Non-Fiction Journey and Author Interviews

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is always a huge pleasure to chat with fellow authors on Chandler’s Ford Today. There is always something interesting to learn. Every author’s writing journey is unique and I find that endlessly fascinating. Hope you do too.

This week I chat with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, about her venture into non-fiction publishing with her recently released Let’s Get Published. Not that she has left her (writing) life of crime behind, I’m glad to say.

I love reading as well as writing author interviews. Every writer has their own insights into the business of writing, as well as thoughts on the ups and downs we all face, whether published or not. It is also good to know you are not alone on those ups and downs. (It is also reassuring to know that is normal!).

Hope you enjoy!

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The current hot weather is one of the few times I bless living in a north facing bungalow. It is relatively cool in here. The heat doesn’t affect my writing much in that I still get on and do it but I tend to finish earlier than normal knowing I’ll feel tired earlier than normal. Still I compensate by starting my writing session earlier so that’s okay.

Looking forward to sharing my interview with Val Penny on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. She talks about her venture into non-fiction with her recent publication, Let’s Get Published. I’m always fascinated by other authors’ writing journeys. Each is unique to the writer and you can always learn something useful and interesting.

Am happily editing a short story which I hope will end up being published at some point! As ever, having a bit of time away from it has proved useful. That time away makes it much easier to see where the weaknesses are and therefore do something about them!

Have also been busy drafting flash fiction pieces.

I’ve also recently revised my Linkedin profile.

So not a bad old week so far but I must admit I won’t be that sorry when it cools down a bit. (And neither will Lady!).

Screenshot_2020-06-26 Allison Symes LinkedIn

 

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes I will start a flash fiction story by writing the ending first and work backwards from there. It’s a useful technique but I do sometimes find that by the time I’ve finished, I’ve thought of a better last line. But that’s okay. I just change it.

I remember I used to feel annoyed at that kind of thing. Why couldn’t I have thought of the better last line in the first place etc etc?

Now I know better than to waste time and energy fretting about that. Just change the line and move on. It’s a good sign the story has “go” to it when you can think of things to improve with it.

Yes, it would save a lot of time and effort if you could cut straight to the chase, but writing doesn’t work like that for me. I need to get some ideas down before I can come up with better ones.

What helped me to come to terms with that was on realising other writers find the same thing happens to them. It’s always good to know you’re not alone!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I’ve learned to watch out for when editing my stories is my pet phrases. Most of the time with my flash fiction, they are amongst the first things to be cut, along with my wasted words of very, actually, and that. (Very few examples of that are actually necessary! If the story works just as well without them, out they come).

Every writer has their pet phrases. Sometimes they’re useful BUT not each and every time! Pet phrases can act as a kind of shorthand for you but if they’re not useful to your readers, it is best said phrases come out. (Another meaning for the phrase “kill your darlings” perhaps).

 

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Finding ideas for flash fiction is generally not an issue for me. It is working out which are the really strong ones and worth pursuing that can be tricky at times.

But I find character outlining helps me with that. By the time I’ve fleshed out what I need to know about my lead character, I can tell whether they’re “up” to being in a story.

I can also tell the kind of trouble they’re likely to land themselves in (with help from yours truly of course as I love landing my people right in it!) and from that the story starts to take shape. Away I go and write it before resting it for a while before editing it.

I also find flash fiction writing to be a useful warm up or warm down writing exercise. From my viewpoint, it’s another piece of work produced which I can polish and hopefully find a home for in due time.

Whatever you’re working on at the moment, I hope the writing is going well and that you’re enjoying it. Enjoying your writing is so important. It helps to motivate you and to keep you going when all you seem to get are rejections or not hearing back from competitions etc.

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I’ve found it helpful to think of flash fiction as it being from the viewpoint of ONE main character getting across ONE vital point and there has to be transformation in it somewhere.

That’s why we read. We want to find out what happens to the character. Do they get their happy ever after ending? Do they muck it up big time but somehow manage to redeem the situation? (I LOVE those stories!).

