Storms, Flashes, and Podcast News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images come from the magnificent Pixabay.

Podcast News

I’m delighted to say I am the guest on Wendy H. JonesThe Writing and Marketing Show talking about flash fiction tomorrow, Wednesday, 12th February. Wendy is a Scottish crime writer of the DI Shona McKenzie series and also writes about Bertie the Buffalo for children. Do check her website out for more information.

The podcast was a wonderful opportunity to chat about why all writers should write flash fiction, even if is not their main work. More on the show and I look forward to sharing the link on the next post on Friday.

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And In Other News…

Am very pleased to say my website links are now included on:-

  1.  Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Swanwick Connections page.
  2.  The Association of Christian Writers’ Members’ Website page.

Facebook – General

I’ve set up a page on my website where from time to time I share some flash fiction stories and look at how I wrote them. I hope this will be useful for other flash fiction writers and entertaining anyway!

I had great fun yesterday evening putting together a simple video for Putting My Face On and think it works well. (See below and on the link too).

Hope you enjoy!

 

Horrible day weather wise with the storm (Sunday, 9th February in the UK – Storm Ciara). Hope and trust everyone is okay. Did like seeing the full moon rising tonight and the way it lights up the clouds though. The clouds DID have a silver lining tonight! (One sign to confirm the weather is truly awful is when Lady wants to finish her walkies quickly and she did today).

Good day today. I’ve finished drafting a standard length short story which gave ME the creeps (and yes it is meant to!) and I’m looking forward to polishing that and submitting it later this week. Will have more news on the publication front fairly soon too.

Have a good week and I hope the weather soon calms down.

 

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I can hardly believe it is the 80th anniversary of the first Tom and Jerry cartoon. Always loved those two (but then I’ve always been a fan of the kind of story where the underdog clearly has the upper hand of the “master”. The Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse are the sublime prose example of those).

Never despise “light” entertainment whether it is in the form of a cartoon or book. Escapism is invaluable and something I think most of us need, for one thing. For another, this kind of thing is harder than it looks to write. If anyone makes anything look easy, you can bet they’ve been working quietly away for years to get to that point.

I do take some comfort in knowing there are no shortcuts in writing (it means it’s not just me taking the scenic route!), but I take even more from knowing very little is ever wasted. Even rejections can teach you something you can use to improve your writing. And I’ve lost count of how many stories of mine didn’t get placed somewhere, I’ve looked at them again, reworked them, submitted them elsewhere and, as a result, got them into print/on to screen (sometimes both).

Persistence is a virtue when it comes to writing but a better one is being open to looking at your writing and thinking well, I could do this bit better… Time away from the piece is crucial here for being able to give yourself distance but it does pay off.

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I was delighted to find this picture on Pixabay (and you wonder why I like them so much!). Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

What is your inner vision and are you making progress towards it

What is your reaction when you come across a book you don’t like? Do you carry on reading? Do you abandon it and maybe try it again at a later date?

In my time, I’ve done both. The latter has been more successful. For example, I tried reading The Hobbit when I was at junior school but I just couldn’t get into it. Now, of course, I have no problems with it. Sometimes it is a case of timing. YOU sometimes have to be “ready” for a book.

Very rarely do I abandon a book altogether. Even then I feel a sense of failure. I do wonder if it’s just me. What is useful though is to analyse what it is was you didn’t like and make sure nobody can say the same of your books and stories! So even a book that, for whatever reason you couldn’t get on with, has its uses for a writer!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do I know a flash fiction piece is going to work?

When the story makes me feel the way I want it to make a reader feel, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or, on occasion, scream!

One of the joys of flash is its almost instant impact but there definitely has to BE an impact! Incidentally slice of life studies can work well here too because the impact there is to make you care for the character you’ve just read about.

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Today was the perfect day, weather wise, to stay in and write and/or read! It’s about the only good thing to say about the horrible weather… I trust things are calming down where you are. Trees down here but it looks like damage is limited.

I don’t use the weather a lot in any of my stories partly because, with flash, there is limited room for description, and I always think the character is far more important anyway. I would rather show you a character battling through the elements than focus on the elements themselves. I’m also determined not to be caught out by the “dark and stormy night” cliche!

 

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How to spot a writer Part 1:-

1. They mutter and probably swear at spotting yet another typo in whatever it is they’re reading. (Guilty here: last one that really annoyed me was the ITV news report online which had Isle of White instead of Isle of Wight. Someone didn’t check the place names there…).

2. Their other half has to drag them out of bookshops OR plot a route around any area that is lucky enough to still have said bookshops. This is particularly important if they have an appointment in two hours time or less as it will be the only way to ensure that appointment isn’t missed. If you tell me you couldn’t possibly spend two hours in a bookshop, then I’ll know you’re not a writer!

3. Flash fiction writers are easy to spot. They will get their smartphone out at every opportunity and will tap away on it. Some of them might even use a stylus (Guilty as charged). If desperate, they will grab a napkin and draft something on the back of that. (Before you ask, not yet, but I suspect I will do this at some point!).

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How to spot a writer Part 2:-

1. You can’t move for them in stationery shops. (We are all suckers for lovely pens, notebooks etc). Guilty as charged on this one.

2. In coffee shops, they are likely to be in a corner, phone or laptop plugged in, and they’ve made one drink last at least an hour so they can get some writing done. (Not quite guilty on this one. I always buy a hot drink and at least one other cold drink if I know I’m going to be there for a while).

3. The flash fiction writer will be keen to explain what their genre is to anyone who will listen so it is more of a case of them spotting you. On the plus side they will know the importance of Less is More for their genre and will keep their talk short and to the point. (Another clue as to who the flash writers are is in their speech. If they seem to cut out all adverbs even when talking, you know you’ve found one). Ahem…

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Read Then?

Strange question to put on Goodreads, isn’t it? We all love books and stories. Reading is a way of life.

Celebrating books at literary festivals and/or writing conferences is a lovely part of life too!

But it is easy to forget reading isn’t a way of life for everyone. Books have to compete with other forms of entertainment for people’s attention. Sadly, books don’t always win.

I was deeply saddened once, when on a book stall with some other local authors, I heard someone walk by and loudly exclaim “I don’t do books”. Hmm… I wonder why that is? Nervousness about reading? Too many associations with bad experiences at school? I thought the comment was so sad, and I still think that.

I read to:-

1. Escape the world for a bit. (It is beyond me people don’t latch on to this more. The great thing books are legal, they won’t make you put on weight, or give you a hangover).

2. Be entertained in a way that suits me. I don’t have to commit to reading for three hours at a time (though chance would be a fine thing!). If you’re in the cinema and it’s a long film, you really do have to love it otherwise you’re in for a dull evening.

3. Discover different worlds in a way that I choose. I vary my reading. I’ll read crime books for a while, then historical fiction, then short story collections etc. But I choose which worlds to explore and when and I like that.

What I don’t want to see is books being seen as “elitist” or anything like that.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

 

Panto, Numbers, and Publication News

A real mixed bag tonight but hope you enjoy!

Image Credits:-

Firstly, a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos as part of my review for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ve included a couple of photos I’ve taken but the majority are from them.

