Decisions, Transformations, and Useful Questions

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Dawn Knox kindly supplied by her.

Facebook – General

Hope you’ve had a good Tuesday. I see we’re due for sleet in Hampshire on Friday. At least we have made it into December first before any signs of the really cold stuff!

I will be posting Part 2 of a wonderful chat with Dawn Knox on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday and am looking forward to sharing the link for that. She’ll be talking about how she got into flash fiction writing and shares what has been the most fulfilling aspect of her career to date.

One lovely thing about writing is you never know quite where things will lead but this is a good thing. My short story writing led me to discover flash for a start! But the other good thing is you should seek to develop and to improve on what you do. This can lead to trying out forms of writing new to you and discovering you can add another string to your writing bow. More from Dawn on this, along with other lovely things to chat about, on Friday.

Now NaNoWriMo has officially finished, how did I do with my “kind of” version? Well, I was pleased. I’ve carried out the restructuring I knew my non-fiction project needed and added a great deal of useful material to it. So win-win. I’m carrying on with this as I want to get a first draft done by the end of the year but am on track to do that.

 

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again. This time I created a story video, uploaded it to Youtube, and then used their audio library to add a soundtrack to the video. I always check out licences allocated to things like images and audio tracks and this one is a free to use one. Always, always, check out what the licences say. You don’t want to break copyright. You really, really don’t. I’ve got used to doing this thanks to writing for Chandler’s Ford Today so regularly. (And it’s why I love Pixabay!).

Creating the video was good fun and I hope you enjoy the story. I was particularly pleased with the background I used as the video here as the movement of the word “sale” reminded me of the way Jaws moved through the water! Apt for the tale but click the link to find out why.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers More Than Writers blog spot

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers More than Writers blog. My piece this time is called NaNoWriMo – Doing It My Way. Well it’s kind of appropriate given I haven’t written a novel and I know I’m probably under 50,000 words. So how come I even thought about doing this? See the post for more – and I have found the experience incredibly useful for helping with focus. Hope you enjoy!

 

Facebook – General – and PUBLICATION NEWS – TRANSFORMATIONS


Busy night tonight – I have two posts for you.

It is with great pleasure I share further publication news. I’m pleased to say the three e-books that comprise the stories from the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival writing competition have now been combined to make one wonderful paperback called Transformations. (The three ebooks were To Be…To Become, Transforming Being, and this year’s Transforming Communities).

Link to follow in due course but meanwhile here is the fantastic cover. Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are “between the covers” with me for this one.

Oh and I love the cover for this.

Transformations Medium

SECOND POST

I posted about this topic over on Val’s Book Bundle on Facebook on Wednesday but thought I would expand on the topic here. I asked what people’s favourite part of a book was and my answer was the moment I realise I am rooting for the character(s).

Sometimes I root for them to fail if they’re the villain but the important point is the character is making me react and from that point onwards, I know the story will be fine. No reaction = no interest in the character = no interest in the book!

So developing this further, how can we get a reader to react to our characters?

The simple – and all at the same time complicated – answer to that is to make the reader care about what happens to said character. Simple because it really is down to that. Complicated because just how do you do this?

I outline my characters before I write a story. Sometimes that outline is a brief paragraph, sometimes it’s longer than that, but by the time I’ve done this I have worked out why it is I want to write this character up. I am feeling something for that character. And I can feel something for that character, a reader will. Thinking of questions to ask your character can be useful.

Try these to get you started.

1. What is the character’s main trait?

Can be good or evil or somewhere in between. Think about what would come out from your character if they were really put under pressure if you’re not sure what the main trait might be. Would your character show courage or run away at the first sign of trouble?

Whatever the answer to that is, think about why the answer is as you have given it. If a character would run away for example, is that because they have tried to help before and all it did was land them right in it? Jot down your thoughts. Your story thoughts may well start “sparking” from what you note down.

2. What is it about the character you as their creator like/dislike?

Your readers are likely to feel the same way!

3. Why do you want to write their story? Why does it matter?

If you’re looking to just write a funny story to amuse people, that’s fab. That is just as valid a reason to write as writing a story with purpose behind it. But you still need to think about how your character would amuse people and that will often come down to their main traits. For example, a character who is a loudmouth can set themselves up for a fall and that can be funny or tragic.

