Getting Together With Other Writers and Book Shelf Joys

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were most of the pictures from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. A big thanks to Jennifer C Wilson for sharing the picture of the triumphant Prosecco Queens!
Hope you have had a good start to your week. In my part of the world there has been a bank holiday so I will probably spend the rest of the week reminding myself just what day is it?! It is a common phenomenon! 

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. I know I’ll be a day “out” for most of the week, given we’ve had a bank holiday in my part of the world. Scary thought is the next one isn’t until Christmas!

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers yesterday. My topic of Getting Together with Other Writers clearly hit a chord or several! Link below.

Will be sending my next author newsletter out on Thursday. To sign up just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

There is also an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic over on Amazon at the moment – do see the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Screenshot 2022-08-30 at 20-01-13 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

More Than Writers

It’s my turn on the More than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers blog spot). This time I talk about Getting Together with Other Writers and the benefits of this. If you are thinking this can’t be a coincidence given Allison has recently got back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, you’d be spot on! Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

Screenshot 2022-08-29 at 08-21-46 Getting Together With Other Writers by Allison Symes

I’ll be looking at Author Newsletters for Chandler’s Ford Today next week. Apt since my next one is due out next week too! I’ll be looking at why authors have them and what I do with my one. Link up on Friday.

I’m also busy preparing some interview questions for two great writers for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope to be able to tell you more about these next month.

Am also going to be setting my next flash fiction challenge soon for Mom’s Favorite Reads, the October edition. I have to work a month in advance here but if you want to find out more about MFR, you can do so here. (You can also check out the latest magazine for free here too – go on, have a great read, you know you want to!).Screenshot 2022-08-28 at 16-57-51 Mom's Favorite ReadsHope you have had a good Saturday. Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Facebook re my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today which I shared yesterday. It was a fabulous week.

Also thanks for the comments coming in on Fitting In on Friday Flash Fiction. If you missed the story, you can find it at the link here.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready. Hard to believe we’re almost in September. If you would like to sign up for tips, stories and more please do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am rediscovering the joys of seeing what is on my Kindle. Am currently reading Churchill’s Wizards, which is proving a fascinating read so far. It is about the art of subterfuge etc carried out during the war. I’m a fairly late convert to the joys of non-fiction reading (and this one I would say comes into the creative non-fiction category given the way it is told). Definitely a case of better late than never though!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I see Writing Magazine are having their Grand Flash Fiction prize competition again. I entered last year, didn’t get anywhere, but reworked my story and I hope it will form part of my third flash fiction collection in due course. I will probably have a go at the competition again this year.

It is a good thing to enter competitions as they help you get used to writing to a deadline and in actually sending a piece of work off somewhere. Too easy to sit on a piece of work for too long.

I don’t enter every single flash fiction competition. I’m glad to say there are far too many of them for that to be possible but at least it does mean there is plenty to choose from out there! Always check the competition rules thoroughly. Check out the credentials of those running the competition as well.

Also the prize on offer should reflect fairly the charge you’re being asked to pay. With a novel competition, for example, I would expect to pay a fair amount (usually circa the £25 mark) because a judge will be reading your book and to an extent your fee is paying something towards their time, which is only fair.

Good luck with any competitions you’re entering. Give yourself plenty of time to draft, rest a story, edit it thoroughly etc. And have fun writing the tale – it should be fun.

Plenty of competitions for the short form

If you’ve had a bank holiday today (as I have), I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Having said that, it is still a Monday and it’s definitely time for a story! Hope you enjoy The Guest.


I love setting the flash fiction challenge for Mom’s Favorite Reads (look out for the next issue due next week by the way) and part of my column gives my own response to the challenge I’ve set. A great way to keep me on my toes, I can say! I also get more flash written so win-win there.

I do like mixing up how I approach writing flash and this is yet another reason to use the random generators. They make me think outside my usual box and that encourages further creativity in me. It can do the same for you, honest, give them a go.

You can also combine results from random generators to create more stories. I did this recently for the Lift Up Your Pens session I took at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I hope to do more of that too.

About to run a workshop on editing at Swanwick


I love mixing up writing in the first and third person over the span of a flash fiction collection. The immediacy of the first person makes it an ideal match for flash writing but I also love the third person where a named character shows you their story. I like being able to set my characters wherever and when I want. I can dip a toe into my favourite genres here. So despite the word count restriction, flash is remarkably flexible.

It’s also easy to share and perfect for Open Mic Nights. I don’t know if Radio 2 still have their schools competition for a 500 words story. I hope they do. It’s a great way into creative writing.

It is one of those ironies in fiction that limits fuel creativity rather than stifle it because you are made to work with what you have got. You learn to think about better ways of phrasing sentences so you make the most of your word count. And you’re never afraid of editing again which is a good thing. I happily stamp all over my darlings when I must (see what I did there!).

Have lost all fear of editing

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shelf Joys

One of the great pleasures of being a writer as well as a reader is getting to buy books brought out by your writing friends and having them sign them for you.

I have plenty of those on a special shelf and it gives me great joy whenever I walk past it. I look at the books on there and happy memories come flooding back, (for instance of times spent with said writing friends at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School).

Another shelf bringing me joy holds the books I inherited from my late mother (hardback copies of Dickens amongst many others). As for the shelves that give me a distinct case of the giggles, well those hold the works of P.G, Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett. Then there is the shelf containing hardback works by Agatha Christie, the first set of books I collected as an adult.

Books have meaning well beyond the stories they contain – and I love that too.

Having said that, the ebook very much has its place here. I’m rediscovering the joys of finding out just what is on my Kindle and am currently reading Churchill’s Wizards, a fascinating non-fiction book.
So which book shelves have special meaning for you? It is the meaning that makes the shelf special.

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Zoom, Flash Fiction, and What Does a Book Give You?

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Full report on my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School coming up in my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Meanwhile, I celebrate flash fiction and share some ways in which Zoom has been so useful to me. Plus I ask a leading question for my Goodreads post this time!

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Hope you have had a good day. Came back from my Slimming World group to discover only a teensy weensy gain from my week at Swanwick last week. Given what I had, I thought this was a brilliant result and am feeling chuffed and nicely surprised! Lady is not at all sorry the weather has cooled down somewhat. Neither am I.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom tomorrow. Zoom has made genre groups possible for us, given so many of our members live hundreds of miles apart and could never get to an in person meeting. Zoom is one of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic.

It is also useful as an editing tool. How? Well, you can record a meeting with yourself where you read out your short story or flash piece, end the meeting, and Zoom will turn the file into an mp4 for you to play back later.

I’ve picked up clunky dialogue this way. What looks good written down doesn’t always read out well. I also use Zoom to practice my Zoom talks and help me get my timings right. (And for those of us of a certain age, Zoom was also a great ice lolly! – at least here in the UK it was!).

Use Zoom to record your stories and then play them back to hear them as a reader would take them in


Nice to see some rain here in Hampshire today – drizzle rather than heavy rain for most of the day. Less likely to cause flooding and will still freshen things up a bit.

Back to the real world after a fantastic week at Swanwick. It’s going to be a long week…! Having said that it was lovely taking Lady back to the park today (there are some green bits on it now – not many but there are some!).

I’ll be sharing my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I loved picking the pictures out for that one. I always take loads when at The Hayes.

My next event is likely to be the Bridge House Publishing one later in the year and it will be lovely to catch up with people there too.

What is nice though is this is where social media can come into its own – there are ways to stay in contact with writing friends throughout the year – and social media is at its best for this kind of thing.

