Being Creative

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I think most of us need to find some form of being creative – whether that’s using a pen to write or gardening tools to make the “perfect plot” (pun intentional, no apologies!).

I suppose it is because creativity gives us an outlet, especially if most of the time we are doing something far more humdrum. (I love that word humdrum, just sounds good, and conjures up the exact image of what it means).

Creativity is good for mental and physical health so why does it seem sometimes as if it is something that is “indulged in”? (I don’t have that problem, my family are very supportive of my writing, for which I am enormously grateful as I know not every writer can say that).

 

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Pleased with writing achievements on the train yesterday. A whole CFT post written for next week and a flash fiction story (though one at the higher word count end for me). Hope to have a good look and edit of the latter during the week and submit it somewhere.

Looking forward to taking part in the inaugural Hursley Park Book Fair in June. Over 40 authors are taking part and I will have more details nearer the time via a CFT post about it.

Reading, for me at the moment, is pretty much split 50/50 between paper and Kindle. That is a change for me as it used to be 80/20 paper to Kindle. (But you can’t beat the convenience of slipping your Kindle into a bag with loads of books to choose from over having to limit yourself to one or two paperbacks, depending on the size of one’s bag of course. Goodness knows how men manage here. Is that a paperback in your pocket or…. well you can fill in the rest!😁).

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I’ll be resuming my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series for CFT this week. Up to No. 76 already! Drafted this on the train at the weekend. Had no problem thinking of things to shove (hard) into the vault of doom.

Am hoping to get a couple of flash fiction stories off for competition later this week. I am pleased (and frankly relieved) so many competitions now accept online submissions. I used to spend a small fortune in postage when I first started writing – and yes, the dinosaurs did still walk the earth then. I was one of them – easily spotted. I was part of that sad group forever in a Post Office queue! (I could almost guarantee I’d be out of stamps when I needed them for a competition. I guess the online equivalent would be finding out your server is down just as you’re trying to send your story in. Murphy’s Law does get everywhere).

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Glad to say I’ve had to order more copies of From Light to Dark and Back Again ready for book events coming up over the summer months. Will post more about those nearer to the time of each though I am glad that at one of them in particular, I should have the chance to catch up with friends, which is always a lovely bonus.

I did manage to write some flash fiction on my train journey today – one of my longer pieces. (I also wrote an entire CFT post too so a productive day!)

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I am definitely going to have to go on more train journeys as all of the ones I’ve taken so far this year have meant I’ve drafted LOADS of flash fiction stories, which I hope will end up in a third collection eventually. Just a pity my Swanwick trip in August is going to involve a replacement bus service due to major works happening at Derby Station over the summer. Will be interesting to see how I write while on a bus – assuming I can of course.

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The nature of flash fiction in that it gives only a glimpse into the world of its story makes it useful for when you want to imply your character is a time travelling alien or what have you but don’t need to set up a lot of details as to the world they’ve come from.

I’ve found the odd line showing the character’s reaction to the world they’ve left can be telling. It can be a case of what they don’t say that will imply to the reader the world they left was horrendous. Equally a comment, a throwaway line from the character will show their attitude and from that a lot can be deduced.

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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Broadening the Mind

The old saying goes that travel broadens the mind and, of course, it can do. But so can reading widely across genres and non-fiction.

Also reading contemporary AND classic fiction is useful here as the former keeps you in touch with what is out there now, and the other keeps you in touch with where writing has come from.

Also I’d argue that writers such as Wodehouse, Austen, Dickens etc have all stood the test of time and will continue to do so. What is fun is to watch out for those contemporary (or near contemporary) authors who will go on to stand the test of time. (I’d have the late, great Terry Pratchett as a certainty here. Also J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter.).

Writing, especially when it involves any kind of research, also encourages mind broadening. (The great thing with this is most of us don’t want our waists to broaden, but you can broaden the mind as much as you like! No calories involved whatsoever…!).

So read and write away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEING CREATIVE

There’s a definite theme tonight!  (Sometimes I don’t plan that, a theme emerges from the different things I’m writing but this theme was planned and is inspired by my wondering if, when you’ve been creating works such as stories for some time, do you still appreciate the joy of doing so?  Anyway, more to follow).