An outline doesn’t have to spell out everything. You want some room for your imagination to kick in with other ideas but it is a great place to start!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use the first person a lot for my flash tales but when I do name a character what do I look for in that name? I look for a name that will reflect something about the character and sometimes I choose age. In my story Identity in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I chose the name Walter. That immediately called to my mind an older gentleman which is what I wanted for this story. (Making this decision was helped along by the fact my maternal grandfather was called Walter!).

Books of names help a lot here of course but looking up articles from old newspapers can also be a good source of information. If you know your character is going to be in their seventies, for example, you can look up articles from around the time they would be born and look at the names in the paper to get a feel for what names were in common usage then. And don’t forget to look up the family announcement pages too. Those can also help trigger ideas.

Names can be a great tag in flash fiction. They can be an indicator of class, as well as age, and you can use that to good effect. Telling details carry weight in short form writing. For a writing exercise I was set at Swanwick once, I came up with the phrase “take the Garibaldi” as I needed to get my character to say “take the biscuit” but I didn’t want to use the cliche.

Cliches are cliches for a reason but you can have fun subverting them, having said that. But if I had put something like “take the Lidl’s Rich Tea” instead, I could’ve indicated likely background of my character just by referring to the supermarket they use. So think of names, personal or otherwise, as useful tags here.

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Eleven months down, one to go! What a strange year 2020 has been. If 2020 had a strapline, it would probably read something like “2020: The Year That Delivered Something Nobody Wanted” or “2020: The Year Everyone Wants to Forget”!

Over on my author Facebook page,I shared the link to a new story video on my Youtube channel called Decisions. It was great fun playing with both Book Brush and Youtube for this but it is the one line stories that work really well for this kind of thing. You don’t want a video to be too long. So therefore the story can’t be too long either. So this will be an outlet I think for my one/two line stories in future. And, of course, it acts as an advert. Looking forward to doing more with this.

One thing I love about any kind of creativity endeavour is it often helps you develop others as you try to improve on what you do and find new ways of doing exactly that.

And do see writing one-or two line stories as good practice for blurb and strapline writing even if your main writing is something else entirely. These also make great warm up writing exercises.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA


Hope you enjoyed The Buddies yesterday. (N.B. See further down for this new story!). I like to mix up how I approach writing flash fiction as it keeps things fresh for me (and hopefully for readers too). Using the various random generators is a great way of mixing things up.

And another way of using the word based ones would be to deliberately place the words generated in the opening or closing lines or somewhere in the middle and then work out a story from there. Equally you can put the words in the title and nowhere else and then crack on with the tale. But there are different ways of using these things so the only limit should be your own imagination here!

Don’t forget to mix up the word counts to write to as well. There’s nothing to stop you taking an opening line and then writing a 50 word story from it. Then see what you can do when you make it 100 words and so on.

Above all enjoy your writing!

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I thought I would take another look at the good old random word generator and I was delighted to find some other parameters to tick. You can select names too! I generated two and came up with Charlie and Elsa.
Things to do here:-

  • Use the names in the story.
  • Turn this into a full name – e.g. Elsa Charlie or Charlie Elsa and put this one character into a story.
  • Use another character who shows the reader what these people/this person means to them. For example in a crime story, Elsa and Charlie could be two people who ripped the narrator off. Equally the narrator could be the one to con them!

So plenty of possibilities here! Now let’s see what I can do here…

The Buddies
The park bench is empty now. It used to be the three of us on there – Elsa, Charlie, and me. Went to school together, even ended up working for the same boss. Always good for a laugh those two. We were known around these parts as the Cheery Trio. Elsa and Charlie married and I was their best man. It was a lovely day. They were married for 55 years, bless them.
I met Mary at their wedding, she was Elsa’s cousin. We all laughed at how that worked out. Mary and I were married for 52. Good years for the most part. None of us had kids though. Just didn’t happen. Had lots of fun trying but sometimes things just don’t work out and you have to accept that and move on.
We’ve all moved on.
But now Elsa, Charlie, Mary and I are together again. Right here on the park bench. We’re allowed out to come here sometimes.
Just a pity you lot can’t see us but we can see you.
No such thing as ghosts?
Ha! The four of us have plenty to say about that!

Ends.
Allison Symes – 28th November 2020

Hope you enjoy!

Goodreads – Christmas Book List

Well, I trust you do have plenty of books on your Christmas wish list! There is a tradition in one of the Nordic countries where Christmas Eve is spent eating chocolate and reading books. I like that – a lot!