Secondly, all thanks to Pixabay as usual for the other images used. Thirdly, thank you to Penny Blackburn for the picture of me taking part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night last year. Great fun! Now down to business…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my review of the excellently performed show, Atlantis – The Panto. Well done to all at The Chameleon Theatre Group. Also I look at why an eclectic mix of music and a decent villain are vital to a good pantomime. Both are as important ingredients to a successful show as having a convincing Dame is.

I was intrigued by this story as it is not one I knew. How does an underwater adventure work as a pantomime? Well I had to find out…  Captions as ever for the Chameleon photos over on the CFT link.

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I loved going to the panto by The Chameleon Theatre Group last week. (Oh no you didn’t, oh yes I did, oh no…etc etc!). I had no idea what Atlantis – The Panto would be given it is not one of the classic fairytales pantomimes are usually based on. All I knew was it would have to have an underwater setting and I was interested to find out how that would be conveyed. (Good use of suitable music, the right costumes, props etc is the simple answer to that).

For stories, especially flash fiction, inference and implication play a big part in scene setting. If I told you someone was wearing a red coat, that would conjure up possible images for you. (For me, it would conjure up memories of a favourite red coat I had as a kid). If I then add one hyphenated word “moth-eaten”, that image will change, as will the mood of the story. The person wearing said moth-eaten coat is going to be poor, possibly homeless, and that will set the tone of the story too.

Facebook – General – and Publication News – Cafelit

Glad to say I’m Bored by yours truly is now up on Cafelit. If you ever wanted to know the true story of what happened to Humpty Dumpty, now’s your chance! Hope you enjoy it.

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I’ll be reviewing Atlantis – The Panto as my CFT post this week. Definitely a new story for me but that’s one of the joys of going to see the productions put on by The Chameleon Theatre Group. There is such a variety of work staged by them and it always makes for a fantastic evening out. I’m a big fan of taking in stories using various formats and going to see a good show is just another and very enjoyable way to do that.

Link up tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the signs of a good panto, why music matters for shows like this, and why there has to be a decent villain for the audience to boo at! It IS as vital to get the villain right as it is for the Dame to be what audiences expect. I’ll also have a look at why the panto, in my view, is vital for theatre going overall.

All good fun…

 

Facebook – General – Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – Numbers and Creative Writing

There are more links between numbers and fiction than you might think. Hope you enjoy my latest blog for the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog spot, which discusses numbers and creative writing and there are plenty of links between the two. Mind you, my first love will always be words, glorious words!

I also share some thoughts on how to manage word counts and competition deadlines.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Can one word make a difference to a story? Oh yes. I talked about this over on my author page tonight (Allison Symes Fairytale Lady – https://www.facebook.com/Allison.Symes.FairytaleLady/).

One word can turn a mood. One word can change how a story ends. I’ve long thought of flash fiction as precision writing and this is why. It’s also why if you’ve got a powerful story that works really well at, say, 250 words, leave it there! Don’t try and edit it down to get it into a 100 word competition or market. Impact on the reader is the most important thing, then the word count, and not the other way round.

Story matters. The format less so. I like to take in my stories via:-

Books, obviously.
Kindle.
Seeing them performed as plays, pantomimes etc. (I love the whole concept of National Theatre Live. Brilliant idea).
Audio books
Magazines
The vinyl version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds as produced by Jeff Wayne (which is just brilliant. Richard Burton was a wonderful narrator).
Hearing them on radio. (You can count TV drama obviously though I admit I’m watching less TV and I wasn’t impressed with what was on offer over Christmas).
Via film.

For flash fiction the top two have been the main outlets for me. It is a hope of mine that flash fiction can draw in the reluctant reader and if that has to be via electronic means, so be it. Get hooked on books. You know it makes sense!

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I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get a first draft done of any writing. I feel like I’ve “nailed something down” to the screen or paper (I still occasionally write in longhand) and from there onwards the draft is going to get better. It is precisely what editing is all about!

I also like to have more than one project on the go as while I’m working on one, my subsconsious can mull over any issues I’m having with something else. It is almost inevitable an idea to resolve those issues WILL occur when I’m working on something else.

I’ve learned not to fight that and just go with it. It’s what a notebook and pen besides the laptop is for after all so those ideas that suddenly come to me don’t disappear into the author’s hell-hole called Lost Ideas That Were Brilliant But You Will Never Know Will You Because You Did Not Write Them Down At The Time! (Most of us HAVE been there and often more than once!).

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Fairytales With Bite – Keeping Fairytales Alive

As shown above, the pantomime is one great way to keep fairytales alive given most of them are based on the classic stories. Long may that fantastic tradition continue.

I am, of course, very fond of fairytales told from the viewpoints of different characters as my first published story, A Helping Hand, in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, comes into that category. It is a popular theme and I’ve seen it used in other competitions and rightly so too. There are a wealth of stories (and therefore characters) you could do this for.

The Disney adaptations also play a part in keeping fairytales alive though I would always recommend going back to the original stories to compare and contrast what Disney kept in and, often, what they had to keep out to retain a Universal certificate for the cinema.

I also can’t see good old-fashioned reading fairytales to children stopping either. Children know what they like in stories and fairytales do tick the right boxes there. Then the likes of Roald Dahl and David Walliams could be considered to be modern fairytale tellers too.

Long live the fairytale!

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This World and Others – How the Other Half Lives…

While readers don’t need to know the ins and outs of your creative world, they have to be convinced that in some dimension somewhere, your world is realistically enough portrayed to have a chance of existing!

Basically this means your characters need to have shelter, be able to eat, drink and so on and therefore a society has to spring up around them so these needs are met. Some of those societies will be close to what we know here. Others will be different but readers will be able to pick up on how it works. (Can’t say I’d like living in Mordor – it’s the ultimate in grim!).

One of my favourite quotes on this topic is from the much missed Terry Pratchett, who referred to building his Discworld “from the bottom up”. That is, he worked out how waste was disposed of, how water was supplied etc.

You need to decide what you need to know here so you can write with conviction about your setting and the characters in it. I’ve focused on system of government for a longer project I’m working on. Whatever way you go in for this, it does have to be something readers can identify with. Good luck!

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It’s That Time of Year Again

Welcome to a bumper edition of my blogs round up. As ever, all pictures are from Pixabay unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It really is that time of year again! I look back at my writing year, anticipate the one to come, and share why networking with other authors is such a good idea. (And that’s besides it being enormous fun, which is the best reason of all to do it!).

I set short, medium, and long terms goals for my writing. Do share in the CFT comments box as to how you go about this kind of thing. The lovely thing with chatting with other authors is you can learn so much from each other. I’ve picked up useful hints and tips and hope I’ve shared some too. I’m a big believer in paying it forward and backwards.

I also share some wishes I know we can all second.

Incidentally, there will be no Collected Works round up from me tonight but I am planning a bumper edition next Tuesday. As well as the link to this CFT post, I’ll be sharing my ACW blog link (due on Sunday), my Goodreads post (due tomorrow) and all FB posts from today. I’ll be back in the writing “saddle” properly from tomorrow but have relished catching up with some reading over the Christmas period.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and more power to our pens/PCs for the year to come. Creativity is a good thing and worth celebrating on its own account!

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What are your favourite openings to a book or film?

I love the opening sequence to the first LOTR film which shows how Sauron lost the Ring of Power. There is a real sense of an opportunity lost to get rid of the thing for once and all then. You know then the rest of the story has to be about what happened to the ring, did anyone find it, and was it destroyed eventually?

