Anniversaries, Questions, and Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

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. Wonderful autumn weather in the UK this week. Lady and I have loved it.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Anniversaries. I look at why these are important, I share some of my favourite writing ones, and how it matters to take time out to recall where you were and where you are now. Sometimes it is only by looking back, you realise you have made progress.

And, of course, it is important to remember so many vital people and events in our lives, past and present. I also discuss bucket lists. Hope you enjoy the post.

Anniversaries


Pleased to share a link to the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads which takes you to my last article here which was about frames in flash fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

It is one of the ironies of flash that limiting things (the word count) encourages creativity. You learn to make the most of what you do have to work with and this encourages lateral thinking. That comes in useful for whatever you write. And you learn to write with precision and to ask yourself do I really need this in the story? If in doubt, the answer to that is no and out the section comes!

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Another gorgeous day out in the park with Lady. She got to play with two of her pals yesterday and played with one of them again today. What was nice was the two dogs were resting side by side for a bit and I just got my phone out to take a nice snap and, yes sure enough, Lady’s pal decided that was the right time to get up and move away!

Am leading an online flash fiction group tonight. Looking forward to that. It’s always good fun.
Will be later than usual with posts at the weekend due to family events but those should be good fun too! (And Lady adores said events. Let’s just say I don’t have to clear up anything from the ground).

My CFT post this week will be on Anniversaries. Do you note any of your writing ones? I have noted a few of mine and it is important I think to remind yourself this was where you were and this is where you are now because it is easy to think you’re getting nowhere when actually you’ve achieved more than you think. Anyway post up on Friday.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Story time at the end of a working week – what’s not to like about that? Hope you enjoy my An Undesirable Property, now up on #FridayFlashFiction.
Screenshot 2021-09-24 at 19-17-23 An Undesirable Property by Allison SymesI’ll be looking at Anniversaries in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (link up tomorrow) (See further up for link) and naturally I include some writing ones. Two that had to go in were when From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic came out.

Wonderful moments and not something I anticipated when I started submitting work for publication. (My eyes had been and still are on the short story market – flash fiction was not something I had heard of but I’ve made up for that in the intervening years, I think!).

It was a delight to have such a wonderfully interactive flash fiction writing group session last night (on Zoom naturally) with fellow members of the Association of Christian Writers. We talked prompts and picture ones in particular. It may seem odd to use pictures to help you produce something that is text-based but they can make for useful ways “into” writing a story. And I like to mix up how I approach writing a story because that encourages me to think differently and to develop lateral thinking.

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I like titles to encourage readers to ask questions. For example, my Time for Some Peace in Tripping the Flash Fantastic -well the questions there would be “who wants the peace?” and “do they get the peace they crave?”. As long as the title provokes interest and curiosity in the reader, it is doing its job.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to start with but my end story doesn’t always retain the title I came up with initially. Often a better idea for a title will crop up while I’m drafting or editing and fine, I’ll go with that instead. Place holders are absolutely fine (and I find them invaluable). Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone after all!

It’s a question of working out, I think, what you need in the way of “scaffolding” to help you get on and write that story. I need a title and to know who my character is and why I want to write them up. I don’t need to know everything but just enough to get me started. Then once started on my draft the creativity can really kick in. And it does.

Fairytales with Bite – Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

Good question, yes? It is worth thinking about because if your characters can use magic to solve any and every problem they face, where is the drama in that? Where is the conflict with other characters (or even where is the inner conflict they would face in trying to work out how to deal with a problem?).

So it pays to have limits then. Does magic physically and/or mentally tired a character so they have to limit their use of it? What would happen if a magical character became ill? Would they still be able to do what they usually would with their magic? Or does it backfire?

If your created world is a magical one, is there any room for what we would see as science? How would your world react to logical solutions to issues rather than just using the old magic wand to deal with problems? Would magic automatically exclude science or could the two co-exist? Could science mean that characters would use magic to deal with those issues science could not?

And I think there would have to be some situations magic could not change. For example, your characters would not want to live in a world where the geography and/or some other physical aspect to nature could be changed by magic. It would lead to an unstable environment to say the least. Talking of the laws of nature…

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This World and Others – Laws of Nature

What laws of nature apply to your created world? Is your world subject to gravity, say? How do the species survive in terms of food, reproduction etc?

Could anything disrupt or destroy the usual laws of nature or rewrite them even? Who would have that capacity and what reasons would they have for doing it? (There are easier ways to get power, say, than trying to rewrite how your world works as a physical entity!).

Is the natural world in your fiction anything like what we have here? What is better? What is worse?