Don’t forget audio books. There are plenty of ways to take in stories. Reading will always be my first love but listening to stories comes in at a respectable second. And these are great for people who might not want to sit down with a book but who are happy to listen to a story while doing something else. You take in more than you might think.

Re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather and watching the adaptation of it is on my list of things to do and A Christmas Carol will be on the agenda for me to revisit again at some point in the run up to Christmas. I’ll almost certainly be watching the Muppet version. Not only is that a great adaptation, Gonzo, as narrator Charles Dickens, reminds people to go and read the book at the end of the film. I love that and I’d always second that suggestion!

Okay, you know when you’ve got books as presents. The shape is a dead giveaway but it doesn’t matter if you know what’s in the wrapping. There will always be something special about unwrapping a book for Christmas.

And they do make fabulous presents.

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Twitter Corner

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Favourite Characters and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Dawn Knox for supplying her author photo.

Image of me signing Tripping The Flash Fantastic by Adrian Symes.

Facebook – General

Hope Tuesday has proved okay. More raking up of the oak leaves for me today with Lady assisting by looking for sticks in amongst the leaves though she would have preferred to find a squirrel.

Talking of which, I would love to know why every dog I know/have ever known, on spotting a squirrel, always looks hopeful that said squirrel will come and play with them!

Has not happened on my watch. Is unlikely ever to do so. Mind you, Lady is the only dog I’ve had who might be in with a chance of catching one.

Writing wise, I’ll be interviewing fellow flash fiction and Cafelit writer Dawn Knox about her latest book, The Macaroon Chronicles, on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

This will be a two part interview and we’ll be discussing the challenges of writing chronicles, what drew Dawn into writing, and how long it took her to become an established author, amongst other interesting topics.

I love conversations with other writers. I always learn something useful. Given no two writers ever have the same writing journey, it is fascinating to find out what others have found most helpful to their writing or, conversely, find out what they think has to be the worse writing advice of all time etc. Link up on Friday.

I haven’t kept a word count for my kind of NaNoWriMo project but to be fair I never intended to do so. My non-fiction project needed restructuring, which I’ve now done, and it is now a question of adding material to it. Then a massive edit or several! But that’s okay. I’m enjoying seeing the project coming together and this is an interesting experience since I’ve not written non-fiction to this length before.

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Am continuing to have fun playing with Book Brush.

Many thanks to Dawn Knox for inviting me on to her blog today. It was great fun to take part. I chat about flash fiction, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, the one regret I have about writing and other topics.

Do check the interview here.

And more news from Dawn and I in a moment….

Bonus Post – Publication News

Talking of further news from Dawn Knox and I…

It has been a busy Monday, as always, but it was nice to discover further publication news! Dawn and I both have stories in the new Bridge House Publishing anthology, Mulling It Over. It is currently out as an ebook but the paperback will be out soon.

Many congratulations to the other authors in this ecletic collection. It is always great fun to be between the (electronic) covers with writer friends!
My story, It Is Time, is one of my colder, darker ones. Appropriate for this time of year I guess!

Mulling It Over Medium

It was great fun taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Fest earlier today (22nd November 2020). I shared videos for Judgement Day, Being Yourself, and the book trailer for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. (See further down for all of these).

I also shared some of the recent images I’ve had fun creating on Book Brush! (The phone one which also has From Light to Dark and Back Again on it too works really well I think). (Again see below).

Below is a round-up of my posts from earlier today in descending order of appearance.

Last but not least from me. This is Judgement Day from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Hope you enjoy.

Am happy to take questions about flash fiction. The irony is I never started out as a flash fiction writer. I discovered the form by accident but it has been a very happy accident!

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939

My story, Being Yourself, on Brechin/Angus Book Festival today.

My book trailer as shown on the Brechin/Angus Book Festival event today.

Many thanks #SarahArchibald for your hard work putting the Festival together online. Great fun to take part! A big thanks for the opportunity events like this give authors especially since our usual events are not possible right now.

It was also lovely to share the posts and share a little of what flash fiction is about. It is the ultimate in the quick read of course but its impact should be a powerful one precisely because of its reduced word count. It lives up to the phrase less is more!