It is a classic example of setting your theme and building a sense of anticipation from the start.

Another favourite of mine is the opening to Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal. It says a lot for the story that it starts with the hero being hanged and goes on from there. Yet I am really not giving much away when I say that!

Again you have a tremendous sense of expectation that the story and its hero will somehow deliver despite what must surely be a disastrous start! Do read it if you haven’t already. Even if you have, re-read it.

Great stories stand up to repeated reading and I find I always pick up on something new.

Reading is such a wonderful thing to do anyway and as a bonus, as a writer you will always learn something from what you read.

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Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – Christmas Angles

My monthly spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog looks at Christmas angles (yes, angles!) and why I like the telling details.

I looked at the little details that mean the most to me in my blog for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog, this month. What was crucial was the Bible story only gives what it considers to be the vital details. Now there’s a lesson for a flash fiction writer right there!

What can be tricky is working out what ARE the vital details and I never get this right on a first draft either. But that’s not what a first draft is for. I’ve always loved Terry Pratchett’s take on first drafts when he said “first drafts are just you telling yourself the story”.

So let that thought take the pressure off. You don’t have to get it right at the first go – nobody does!

 

Facebook – General

I’ll be looking at Beginnings appropriately enough for this week’s CFT post. I’ll be sharing some of my favourite beginnings, have a look at why they’re so important to the success of a story or film, and discuss why I DON’T go in for New Year’s Resolutions. Link up on Friday (3rd January 2020).

I’ll be including LAST week’s CFT post (my end of year review) in tomorrow’s WP round up, which will be a bumper edition as it will also include a link to yesterday’s post for ACW on Christmas Angles. (I had to work hard here to make sure I DIDN’T put the word “angels” in. That’s the problem with words that are right in and of themselves. I’ve found grammatical aids do not pick up on context so it is still possible to come up with total nonsense, albeit it beautifully spelled and gramatically correct so beware!).

I’m editing two short stories for competitions and hope to have them submitted by the end of this week too. Whatever your week holds in store (writing wise or otherwise), I hope it’s a good one!

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Am drafting this via my phone and Evernote enroute to West Bay, Dorset. This is one of my post Christmas traditions.

Having enjoyed the feasting, now comes the time to do the walking it off! Lady will be having a particularly good time today. She loves the beach.

Do your characters have favourite places to go? What makes these places special? How often can your characters get to go there?

Also, do they have special places from their past which they can’t visit now but which have special memories for them?

How do those memories affect their behaviour in the here and now?

I suspect some good stories can be generated from answering those points. Good luck!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be back in the writing “saddle” properly from tomorrow (Saturday, 28th December) but wanted to pop by to say I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I managed to catch up on some reading which is always a fab thing to do!

My next Collected Works round up won’t be tonight but I am planning to post a bumper edition on Tuesday. I take a look back at my writing year on Chandler’s Ford Today which is now live.

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/its-that-time-of-year-again/

I hope the coming year brings you much joy whether you write stories, read them, or do both!

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Some thoughts for as we rapidly approach 2020:-

F = Find new competitions to enter but check out credentials first.
L = Love writing, love reading.
A = Always have stories to read and write.
S = Submit work regularly so you have plenty of material “out there”.
H = Have plenty of writing prompts to hand so you’re never short of ideas to work on.

And talking of which:-

I’m glad to say #GillJames has put together this book of prompts which were written by authors published by Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown etc. I’ve got a few prompts in there too and I am very much looking forward to working my way through this book in the New Year. Hope you have as much fun with this as I intend to!!

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The biggest challenge for flash fiction writers is continually coming up with interesting characters to write about (though that for me is what I love most about it).

I have, in the collection I’m working on, linked a few flash stories where either characters carry on into another story or two or where they are referred to by others. I’ve liked that and will continue to do it but I do relish inventing new people.

I also love taking known settings and looking at a story from the viewpoint of an alternative character. For example, I have a flash piece called The Craftsman in this quarter’s edition of Christian Writer, the magazine produced by the Association of Christian Writers. I took as my lead character the man who makes Jesus’s cross.

What alternative/minor characters could you get to tell a flash fiction story? What would their outlook be on an event we know well? It’s an interesting angle to work with.

 

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Well, have you got your writing diary on stand by? I’ve gone for the same type as last year with lots of prompts to work my way through. (What with that and the book Gill James has produced – see below – I’m not going to be short of things to work on. Oh good!).

Whatever your writing year holds in store, have fun! Writing should be fun. It is also hard work, frustrating at times etc., but it should be fun most of the time.

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Loved listening to Ravel’s Bolero on Classic FM when I drafted this post enroute to West Bay in Dorset earlier today.

Yes I do remember watching Torvill and Dean ice dancing to it in the 1984 Olympics. The other breath taking sporting moment for me was Murray winning Wimbledon in 2013. (Loved his second win too but the first was pretty special).

What breath taking moments have you created for your characters and why pick these to be special? Could you write a flash story solely based on something like that?

Hmm… now there’s a thought!

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Goodreads Author Blog –What Day of the Week Is It?

Do you find you lose all sense of what day of the week it is after Christmas and Boxing Days? I do.

Time only has meaning in that I get to do more reading at this time of year. And naturally all time and its meaning goes completely when you’re engrossed with a good book! (But that is exactly how it should be).

Also why is it when, having decided to have a good read in bed, you find you’re asleep in minutes?

Conversely, on the thankfully rare occasions I have insomnia, why is it reading does not send me to sleep then?!

I read during the day when I can, usually at lunchtime, but it always feels a little like I’m playing truant. It’s tricky trying to ignore all the things I should be doing but I usually manage it!

Reading and time available are never in the ratio I’d like though! Still there is always time for one more book, one more story etc. Now back to that To Be Read pile. The only decision to be taken is whether I’m going for the “real” book TBR pile or the Kindle one!

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Will resume Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others from my next post on Friday. 

Have a wonderful 2020 and many thanks for your support.

 

 

 

 

Progress, Success, and How to Judge Them

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week (Progress and Success and How to JudgeThem) was inspired by thoughts on what makes a writer successful. Is it having multiple books out? Is it having a movie option on your book (which would rule most of us out!)?

So I thought I’d look at what I think would count as progress and success. The trouble with both of these things is they can be hard to measure. This is where science has the advantage – it is much easier to define progress and success there. Note I say easier. It’s not the same thing as easy though!

I also look at this topic particularly from a writer’s viewpoint and share why I think there can’t be a one size fits all for writers. I also share what I think would be progress and success for humanity. Very much one of those “if only” thoughts…

Captions as ever over on CFT.

 

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Enjoying the latest series of Tom Wrigglesworth’s Hang-ups (Radio 4). Great characterisation and dialogue.

My CFT post this week is about progress and success and how to judge them. Link up tomorrow. I’ll also be on the ACW More Than Writers’ blog tomorrow with a piece about history in stories. (I’m looking at this from a character history viewpoint and working out what you leave out of the actual story). I’ll put the link up for that tomorrow as well.

Happily writing further flash fiction stories. I often write these a batch at a time. I hope to edit my short story for a competition this weekend too. Making good progress on the novel though I know I won’t be submitting it anywhere this side of Christmas. Hope to get it submitted sometime during January though.