Networking encourages your zest for writing


Hope you have had/are still having a lovely Sunday. Back to the writing desk and coming up later this week will be my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up on Friday.

Looking forward to the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

A big hello and welcome to the new subscribers to my author newsletter. The next one goes out on 1st September. Hard to believe we’re nearly three-quarters of the way through the year already. I share tips, story links, and news in my newsletter, especially relating to flash fiction. If you’d like to sign up, do head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Do I sign up to newsletters myself? Oh yes. They’re a great way of hearing the latest from your favourite authors, which is why I love reading the ones I’ve signed up for.

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Have caught up on some much needed sleep after a hectic and joyous and wonderful week at Swanwick.
Glad to share a link to the last flash fiction challenge I set for Mom’s Favorite Reads – and to one of the entries that came in as a result. Hope you enjoy.

Don’t forget MFR is free to download and there are wonderful articles and stories in there. Do check it out. (Glad to say a fellow Swanwicker, Maggie Cobbett, is in there too).

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 20-03-59 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Trust you have had a good day. Looking forward to chatting about all things flash fiction related with the ACW Flash Fiction Group on Zoom tomorrow. And it was great to spread the word about it at Swanwick too.

Don’t forget Mom’s Favorite Reads has a flash fiction column every month, written by yours truly, and I also set a challenge here. Do check it out for FREE.

I was glad to pick up another anthology from the National Flash Fiction Day from the Swanwick Book Room last week. It is important to read in your genre as well as outside of it. You get a feel about what is out there in your field and I find it encourages the love of this form of writing even more. Win-win there.


It’s Monday. I’m back to the day to day tasks after a fabulous week at Swanwick. It’s definitely time for a story. Hope you enjoy my latest on my YouTube channel – Send a Secret.

 

The lovely thing about flash fiction is you can mix up the mood of your stories in a collection. I like to write a mixture of lighthearted tales and those on the darker side, encompassing everything from historical flash to crime ones to twist in the tale to ghost stories.

The word count for flash is limited but you don’t have to be with your characters and settings. I love that aspect. When it comes to putting a collection together, I try to group my tales so you literally do go From Light to Dark and Back Again, I do like to finish on a lightish note.

I usually focus on my character for my stories and then ask myself where would this character best be placed. Sometimes I know I want to write a historical flash immediately so it is then a question of who can I use to serve my tale.

But the character has to suit which is why I ensure I know them well enough by asking myself some pointed questions. It is about working out what you need to know or so I’ve found and then I can get on and draft my tale.

How do characters see themselves

The weekend after Swanwick is useful as it gives me a chance to catch up on sleep and time to start processing ideas etc which came from the courses and workshops. I was glad to spread the word about flash fiction too. I sometimes run a workshop on why flash fiction is useful for all writers, regardless of what else people do.

I hope to resume writing stories for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from this week. Sunday is often when I draft those and it means I get two new flash pieces written a week. Does writing more encourage further ideas? I find it does – and the random generators are a great blessing here too. I know where to go to trigger other ideas I would not have thought of alone. They are so useful for that.

AE - Jan 2022 - Random question generators

Goodreads Author Blog – What Does a Book Give You?

This is a leading question is it not? Where to start! Well what does a book give me?

Books give me escapism, entertainment, educate me, and show me things I had not realised I needed to know. Books can and do encourage empathy with characters. I can see where characters come from and why even if I still disagree with the actions they’ve chosen to do. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is something you get to do all the time when reading fiction, regardless of story length.

Books take me away from my problems for a while – and sometimes that break is all which is needed for me to work out solutions to whatever I’m facing. Even when that’s impossible, just having the break away does my mental health the world of good. And I get to discover worlds and situations I would never face for real but that in turn leads me to wonder what I would do in those situations and why.

Books do act like a kind of portal then. And it was the classic fairytales that showed me girls could be heroes too (see The Snow Queen by Hans Christen Andersen for this).

Above all books and stories encourage you to keep on reading. That in turn fuelled in me the desire to write stories and books myself. I see it as a kind of giving back to the wonderful world of books.

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 08-34-12 What Does a Book Give You

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Writing Time, Lines, and a Petulant Goose

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good few days. It’s got off to an odd start for me as the title above confirms.

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Had a most enjoyable swim earlier. When I started swimming more often I thought I’d be using the time in the pool to work out story ideas, dream up further ideas and so on. Not a bit of it. My mind tends to go blank when swimming! Make of that what you will!

I’ll be looking at Quizzes and Word Games for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m fond of word games so this post was a particular pleasure to write. I suppose it makes sense that a writer unwinds by playing with words!

Many thanks for the continuing comments in on Moving On, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is so helpful.

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Glad to say the August edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. Treat yourself to a free read. Plenty of fascinating articles and stories here. I talk about Funny Flash Fiction this time and share useful tips here. As well as setting a flash fiction challenge in my column, I respond to it myself so you get a story from me here too – and do check out the wonderful tales that came in as a result of the challenge.

Screenshot 2022-08-01 at 19-26-15 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022

Is there ever enough writing time? Probably not but I suspect the answer to this dilemma is working out how to make the best use of the time you have got. In my smaller pockets of time, I’m jotting down blog ideas, story titles, possible opening lines etc. In my longer pockets of time. I’m writing those ideas up! I also plan my week around my Chandler’s Ford Today post. Generally I have that written and scheduled by Tuesday. I then start work on the one for the following week.

I plan my monthly blogs so I have them ready in good time. I like to have those scheduled at least a week before due date. Now life gets in the way sometimes but giving myself this leeway means I still have a few days to get something in and I like knowing that I have this safety net. I rarely have to use that safety net. It is a relief to have it when I do.

So yes I outline my writing time too and have found doing that pays off.

Also my next author newsletter goes out tomorrow. To sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Newsletter has gone out but new subscribers are always welcome.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Looking forward to catching up with some Swanwick friends on Zoom tonight ahead of seeing them in person again soon.

Many thanks for the comments in on Moving On, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Don’t forget comments are welcome over on my Chandler’s Ford Today blog post pages as well.

I do enjoy getting my monthly posts together for Mom’s Favorite Reads and am just putting the finishing touches to my piece for September. My piece in the August edition, which is due soon, will be about Funny Flash Fiction, which is is also a joy to write.

Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-28-29 Moving On by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Further to yesterday’s post and in breaking news, the goose came back!

Again I was hissed at. The dog turned tail and ran (back into the house). Yours truly scared the goose off into the wooded bit of the garden with the aid of a garden broom. Am not having my dog too scared to go out into her own garden. My herding skills were okay (I have clearly learned something from my collies over the years). Most annoying thing of all – I can’t write this up as a story. It’s a bit unbelievable, isn’t it?!

The goose is fine, Lady is fine, I’m fine, but I still don’t get why this bird isn’t flying – it isn’t injured and its attitude – well it would have that anyway. There is no sign of injury or anything like that. Have shut the garden gate on it so hopefully that will send it back to where it should be at the lakes about a mile away from where I live where there is a colony of geese and ducks.

They say you can’t make it up. Well, as a writer I would dispute that. It is a question of whether you can use the material at times!

In other news, am looking forward to getting my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11.

CafeLit11 Small

It’s Monday. It has been a long, hot day. It has been an odd Monday. I got hissed at by an irate lost Canada Goose in my own garden this afternoon. There are a group of them on nearby lakes and it clearly had got lost. I am betting it is male and didn’t want to ask for directions!

Why the barking of Lady didn’t persuade it here was not a good place to be I don’t know but it did wander off eventually. (Lady would happily have chased it off but one slightly bonkers dog and an annoyed goose did not seem like a good combo to me!).