More details about my books can be found here (Amazon Author Central)

Screenshot_2020-11-22 BRECHIN ANGUS BOOK FEST(1)Screenshot_2020-11-22 BRECHIN ANGUS BOOK FEST

Bonus Post – Guest Blog Appearance on Gill James’ Blog

Am delighted to share the link where I am the guest on Gill James’ blog as one of the contributors to The Best of Cafelit 9. See  for more (the screenshot is a sample!).

Screenshot_2020-11-22 Talking to another of our Best of CafeLit 9 contributors

Have been enjoying the first day of the Brechin/Angus Book Fest. Looking forward to tomorrow when I’m due on from 1.35 for about 25 minutes.
Plenty of videos to watch and you could make a good Christmas book present list here.

Continuing to make good progress on my kind of NaNoWriMo project. Really enjoying writing new material for this though I am also looking forward to tackling the editing later on. I like editing. You can almost “feel” your work improving when taking out the wasted words and so on.

Good questions to ask when preparing blog, Facebook posts etc include:-

1. What have I learned as a writer that could benefit others? Posts like that are always useful and I have learned from so many over the years and continue to do so.

2. How can I entertain a reader so they’ll want to come back to read more of my posts? One of my ways is to share a new flash fiction story every so often. Flash being so short works well for this – and who doesn’t like a new story to read from time to time?

“See” you tomorrow at Brechin online!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Monologues can make great flash fiction pieces. I find they work best when kept short anyway so you’re immediately on to a winner there. Monologue with its demand for the focus to be on one character and flash fiction with its demand to keep the word count low make for a good match!

I outline my characters for my stories and, if you don’t usually do that, it would pay to do this for monologue writing. The question to ask above all I think is what it is about this character that they deserve a monologue?

What would fascinate a reader to keep them glued to your character?

A good tip is always to put yourself in your potential readers’ shoes and ask what is in this story for them?

 

Hope your Monday has been okay. Mine has been hectic as usual but the plus side of that is it will free up more writing time for me later on in the week, which I make good use of!

Lovely watching Lady having a good old fun session with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddie this morning. (It is a case of watch the show and stay well out of the way! Part of the reason for that is both dogs are still convinced they’re puppies… erm….no… and they have the size to prove not!).

The weekend went from having a flu jab to cracking on with my kind of NaNoWriMo project to taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. So yes, it got better as the weekend went on!

Writing wise, I’m drafting a future CFT post as well as working on my big project. I’m a little ahead of myself for once with CFT as I have a fab interview to share over the next two Fridays. More on that tomorrow and link up on Friday of course.

(I can always tell how rapidly the year is going thanks to writing for CFT. The Friday deadline zooms and then vanishes week on week and before I know it, another 12 months has gone by. Mind you, I don’t think anyone is going to be sorry about that this year).

Am working also on more flash material which will no doubt see the light of day in due course. Oh and how about a flash two-line story to finish with tonight? Here goes…

To Turn Or Not To Turn, That Is The Question

It wasn’t the odd creaking that terrified Bill. It was the frightened rat who was looking at something behind Bill.

Ends.

Allison Symes – 23rd November 2020

 

New Story Video on My Youtube Channel

It has been a busy day on the old video front but given it’s a Sunday evening as I share this, what better than to finish the weekend with another story? I took my The Best Laid Plans which I shared here a couple of weeks ago and created a video for it using Book Brush and then uploaded it to Youtube. Be sure to watch to the end! Hope you enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilOcaCJMqQc

Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot_2020-11-09 Allison Symes - YouTube

I must admit I don’t have a favourite character in my stories, which is just as well I suspect, given I’m inventing people all the time for flash fiction writing. My favourite kinds of character do have things in common though.

They’ve got a sense of humour.

They’ve got guts.

They’re prepared to stand up for what they believe in.

I especially love those characters where coming out with witty one-liners would be appropriate for them to do.

I have a soft spot for thoughtful characters where their reflections show you so much about their personality. Flash fiction works well for this kind of story as they work best when kept short.

Favourite characters from other books? Hmm… hard to say as there are so many to choose from but they have to have some of the above attributes to catch and keep my fancy.

Goodreads Author Blog – The Joy of (online) Book Festivals

This weekend is going to be an interesting one as I’ll be taking part in a Book Festival for the first time. I’ll be “at” the Brechin/Angus Book Festival which finishes tomorrow, Sunday 22nd November. I’ll be “on” at about 1.35 pm UK time and am looking forward to sharing the joys of flash fiction, which is the form in which I’ve been published the most.