Also want to get a few blogs drafted in advance at some point to try and be more “efficient”! Scheduling posts is a great idea and I need to do this more often. No – tonight’s one wasn’t an advance one!

 

A big thanks to all who reacted and/or commented on my lighthearted post about the signs of being a “proper” writer (which I’ll repeat here shortly). I love writing fun posts like that.

Of course the real answer to being a “proper” writer is that if you write regularly, you are a proper writer and that’s it. By regularly, I would define that as being committed to writing no matter what, whether you write for several hours a week or can only manage 15 minutes every other day etc. If you can’t imagine your life without writing in it somewhere, that’s a pretty good sign too!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up on Friday. I’ll be taking a look at this topic as it applies to writers too.

 

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I think this lighthearted post is worth repeating. Many thanks to all for the reactions and comments to it. Much appreciated.

How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for a flash story to end the working week with. Hope you enjoy.

The End of the World

He was going to miss the end of the world. He was late. Of all the days this could happen, it had to be this one.

It was all over the media – the world would end at midnight on Wednesday, 3rd June.

It never occurred to him to ask about the oh-so convenient timing and how could anyone be sure of the exact date anyway when, even in the Bible, there were warnings against those predicting such things.

All he knew was he had to get to a good vantage point to witness first hand the last moments of the world.

It was a pity really. On the way to the top of St. Giles’ Hill in Winchester, he was run over by a bus that was also running late.

They put the time of his death as midnight, Wednesday June 3rd.

Ends

Allison Symes – 29th November 2019

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Drafted a couple of flash fiction stories yesterday based on a couple of phrases conjured up thanks to a random phrase generator.

It also occurred to me that a random letter generator could also be useful. You can use an electronic one or pick a letter at random from a Scrabble set. Some thoughts here:-

1. Take one letter and write a story where the opening word of every sentence starts with that letter. For example, M – Mary had no regrets about her life of crime. Misuse of a library book WAS a crime. Mind you, the miserable little wotsit behind the offence wasn’t going to be bothering her and the rest of the library staff for some time. Mary wondered how long it would take for the idiot to get out of the handcuffs and locked room down in the basement.

2. Take one letter and use it for every word in a sentence. For example the letter D – Daft duck drives dumpers daily! (Could have great fun generating some nonsense but this could be a useful way into a writing session or a way from winding down from an intensive time at the old desk).

3. Take one letter and use it for the opening and closing word of a sentence. (Could be a challenge though if you get the Q!). (Example: Queenie happily chomps quiches!).

Have fun!

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Flash fiction is a great vehicle for telling a story from an alternative viewpoint. As you know, I am very fond of fairytales told from said alternative viewpoint, not least because my first story in print, A Helping Hand, was precisely that type of story. (It’s the Cinderella story as seen through the eyes of the younger stepsister and can be found in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology). (Link takes you to my Amazon Author Central page where you can find Alternative Renditions).

I find these stories huge fun to write (and indeed to read) but the sharp focus of flash fiction I think makes them work even better. It forces you to focus on what is really important for that alternative viewpoint to get across.

It’s not enough for say Character C to rant about how Character A got all the breaks. What an alternative viewpoint story should show is why Character C deserved to do as well if not better than Character A. It’s then up to the reader to decide whether the character has a point or not!

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers – History In Stories

It’s that time again – time for my monthly blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I look at history in stories from the viewpoint of character histories. What do you need to know about your characters before you write their stories? What do you need to know but don’t need to put in the story itself? Hope you enjoy. Captions over on the More Than Writers blog.

Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 2

G = Generosity. You can guarantee those characters who are generous in heart, especially to those less fortunate than themselves, will do well in the fairytale world. Fairy godmothers will be falling over themselves to assist! So be generous!

H = Honesty. What is the point of lying to a magical being? They’re going to know. Honest characters do well. What I loved about Puss in Boots was the master knew full well the cat was far smarter than he was. Good man. Credit where it is due and all that. Again, be honest.

I = Integrity. There is a definite theme developing here and that’s not coincidental. Again, those characters with integrity such as Beauty from Beauty and the Beast prosper. The fairytale world knows what it likes and rightly sticks to those things. So keep hold of your integrity. In the fairytale world at least it makes all the difference. (It ought to here as well but that’s another matter).

J = Judgement. The fairytale world has a strong sense of what’s right and wrong and will ensure justice is done. Beast from Beauty and the Beast was punished for his arrogance and had to learn humility and to win true love before being set free from his curse. Evil does not prevail here (though it doesn’t necessarily mean there are sugar sweet happy endings to every story. Just look at Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid). Judgement is always proportional too.

K = Kindness. It pays to be kind to people in the fairytale world. So many of the wizened old people turn out to be wizards or fairy godmothers in disguise! So be kind…

L = Love. As well as the romantic love, the fairytale world celebrates love. Take the story of Hansel and Gretel as one example. I also loved Bella’s love of books in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. I guess I would! It could be argued that magic and love power the fairytale world.

M = Mayhem. This is common in the fairytales until a magical being comes along to put things right. My favourite example is the mayhem caused in the Emperor’s New Clothes by a child shouting out the truth! (You’ve almost got to admire the rip-off merchants who “stung” the Emperor and made him look like an idiot). Always look for the one causing mayhem in a fairytale. They’re the ones to avoid.

N = Names. Names are important and have meaning, as Rumpelstiltskin would be the first to testify. The important thing for a fairytale character is to keep their good name.

More next time…

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This World and Others – Top to Bottom

When you set out to create your fictional world, what do you focus on? How it is governed (the top) or how the practical stuff is done (the bottom)? Is there a class system? Can characters better themselves or are they expected to stay within their allocated class? Now you can guarantee that just asks for someone to rebel so how do they do so and what do they achieve?

By having a good idea of how your world works, you will write it with a conviction that comes through to a reader so it plans to to deduce what it is you need to know first.

Good luck!

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What Writing Means To Me

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images come from Pixabay.

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What does writing mean to you? For me it’s:-

1. Escapism. (Always welcome that!).

2. Writing stretches and challenges me. I came up with blog posts or stories yesterday, can I do the same today? (The discipline of daily writing is very good for developing your imagination and stamina and is also brilliant for keeping the brain active).

3. Writing has given me a creative art form I can take part in and love. I’m useless at art (my kid sister was much better there – and still is) but I can use words. I believe most of us have a creative streak somewhere and it’s a question of finding the one that suits us best. Being creative does something positive for my soul/mental well being/self-esteem etc and that is a good thing for my sake obviously but also for those around me.

4. Writing has led me to doing things I would never have dreamt of doing (such as reading publicly from my own work).

5. Writing has given me wonderful friends who understand the joys and frustrations of writing and that wonderful buzz when your books arrive with your stories in them!

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So what does the coming writing week hold in store for you?

I’m currently preparing a review of the play My Husband’s Nuts performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today. Yes, it really is called that. Reviews can sometimes be tricky. How much do you reveal about the plot? My approach is to give enough of the “flavour” of the play without giving away spoilers. And yes, this one is a farce. Well with a title like that, it kind of had to be really.

I’ve just submitted work to a competition and I plan to work on my big projects throughout the week. Am making good progress on one in particular. I also want to get another flash fiction collection together at some point.