So as I say it has been a long day. It’s Monday when all is said and done. Definitely time for a story. Hope you like Acting Your Age, my latest on YouTube.

 

PS. Will keep you posted if anything odd turns up here tomorrow. Am hoping not though I suppose I can always get a flash story out of it. See above – The Goose Came Back! Not a typical day or two in the life of a flash fiction writer, I can tell you!

Understanding what makes your characters tick
Wow, another month gone. It won’t be long before I’m writing my festive flash pieces!

Am not kidding. For the short story market, you have to work on these much earlier in the year than I need to on my festive selections. But it still pays to give yourself plenty of time to write and hone your festive flashes so around summer/early autumn is not a bad time to start on that.

I find having a rough schedule to write to means I produce more finished writing. I like that aspect.

While flash is shorter prose, it still takes time to edit and hone. I can get a draft down relatively fast but it is the editing that takes the time. And that is how it should be too, no matter what you write. The writing is in the re-writing.

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Opening lines have to intrigue the reader enough to make them want to read on. This is even more important in flash where you do have to hit the ground running. You don’t have the word count room to expand on things later. In my The Silence (Tripping the Flash Fantastic), I start with It was the perfect way to shut up Mr Know-it-all.

I imply questions here – hopefully the reader will want to find out what the perfect way is, did it work, and who is the character behind this. Sometimes I use questions directly as opening lines but implying them also works well. It is key to provoking reader curiosity, that have got to find out what happens here moment. And then the tricky bit – delivering on the promise to answer here!

This is a key reason why I outline. I set up the question. I want to know in advance what the possible answers could be. It means I know where I am heading as I draft the tale. And I always go for the answer that makes me go “wow” – If I do that, it is likely someone else will. Naturally my hope here is that someone else will be a publisher, editor, or a competition judge!

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Between the Lines

I write as well as read flash fiction and implying happens all the time here. You do get your readers reading between the lines all the time. You just give them what they have to know to be able to do that.

With my reading hat on, I love having to read between the lines. Crime writers do this constantly too – give us clues to work things out and you accept some of them will be red herrings. All great fun.

I don’t want tonnes of description. I just need enough to be able to picture the character and the setting. Specific details often work better anyway. A moth-eaten chair conjures up a stronger image than just saying an old chair. (Well, how old? Are we talking antique here or something that is only 30 years old?). ]

Specific details matter. Whenever a writer put them in, I am looking to see how important these things prove to be later on in the story. They usually are important. At the very least they have significant meaning for the lead character and that’s the important thing (if only because their opponent could use that against them).

I love reading between the lines then. The great stories encourage this I think.

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Zest in Fiction, Advice to a New Writer and Publication News

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you are all okay. Great week here as I have further publication news to share. The buzz of being published never diminishes! Given the writing life is full of ups and downs, it is lovely when the “ups” arrive!

Facebook – General – Chandler’s Ford Today and More Than Writers

29th July 2022 – Chandler’s Ford Today
I don’t know where the last 26 weeks have gone but I wrap up my In Fiction series for CFT this week with Zest In Fiction. I celebrate the joys of zestful writing and look at ways we can keep our enthusiasm for writing going when all we seem to receive are the “pips” rather than the zest of creative writing itself. Every writer goes through it – and more than once too.

I also look at how the discipline or writing regularly can help with keeping that zestful spirit going. I know it sounds a bit of a contradiction but it isn’t. See the post for why.

Many thanks for the comments in already on this one.

Zest In Fiction

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29th July 2022 – More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers

It’s a busy day on the blog spot today. My second post tonight is to share my latest blog post on More Than Writers. This month I talk about Advice to a New Writer.

Do you agree with my suggestions? What would you add to the list? I also think I’ve found the cutest ever teacup for this post – as you do. Head over and see what you think.
Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-15-25 Advice to a New Writer by Allison SymesTwo blogs out tomorrow – Chandler’s Ford Today where I’ll be looking at Zest In Fiction and More Than Writers where I’ll look at Advice to a New Writer. The latter is my monthly spot for the Association of Christian Writers. Links above.

Talking of whom, it was great fun on the ACW Flash Fiction group last night – many thanks to those who came to it.

Writing Tip: Don’t forget you can use things like the random theme and question generators to trigger ideas for non-fiction posts as well as for fiction.

Having a quick look at a random theme one, the topic of innocence came up.

For fiction, you an always write about a framed character or where someone’s innocence is questionable.

For non-fiction, you could look at how the idea of innocent until proven guilty underpins the criminal justice system and how that came about. You could also look at a historical figure’s innocence (Richard III is a key figure here, as is Anne Boleyn).

A quick search on the random question generator I use came up with the topic of What’s your favourite book?

Now that can make a direct non-fiction post as you look into why you’ve chosen the one you have (and a bit of history about the book itself would be a nice addition here).

For fiction, you could invent a book for your character to treasure and show how that affects their actions and reactions to events around them.

AE - March 2022 - random generators encourage you to ask questions about your characters

Hope you have had a good day. Am about to host the monthly meeting of the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group. Always good fun. Zoom is a wonderful thing!

Many thanks for the support shown with the announcement yesterday concerning The Best of CafeLit 11. It is good to be “between the covers” with friends once again!

Last not but least. Don’t forget I send out my monthly newsletter on the first of each month so another one is due soon. To sign up head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s Friday Flash Fiction time. My latest story here is called Moving On. Hope you enjoy it. (Also fabulous to see some familiar names on here this week – well done, all!).

Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-28-29 Moving On by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good day. Very pleasant with the French windows open and enjoying the evening sun.

How do you evoke atmosphere in a flash tale given you haven’t got the word count room to go into much detail? It is a question I think of choosing the one detail to focus on here. For example if I wanted to show a stormy night, I would probably show a character looking out of their house, moaning about the guttering overflowing while watching the trees swaying.

Specific details are more useful in painting the right image in your reader’s mind. Given my example above, I wouldn’t need to say that leaves were coming off the trees because people already know that happens when a storm brews up. They’d expect twigs, small branches etc to be flying about too.

The reader just needs to know the storm is happening and the guttering overflowing and the trees swaying are enough details to give them that picture.

So choose what you think a reader absolutely has to know and then consider what detail can best convey that. The rest can be implied (which is flash fiction’s great strength).

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Thrilled to be in print once again with The Best of CafeLit 11 out yesterday. Will have some nice admin to do on this such as ordering my copies, getting it added to my Amazon Author Central page, ALCS, Goodreads and so on.

About to head off to run a flash fiction group for the Association of Christian Writers. Always fun and we all learn a lot from this. I especially encourage sharing market news given no one author can know it all so if you have the chance to take part in groups in your genre, go for it. You may well learn loads, and have lots of fun. Win-win. You get to write more flash as well for the flash group I lead.

 

Fairytales with Bite – Transformations

The fairytales have plenty of transformations from arrogant princes into beasts and suspiciously bright red applies into something nasty and so on. There is always a good reason behind them. In the first case, the arrogant prince needed cutting down to size. In the second, the wicked stepmother wanted to poison Snow White. Nobody said a transformation necessarily had to be for a good reason.

So with that in mind, think about what or whom you want to be transformed in your stories. What is the reason? How are the transformations going to happen? Does magic necessarily have to be involved? Can whatever is being transformed be restored to what they were again?

Where the transformation is a positive one, how does that go on to affect the character’s life? Do others around them welcome the change?

Not everyone would. Especially if someone has come out from someone else’s control, there will be one character definitely unhappy at the change! What would they try to to to reverse the situation and do they succeed? Or are they transformed too? If so how? What makes them see the error of their ways?