Book Festivals and events are wonderful ways of celebrating the written and spoken word. (Bear in mind we do talk about audio books).

The one positive thing about this strange and horrible year has been that many events like this have been able to take place online and that has made them more accessible to more people.

I wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to get to Brechin for one event, much as I’d love to go, as from what I’ve seen, Brechin looks lovely. But I can take part in its Festival online (so a big thanks to the organisers and #WendyHJones for putting me on to this one).

I love going to book fairs and the like even when I haven’t got my author’s hat on. I love seeing the variety of books available and I enjoy listening to author talks too. The latter can still be done.

For the first time this year I’ve made videos of my reading from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and explaining a little about how I came to write the story I chose to read.

What I do know is authors are still glad of reader support and always will be. Whether it’s writing a review or going along to an online event and commenting on videos you’ve enjoyed watching, remember it all helps.

And in helping authors, you’re helping books in general. You’re showing they’re important. That books matter. They so do!

Twitter Corner –

Re Brechin/Angus Book Festival – tweeted on 22nd November 2020

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Great fun to take part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival today. I was on from about 1.35 for 20 minutes or so but the Festival does go on for the rest of today. Grab a notebook and make a Books Make Great Christmas Presents shopping list!!<a href=”https://t.co/5ygkIuokBi”>https://t.co/5ygkIuokBi</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1330510528591093760?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 22, 2020</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Re appearance on Gill James’ blog – 22nd November 2020

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Gill’s Blog: Talking to another of our Best of CafeLit 9 contri… <a href=”https://t.co/4MIXeTjl76″>https://t.co/4MIXeTjl76</a&gt; I was thrilled to be guest on Gill James’ blog today. Screenshot is a sample! See link for what led me into writing for Cafelit and what I find more difficult than writing stories for them! <a href=”https://t.co/BiMUZ1oalD”>pic.twitter.com/BiMUZ1oalD</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1330609892701462529?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 22, 2020</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Re Appearance on Dawn Knox’s blog – 23rd November 2020

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Please join <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@AllisonSymes1</a&gt; on my blog today and find out more about her new book ‘Tripping the Flash Fantastic’, her writing and what she thinks of custard, cheese and chocolate! <a href=”https://t.co/SSJrZfIr0a”>https://t.co/SSJrZfIr0a</a></p>&mdash; Dawn Knox (@SunriseCalls) <a href=”https://twitter.com/SunriseCalls/status/1330803625375961089?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 23, 2020</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Lessons from Writing and Scenic Scotland

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish pics and images of Lady, the daft but loveable Border Collie cross, were taken by me, Allison Symes.


Book cover images for The Best of Cafelit 9 and Tripping The Flash Fantastic supplied by my publishers – Bridge House Publishing and Chapeltown Books respectively.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share the link to Part 2 of my Lessons series on CFT. This week I look at lessons learned from the writing life, all of which are useful beyond that.
So over to you. What lessons have you learned from writing and how have you applied these in other areas of life?

Went back to Dunnet Bay. Such a wonderful beach. Lady thinks so too! Walked for miles though it always seems further on sand than it actually is!

Plenty of brisk fresh air. Managed to see buzzards fairly close up (could make out the colouring underneath. Don’t usually get to do that). Also spotted a kestrel, sand pipers, and oyster catchers.
Now drum roll please… Very exciting news on Tripping The Flash Fantastic to come soon but in the meantime, take a peek at this!


Achievement of the week and possibly the year for me  – I climbed 600 feet in about a mile exploring the track that runs behind where I’m staying. Yes, it was a very steep track! But see the views below. 

Lady bounded up it with no issues at all before going on to have a splendid playtime on Dornoch Beach later in the afternoon. Result? One tired but happy dog!

What would be the perfect day for your characters and why? What would they do to anyone or anything that got in the way of them having that perfect day?

There are story ideas there for a start but also use questions like this for outlining your people. Work out what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Different writers have varying requirements here but what you do need is enough for you to get going on a story with characters who deserve to be written about.




Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve learned so much from the writing life as I discuss in this week’s CFT post. The great thing is I know that learning will continue.
My hopes with regard to flash fiction is to continue to develop characters and stories.

Maybe try different genres within flash? Maybe write a novella in flash one day – who knows?

