the characters. The weather rarely comes into that!

So what would count as pertinent details then? For me these are:-

1. Something of their attitude/outlook on life (I show this via internal thought as well as dialogue).

2. Something of their setting. Setting can change the outcome of the story or have a huge influence on it, for good or bad.

3. Sometimes a brief physical description where it matters to the story. In my Pen Portrait I show Mary as a character who brushes her hair once a day whether she needed it or not. I mention her clothes and shoes would see her through a battlefield but DON’T specify what they are. I don’t think I need to do so either. Those two lines should conjure up an image of Mary well enough! It also shows something of her attitude (double whammy here!).

I’d say 1 is the most important and “where it matters to the story” is THE golden rule of fiction writing, regardless of whether you write flash stories or longer works.

Image Credit:  The magnificient Pixabay. Captions via the CFT post! Also this post was shared on From Light to Dark and Back Again as well as I thought the pertinent details relevant to that page too!

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Managed to catch up with a couple of writing prompt exercises, both of which will become flash fiction stories later. Complete contrast in moods for the exercises too but I like that. It keeps me on my toes, which of course is the idea behind said prompts.

I tend to write up these prompts in batches but that’s fine. It’s a little like not being able to stop at one crisp or what have you once you get started on them!

The nice thing about free writing like this is I know the stories aren’t perfect but that doesn’t matter at this stage. I’ve now got two more stories to work on for submission somewhere in due course and that’s great.

My CFT post this week will be looking at Controlling the Weather. You can tell my other writing hat is fantasy, yes?!

I look at why controlling the weather isn’t a good idea, even if we could do it.

Also I discuss why “it was a dark and stormy night” has gone down as one of the most renowned writing cliches. (Possibly to only be beaten by “and it was all a dream”? Thoughts on that would be welcome when the link goes up on Friday).

I have to say I’ve written flash fiction stories shorter than that infamous opening line from Bulwer-Lytton and I go on to prove it in this post too! And if could control the weather for a day, what would you ask for and why? Thinking heads on in time for Friday’s post then (and those of you of a certain age will remember where that phrase comes from! Clue to those who are not: a former Doctor Who plays a scarecrow, yes really!).

PS Looks like no photos will upload tonight so apologies. Believe this is a FB issue. Hopefully normal service (and photos) will resume soon…  (NB  From Wednesday, 3rd July when FB and What’s App seemed to have an issue with photos. Glad it appears to have been resolved).

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Occasionally a story idea proves to be a better match for a standard length short story (1500 words or so) than flash fiction, which is fine. I find a suitable competition/market for that longer story and don’t try to keep it sub1000. (How do I know incidentally? It is always the character’s voice and sometimes they have more to say than I originally thought they would!).

I sometimes deliberately make myself write longer stories as the discipline of working to very small word counts AND what would be considered an industry standard is very good for you as a writer. Shaping what I’ve written to fit the most appropriate market/competition is something that will always be needed and is a useful skill to develop.

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Looks like the photos will be unavailable for a bit though I understand this is a FB/What’s App issue. Hope it’s resolved soon. Don’t envy those trying to sort it out.

Meanwhile back to good old text only.

In researching my CFT post this week about Controlling the Weather (yes, really – more on Friday when the link goes up), I looked at a very famous opening line that has gone down in the annals of Cliche and Purple Prose, so much so even Snoopy quotes it regularly.

To my surprise, I found I’ve written flash fiction stories which come in at under the word count of that opening line!

So every word counts then in a flash story? Of course but the words have all got to pull their weight. You know when the story’s right (or as much as it can ever be) when you can’t change anything or remove a word without it spoiling the story somehow. One lovely thing about flash is you know you haven’t got the room for purple prose which is a huge encouragement not to write it at all!

Fairytales with Bite – Controlling the Weather and What Writers Should Control

My CFT post looks at why Controlling the Weather isn’t a good idea even if we could do it. I also look at why “it was a dark and stormy night” has gone down as one of the all time “great” writing cliches. But can the weather play a purpose in writing? Can writers control their use of it so it is effective, rather than something that can be mocked (as that infamous opening line so often is)? What should writers control in their writing?

The weather can play a role in writing as long as it matters to the story (in terms of outcome/character development etc).  Generally speaking, it matters to the story is the most important rule in all fiction writing! Weather can also be used to reflect or contrast mood. If someone is singing in the rain, we would generally want to know why!  Interest piqued… now follow through with interesting reasons why!