Delighted that the Best of Cafelit 8 with its lovely green cover goes beautifully with the cover of my From Light to Dark and Back Again. They’ll look good together on a book stall! The Cafelit series always has the same cover image, just the colour of the cover changes, and the Chapeltown flash fiction collections always have a frame around a differing central image. Branding, folks, branding – it does matter but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple ideas here can work wonders.

Publication News

Delighted to share my latest story on Cafelit called Humourless. Hope you enjoy. Definitely not something that could be applied to me, I’m glad to say.

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When something unexpected happens, how do you react? Okay, okay, I know. It depends on whether the unexpected happening is nice or not. (I was nominated for Miss Slinky in my Slimming World group tonight – very nice surprise and it brightened up my Tuesday considerably!).

Okay, next question. How would your characters react? Same response from you? Yes, and rightly so too. But it pays you to know how your characters are likely to react, no matter what turns up in their lives.

Also think about why they would react the way you think they will. If someone reacts badly to a balloon bursting, is that because their link that sound to a bad memory? There should be a reason for their reaction, especially if other characters seems to consider it an over-reaction. You can ask yourself if it IS your character over reacting and then think about why your character might do that. Trying to get sympathy perhaps?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I occasionally write a piece of flash fiction where the first letter of each line spells out a word. Let’s give that a go again now and appropriately I think I’ll go for Autumn. (Now this is where I could cheat and go for the American word of Fall here to make my life easier but I won’t!).

AUTUMN

A = Allison finished digging in the garden not a moment too soon as the rain started pelting down.
U = Urgent requirement for a hot cup of a tea and a Hi-fi bar made her put her spade away in record time.
T = Turning away from the garden shed, she ran indoors, put the kettle on, and grabbed her bar from the larder.
U = Unaware her actions had been witnessed.
M = Missy, next door’s dog, got through the gap in the fence and went to where Allison had been digging.
N = Never had a body been uncovered again so quickly; never had Allison shooed a dog off so quickly before as she rushed to cover up her work.

Allison Symes – 26th October 2019

Not based on a true story, honestly!

 

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Reasons to engage with other writers positively:-

1. It’s fun – best reason of all.

2. You will learn useful information – I’ve found out about competitions etc thanks to chatting with other writers. Some of it I’ve used, some of it I may use in the future, some I may never get to use at all.

3. When you can share useful information, see it as paying your dues. I know I’m grateful for the good advice from other writers that has helped me so pass it on.

4. Ultimately, we all want to write good material, whether it’s flash fiction, or an epic saga. There are things on our writing journeys that we will share in common. You don’t have to cope with these things on your own!

5. You can be warned about scams. No industry is exempt from these so why should publishing be?

6. Linking with 5, other writers can tell you where to go for good advice and what has helped them.

7. I was told about Cafelit and from there found out about flash fiction and I’ve been very grateful for finding out about those!!😀

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Pleased to have another story up on Cafelit – Humourless. More to come too.

http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/10/humourless.html

For Cafelit, you need to assign a drink to your story and I try to match the mood of the tale with an appropriate beverage. I sometimes find that harder to do than write the story and I’ve often searched cafe menus for inspiration!

It is a great way to discreetly flag up the mood of the tale though. This, and finding pictures for my CFT posts, are probably the main ways where I’m “forced” to think laterally sometimes. But it is worth persisting with doing that. Other story ideas have come to me that way.

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I always feel a certain amount of relief when I’ve got the first draft of a story written. I never worry about making each line or paragraph “perfect” before moving on because I know if I took that approach, I would get very little written. Also, there’s no such thing as “perfect” writing anyway.

I like to get a first draft written, move on to another piece I’m editing or submitting somewhere, then come back to that draft to give myself enough distance from it to be able to judge it as objectively as I can.

There are two reactions made by a writer to something they’ve written.

1. This is genius. Not true, sadly.

2. This is awful. Whatever made me think I could write. Not true either and that’s better news!

It is inevitable as you read through a piece, ideas for better ways of phrasing things occur to you so go with that and don’t worry about it.

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Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – A Season For Everything

Do you find the seasons affect your writing? I can’t say they do with me. One good thing about the evenings drawing in earlier is the lure of a cosy room, my desk, hot drinks on the go, and an evening’s writing is even more appealing than it normally is!

I don’t write much about the seasons. Flash fiction with its word count limits means I have little room for description. If I want to show it’s cold, I’ll get my character to put on their big coat, having established they usually wear shorts or something daft like that.

Sorry to all shorts fans out there but I’ve never liked them. I’d also consign flip-flops to history’s dustbin. If I ever come up with a character I really can’t stand, I could make them wear shorts and flip-flops in freezing weather and make them suffer! I guess that could be fun…

Is there any writer who doesn’t get some enjoyment out of putting their characters through the mill, especially when those characters have it coming? I refuse to believe that is just me.

If I have seasons to writing, it is not in the quantity of what I do but in the tasks themselves. I will have weeks where I’m submitting work all over the place. (I finished drafting this after sending three stories off to Cafelit).

There will be other weeks where I’m editing work I’d deliberately put aside to look at again with fresh eyes prior to submission. It does pay to give yourself that time so you return to your story afresh. It’s the only way I know that works where you do come back and read your work as a reader would.

Without a time break, I’ve found you can be too close to your own work to be objective about it. This is why when there’s a competition deadline, I take off at least a week from the official end date and that will be the date I aim to submit the piece by. If life gets in the way as it does sometimes, I still have a few days in hand to still submit that piece.

I am so grateful for email submissions! I did start writing seriously when everything went in by snail mail (it was just after the last T Rex left this world). Some things have definitely got better. (I don’t miss typewriters, carbon paper or Tippex either. I did use to cut and paste literally).

I’ve found it pays to have periods when I’m creating new work. While I’m working on the second story, the first one is having its “time break” for me to edit effectively later.

There is always something on the go  writing wise and that’s how I like it. I have a very low boredom threshold and the lovely thing with creative writing is that threshold is never tested. There is always something to do.

Happy writing, editing etc etc!

Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do I Want Books To Do For Me?

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The Writing Life and Publication News

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay.

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I drafted this post on my way to a Writers’ Day (19th October 2019) run by the Association of Christian Writers. (I’m their Membership Secretary). I do love a good train journey and Evernote! I adjusted to using a stylus quicker than I thought I would too.

The event itself will be good fun and it will be nice catching up with friends too. Am enjoying seeing the sun rise over the Hampshire countryside as I draft this. Will be seeing the sun set on my way home. (And I did. It was lovely).

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit tomorrow so look forward to sharing the link for that.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the next production by The Chameleon Theatre Group called My Husband’s Nuts next week. Should be fun. Review to follow in due course.

Am making progress on projects I’m working on but why is progress never as quick as.I’d like it to be?! Oh well says she, pressing onwards!

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Publication News

Delighted to say The Best of Cafelit 8 is now available in paperback as well as in ebook form. Reviews welcome, as always!

I have two flash stories in here – The Art Critic and Dignity and Injustice. Very different moods for those two as well! Great collection of stories so if you’re not sure what you fancy reading next, try this assortment! You’ll find something to suit…! Lovely eclectic mix of authors, styles, and moods. (Pleased to say Cafelit 8 is now up on my Amazon Author Page too!). Thanks to my recent CFT series on What Books Mean to Me I can share some of the images of the authors in Cafelit 8 but do check the book out and catch up on all the authors included here. There is a great mix of styles but you don’t just have to take my word for it!