One of the aspects of flash fiction I love the most and I think is one of the useful as well is that it does make you focus on what really matters to your character. You do have to work out what the story is so you can focus on it properly.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Murphy’s Law of Fairytales

So how could Murphy’s Law relate to fairytales then? I offer the following thoughts.

1. Never be unkind to the wizened old crone or man etc. They are bound to be a powerful witch/wizard/fairy godmother in disguise. It will be just your luck to cross them and be turned into something unpleasant. These things happen in the fairytale world.

2. Never be rude to passers-by. You might be glad of their help later on, especially if you HAVE crossed the wizened old crone etc. You’ll need someone to tell you what it is you have been turned into. Then and only then can you scream.

3. You know that downtrodden kid everyone ignores or is rude to? Watch them. They’re either going to end up marrying Prince Charming or somehow do something heroic. In the fairytale world, that kind of character is always marked out for great things. They like humility here.

4. It is best to assume the animals you come across can talk, are intelligent etc., and a quick word to the wise – if you do come across bears who live in a house, never ever pinch their breakfast. It won’t end well.

5. Actively be kind. You may be rewarded. You may not. But you won’t end up crossing the aforementioned wizened old crone etc.

6. If you come across a sweet covered house, run the other way as fast you can. (Well, you don’t want to risk a huge weight gain thanks to gobbling all that sugar now, do you?).

7. Don’t try and eat the Gingerbread Man. He resents that kind of thing.

8. If you need to cross a bridge and you are not sure if there are trolls in the area, see if you can get some friendly neighbourhood goats to cross the bridge first. They are excellent at getting rid of unwanted trolls.

9. If you think Grandma has suddenly become very hairy, it is not a trick of the light. She has. Go and get the woodcutter NOW.

10. If something seems too good to be true, it is. Mind you, that applies to all universes so is a good general principle to go by.

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This World and Others – 

Creating Something Out of Nothing

I was listening to Classic FM when it was reported a well known composer still suffered nerves when coming up with a new composition. They were still made nervous by the blank page, despite their many years of successful composition. Ironically, this cheered me up somewhat. It’s the same for any creator and I know it’s true for me. That touch of nerves before you start writing is the worst bit. Once you get going, you’re absolutely okay.

I’ve learned over time to just get the words down any old how. Editing and polishing happen much later. Nobody writes a perfect draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Austen didn’t. Dickens didn’t. I’m certainly not going to but that’s fine! So how can you get over the nervous start bit or, at least, make it not so bad and easier to handle?

I’ve found having a range of ways to get started on stories or blog posts helpful. I also find having brainstorming sessions every so often useful to jot down ideas and when I am struggling, I can turn to these and find something to inspire me there. My range of ways to get started include:-

1. Using a random word generator, pick three, and put them into a story. Using random words like this makes me think deeper and if there is no obvious link between the three words, even better. It makes me think again!

2. Look back over my old blog posts and stories. Often there will a link there I didn’t follow up at the time but might prove useful now.

3. Take a well known saying and use it as a theme or title (sometimes both) for a story or article.

4. Use a spider diagram or flowchart to flesh out basic ideas. That will soon show if ideas in the back of my head do have some “legs” to them or not. Naturally I go with the ones that do! This is especially useful when used in conjunction with a random word generator.

5. Look up writing competitions. Sometimes I’ll enter said competitions. Sometimes I’ll just write up a story to the theme and not submit it deliberately. I will go back to that story at a later date to polish it up further knowing it is not ready for a competition yet but I can still write to the theme. Who knows? The story might end up in an anthology later. Themes come up reasonably often so there will be other competitions the story the might fit.

However you get over the blank page nerves, happy writing and good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR INTERVIEWS AND INSPIRING YOUR WRITING

Facebook – General – Author Interviews

What do I love about author interviews? Well, firstly, you can learn a lot from them. I’ve found out about competitions this way and also was alerted to the joys of Scrivener. (It’s amazing how many writers use it). Often you can adapt the questions so you can ask them of your own characters and build their profiles up further. Thirdly the questions should make you think about what you write and why you write at all. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to take stock of that every now and again. I find it encouraging.