What writers should seek to control in their writing should be:-

1.  Everything that is in the story has to be in there. Something would be lost in terms of character and/or plot if anything was removed. If anything could be skipped, cut it out. It is what readers/editors will skip.

2.  Their characters. Characters should be well developed and should engage with the reader (even if it is to make the reader hate them!).

3.  Dialogue.  This should reveal information/move the story onwards. Any dialogue without a purpose shouldn’t be in there.

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This World and Others –

When You Know Your World Works

There are certain pointers which will indicate your created world is working and hopefully will encourage you to develop it further.

1.  You know how the world is run. (There has to be some sort of government).

2.  You know who are the powerful and who are the downtrodden (some things are just universal!).

3.  You know the immediate setting for your story intimately. You need to be able to portray this, almost as if it were a character in its own right.

4.  You know where your characters fit into your world (and whether they fit in well or not. Do they defy convention or follow it religiously?).

5.  You have some idea of how your people survive in terms of food/water/sanitation/employment provision. I can’t think of any created world where characters don’t have to eat, be able to resource themselves etc.

Not all of these details need to make it into your story. We don’t need to know everything about politics in your world but we do need to know what matters to the story (which I think is going to be a new mantra for me but it is a useful one!).

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Other News including Publication News

Am delighted to say my story What Goes Around will be in Bridge House Publishing’s Nativity anthology later this year. What with The Art Critic and Dignity and Injustice due to be published in The Best of Cafelit 8 in December, I will have three stories in two books then! I am also still thrilled of course that The Professional was in the ebook Transforming Being, the Bridge House published ebook of the winning entries for the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition.

I have also set up an Amazon Authors Central page and these are set for the US, UK, France, Germany, and Japan. Here you can find out more about the anthologies my stories have appeared in as well as about From Light to Dark and Back Again of course.

It has been a good month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submissions, Housekeeping, and Anthologies

Facebook – General

Pleased to have submitted another story (a crime short) this evening. Am pushing myself to submit more often and am loving doing so. The nice thing is whatever happens to the stories, there will be things I can do with them later on. Nothing is ever wasted. If one competition doesn’t like it, will the tale suit another? Does it need a closer look and then submitting elsewhere? You have options!

Am working on my novel and also my Amazon Author Central pages (particularly for the US and UK). Hope to share the links for these soon. A big thanks to #PaulaReadman for putting me on to this. I blog regularly and use FB and other social media but this one had escaped me. It always pays to network with other writers because (a) it is huge fun, (b) reassures you that you are not alone in the crazy but wonderful world of writing, (c) you learn all sorts of things that can help you and, in turn, (d) you can help others too. All of that is great.

What has been nice has been looking up the various anthologies I’ve had work in over the years and it makes a nice selection to put up on said pages. So what now? Try to get in more anthologies of course!

A big thank you to my better half, Adrian, for taking the pics earlier today. It makes a huge difference when the writing geek in a family has support from the rest of the family (and something I am very grateful for).

PS  Have put the new pics up on other areas of the website. Housekeeping like this is a good habit to get into!

The writing life is made up of a series of special moments. You start by plucking up the courage to submit work somewhere. You then get your first rejection (almost inevitably) and you try again and again and then, hopefully, comes the great day when a piece of work is accepted. Joy!

But rejections continue to come in long after your first publication credit and you realise the writing life is a roller coaster and you need to learn to cope with the ups and the downs. Yes, even to cope with the ups, because you don’t want those to create the sense you can never better that special moment. You can hamstring yourself here!

You need, I think, to work towards making progress all the time. Progress can include trying forms of writing new to you and that’s a great opportunity to just write for fun. I took up flash fiction because Cafelit had put out a 100-word challenge and I just thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t expect anything to come from it but quickly became addicted to the form and things took off from there.

Progress can include looking at the rejections that come in and, if lucky enough to get comments, to see if there is a common thread.

Some competitions offer critiques for a fee in addition to the competition entry fee. I’ve gone for these sometimes.Some critiques are more useful than others but you literally pays your money and take your choice. You need to work out whether such a thing would be useful to you.

I only enter competitions that have been longstanding ones or where feedback on them is positive. I also go for critiques like these where the blurb tells you what to expect. For a short story, it is never going to be a long critique. What I’m after here is the critic’s general view of how well my story and characters come across. Tickbox critiques can work well here too.

Do you finish reading a story that hasn’t gripped you?