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This World and Others – Changing the Guard

In your setting, how would regime change happen? Revolution or reform? Who or what is the catalyst for this? I must admit I prefer reform generally because fewer people get hurt. Does your fictional world learn from its own history or does it make the same mistakes time and again?

The old saying about not throwing the baby out with the bath water comes into mind here. When it comes to changing the guard, are there aspects a new ruler or system of government would want to retain (or copy and adapt for its own use)? And how do the “ordinary” people take to the changes being imposed on them? They are rarely asked about these things in advance!

Where changing the guard is a good thing, what system of government or ruler had to go first? And does the change of regime delivery on its promises to make things better for the people?

Changing the guard can be a good or bad thing – so much depends on perspective. What would your character’s perspective be?

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Opening Lines, Dialogue, and Persistence


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. I use Book Brush for captioning etc. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of Lady.
Hope you had a good weekend. My part of the world is experiencing a heatwave at the moment. Lady and I don’t really “do” heat so won’t be sorry when it cools down again.

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What do I look for when reading a story by someone else and what can I learn from it for my own writing?

The main thing I look for is how the story made me feel. I then look at why it achieved that. I can then go back over the story (especially if it is a short story or piece of flash fiction) to look at how the author achieved this. It will inevitably be to do with how they portrayed the character.

I sometimes have fun trying to spot the turning point in a character. Sometimes the odd line will prove to be really important to the story later on and I like trying to guess what these might be. Sometimes I guess correctly.

A lot of the time I haven’t so I go back through the piece to see if I can work out whether I should’ve guessed correctly. You can learn a lot from doing things like this, including how to plant your own red herrings when the need arises!

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Wow! What a warm Monday! You’ll be glad to know Lady is fine, drinking plenty, and staying out of direct sunlight. It’s about the only time she is ever remotely sensible, not that I am sorry about this. She got to see her best mate, the Ridgeback, briefly this morning before it really heated up, which cheered both dogs up.

I suspect her buddie, like Lady, has spent the rest of the day curled up somewhere cool, pausing every now and then to get up and have a good drink. It truly is a dog’s life…

I mentioned last week I’d found a title for my “X” feature for this week’s In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Drum roll please… it is going to be (E)xcellence in Fiction – now before you all start shouting at me and saying I am cheating here, let me just say one thing.

You’re quite right!
Am I sorry? No!

I did consider other options such as X-Ray Vision and Other Special Gifts In Fiction. Now I could have written a post on that but obviously It would be heavily weighted in favour of sci-fi and fantasy writing so I thought a broader topic more people can get more out of would be the better idea. Link up on Friday.

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Writing Tip:

Keep it simple is a good maxim to go by for writing dialogue. I occasionally have a pompous character who won’t use contractions or will use complicated words and everyone else around them is wondering what on earth they’re going on about. Keeping the dialogue simple helps increase pace. Your characters can share information more quickly.

It is especially important in fiction for characters to get to the point – readers want to find out what happens after all. We all know those who “go around the houses” a bit in their speech – that’s fine for people we know. It’s not fine in stories. Readers will switch off. When you need a character like that, use the verbosity every so often. Readers will get the idea this character is like that but at the same time won’t be bored to ears by them either. They know to expect it.

I find the more verbose characters work best for humorous pieces (and ideally the story is on the relatively short side too. You don’t want to run the risk of the joke wearing thin long before the reader gets to The End).

Characters can bring each other up to date with story events via dialogue

Hope you have had a good Saturday. It was still well into the 20s temperature wise late last night. Thankfully Lady tends to crash out after a busy day and she loved her time down in the West Country yesterday.

The other half and I decided a day out would do us all the world of good and we had a fabulous time. Nice coastal breeze too. (We always carry water for Lady wherever and whenever we go out, including our local park, so she always has plenty to drink. She enjoyed some paddling yesterday – as indeed did I!).

Comments still coming in for Respect, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Many thanks, everyone. It seems people agree with my character’s attitude to nobody disrespecting her cat! See the link in case you missed the story – and beware the cat!

Do you have a particular kind of character you love to write about? I like the feisty underdog type of character. You know, the one most would overlook or dismiss as being unimportant yet who turns out to be the most important of all. I think this love comes from my love of fairytales and my faith too. (See Matthew 23: 12 – For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted).

Many stories revolve around a “turn around” in fortunes and so often with fairytales, the attitude of the main character will often dictate what happens to them. In Beauty and the Beast it was the arrogance of the prince that got him turned into a beast in the first place.

So what can you do with your characters that acts as a “had this coming” moment and can they redeem themselves or be redeemed someone else? Being redeemed I think for me gives a truly happy ending/happy new beginning.

20220708_122648Screenshot 2022-07-08 at 17-15-37 Respect by Allison Symes

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Am delighted to say I’ll be giving a flash fiction workshop online in September. Looking forward to doing that. I share news and tips on flash fiction writing via my author newsletter as well, which goes out on the first of the month. If interested, please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

I used a random noun generator to help me write my latest YouTube story, Crumbs! Link to video below.The words which came up were cookies and road. I love using the random generators as they’re great ways to get prompts for stories you might not otherwise have thought to write. I also like to mix up which ones I use and all of them are helping me to increase my productivity so win-win there.

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It has been a very hot Monday on 11th July 2022, hasn’t cooled down much since. Time to relax a bit. Hope you enjoy Crumbs! which is my latest YouTube video.

How many stories had I written before getting into print for the first time in 2009? I don’t know to be honest. I wasn’t keeping count of all those rejections! However, it would not surprise me if it was a considerable number.

Where I could get feedback, some competitions offered it, I always took it. I learned a great deal from that, as well as from reading writing advice columns in magazines and reputable websites. Listening to/reading author interviews was also enlightening here.

I was, and still am, greatly encouraged by those stories of people taking a long time to get into print and then they do it. I then became one of those people!

So it pays to persist, it pays to read up on your craft, go to writing events etc. The one thing nobody can give you is the determination to do all you can to improve what you do which greatly enhances your chances of publication. (It is a question of chances.

Always be wary of anyone guaranteeing publication – vanity publishers thrive on this – they’re trying to sell you your dream – and boy do they charge!).

This is where the support of writing friends is invaluable and why again going to writing events, and any opportunity where you can get to meet other writers is such a good idea. What is nice now is there are more opportunities out there – online magazines are now a “thing” as is the independent press. Then there’s print on demand, reputable self publishing services, and places to go to for advice (the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors).

Good luck!

 

I first got into print back in 2009 with a re-telling of the Cinderella story in A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions published by Bridge House Publishing. That was a standard short story but I have re-told fairytales in flash fiction too.

Sometimes I’ve taken a character from a fairytale and shown something of what has happened to them before the “big event” related in the standard fairytale. My Living the Lie is an example of this (Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It looks at the beast in Beauty and the Beast before he goes on to meet her. This kind of story is great fun to do.

And there’s a wide range of fairytales to choose from where you could do this. If you ever wanted to know what happened to a minor character in a story, here’s your chance to do so – you write that story!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Opening Lines

When I have small pockets of time I jot down ideas for potential opening lines for future flash fiction/short stories of mine. It is a good use of time and the opening line is so important in hooking a reader in to reading your story and your books.

So it is worth jotting down ideas for me to work on at a later date. And it is opening lines which draw me into reading a book at all. Every writer knows they’ve got to polish these up and get them as good as possible.

It was a truth universally acknowledged – just that section of Jane Austen’s opening to Pride and Prejudice drew me in. Why?

Firstly, I wanted to know what that truth was.