When I interview writers for Chandler’s Ford Today, I always ask for their three top tips. There’s a lot of overlap, of course, but what is fascinating is the priority each writer gives to each tip! No two writers are the same here!

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Facebook – General – Inspiring Your Writing

What inspires your writing? For me, it is not just one thing or person. There are the many authors whose books I’ve loved for years (and still do), writers new to me whose works I’m enjoying, and my general love of stories. Behind all of that is the debt I owe my mother for teaching me to read and instilling that love of books in the first place.

Why the need for stories at all? To try to make sense of the world is a valid reason but I’m all for stories being “just” for entertainment. Given the news is grim, always has been, unlikely to change anytime soon, stories that can take you to different places or times are a great form of entertainment (and possibly therapy too).

 

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Facebook – General – Chandler’s Ford Today post sneak peek

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be another in my Hidden Hampshire series. One lovely thing about owning a dog is discovering walks to take them on and that gives me material to blog about, so it’s a win-win situation for me! Lady likes it too, as did Mabel before her. More details tomorrow.

Lady currently curled up on the carpet happily dozing after a busy afternoon making new dog friends and generally having a ball (sometimes it was her own!) at the Rec earlier. Am blessing my late mum for leaving me a huge bundle of old towels as the Rec is currently a quagmire in places and the towels are proving extremely useful.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again – Quizzing Your Characters

How often do you quiz your characters? I tend to ask mine what their motivation is (“darling”!) and it can surprise me just what is behind my initial thoughts as to why they’re acting the way they are. There IS a lot of psychology in writing! The chief thing I want from my characters is honesty. They have to be true to themselves whether they’re a heroine or an out and out villain.

What do you look for in your characters? What drives them and is that drive strong enough to overcome any obstacle in their way?

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again – Concentration Levels!

Does flash fiction, due to its brevity, mean less concentration is needed because there is less to read? Not a bit of it! If anything, I think more concentration is needed on the part of both writer and reader, as so much has to be implied.

I must admit I realised on re-reading one of my crime tales in From Light to Dark and Back Again that I had unwittingly written in more than one way for my heroine to achieve justice against the brute who had bullied her for so long. I just didn’t realise it until after I’d written the story! Not that I am sorry about this, but, had I thought about it more when I was writing the tale, I could’ve been more selective with my words. And that is where concentration is needed. Word selection counts for so much more the shorter the form of fiction you’re writing in!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again – The Joy of the Writing Life

Can you identify with this I wonder?

When everything is said and done
This writing lark is such fun
But what nobody then tells you
Is that it can be hell too.

Characters won’t leave you alone.
You cut word counts to the bone.
You’re never sure a piece is done
Though acceptance proves you’ve “won”.

But something drives you on to write,
Work hard and get your piece right
As much as it could ever be.
You have to prove yourself, see.

Allison Symes – 4th January 2018

I can think of a few writers who can identify with at least some of the above!

Learning with others in a writing conference is huge fun, image via Pixabay

Sharing the joys and woes of the writing life. Image via Pixabay,

Note taking is an invaluable aid to retaining what you learn at conferences, image via Pixabay

Write, edit, write, edit… image via Pixabay

So many writing conference rooms look like this, image via Pixabay

A writing conference room. Image via Pixabay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CROSSING GENRES AND SECOND BOOK SYNDROME

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Part 1 (out of 2) of my interview with paranormal historical fiction writer, Jennifer C Wilson. She creates a world where the heroes are ghosts and Richard III gets a MUCH better write up than he ever had from Shakespeare!

Jennifer also shares her three top tips for writers, what her trigger for writing was, and names her own favourite historical fiction writers. More next Friday when, amongst other topics, she shares the joys and woes of crossing genres and how being able to go to Richard III’s funeral influenced her writing. Just how many historical fiction writers get to go to the funeral of their leading star is debatable but there can’t be that many!