Also thrilled to share my latest story on Cafelit called Takeover. The thrill of being published in print, online or both never dims!

 

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Favourite moment in editing? When you know the changes you’ve made have strengthened your story/book and your only regret is not having spotted the necessary changes when you were drafting the tale in the first place.

The one thought that has always cheered me up here is that nobody writes a perfect first draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Dickens didn’t. I’m not going to – so that’s okay then. What matters is the edit. And it does pay to take your time over it, leave the work for a while, before then re-reading the piece as a reader would.

Least favourite moment in editing? Checking for typos and then spotting one after you’ve gone through the document several times. The one comfort here is that this happens to us all at some point so you’re definitely not alone!

 

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S = Spellbinding characters make you have to find out what happens to them so you keep reading.
T = Tall tales, flash fiction stories – there’s something for every word count!
O = Originality. I find it fascinating how writers create unique characters and keep doing so and, of course that is a challenge to me too.
R = Reading – the other side of writing. Two wonderful creative arts in one in many ways. You have to read well to be able to write. Name a better way of working out how a book works, how characters come across on the page etc.
I = Inventiveness. I love inventing new people and situations to put them in. Exercising the imagination regularly like this has to be good for the brain – and your writing muscles.
E = Entertainment – stories cover the whole range. Some are entertained via tragedy, others via humour, crime, historical fiction. There are plenty of wonderful books out there. And don’t forget the anthologies – flash fiction and short stories. Perfect for quick reads.
S = Setting. Via a book, I can visit fantasy worlds, places on this planet I may or may not get to see for myself, places I’ve never heard of – does this give another meaning to losing yourself in a good book? You can lose yourself in an enthralling setting. The world of The Lord of the Rings is a good example (though I admit I’d never visit Mordor out of choice if that option was available).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was listening to the gloriously peaceful music of Sailing By on Classic FM as my train left Basingstoke when I drafted this earlier today (on my way to the ACW Writers’ Day mentioned earlier). Quite a contrast in images there! Flowing water, sunny days, and a big town!

Contrasting images can work well in flash fiction but, due to the word count limits, contrasts are best shown sharply. You are flashing a brief light on the lives of your characters to your readers when all is said and done. So what is the contrast they must pick up on? Focus on that.

For the longer flash stories, there may be room for subtle contrasts to come in but again focus only on what your reader needs to pick up. You still won’t have room for more than that. Flash is all about focus (which is why it is a great discipline for any writer).

 

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Places I have drafted flash fiction stories:-

1. At home on laptop (very conventional!).
2. On the train on Evernote.
3. In a notebook using good old pen and paper while waiting for my phone to recharge! (There is much to still be said for pen and paper).
4. On a car journey.
5. Just the once – at the end of a church service, I had a very strong idea for a story which I knew I just had to write down a few notes about so I could write it up properly later. I usually hear my characters speaking, then visualise them. For this story, it was the other way round. Yes, it does have a faith based theme but I just had a very strong compulsion to get this story idea down quickly – so I did, using Evernote.
6. When I’ve got ten minutes before I have to go out anywhere… well it’s useful writing time and I flesh up the stories properly later on.
7. At writing conferences when I’ve been set a writing exercise. Nearly all of mine turn into a first draft af flash fiction.

I have NEVER followed the advice to keep a notebook by the bed to jot down thoughts that occur over night. This, I know, simply wouldn’t work for me. I sleep very heavily as a rule and don’t often dream so this is a no-go. I am never at my best first thing anyway so any notes jotted down would make no sense to me yet alone anyone else!

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Why do I like using the first person in flash fiction so much?

1. It’s immediate. I can take you right into the thoughts (and attitudes) of my characters.

2. It reads like a first-hand account (which from the character’s viewpoint is, of course, the case!).

3. I can get my character to refer to other characters and give a sense of a life being lead without actually bringing those other characters into the story itself. It saves on word count, obviously, but if I just need to show Character X hates Character Y, I can show you that by revealing X’s thoughts about them. I don’t need to bring in Y at all. It is more direct and, to me, comes across as more natural.

4. I find first person works really well in the sub-500 words stories so it does tend to be my “go to” when I specifically want to write to that limit or under.

5. There isn’t a lot of room for dialogue and character development in flash fiction. Flash is, as I mentioned the other day, all about focus and I’ve found it best to focus on one to two characters at most in a sub-500 words story. In sub-250 words, one character works very well (and therefore the means of showing their story is often best done via the mouth of the character concerned).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Travel Reading

I tend not to read much while travelling. I’m usually drafting blog posts and stories on my phone for one thing! But I like to take a good mix of good reads for when I get to my destination.

I prefer light reads when away. I am escaping from the usual routine so want to escape through books too. I’m currently enjoying Ben Macintyre’s The Last Word on Kindle which takes a light look at the use of language and is good fun. Highly recommend.

I also loved his Operation Mincemeat. Not a light read so to speak but a cracking and true story told at a great pace.

What do you look for in a good read?

I like to be entertained, escape my cares for a bit, and ideally learn something too.

When reading fiction, I learn something from how the characters are portrayed, how the dialogue is put together etc. I get so much from books and hope you do too.

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Flash In The Pan, Meeting Targets, and Book Tokens

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

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Lovely day (over the weekend) having a family get-together. Weather held for just long enough too. Lots of laughter, happy memories of those we’ve lost, and mutual support. Gatherings like this are so precious.

What do your characters cherish most? What would their get-togethers be like? Is there anyone they absolutely would NOT invite under any circumstances? How did that come about?

Is there a character who would love to have get-togethers but has nobody to invite? Do they make efforts to break through loneliness, shyness etc? Are they successful? (I must admit for a story like that I would always prefer an upbeat ending).

Happy writing!

 

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and Association of Christian Writers –

More Than Writers – Flash In The Pan

It was a real labour of love to write about flash fiction for the Association of Christian Writers’ More than Writers blog today. I looked at the benefits of writing it and what it has taught me. I’m afraid I couldn’t resist the pun of Flash in the Pan though!

Having said that, puns can work well as titles in flash fiction. You are looking for the title to do a lot of the work for you in setting mood and what is likely to come, especially for those competitions and markets where the title is part of the word count.

I like to mix up how I come up with titles to keep me on my toes. You can’t use puns all the time, it would be tiresome, but every now and again, they can add spice to a mix of stories.

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I used to love writing letters to friends when I was much younger. I like email and couldn’t imagine life without it. (It makes submitting work SO much easier and cheaper for one thing!).

But there was something nice about receiving a hand-written letter with your name all over it and you knew it was from Friend X. Guaranteed to brighten my day as I not only had the joy of the letter to read, I always anticipated the joy of replying!

I occasionally still receive a hand-written letter as part of my volunteer role for the Association of Christian Writers and those are a joy too. I suppose it’s the personal touch that really rings home here. Someone has taken time and gone that extra mile for me. (Thank you!).

How can we as writers go the “extra mile” to benefit our readers? My approach here is to try to make my characters as engaging as possible (even if they are the type a reader loves to hate! I like (silently) booing a “good” villain myself so want to make sure there is something a reader can really get behind here!).