A lot of the information you jot down as you answer questions like that may well not make it into the story but it is important you know enough about your world to be able to write about it convincingly. So figure out what you think you need to know to make this work. (It will pay off. This kind of planning out can save a lot of rewriting later on).

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Twitter icon
I sometimes tweet on the Association of Christian Writers Twitter feed, usually on topics helpful to writers. I was on duty this week and I am glad to share those tweets here.

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A Good Writing Week

Facebook – General

Do you read or write (or both) outdoors? I don’t write outside. I much prefer being at a desk for that (and right now it is beautifully cool in the study so added reason to stay in! It also means I can turn up the volume when Beethoven’s 5th comes on and I avoid annoying the neighbours so win-win).

I read outdoors sometimes, there’s nothing to beat relaxing in a nice recliner with a book in hand unless it’s doing that, knowing you’ve got a long cold drink besides you too!

I cope with colder weather better than hot (as does Lady naturally). How do your characters react to their environment and weather conditions? Do they cope with anything that can be thrown at them weather wise or do they curl up at the sight of anything more than a fine drizzle?! If you’re writing fantasy or anything other worldly, what would be standard weather conditions in your setting? How does it impact on your characters?

Hopefully you’ll find some ways to deepen your characterisation answering questions like that.

A good writing week is when I can look back and see:-

1. CFT post written, images sourced, and appears on the Friday. (Only times it hasn’t appeared have been either because I’ve been away or ill and once there was a technical issue, which meant I had to post a day late).

2. Progress made on my projects, especially the novel.

3. I have either submitted work to competitions/markets or am drafting work to be sent in the near future.

4. My WordPress website round-ups have appeared on the Tuesday and Friday. I enjoy preparing these as they look like a mini magazine. I hope you enjoy them too!

It has been a good week! Do I get bored? No! Do I wish I had more writing time? Always.

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Asking questions is a great way to generate story ideas. The classic one is “What If?” of course, but Kipling’s honest serving men of What and Why and When and How and Where and Who are invaluable for outlining a story of any length.

For example:-

What are the stakes for your lead character?

Why have they got to go for the goal you’ve set?

When do they have to achieve their goal by? (The shorter the time frame the better as it means more pressure for your character).

How will they achieve their objective?

Where does your character live and what bearing does the setting have on their trying to achieve their goal?

Who opposes them and who helps?

You can adjust the above questions to suit your needs, of course, but answering these will give you an outline you can add to or change as you require.

 

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Thrilled to announce my humorous fairytale, What Goes Around, will be in the Bridge House anthology, Nativity, later this year. You can rely on me to share the link as and when I can!

Many congratulations to all of the 24 authors in the latest Bridge House book and a particular shout out to #AlysonRhodes, #PaulaRCReadman, #DawnKnox, #LindaFlynn, and #JamesBates.

I can’t wait to read all of your stories. They will be a wonderful ecletic mix!

Image below taken at a previous Bridge House event (and supplied by Paula Readman, who is on the right. Dawn Knox is in the middle).

It has been a busy few weeks with news of stories in The Best of Cafelit 8 and Transforming Being. I like weeks like this!

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and I celebrate where our stories have appeared! Many thanks to Paula Readman for the picture.!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am currently listening to the theme from The Incredibles on Classic FM (well I was at the time I wrote this on Facebook!). Loved the film and the music is so appropriate for it. A really good film score always stands out and hooks the watcher into the movie.

Favourite film theme? Hmm… Love The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, no surprises there. Favourite John Williams’ piece is Raiders March (though Schindler’s List is so moving). Very hard to pick out an outright favourite.

For flash fiction writing, it is the title that has to be our big hook in for readers. The title has to be appropriate and to serve the story well, just as film music must serve its movie well. So it is worth taking extra time to get it right but it’s absolutely fine to start off with something and replace it later. I often do that when a better idea occurs as I’m writing the story.

 

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Flash fiction, due to its word count restriction, works best with one character, possibly two (and there I would say that would work better with the longer forms of flash). You are looking for your character to have the strongest impact possible on the reader and having too many characters in such a short space dilutes the effect.

It’s another reason why I use first person a lot. I can get into the head of that character and they can reveal other characters for me/the reader. A good example of this is my Calling the Doctor where my character knows she is dying but it is not until the end she reveals who her doctor is. I don’t need to bring the doctor into the story at all. Do have a look at the book trailer as this is the story I chose to use on this and you’ll see why!

 

Flash fiction may be short, sorry it IS short, but it still takes time to edit and ensure the words you’ve chosen are exactly the right ones to make the maximum impact on a reader.