Many thanks, Jennifer, for your time and for sharing some great insights. Looking forward to sharing Part 2 next week but in the meantime here’s the link to Part 1.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There will be more Christmassy flash fiction tales from me on Cafelit over the next couple of weeks. (I hope these will eventually make it into my second book). Do head over and check out their Advent Calendar. There are wonderful stories on here. Don’t miss them!

I think flash especially comes into its own at this time of year when people are under pressure, time-wise, to get things done. It is the ultimate in the quick read after all!

Facebook – Posts from earlier this week

What do I find most interesting and useful in author interviews?

Questions that encourage the writer to expand on what they do and why rather than simply allow them to give a Yes/No answer. By giving fuller answers, you have much more of an insight as to what makes that particular author tick. I’ve found reading author interviews to be a good source of encouragement. They also make me think about what I write and why.

Am sharing a photo which has gone up on Paula Readman’s wonderful For Writers Only Who Want to Write without Fear of Rejection. Many thanks, Paula, and also to my better half for getting the Christmas tree up today without which this photo would not have been possible (as they say)…

My book on our Christmas Tree as part of Paula Readman's wonderful For Writers Only Who Want to Write without Fear of Rejection Facebook page. Image by Allison Symes

My book on our Christmas Tree as part of Paula Readman’s wonderful For Writers Only Who Want to Write without Fear of Rejection Facebook page. Image by Allison Symes

Facebook – from earlier this week – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My better half and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary earlier this week. (We can’t believe where the time has gone either). Looking back at wedding photos etc raises smiles and causes some sadness as we recall those we’ve lost. So much has changed in that 30 years – from computers to cars to new forms of storytelling being invented (flash fiction of course!).

It led me to think about what kind of time scale do your characters work on? Can they see the long-term bigger picture or are they of the kind who resolutely sticks to the past and treats all new things with suspicion? Some great stories could come from those questions. Happy writing!

It was good fun reading three stories out from the book on Saturday (at the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown Books/Red Telephone celebration event). As well as good experience for me, audience reaction to each story let me know the emotional impact of each story was precisely what I meant it to be! It is a bit difficult to gauge this accurately when you’re on your own! (I use reading work out loud, when alone, to help me get my dialogue right and this is also very useful).

Love the booklet Inspiring Ideas that has come with this month’s Writing Magazine. Shall be finding this useful! It has picture prompts, tips from famous authors and sets exercises too. Will be staying by my laptop for some considerable time I think. What is nice these days I nearly always turn to the Members’ News and letter pages first in the magazine and see if I spot anyone I know from writing events in there. Glad to say I often do!

I read three stories at Saturday’s Bridge House event. I chose Serving Up a Treat (poetic justice), Making the Grade (humorous magical story) and Pressing the Flesh (horror. This one is also in the Best of Cafelit 6 as it started life on Cafelit). I think of this as a kind of “pick and mix” of my stories (and those old enough to remember Woolworths will know where that term comes from!).

Image: Thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for taking the photo of my reading and to Paula Readman for sending me the image of Dawn, Paula and I together showing off where our stories are! Three very happy authors!

Fairytales with Bite – Second Book Syndrome

It’s funny how things often don’t work out quite the way you think they will.  My initial plan this year had been to have the follow-up to From Light to Dark and Back Again with my publisher, Chapeltown Books, by, say, the end of October.  Hmm…  I am glad to report I am now editing my second book and, if I can, I hope to have it off to Chapeltown by the year end/very early into the New Year.

I can confirm there’s a nice mixture of fairytales with bite in the second volume and, as ever, some of my characters even I wouldn’t want to meet in any kind of alley, yet alone a dark one.  However, they are huge fun to write for!!

Why the hold up?  Well, I’m glad to say it has been for the best of reasons.  I’ve been involved in Book Fairs, signings, extravaganzas and library events ever since From Light to Dark and Back Again came out and these have eaten into my time more than I thought.  I know I haven’t quite got the balance between writing new material and marketing the current book right but also know I will get there eventually.  It is a great comfort to know other writers have this same struggle to get this balance right!