I like dialogue to ring true (I rarely use any kind of accent in a story. Nor do I use old English for historical flash fiction. I always aim for clarity – and frankly old English isn’t always that clear. You just want touches to conjure up the old worlds for readers. So I may use the odd old word, I try to get my characters to speak in such a way it makes sense for them to speak that way – they are always true to their class – and above all I will show something of the setting. Those are generally enough details for the reader to pick up the right images. Then I get on with the story!

Whatever you write, thinking about what the reader needs from your characters I believe is very important. I’m looking to entertain others with my stories (I hope) so I need to figure out how to reach out to those I’d like to read them. After all they don’t have to read my work so I see it that I must go the extra mile so they might want to!

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Pleased to say I reached my target at Slimming World tonight. I don’t know yet if I’ll be aiming to lose more but this particular journey has been a long one. That’s okay. The writing journey is also a long one and that’s not the only similarity between the two kinds of journey.

1. You know the journey will take a long time and that you have to be in it for the long haul to make progress. That’s okay. Go into it with your eyes wide open.

2. There WILL be blips along the way (rejections, that block of cheese which somehow managed to vanish by itself!). What matters is accepting that and learning how to handle them. (Can you learn from the rejections? Can you try your story out somewhere else? Can you learn NOT to have blocks of cheese in except for special occasions and relish them more because it’s for a special treat?).

3. When success does comes (whether it’s a publication credit or a bigger weight loss than expected comes, sometimes ANY weight loss!), you will cherish it the more because you know the hard work that has gone into either of these. You really will have earned it. That is a good feeling.

4. There will always be someone who will, deliberately or otherwise, try to undermine what you are doing. (You don’t need to lose weight. You don’t want to submit a story THERE. Said unhelpful folk either feel threatened by what you are trying to achieve or really don’t realise what they’re coming out with is undermining you. Best advice? Ignore. Focus on what you are trying to achieve and Go For It. You have nothing to lose here after all. If you achieve what you would like or close to it, that’s fab. If not do you need to revisit your goal? Perhaps go for it in baby steps rather than try to do it in giant strides.). What you really need are people are constructive and can share helpful thoughts and comments. When you find such people, cherish them and naturally always try to be that way yourself.

Good luck with the writing. If any of you are also on a losing weight journey, good luck with that too. Neither are easy but both can be rewarding! (Naturally any food or drink in the Pixabay pictures are completely calorie and syn free!).

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What things stop you writing? For me the biggest one is fatigue. So if I know I’ve got a particularly busy week coming up, I will draft a few posts and then upload them later. It takes any pressure off me, I still feel like I’m writing (which means the world to me), and I get things done.

It’s never lack of ideas or time, funnily enough, which is a relief. Fighting fatigue is best done for me by ensuring I get enough sleep, eat and drink well etc. I pay for it if I don’t do those things. It pays for writers to look after themselves here. It does help the creative spirit, especially since we are all in this for the long haul.

Happy writing and look after yourself!

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One of the frustrations of flash fiction I used to find was having a fabulous character that I wanted to do much more with, but I’ve said all that is needed to be said in their story!

One way round that? Linked flash fiction stories! The only thing to ensure is, however many other stories you do with this Fabulous Character in it, that each and every story is strong, stands in its own right, and builds that character over the series. It’s great fun when you get it right. Yes, you do need to know how many stories would be appropriate. Better to have only two linked but strong stories than six, out of which four are weak. You never want to come across as stretching an idea or character too thinly.

The nice thing with linked stories is I still get to enjoy the challenge of coming up with new characters for each story as the Fabulous Character won’t meet the same characters in each and every story. They’ve literally moved on to the next adventure and so will come across new people and challenges to overcome (or not as the case may be!).

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I love writing flash fiction using a closing line and working backwards to the beginning. It means I can come up with a humdinger of a closing line and then work out logically how my character(s) would get to that point. Agatha Christie often worked backwards like this.

But I think I have the most fun when I have a humdinger of an opening line. I like to work out different possibilities and then I go with the one I like best. It is never the first idea I’ve come up with either. This is where I find spider diagrams useful as I work out varying possibilities.

The important point though is to have fun writing. I think that fun does somehow permeate through to a reader. Certainly when I read, I pick up on the liveliness of a character portrayal, for example, and my first thought is inevitably something on the lines of the writer had fun writing that! Naturally I would like readers to think the same about what I come up with!

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The things I look for in a good flash fiction story (whether written by me or not) include:-

1. Impact. (Did the story have any?! Also was the impact what I think the writer meant me to feel? Was it the impact I wanted it to have on my readers?).

2. Imagery. (What images does the story/characters conjure up in my mind? What images do I think my story will give readers?).

3. For twist in the tale endings, did I see the ending coming or was the author able to keep me guessing? (Both are fine, funnily enough. The former shows the author delivered on what their story promises. The latter keeps me on my toes).

4. Appropriate use of words.A really well written story will make me gasp in admiration at the way the writer has used the language. They won’t go for the “obvious” either. I can learn from that (and do!).

5. I finish the story, having relished reading it. I then re-read it and can find something new in it that I missed on first read through.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Tokens and Gift Vouchers

Do you remember the book token? I was given a few of these when I was growing up in the 1970s and loved them. The thought of going to a bookshop and choosing something was so exciting.

Of course back then there were more bookshops to choose from. I definitely don’t see the reduction in bookshops (and indeed libraries) as something to be proud of, just the opposite in fact.

A £5.00 book token back then would certainly mean I could get two paperbacks (£1.99 each – those WERE the days!).

One of the earliest series I collected was Enid Blyton’s Famous Five as my local TV company (now sadly defunct) was bringing these to life on the small screen. Naturally the books were rushed out again with new covers linking in to the TV series.

These days it tends to be gift vouchers but I love those you can spend almost anywhere, including W.H. Smiths and Waterstones. I needn’t tell you where I spend mine after that, need I?!

The nice thing is I still have that sense of excitement about the prospect of choosing a new book. I don’t think I’ll ever lose that. Neither do I want to!

Do you remember where you spent your book tokens and what were some of your cherished purchases?

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As One Season Ends…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

As part of my CFT post this week, As One Season Ends, I look at how getting older has helped me as a writer. I prefer to use the term mature, though I appreciate that may put you in mind of a fine wine or a good cheese! I am proud to say though my “wine/cheese” still has plenty of life in it and I’m well ahead of my Best Before Date.

One thing I love about writing is it is not the privilege of one age bracket only. Debut writers have had successes when young or old and I find that tremendously encouraging. I hope you do too.

Image Credit: As ever, the marvellous Pixabay. Captions on CFT post.

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What I love about character creation:-

1. You literally get to invent people. People with traits you’d like to have. People with traits you’re glad you DON’T have. It’s huge fun inventing a new person (I suspect Baron Frankenstein may have had similar thoughts but with much more questionable results in his case!).

2. You have great fun inventing dialogue for your characters and I love it when “they” come up with something that surprises me. I then look at this again and think, yes, that suits the traits I’ve given them. It’s proof to me this character is live, working, “their own” person and likely to be distinctive to the reader.

3. You have even more fun dropping said characters right in the mire and finding out how they get out of it (or not as the case may be. In the latter case, does someone else help them out? Why? What do they hope to gain? All sorts of story possibilities there).