I usually get a first draft down pretty quickly. What takes the time is re-reading (often several times) and realising this phrase here could be sharpened up if I change one word here. Equally I need to look for those phrases where if I were to cut, something of the flow of the story would be lost. I always judge whether something should stay in on its impact on me (and therefore hopefully readers) and never just on the word count alone.

I see the word count as a guide. If something works better at 200 words rather than 100, then fine, the tale stays at 200! I’ll submit it for a different competition or market. You CAN over-edit. Mixing up what you write in terms of word count is not a bad thing to do anyway and gives you plenty of practice at writing across the range flash fiction offers. Nothing to lose there then!

Good news on the story front as my humorous fairytale What Goes Around is due to be published in the Bridge House Nativity anthology later this year.

It is wonderful when acceptances come in but behind them is a lot of hard work, even more rejections to get stories up to standards where they are in real contention for publication etc.

Even when that is the case, you cannot know whether your Story A or someone else’s Story B will fit the theme of the chosen anthology better.

So if a story is turned down somewhere, look at it again. Is there another market/anthology it could fit? All story writing is useful experience. What you learn as you write a tale (even if it is never published) is what you build on for the next story etc. You do learn, over time, to judge that a story of yours would suit Market X over Market Y. You learn to tailor your submissions too. That increases your chances of acceptance. Note I said increases!

There are no guarantees in writing and I guess that IS guaranteed!

 

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Legacies in Writing

Do you ever think about what your writing legacy is and, as importantly, should you?

I was recently at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and at the end of the Saturday courses, there was a lovely celebration held in the University of Winchester’s chapel for the late Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the event.

Not only was that a direct support to writers across all genres, she always found time to speak to writers of all levels, when she must have had a million and one things to do. She is remembered with much love, as you can imagine.

Easier said than done but encouraging others in their writing journey benefits them and you. Pixabay

None of us can ever know where our writing journey is going to take us when we first start. As with any road, there will be cul-de-sacs, the literary equivalent of potholes tripping us up, what we thought was a helpful road sign taking us in the wrong direction with our work and so on. (I’m not aware of any literary traffic wardens though!).

The writing journey is not always straightforward.  Pixabay

So we go into the writing life with our eyes wide open and seek to encourage other writers along the way as we ourselves receive encouragement from them.  We all know the heartaches of rejections after all, but we also know publication is possible. We also know writing for your own pleasure is as valid a thing to do but I also believe we can all leave a positive legacy behind. I think it is part of our calling as writers.

None of this can come all at once but are so worth striving for. Pixabay

The writing legacy we should leave then can be summed up as follows.

1.  Aim to write to the highest standard you can manage.

Improvement is always possible. It is always desirable too. Accept your first draft will not be great. My favourite quote on this comes from Terry Pratchett who saw first drafts as “you telling yourself the story”.

It’s then a question of extracting the gold from the dross – and there will be dross and more than you’d like. Shakespeare and Dickens faced the same. We will not be exempt!

Equally true for your writing but looking for continued improvement IS good to aim for.  Pixabay

2.  Be proud of your work. Ensure you enjoy it.

You are your first audience. Once published, you will want to keep on producing work to be “out there”. You must be able to enjoy what you write over and over again. Do mix up what you write.

I love writing short stories and blog posts as well as flash fiction, but whether you write one type of material or loads, you must enjoy it all.  That enjoyment comes through in what you write. Prose the writer has loved writing has an energy all of its own. I believe readers pick up on that instinctively.

It’s a pity we can’t award ourselves these every so often for our writing but look back and see how far you’ve come. Hopefully you will find encouragement there.  Pixabay.

3.  For you to be able to look back and see how your work has improved.

Working at the craft takes time. There are no shortcuts.

Determination to keep going is important too. Stamina is needed.  Pixabay

 

This has always struck me as sensible advice but the writing journey will have its ups and downs. The ride is rarely a straightforward and smooth one but it does help to know that!  Pixabay.

Writing challenges and stretches me and is so much fun.  It is also hard work. The two go together. Wherever your writing journey takes you, enjoy the ride!

Goodreads Author Blog – Changing Books

Which books stay with you as firm favourites throughout and which only last for a specific period in your life?

I wouldn’t give you a thank you for the old Peter and Jane books again (!) but would probably still enjoy the Famous Five.

The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, along with the classic fairytales, will always be favourites.

But the joy of reading is discovering new genres and authors. It has only been comparatively recently I’ve discovered the joys of non-fiction reading. It wasn’t as if I was particularly against it, I just hadn’t tried any.

Now it’s a regular part of my reading routine. (I like the Ben Macintyre books especially. Loved Agent Zigzag in particular). The best non-fiction uses great fictional storytelling techniques and should keep you as gripped as an epic novel.

Which books from your reading past would you change now? Which would you change them for?