Secondly, the word universally implies agreement but it also opens up the possibility someone somewhere won’t agree (and I wanted to find out if I might be that someone. I can only find out by reading on).

Thirdly, there is already a hint of irony here and in only six words. Now that is quality writing!

There has to be a sense you’ve got to find out what happens next. That’s how I know an opening line will work for me. If the opening line works, it is highly likely the first page, the first chapter will and so on and before I know I’ve read the book!

Screenshot 2022-07-12 at 08-32-42 Opening Lines

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Stories, Naming Characters, and Addictive Flash Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you had a good weekend. Nice to have publication news to share this week. Glad to share two links to two of my stories as part of that.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Loved a swim earlier on today and Lady got to play with her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and the Hungarian Vizler. Lovely dogs. Girls had a great time. Good day all round here then!

Looking forward to leading the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group tomorrow (so my posts may be up late or early tomorrow depending on what kind of day I have!). I’ve used PowerPoint more in the last twelve months or so (as it is so useful to use on Zoom) than I have in the last twelve years. That really isn’t an exaggeration.

Many thanks for the lovely responses (especially on Twitter) to Jubilee, my latest story on CafeLit. Link below. This tale was one where I knew the name of the character immediately (I don’t always). Here I anted an older lady, who is a little posh but well meaning with it – Dorothy it had to be then!

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Publication News – CafeLit
Delighted to be back on CafeLit with my new story, Jubilee. I wrote this as a homework exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group which I lead. Dorothy is one of those characters who grow on you – see what you make of her here. Hope you enjoy.

Screenshot 2022-06-27 at 17-36-02 CafeLitMagazine
Today would have been my father’s 85th birthday. He is much missed by all the family. What was nice was my late Mum got to see my first story in print and Dad got to see my first book. Don’t think they’d be too impressed with the state of the world right now, especially since both of them were child evacuees.

On a happier note I am glad to say I will have a new story up on CafeLit tomorrow. Am looking forward to sharing the link then. See above!

And I think I may have found what may be my favourite title for a Chandler’s Ford Today post. My blog this week will be called Verbs and Verbosity In Fiction! Link up on Friday. (Wish me luck for when I get to the letter X by the way!).

My author newsletter will also be going out later this week so if you would like to sign up for that, do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

 

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. I’ve spent the day mowing the lawn, playing ball with the dog (and while mowing the lawn too – it is quite a sight!), washing, ironing, cooking etc. Now it’s writing time. I am one of those writers who can only relax into writing when I know the major things of the day are behind me.

So could I procrastinate with doing “essential” jobs while putting off doing any writing? Not really. I do have a saving grace here – I loathe housework! There is no way I’m using that as an excuse not to write! If anything the opposite is true in that I get the dreaded chores done as soon as I can to expand my writing time.

And talking of writing, I am glad to say I now have an author bio up on the Friday Flash Fiction site under their Authors section. See the link and screenshot. Also, a big thanks to all for the comments in on my new story here, A Picture Paints A Hundred Words.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It doesn’t take long to become addicted to writing flash fiction. I found after writing my first 100 word piece, I wanted to see if I could do it again (partly to prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke I think). Then I wanted to do another, then another, and then I tried to write to 50 words and then again to 500, and on to the upper limit of 1000 and all kinds of word counts in between. All great fun!

It has been lovely getting back to the drabble for Friday Flash Fiction especially since writing to that length was my way into flash fiction in the first place. There’s a pleasing symmetry to that I think.

So be warned! Flash can prove surprisingly addictive for such a short form of writing. I also wanted to explore (and still do) what kinds of characters would work well in such a tiny tale, whether I could write linked flashes (where the same character turns up in more than one story) and so on. Always plenty to try here and that too is part of the charm of flash fiction.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

It’s Monday. It has been hectic (and stormy here in my part of the world). Definitely time for a story I think. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – Many Happy Returns.

Interesting thought for a writing prompt here. Anniversaries, birthdays and the like can be sad or happy or a mixture of both, depending on exact circumstances. Is there a special day for a character of yours? What would be the story behind that being a special day? Does your character change their views on a special day and, if so why? Can other characters help them to see things more positively where that might be needed? Hmm…story ideas there I’m sure – good luck!

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The challenge of writing to a specific word count (such as my drabbles for Friday Flash Fiction) is also in making sure that I am getting the maximum impact from my story. Every one of those one hundred words has to punch its weight to justify its place in my tale. This is where I admit I love it when the title is not included in the overall word count. I can use that title to give extra nuances and indicate the likely mood of the story without using up my “allowance”.

Ironically my story this week on Friday Flash Fiction is one of my rarer stories with a fairly long title – A Picture Paints a Hundred Words. I used that one because it is a play on the usual phrase (it’s usually a thousand words but I wanted to play on the fact the drabble is only one hundred words long. Because a standard phrase is being subverted a little bit here, that will help make it more memorable. My favourite word counts for titles are usually between one to four words. They’re even easier to remember as a rule.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Good Old Paperback

The good old paperback has long been my favourite book format. Easier to carry around than a hardback (and certainly less damaging if you drop it on your foot!). That love was intensified when my own flash fiction collections came out in good old paperback! Okay, I’m biased but it is a good reason to be biased!

The first paperbacks I remember buying were the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton in the days when you could buy books from your local newsagent. Southern TV had been adapting the books and of course the publishers brought out the books in an edition to match the TV series.

I then bought my own paperback of Pride and Prejudice by the wonderful Jane Austen. Later I went on to the paperbacks of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett and the P.G. Wodehouse books (though I haven’t got all of those. Still it gives me something to aim for!). All a joy to buy and to read and re-read (a sign of a good book is that is it one you can always re-read).

Which paperbacks are your favourites and why? Are there any you regret buying? (Sometimes you can find the answer to that one by looking at the books given to charity shops. Every so often a book is a big hit and then it just drops out of favour and ends up in said charity shops!).

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Zooming Around and Being Kind to Yourself


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you’ve had a good few days. Weather changeable here. Hope it brightens up for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee (mind you, we are used to changeable weather here so prepare for it). I plan to raise a glass or two while I’m away at the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee this weekend. I know – no jubilees for ages and then two at once!

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Hope you’ve had a good day. You know I said Lady and I received a bit of a soaking yesterday? Well, today we “copped the lot” in a cloudburst that drenched us in minutes. It was a relief to get home and change. Lady is pretty good at being towelled down – she sees it as a chance for a cuddle.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, prompts news etc here and if you would like to sign up, just head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Looking forward to my trip to Derbyshire at the weekend. So nice being able to do in person events again. Mind you, I’ve taken to Zoom well too. It has been lovely to be able to make the most of both worlds here. Long may that continue!

Is there a particular day of the week when writing just seems tougher to do than usual? I hope it is some comfort to know every writer has those days. On those days, I focus on writing short things or accept I will write something towards a longer piece (say one of my blog posts). Writing is writing, whether you manage 50 words in a day or 5000. It accumulates.

And on those tough days, you will still have got something written. I find that cheers me up knowing I’ve got something to develop later. On those days when I can’t write at all, I try to ensure I “up” my reading as that helps with my writing too.

Writing is hard work but most of the time it should be a joy too.

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Changeable weather here in Hampshire – Lady and I did get a bit of a soaking. (Have known worse, mind you).

Many thanks to everyone for the lovely comments in on my Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop post for More Than Writers yesterday.  Link further down.

I’ll be looking at Settings and Simplicity In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday, just ahead of my heading off to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend in lovely Derbyshire. I hope to write about that event and my recent workshop for the London Jesuit Centre in a CFT post after that. And I’ll be setting another flash challenge for Mom’s Favorite Reads soon too – so it’s all go in a good way.