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This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post talks about creativity being good for you. It is too!

Being creative has proven health benefits (mentally and physically) and my post talks about that and why creativity is a wonderful thing.

I do sometimes wonder if we appreciate it enough at times (which is my inspiration for writing this post). Whether you bake cakes, write stories, play music or what have you, if you have been doing this for a long time, can you end up taking the joy of creating these things for granted?

I think so and I hope my post helps to give us all a renewed sense of enjoyment about what we do creatively.

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My CFT post this week will be on the theme of creativity being good for you. And it is – mentally and physically. I feel much better once I’ve completed something creative during the day – whether it is flash fiction, a Facebook post (😀), or baking a cake.

The nice thing about creativity is anyone can join in and you can find your own level where you want to be. For those wanting to develop creative skills further, there are courses, online as well as the traditional evening classes/OU etc. I’ve found that though my major creative interest is in writing, I have a greater appreciation of all of the arts, music especially.

I also think if you are involved in one art form, you have an appreciation of the hard work that goes unseen behind others. I learned years ago that if a piece of writing looks easy to read then you can bet that author worked their socks off to get it to that point. (Other hosiery accessories are available!).

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What is the most helpful aspect of a book review? To be fair, there is more than one! There is obviously the publicity aspect but when people have said what they liked, or what they felt didn’t work so well, that has been what I’ve found most useful to know.

Okay nobody is going to please all of the people all of the time and there are many sound reasons not to even try doing that, but a general consensus does mean you are on the right lines (or not, as the case may be!).

Incidentally I can vouch for the fact Dawn, Paula and I do all appreciate the reviews we have had for books where our stories have appeared!

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

Paula Readman, Dawn Knox and I at the recent Bridge House celebration event. Many thanks to Paula for the image.

Such appropriate decor for the Bridge House event in a pub room

This was part of the pub decor at the place where Bridge House had their event. Very apt! Image by Allison Symes

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At the back are some of the other books I’ve appeared in. Image by Allison Symes

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Am currently listening to the wonderful Planet Suite by Gustav Holst on Classic FM. Each piece of music within the suite tells its own story. (My favourite piece is Jupiter, the bringer of jollity. It also contains what many will know as the hymn tune for I Vow To Thee, My Country).

Holst used music to convey his thoughts. Writers of course use words. But the way you put them together (and the order) makes a huge difference to meaning. So are your words having the impact you actually mean them to have? Of course, this aspect can be “sent up” for comedic effect (hence the pun, the innuendo etc) but it is true you do have to know the rules before you break them!

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Why does editing always take longer than you think it will? Answers on the back of a postcard… Seriously though, I do give myself plenty of time for this and it STILL takes longer than anticipated. I think there must be an unknown Murphy’s Law for Writers happening here. Talking of which:-

1. You tell people you’re a writer, they suddenly need a pen for something, and you cannot find one on you for love or money. Cue one embarrassed writer!

2. Your printer cartridge always runs out halfway through the printing of the story or book you are desperate to get out to your publisher.

3. You know you have more printer cartridges, you remember ordering them, but you filed them somewhere safe and now cannot remember where that place is!

4. You have a power cut just as you are getting to the end of your story and you forgot to back up so you lose what you’ve just written and have to start again from where you HAD last backed up. You discover you have words in your vocabulary you make a mental note NOT to use in front of the vicar when they next call in.

Guess which of these have happened to me!

Contributions to the Murphy’s Law List for Writers very welcome!

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What is your favourite way to start a story? I must admit I don’t have one single way. And so much depends on whether I’m writing flash fiction or a standard length short story.

I am very fond of being right inside my main character’s head from the start. I like to think of this as hitting the ground running.

I also like to start with a brief sentence or two scene setting. Using a time as part of this can be handy as if the opening line says it is 4 am in mid-summer, you’ve got an immediate image of light levels, whether it is likely to be warm or not and so on. Setting place names can be great too. Mid-summer in the UK is vastly different to mid-summer in Australia, say.

I always look for the words that give me the strongest images whichever way I start though. It saves on word count and has the greater impact on your reader.