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Well, the weather was cooler today, much to the relief of both Lady and me. (The same can’t be said for the political atmosphere in the UK at the moment and that’s all I’m saying about that).

Writing wise, while I believe there is a lot of truth in there only being so many plots in the world, I also believe there are infinite possibilities with said plots. Why?

It’s all down to the characters. Character creation fascinates me as a tweak here or there can make a huge difference to how your character is going to respond to situations and therefore what conflicts ensure. If they’ve got any kind of spirit they will be the cause of problems AND be the type that resolves them (or those caused by others who are worse than they are!).

A meek and mild character is not generally going to be the hero/heroine (I never did like Miss Price in Austen’s Mansfield Park, far too wishy-washy for me) but they can be an irritant (however unintentionally) to your main character and be the cause of further problems for your lead to sort out. So even this kind of character can be useful.

Have fun with your people, people!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I was putting From Light to Dark and Back Again together, I didn’t have an overall theme in mind. The stories were a nice mixture of humorous and dark tales and that directly inspired the book’s title.

When writing individual flash fiction stories, I focus on who the character is going to be, what their major trait is, and whether the story is going to be a funny or dark one.

If I’m writing for a competition with a set theme, then I work out different ways of how that theme could be taken and then go with the one I like best. It is very rarely the first idea I came up with either.

It is true for me when brainstorming ideas I do have to get the dross out of my system before coming up with something that has real possibilities. The important bit is not to worry about the dross, after all you’ll be discarding that, but get to those deeper ideas and that’s where you will find promising story ideas and characters to work with.

Open theme competitions can sometimes be more difficult precisely because they’re open. I set my own theme for these and then work to that. I have to have some parameters and then away I go. All I can say is that it works for me.

Whatever you’re writing this weekend, have a fab time doing so!

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My favourite kind of ending for flash fiction stories is the twist one. I like trying to guess at it and feel pleased when I’m right. I’m more pleased when I’m not as the author has kept me guessing and wrongfooted me (and I really don’t mind that at all!).

It’s a tough thing to get right though.This is where I think knowing what your twist ending will be and then working backwards to get to the start point would pay off. I’ve found this to be a technique that works for me and I’m in illustrous company too. Agatha Christie was known to do this and I can see why.

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I hope you had writing fun with the random word, phrase, and number generators. The great thing with these is if you’re ever stuck for something to write about, use any of these and just go with what comes up. It doesn’t matter if what comes up is ridiculous. Have fun with it!

Just free write, say for a set period of time, and have a look at your work later. Don’t expect it to be perfect. It won’t be. (I doubt if there is any such thing as a perfect piece of writing anyway).

What I hope you will find is in having something to work with, it will free up your imagination for other writing projects you have on the go.

I find it to be a fun thing to do and I often do use the generators for flash fiction in particular. (Oh and another great prompt can be pictures of course. See what you can do with the great images from Pixabay below!).

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

– Appreciating Writing

How often do you take time out to appreciate writing – your own, as well as the work of others? Not often enough, I suspect, but this begs the question should we appreciate writing more? Wouldn’t we be better off just writing? I’d argue appreciating writing will help you improve your own.

Inspiring, Entertaining, Informing – all good things to aim for with our writing. Pixabay

Every now and again, I recall what writing has done for me. I look at what the work of others has done for me too. One novel changed my attitude to a king. (The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey if you were wondering. The way it is written is good too).

Appreciating our writing, and that of others, should help us, and them, develop as writers. Pixabay

I believe in realising why you must write and its effects on you (in developing a creative streak, if nothing else), you will end up inspired to write better.

It is in writing my stories and blogs I discovered the hard work needed to (a) keep these going, (b) to continue to be entertaining and, hopefully, share useful information, and (c) how hard other writers must work on their material.

I’m also grateful for technology. I don’t miss carbon paper and typewriter erasers.  Pixabay

I appreciate a great turn of phrase so much more now and often wonder how long it took the writer to come up with the final selection of words that made it into print.

In appreciating the writing of others, you can also analyse what it is you love about it. What can you learn here to apply to your work? There will be something.

In going to conferences and Writers’ Days, you appreciate the breadth of the writing world and find encouragement within your own sphere. Writing has taken me to places I’d never dreamed of reaching. (If someone had told me a couple of years ago, I’d happily take part in Open Prose Mic Nights, I’d have told them not to be so silly).

I used a bigger Olympia. It weighed a ton! I really appreciate not having to lug that around any more! Pixabay

Writing should stretch you and that is good. There is no such thing as the perfect piece of writing but what we can do is the best we can at the time and go on to do better as we learn more about our craft and pick up tips from other writers.

It is also lovely when you can share tips with others. Writing is a lonely enough profession so support and encouragement go a long way. Well, they do for me.

Writing is something not to be taken for granted then. I don’t write to give a message. I write to entertain. I hope my stories and blog posts can lift people when they need that. I see it as giving back to the writing world which has given me so much.

This is always a good idea. Pixabay

There is every point for “message” writing. There is every point just to entertain. We cannot know what hard times readers are going through but to give them opportunities to take time out for a while  is worthwhile. So never be ashamed of just writing to entertain. I do sometimes wonder if entertainment is looked down on as a reason to write. I don’t think it should be.

Fairytales with Bite – As One Season Ends

My CFT post, As One Season Ends, looks at the topic from a personal and writing viewpoint, but here I want to look at how your characters handle the changes in the seasons in their lives.

We all have such seasons and our characters should be no different. After all, there have been times in life when we have been students and other times, say, when we’ve been employees. So what seasons in life do your characters go through?

If your setting is in fantasy or sci-fi, do your characters have education as we know it? What do their young people have to go through to be considered mature? How do your characters cope with expected changes in life (their society expects them to do this and then do that etc)? How do they handle the unexpected ones (the sudden loss of someone special etc)?

Does your created world have physical seasons as we understand them here? If so, what function does each season serve? I would expect there to be some sort of growing season (which logically must be followed by some kind of harvest).

How do your characters mature? Are there rituals they must follow and what happens to anyone who defies that?

Plenty of food for thought there I think.

Image Credit:  As ever, the photos are from the fantastic Pixabay. The ones I originally used on this on FWB are up above under my CFT link. Here are some other beautiful seasonal pictures. I always love an opportunity to use photos like these.

This World and Others –

What Every Good Story or Non-Fiction Piece Needs

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

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

Image Credit:  The fantasic Pixabay.

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PERSPECTIVE AND PUBLICATION NEWS

Facebook – General

Hope it has cooled down where you are. I prefer a temperate climate, as does the dog. I also find it easier to focus.

Does the time of year affect what you write? I can’t say it does for me as I write a mixture of light and darker pieces throughout the year.

If the seasons do affect what you write, how can you play to the strengths of this? I would’ve thought it is probably better to work with it rather than to try to fight it, if only because you’ll feel less frustrated that way.

Analysing how you work is a good idea, whether you’re affected by the seasons or not. For me, the amount of time I have per writing session is more important and I aim to make the most of each slot. My goal is to be able to look back and feel it was a good writing session, regardless of whether I had ten minutes or three hours.

Happy writing!😊

 

Image Credit:  Generally Pixabay as usual but the Scottish beach and loch pictures were taken by me earlier this year.