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

 

Writing Tip 10008 or thereabouts: Be kind to yourself.
What has that got to do with writing, I hear you ask. A lot! I find I write more (and enjoy what I do more) when I am relaxed. So having classical music on in the background helps me a lot there but so do things like ensuring I get enough sleep, make time for reading, etc.

I’ve learned over time to realize on those days when the writing is slow or I am especially tired to just write what I can and have done. (Mondays for me is often a day like that). I’ve found being kind to myself, especially in not beating myself up over what I haven’t got done, helps me on those days when I do have more time to write. Away I go again and it’s fine.

I also look at my writing over the course of a week so I never judge my progress (or lack of it) by what I managed to do (or couldn’t do) as a result of one good or bad day. I’ve found that helps a lot. I think my productivity has increased due to this too – it certainly feels like I get more done now than I used to do.

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It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers blog spot). I’m talking this time about Getting The Most from a Writing Workshop. I share some thoughts and tips which I have found useful over the years when going to these. Hope you find it helpful).

Looking forward to running my flash fiction workshop at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend from 3rd to 5th June too.

Oh and the most important tip (well it is to me, anyway)?

Go – and have fun!

Screenshot 2022-05-29 at 14-31-29 Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop by Allison Symes

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on my The Heights of Equals, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. All much appreciated.

I’m back on the ACW blog tomorrow with my post about Getting the Most Out of a Writing Workshop. Timely since I’ve recently run one and am about to do so so again. Link up tomorrow on that. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, news, prompts, writing advice etc and if this sounds of interest please do sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am enjoying using the various random generators to trigger ideas for stories and hope to resume more work on those tomorrow. I’m finding I am producing more stories as a result so I like that aspect too.

Screenshot 2022-05-27 at 09-24-38 The Heights of Equals by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I do a dry run of my workshop material and record myself on Zoom. As well as listening to see how it sounds (and therefore how the material is likely to come across to someone else), I can get a sense of the timing of my workshop and adjust things as I need to.

I do love that facility within Zoom to automatically convert your files to mp4 for you. So useful.

I like to leave enough time for questions too. Knowing the timing means it is easy to do that. At workshops I’ve attended, I love the question section. Interesting topics come up and I inevitably learn something useful from that.

I often read a story or two of mine and break down how I wrote them. (I’ve found this useful when other writers do it). So I get to practice that too.

It helps (I find just knowing I have had a read through helps with nerves. I can remind myself I have read the stories, it was fine etc., now all I need to do is do it again – and that’s fine). With flash, the huge advantage is the readings don’t take long (leaving plenty of time for question time later!)

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How come it is almost the end of May already? I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know it’s Monday and time for a story. Hope you like my latest YouTube story, Surprise.

I’m running my flash fiction workshop as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend (3rd to 5th June – yes, we’ll raise a glass or two to the Queen while there !). Very much looking forward to it as it is always a pleasure to spread the word about the joys of writing flash fiction.

I look at how it can benefit all forms of writing and share a couple of stories and break down how I wrote them amongst many other tips and advice and yes I set writing exercises too. All good fun. Did I imagine I would ever do something like this when I started out as a writer? Absolutely not! It’s another reason to be grateful for the flash fiction though!

 

I often read my stories aloud, as you know, sometimes for things like Open Prose Mic Nights. I also do this as I prepare workshop material so I can hear that my chosen tales do fit in as well as I thought. I also do this when I get a collection together. I see that as part of my editing.

Reading work out loud does confirm if the story flows as well as you think or not. If you stumble over reading the story, a reader will do but you can adjust that before the story sees the light of day. I’ve done this several times. It can be strange sometimes when you see dialogue written down, say, it looks fine. Reading it out loud shows otherwise!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Other Worlds in Books

All books take us to other worlds. Yes, even non-fiction, given that can enlighten us to aspects of life in this world and increase our knowledge, making us see this world in new lights.

But for fantasy and sci-fi especially, what is it about their settings which convinces you to “suspend disbelief” while reading the story? For The Lord of the Rings (though this applies to many other stories too) it was the portrayal of the characters which made me believe in the settings.

Hobbits are small so it makes sense for them to live in something like hobbit holes. I was also convinced by the peaceful tranquil setting of The Shire especially when contrasted with the dark world of Mordor. To have both of these elements in the book made sense to me. One represents good, the other evil. No world is perfect, even in fiction. Contrasts work for me.

And we can all understand the wish to defend one’s home, even more so with world events right now. So again I get the setting and the wish to defend that. I don’t need to know every little thing about the setting but I do need to know enough to understand why the characters love it.

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The Writing Life and Show, Don’t Tell


Image Credits:- All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good weekend. My workshop at the London Jesuit Centre went down very well and many thanks to all who came. Also for the lovely feedback. Happy writing to you all! (I plan to have a write up about this for Chandler’s Ford Today once I have also ran my flash fiction workshop at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee celebration weekend in June. Meantime, there are pictures taken by me from the event throughout the post).

 

Facebook – General

Strange day – gorgeously sunny and warm and by this evening it was pouring down. Fortunately Lady and I missed the worst (we’re never sorry about that) and she got to play with her pal, Coco, today.

When do you know you really are a writer? Is it when you get your first publication credit or contract or you’ve mapped out your self-publishing route? Not necessarily! I would argue it is when you recognize that writing can not be part of your life and you will write regardless of anything else. Doesn’t matter if you only have a few minutes a day or several hours. It is the commitment and regular writing that matters I think.

Also the acceptance that rejections happen to everyone (and even more so not hearing back from a publisher or a competition) is an important factor. Another one is recognizing nobody’s work can ever be described as perfect. It is a question of making it the best you can make it at the time you wrote it.

I can look back on several of my earlier stories and see how I could improve them. They act as a record of where I was at the time and as encouragement to keep going and to continually try to improve on what I do. That is the challenge of writing – to keep on improving. Resting on your laurels doesn’t encourage you to see what else you might do either.

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Hope your week has got off to a good start. Changeable weather here again though Lady got to play with her two best girlfriends today and all three dogs went home very happy. It is quite something to see a Collie cross, a Ridgeback, and a Vizler playing! You do learn to get out of the way quickly, mind you.

Many thanks for the comments in so far on Creation, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is encouraging and much appreciated.

It’s almost time again for my monthly Authors Electric spot – my post will be up on Wednesday (18th May so will be included in my next round up here) and I will be talking about Why I love the Shorter Fictional Forms. There you go! A good example of writing about what you know! Screenshot 2022-05-13 at 09-12-04 Creation by Allison Symes

More like an autumn day out there today than a spring one!

I plan to write up a bit more about my workshop yesterday for the London Jesuit Centre later in June, after I come back from The Hayes in Swanwick after the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee weekend. I will be running my flash fiction workshop there and am looking forward to doing so and catching up with friends old and new.

That means I continue with my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today and next Friday’s post will be about Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions In Fiction. There’s some nice alliteration for you!

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of each month so please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc.

And I got my story off for one of the competitions I always have a try at so that rounds off the week nicely! As I mentioned to someone at the workshop yesterday, I really don’t miss having to send everything off in the post. I am so grateful for email submissions. It’s quicker and I can know my story got there straight away too!

 

A huge thank you to the lovely people at the London Jesuit Centre for making me so welcome today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). I ran my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started there this morning and there were some fabulous discussions and questions as a result of the workshop material. Many thanks all – I love interactive workshops whether I’m running them or attending them!