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I sometimes use the opening line in a short story competition to inspire my flash fiction. (Sometimes I write up the short story and enter the competition!).

It can be an interesting challenge to see what you can do with an opening line meant to generate a 1500-words short story and see if you can make it work for a tale of under 1000 words (and in my case usually around the 100-words mark).

I must admit I much prefer opening lines competitions to those where you have to finish with a certain line. I think there is more freedom in taking an opening line and running with it rather than being told where you have to stop!

What competitions do you prefer?

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The challenge of writing a complete story in the shortest number of words is not a new one but it does make you increase your vocabulary. (As a flash fiction writer, you will always be on the lookout for those words that can convey stronger meanings than others or can convey more than one meaning. Saves on the word count (!) and the rightly chosen words will give your story a more powerful impact).

Does that mean you’ll never write longer fiction again? Not a bit of it but working to a tight word count helps develop your editing skills and that is always useful, regardless of what you write.

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I have too many favourite characters to name them individually, as I expect is the case with most of us, but I do like particular types.

My overall favourite is the unexpected hero. Think Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! I admit being on the short side myself, I probably was always going to favour the idea of a hobbit as a hero!

I also love those characters who suffer injustice but win through in the end. That covers everything from Cinderella to the Prisoner of Azkaban to The Man In the Iron Mask.

I don’t have a problem with talking animals in stories as long as they make sense! Ideally, I prefer it when the animals know more of what is going on in the story than the hero does. (Hello, Puss in Boots!).

Characters have got to be appropriate to the fictional world in which they’re set so hobbits could only be in a fantasy world. Mind, if I had to live anywhere in fiction, I can think of far worse places than The Shire. (Mordor, for one!).

So what are your favourite character types and why?

 

Fairytales with Bite – Appreciating What You Do

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week looks at why creativity is good for you and it was inspired by my wondering whether when you’ve been creating, say, stories for some time, do you still appreciate what you do as much as perhaps you should?

I think it is easy to take the joy of creating anything for granted and I hope this post encourages all of us to take a fresh look at what we do creatively and almost, if you like, fall in love with it all over again.

I also think it is a good thing for writers to be open to trying different forms of writing.  It flexes your writing muscles, you may well discover a form you become addicted to (in my case, I found flash fiction or maybe it was a case of flash fiction finding me!), and you get to find out what you really want to write.

It also means when successes come your way, no matter how large or small, you appreciate those more too and that can never be a bad thing.  One way of appreciating what you do is read your work out.  If you are gripped by the tale, others will be too.  Images below were taken by me and are from the Bridge House celebration event.  The range of stories read out was great.  I took part too.

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Gill James reading from her January Stones collection. Image by Allison Symes

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Dawn Knox reading some of her flash fiction. Image by Allison Symes

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Margaret Bullyment read a wonderful justice story at the Bridge House event in December. Image by Allison Symes

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Robin Wrigley read a poignant, character driven story. Image by Allison Symes

Lovely having an appreciative audience, pic taken by Dawn Kentish Knox

I read three stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture!

This World and Others – Enjoying the Creative Process

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post takes a look at why being creative is beneficial (and for science as well as the arts too).

I think it is vital to enjoy the creative process to get the most from it.  That doesn’t mean it won’t be difficult at times.  You will feel like swearing (and may do so!) when the words don’t seem to flow so easily as they usually do, but if, generally, you love what you do as you create your characters and stories, then you can know you’re on the right lines. That love will keep you going (along with support from other writers whether that’s online or in a good wriitng group) throughout those tougher times and the inevitable rejections we all collect as if they were going out of fashion.  The one great thing is I can’t think of any writer who hasn’t felt in need of that support at times.  You are definitely not the only one!

It is difficult to say what my favourite part of the creative process is but I do feel elated when I know I’ve got a character right.  I know then that what I get them to say or do is right for them, and their story will flow much more easily as I am writing from deep knowledge of who and what and why they are the characters they are. I also think that will come through in the writing itself and make for a better read for future readers.  I also feel elated when I’ve got a first draft down as I know I’ve got something to work with then (and it can only get better!  All first drafts need work, even Shakespeare’s would have done!).