I thought I’d leave this post with an extract from the second book, which has also recently appeared on Cafelit.

Can I also recommend checking out Cafelit’s Advent Calendar of stories?  There is a lovely mix of styles and lengths of story here.  Am glad to say some more of my Christmassy ones will appear in the next couple of weeks.

Oh and if you want to know what to give the writer in your life?  If they have a book out, reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are always welcome!

Allison Symes’s books on Goodreads

This World and Others – Crossing Genres

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Part 1 (out of 2) of my interview with paranormal historical fiction writer, Jennifer C Wilson. She creates a world where the heroes are ghosts and Richard III gets a MUCH better write up than he ever had from Shakespeare!  In her Kindred Spirits series (two so far:  Tower of London and Royal Mile), she combines historical fiction with ghost stories.

Now I’m sure you’ll have come across the maxim you are not supposed to cross genres but some of my favourite books do exactly that.  Jennifer’s series does so brilliantly.  The most famous example of cross genre work is J.K. Rowling with her Harry Potter series – boarding school stories meet magical stories.

When done well, crossing genres can create a complete new sub-section of fiction and bring new life to the two genres crossed.  Christopher Booker’s The Seven Basic Plots feels there are only so many plots and so stories are going to come into at least one of the categories he lists in this book.  (A long read but a very interesting one and well worth checking out).

In my own case I cross flash fiction with fantasy, sometimes with crime, sometimes with horror and have a wonderful time doing so!  And, of course, there are those books which are hard to categorise but you just know you love them when you read them.

So mix away but choose your ingredients carefully!  I think it essential to have a thorough love and knowledge of the two genres you’re crossing (so you could work well in either if you ever had to pick one because a publisher or agent wants you to do so.  I also think there will be a stronger element of one genre than the other in the overall mix which is where your natural preferences will take you and this could well be a good guide if you have to pick a category for your work to go in).  It will also show through in your writing that you know both genres well and, as a result, your story will be so much more convincing to the reader.).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Crossing Genres

There is a theme emerging tonight!

This topic has come up as my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Part 1 of a two-part interview with Jennifer C Wilson, author of the Kindred Spirits series. She crosses historical fiction with ghost stories.

I cross flash fiction with fantasy, sometimes crime, sometimes horror, sometimes character studies. It occurred to me that, despite all the advice I’ve come across in my time to NOT cross genres, some of my favourites stories and books have done exactly that!

When well done, crossing genres breathes new life into both of the genres the new story uses. So mix away! I do think you need to love and know well both genres you’re writing for but as Jennifer says in her interview, the most important thing is getting the story down and worrying about what genre it fits into much, much later on.

Is it me or is creating new sub-divisions of fiction a healthy thing? I see it as creative, inventive and good for storytelling as a whole.

 

Books really are the gatekeepers BUT they can also be investigators as Westminster Bones clearly is. Image via Pixabay.

HELPING OUT

Apologies for the no-show last night.  An annoying bug caused technical problems – not with the computer but with me!!!  Technically I couldn’t have wielded a pen last night yet alone focused on a screen.  Still back to normal now…  (or what passes for normal in these parts anyway).

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Helping Out is the title of my story in the Bridge House Publishing anthology Baubles.  They are sharing 24 extracts/author interviews from the 24 writers in the book for the period 1st December to 24th December.  A book-like Advent Calendar (minus the chocolate, though!).  Naturally, Murphy’s Law intervened and my slot came up yesterday and I missed it!  Still, I’ve found the link and share it on my web page here.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In Author Interviews, I share what I like about these.  My Bridge House spot included an interview section and I link to that (and my story) in This World.  It was huge fun being interviewed and I loved writing the story.  I hope that shows through.  (Generally, I think you can tell when a writer really enjoyed their work).

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

My next post (hopefully due to appear tomorrow night) will be my Top 10 Film Themes.  More details when up on site.

FACEBOOK PAGE

Again I discuss my story, Helping Out, and share the links with the Bridge House blog spot.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F848844155218565&width=500

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.

Love the cover for this. Image supplied by Bridge House Publishing.