Also a quick trip down memory lane here as I always used to try and “buy” Bond Street on the old Monopoly board when playing this as a kid and my Tube Station stop today – you guessed it, Bond Street!

In other news, as they say, a big thanks also to all who have commented on Creation, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

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I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression “show, don’t tell” and it took me a long time to work out what that meant. Writing flash helped me enormously here.

When I “clicked” it was all about getting your characters to say/do things and not the author, I was away. (Catherine walked through the wall as if there was nothing to it as opposed to me saying something like The character, Catherine, did this, did that. Oh and by the way she’s a ghost. My first example shows you she must be a ghost without my spelling it out).

The flash element helped me develop this because of the limited word count. I had to ensure my characters were doing all of the work.It’s a bit like a play – what does the audience want? To see the actors perform the story (or listen if it’s an audio play). What they don’t want are the stage directions. Those aren’t for them.

Likewise, a reader doesn’t want to see my early drafts of a story. They want to see and read what my characters get up to – and it has helped me to remember that it is the character’s story.

Why am I writing this character’s story up? What is so important they get to do this? Only answer there is for the characters to show me (and ultimately the reader) through what I get them to say and do. The only people readers want to hear from are the characters.

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It’s Monday (16th May 2022) and time once again for a YouTube video. Hope you enjoy my latest, 47. Linda has an unlucky number but it’s not one of the usual ones – she has no problem with the number 13 for example. Why 47? Find out here!

 

I suppose one of the reasons I love characters so much in any kind of story is I usually understand where they are coming from, even if I still disagree with their attitudes and actions. I want to then see how things pan out. Did those characters make the right choices for them and their situation after all or not? That is the big draw of fiction and I need characters to make things happen.

Okay, sometimes those things will make the initial situation worse but a “good” character will find ways of overcoming that/learning where they went wrong and put things right. In flash fiction, naturally, all of that happens so much more quickly so you get the payback more quickly.

And for any kind of story collection, I like a mixture of moods of story too. It is why I called my first book From Light to Dark and Back Again after all!

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble


I was sharing a flash piece today as part of my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). The great thing about doing this is that it doesn’t take too long, flash can illustrate points quickly, and it is easy to demonstrate the point of hooks, powerful opening lines etc.

Also you can show a character does not necessarily have to be right about conclusions they’ve reached for themselves but what should happen in stories like that is the reader should have empathy with that character. They should be able to understand where the character is coming from even though they think the character should have reached a more positive conclusion, say.

Stories, of any length, should make you react, make you feel something, make you care about what happens to the character (and something does have to happen. There should be a conflict which needs resolving. It should matter to the characters that it is resolved).

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Books Acrostic

B = Brilliant books in all sizes and genres, sure to be something to suit you.
O= Original storytelling from contemporary writers or do you fancy the
O = Old Classics? Why choose – have both!
K = Kindles now mean you can now have an overflowing electronic book shelf as well as a physical one!
S = Stories you read may well inspire the ones you write.

A = Adventures or animal stories – enjoy them all.
C = Children’s fiction, YA, adult, – work your way through!
R = Reading feeds the mind, liberates the imagination.
O = Off in a world of your own – maybe when you read but then the author has done their work well if that is the case.
S = Scary or silly – there are stories for both.
T = Twist endings are not just for crime tales though there are plenty there.
I = Imagine what it might be like to live in a different world – books can take you there.
C = Characters – it’s all about the characters for me whether I love them or loathe them. They have to make me feel something. The very best linger in the mind long after I’ve finished reading the book.

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Originality in Fiction and Alphabetical Writing Thoughts


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
It has been a busy few days. I have two blog posts to share tonight and a new story on Friday Flash Fiction. In most of the UK, it is a bank holiday this weekend so I hope those who can enjoy it. Wouldn’t mind the weather being a bit warmer though!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today and More Than Writers

Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s a busy night tonight. First up, I’m pleased to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I talk about Originality in Fiction and discuss whether or not we can be truly original in what we write given we are all inspired by what we have read and as there are only so many basic plots.

I also look at finding and making the most of your author voice (which is key to being original), and at how to put your own take on an idea. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful and do share your thoughts on originality in the comments box.

Oh and talking of CFT, Janet Williams, my lovely editor, and I had an absolute ball at The Dragon of Wantley pantomime put on by the Chameleon Theatre Group last night. Oh yes we did! Review to follow in due course.

Janet and I very much treat our trips out like this as “CFT works outings”! They’re an absolute joy to go to -and the panto was a hoot from start to finish. The Chameleons had to delay this from January but it was definitely worth the wait! More to come in my review.

Originality in Fiction

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More Than Writers – the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers

My second post tonight is for More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers. I blog monthly here and my topic this time is Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. Great fun to do and I get to share a number of useful tips and hints. Again, I hope you find this one fun and useful.

 

Am off to the panto this evening with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams. Oh yes I am…!

So not too much on the writing front from me today though I will be making up for that tomorrow with my double blog for CFT and More Than Writers. That’s it. No blog for ages then two come along at once, you know how it is!

I have no idea what the storyline is behind The Dragon of Wantley, which is what I’m off to see tonight, but I do know it will be fun finding out. And it will be lovely having a nice night out with guaranteed laughs – that is the joy of panto. Yes, it may be unseasonal but The Chameleon Theatre Group had to put it off from January and I say better late than never, especially after the last couple of years where there was no live theatre at all. It is lovely having live events back again.

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It will be a double blog from me on Friday with my Chandler’s Ford Today post out on Originality in Fiction. Also my More than Writers post, where I blog monthly for the Association of Christian Writers, will also be out and I’ll be talking about and sharing Alphabetical Writing Thoughts. I look forward to sharing both posts later in the week. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month so if you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve mentioned before for my fiction work I always have an Ideal Reader in mind. I do the same for my blog posts. I try to think of what they would find useful about this story or blog of mine and tailor them accordingly. I find doing this helps stop me going off at unhelpful tangents. Having an Ideal Reader in mind from the start helps with targetting your work to the right place (market or competition) as well.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope you enjoy my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. The starting point idea for my story, Reflection, comes from a random object generator and I then took things from there as to why my character would want the object.

Screenshot 2022-04-29 at 19-00-20 Reflection by Allison Symes

I sometimes write historical flash fiction pieces. For these, I give my characters the benefit of being able to speak to us in language we understand so I don’t use Olde English. It’s not easy to read and clarity is everything for a story, especially a short one. What I do do is be accurate and everything I come up with is either based on fact or reasonable supposition given the known facts.

I sometimes get my characters to address us the readers and then go on to show us their perspective on things. I hope this is a way of making those characters seem more real. I think that is even more important the further back in time you go. It is easy to forget these were real people with real feelings. I hope my flash pieces here can correct that to an extent. Honesty in characterisation is vital as otherwise the reader simply won’t believe the people you present to them.

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Hope you have had a good day. Chilly today. Not that Lady noticed. She was too busy running around with her best buddy, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback.

Whether I write my stories in the first or third person, I try to ensure my opening line has an intriguing hook immediately. There has to be something to entice the reader in to want to find out what happens next.

With my reader’s hat on, I know I want to be enticed to go on reading! Okay, okay, you don’t have to try too hard with me to get me reading. I do read the menu in the fish and chip shop because it is there, it has words on it, and words have to be read etc but I can be switched off by something that doesn’t grab me.

Writing flash fiction has meant that I have to hit the ground running from the opening words. There is no room to “run into” the story. And if I’m not intrigued by the story premise, I also know nobody else will be either. I have to be excited about writing it!