These days, I’m afraid I don’t – life’s too short etc – but I am pleased to say I can’t remember when I last abandoned a story. That’s partly I think because I’m getting better at picking out a tale that’s likely to appeal to me. It’s also because the moment a character has gripped me, I’ve got to find out what happens to them.

So of course you try to replicate that in your own writing. For me, it is always down to the characters which determines whether a story or book is successful or not. For non-fiction, it is the voice of the “narrator” of the piece that has to grip me and therefore determine whether I’m going to like the article or not.

Do you ever find you start a story slowly, then the pace quickens, and before you know it you can’t get the words down fast enough? I’ve likened this to almost taking dictation from your characters and that’s a good sign.

The other positive is that the slow start means you’ve started the story in the wrong place and that will be what you look at first to edit, cut, or rewrite later. You sometimes need to write a start like that to help get you going. The important thing IS to get going and have that first draft down. This is why I always write a story in full and then edit. I know it won’t be perfect straightaway (what is after all?) but that’s okay. The improvement works come later on.

Only the Ten Commandments were written in stone so just be aware you’ll need to go back and change that slow start. It if serves no purpose get rid of it. If there is useful material in there, what can you do to retain that and get it across to the reader in a better way? Sometimes that material can make a separate scene later once the pace has picked up and be a useful “take a breather” scene. Sometimes you can get the character to convey the information. There are options!

By the time you’re drafted your story and then re-read the whole thing, you should also have a better idea of where your tale should have begun. Hey presto, you take it from there!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pushing myself on story submissions though I’ve mixed this up with flash tales, standard length short stories and so on. All good fun!

One of my longer term projects is my third flash fiction collection (which is at a reasonable length as it is now but needs editing. I’ve got some linked flash stories in this one and some historical pieces but would like to add a few more tales to this before I really edit the lot).

My starting point for a flash fiction story is always to work out who is the character who is leading it, what their motivations are, what they stand to win or lose by the end of the tale. All of these have got to be strong enough to keep my interest going (yet alone anyone else’s!) and if the three strands together, then a promising flash fiction story should be the result.

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I use first person a lot in flash fiction as it is so immediate but when I do name a character, it’s usually by Christian name only. This is partly due to the word count restriction but, much more importantly, I can convey what I need a reader to know about a character called Mary just by using that name only.

When I do bring in a surname it’s either a means to show what class/background that character belongs to OR another character is referring to them. That tells a reader immediately the named character is important to my narrator. It makes a useful flag!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when you are really pressed for time to write, you can jot down something to work with. Whether you then extend those jottings to a full length 1500 words+ story or keep it as something that could work in the flash market is up to you, but you have the option! So never despair if you only have 10 minutes to write, you can get something down in that time.

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My CFT post this week will be about Moments that Matter but in flash fiction every moment matters!

Whatever kind of story you write, you select what the reader has to know, you leave gaps for them to work things out, and end with a satisfying conclusion to your tale. With flash, that whole process is more intense.

Every word must count and play its part. For example:-

She always wore velvet.

She always wore moth-eaten velvet.

Which of those lines would I use in a story? The second one.

This is because the “always” implies there’s a character here who may well be obsessed with what she wears. The “moth-eaten” tells you something about her financial well being (or she’s exceptionally careless about how she looks after her clothes). Yes. these are two extra words to the count but both add weight and meaning to the story so stay in.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do You Look For in a Story?

What people look for in a story differs of course but, for me, the primary wish is to be entertained.

I don’t like it when genre fiction is looked down on for not being “highbrow”. That isn’t the purpose of genre fiction. Besides genre fiction CAN be challenging and make readers think.

There is nothing wrong in writing or reading “merely” to be entertained. A good story that can make you forget your troubles for while is wonderful.

One of the lovely things about books/stories is they can take you out of yourself for a while and that is invaluable. In difficult times, I’ve relished those periods when I’ve been able to escape with a good book. The ability to escape for a while is crucial.

I can understand the point of misery memoir but frankly it isn’t for me. I hope others find healing and help through it but I want to switch off the real world when I read and deliberately venture into something I know is totally made up!

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AMAZON CENTRAL

Below is the link to the US and UK pages I’ve set up on Author Central. More will be added as and when I have news/further publications out (there’s optimism for you!).  Hope you enjoy.

https://www.amazon.com/Allison-Symes/e/B07T3HT18L?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060

(American)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07T3HT18L

(UK)

There are also pages for me on Author Central France, Germany, and Japan!