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Flighty fairies, not likely!
A = Able to conjure up spells to bring down the arrogant – and they do.
I= Intelligent and they see right through to a character’s soul.
R = Reality for them is coping with everything from a dragon to a witch trying to build gingerbread houses again.
Y = Young? Not necessarily. The best have been around for centuries. Age is not a thing for them.
T = Tough but kindhearted, yes you can combine the two. They are anything but twee.
A = Always ready to help someone in distress.
L = Like helping people, loathe liars and cheats.
E = Experts in getting to the truth of a matter and not caving in to evil.
S = So why would you annoy a fairy? Only if you’re incredibly brave or foolish and my money would be on the latter.

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This World and Others – Games and Puzzles

When I’ve finished writing for the day, I like to unwind with an online game of CrossCraze (a version of Scrabble). So words still come into my “play time”! But I inherited my love of word games, as I did my love of reading from my late mother.

So in your created world, are games and puzzles a “thing”? If so, can anyone join in or do certain species play one type of game or puzzle and others have their own they have to stick to? Are the games and puzzles anything like the ones we have here? If so, what is different about them that could only exist in your fictional world?

I love a game to relax but what does your world use them for? Could they use them to assess intelligence (and therefore someone’s role in their society)? Can they use the games to control people?

Or is this kind of thing seen as a waste of time? If so, what kind of recreational activities are your people allowed to do and why are they only allowed to do these?

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Workshop News and Questions


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you had a good weekend. Tonight’s post looks at questions and aspects of flash fiction writing. I also share some exciting workshop news.

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Facebook – General

Hope Tuesday has been a good day. Lady loved being with her buddy, a smashing Hungarian Vizler, today. Still a bit chilly for April, mind you.

There are offers on both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the links (and the screenshot) for more.

My train tickets for my trip to London to run a workshop for the London Jesuit Centre arrived today. News on the workshop further down.

I was impressed with that. I only booked the tickets over the weekend – and these were sent out by second class post too. I nearly always book tickets like this online. It means I’ve got them and, as ever, when I go on trips like this, I hope to get a certain amount of writing done thanks to Evernote enroute. I vary what I draft here – from potential blog posts to flash stories, to my To Do list – it all proves useful!

Screenshot 2022-04-26 at 20-06-33 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Loved listening to the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM just now. It always gets my vote in their annual Hall of Fame. Music can conjure up images and with this one it is an image of time travel all the way back to Elizabethan England. Absolutely adore that (and I think it is far better than The Lark Ascending so there!). I listen to classical music as I write and find it helps me unwind. A relaxed me writes more!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be on Originality in Fiction. Link up on Friday.

Am off to a (postponed) panto on Thursday (it was due to be on in January). Am off to see The Dragon of Wantley as performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group, my local amateur dramatic company (and very good they are too).

Looking forward to meeting up and having a good chat with Janet Williams, my lovely editor at CFT, who is also going. Review to follow in due course. And I know what will be particularly nice about this show will be the laughs – panto is wonderful for that and I can’t help but feel that will be a much needed tonic for many right now.


Sunny and blustery today. Weather still a bit odd. The wind is almost gale strength at times.

Booked my train tickets for the workshop I’m running at the London Jesuit Centre in May. (Again see further down). Looking forward to that.

Am also getting my May newsletter ready. To sign up for that, just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

A huge thanks for the wonderful comments in on my Where Am I?, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. The feedback on this site is fantastic and I’ve found it so useful. It is also nice to know you’re not on your own – there is a supportive writing community out there. Thank you, all!

 

Hope Saturday has been okay for you. Busy out in the garden mowing the lawn and kicking Lady’s ball for her at the same time. Yes, it is do-able! Makes for an interesting if somewhat unusual workout! Used to do this for Gracie and Mabel too.

Workshop News

I’m running a workshop called Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre in May. Looking forward to this very much. See the link for more information.

Will be running my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers as part of their Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire over the weekend of 3rd to 5th June (and yes, we will raise a glass or two to Her Majesty as well!).

Looking forward to seeing everyone at both workshops!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As I mentioned on my author page, there are offers on both of my flash collections. See the links for more. Grab yourself a bargain!

Another thing flash has shown me is how important character is when I enjoy a story, whether I write it or read it. I’ve got to care about what happens to the character for a story to work for me. Genre is far less important. And to care for a character at all, I’ve got to understand what motivates them and what they are aiming for. I do need to see where they are coming from and yes that goes for the villains too. I just don’t have to agree with the latter!

I wasn’t expecting to write more in the first person when flash fiction entered my life but it happened and I sometimes write monologues as a result. These work well for flash as monologues are at their best when they don’t go on for too long.

The important thing is to ensure your character has a strong enough voice to carry a monologue. Why would the reader want to know what this person has to say? What keeps the reader reading? Because they’re intrigued enough to find out what your character has to say and in flash you know you don’t have to wait too long to find out. So flash and monologues can be a very good match up.

Monologues can also work well for my YouTube tales.

Talking of which, I hope you enjoy my latest one – Mirror, Mirror.

 

I talked about asking questions yesterday and, continuing with that theme, another advantage to doing this is that it gives you a basic story structure immediately. Why? Simply because the question set has to be answered in some way by the end of your story.

All stories have to have a point of change and here the answer to that question is the point of change. Also there has to be conflict and resolution in any story – the question is the conflict which has to be resolved and the answer is the resolution.

The character can answer the question directly. Equally you can show them “acting” the answer out. For example, if my question was something like does love change anything?

I can get the character to “show you” by getting them to reflect on whether they think this is true or not. They can narrate something of their life to show the answer. I do this in my They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I can also get the character to “show” how their idea of love answers that question. If they are trying to obtain love and they succeed, then they are showing you that love does change something – it changes their life.

Questions are useful then. Even when I don’t use a question directly, I always ask questions of the characters I’m outlining and that triggers story ideas. The answers that come to me tell me what I am going to do with that character and away I go and write their story up.

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Asking questions is a great way of fleshing out ideas for a story. I’ve often used questions as the theme for a story too. Sometimes I’ve used them as a title. But I mainly use them to get to know my character better. What do I ask?

Things like what is your major trait? What kind of trouble could this lead you into? (A great story always has trouble in it!). Could your major trait, if generally seen as a virtuous one, ever be misconstrued? What is your attitude to others? What kind of things can’t you stand at any price?

Questions that reveal a character’s underlying attitude to life are excellent for getting to what they are really like. Once I know my character, I find I can write them up. I know what their journey is likely to be. They can still surprise me but those surprises will fit in with the traits I’ve uncovered. I usually get my surprises as I am asking those questions of my lead characters. That’s when I sit up and take notice and ask myself what can I do with this? I usually find something!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Must Read

Every so often lists come out showing books you must read (and sometimes by a certain age at that). I admit I take absolutely no notice of these lists (other than to note they are out again)! Why?

Because the books I must read are the books I must read. I am always happy to take recommendations from friends (including via Goodreads) but most of the time I pick the books I want to read and leave it there. Some of my picks are based on my genre (I read flash fiction and short stories as well as write them (and I love reading outside my genre too).

I think it is more important to have a good mixture in your reading “diet”. I like to read magazines, books, novellas. I like to read non-fiction as well as fiction. I like to read online as well as print books.
I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction. I do like genre fiction (and utterly dislike the snobbery against it in some quarters. I’ve never understood this. Good writing is good writing, whether it is in a literary form or in a genre book).

Life is too short to read books you’re “supposed” to read. I focus on reading books I know I’m likely to enjoy. My non-fiction reading is where I go outside of my comfort zone a bit because here I specifically want to learn something (but it can still be done in an entertaining way).

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