But while I know there is writing to do and things to try within that, I know the buzz of writing won’t diminish. And I love that!😄

Big news is that I can now do a book cover reveal for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will be sharing more news soon on this.
I will be talking about TTFF as part of an author talk with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox on 26th September.

More details next week and my CFT post on 18th September will give details on how to register for the FREE Zoom event at the end of the month.

Am I a happy bunny right now? You bet!
Lovely day back at Dunnet today. One great thing about dog ownership is that our pets break down barriers. I’ve had far more lovely chats with people since owning a dog than before! 
Although 2020 has been an awful year, I am so pleased to hear in one week The Best Of Cafelit 9, where I have flash stories included, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, are “out there”. (Kindle only at moment for TTFF but paperback to follow).
Would still like 2020 to dramatically improve though and I know I’m not alone there.

I love autumn. I love the changing leaf colours. And the heathers on the hills around where I’m staying at the moment are such wonderful colours.

But there is a sense of transition this early in September as we leave summer behind. 
Flash fiction is great for demonstrating those senses of transition in your characters.

They go from one state of being to another – that is the story you’re writing after all.

What you need to figure out is which moment of transition is the important one to write up.


Fairytales With Bite – Favourites


My favourite part of most fairytales when I was a kid was when the fairy godmother etc turned up and you knew somehow from that point, everything was going to work out okay.
My favourite part of a fairytale now is harder to define but I like to see characters contributing to the fairy godmother’s efforts to help them.

I also like to see the villains get their comeuppance.And I know that last like is something I’ll always have!
I refer to a lot of my work as fairytales with bite precisely because they are not twee. Nor am I writing to the children’s market (Roald Dahl was the past master there in my view!). 
I’ve never liked it when someone dismisses something as “just a fairytale”. There is no just about it. Fairytales are deeper stories than some give them credit for!

 

This World and Others – Geography


I don’t refer to geography a lot in my flash tales but did use it in my unpublished (as yet!) fantasy novel.

I needed to know something about the landscape my characters inhabit and whether that gets in their way. Also I wanted to look at the differences and similarities with our world.
This is where photos come in handy for sparking ideas. I totally understand why so many fantasy works have a map with them. (I must check out the Discworld one for The Streets of Ankh-Morpork as that is one map which will be fun!☺).
The nice thing now is there are far more avenues of research available now. Archives, libraries, the web etc. I guess the danger now might be you could have so much fun researching, the writing takes a back seat!

So it would pay I think to plan out your research just as much as you would plan out the story itself.

Think about what you need to know, jot down where you think further research might be needed later, and write.

Also make a note of sources of research in case a publisher asks and in case you need to retrace your steps. It happens!

How Has Your Summer Been?

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

ADVANCE NEWS:  Delighted to say I’ll be sharing a platform via Zoom with Gill James of Bridge House Publishing and, fellow flash fiction writer, Dawn Kentish Knox on Saturday 26th September 2020 between 3 and 4 pm UK time. More details further down and I will flag it up again nearer the time. We’ll be talking about the writing life and our books and working with a publisher so plenty to enjoy. Tickets for the event are FREE but you do need to register. Link also below.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post for CFT this week is called How Has Your Summer Been?

This could’ve been a short post – two words ending in “awful”. 😄It’s not, honest!

I look back at the summer and share highlights including my video for the Waterloo Arts Festival in July, which includes part of my winning story, Books and the Barbarians.Hope you enjoy.

Reviewing the summer, as I have done for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, is the kind of fun post I like to write every now and then. It is a good opportunity to look back and recall the positives as well as acknowledge the negatives.

This summer has been the strangest one I’ve known (and hope I’m likely to know. I do fervently hope next year is much closer to normal than where we are now.

I know people talk about the new normal and there will be that, but I also believe in the truth of the saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I want what was good from pre-lockdown to come back/remain and my post reflects this.

 

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EVENT NEWS – 26TH SEPTEMBER 2020

ADVANCE NEWS and bonus post from yours truly.

I’ll be taking part in a special Zoom event on September 26th from 3 to 4 pm (UK time) with Gill James (Bridge House Publishing, Chapeltown Books, Cafelit) and Dawn Kentish Knox, fellow flash fiction writer.

Link for FREE tickets below and the blurb for the event also.

Eventbrite link for Bridge House Publishing event on 26th September 2020.

Some of our writers will read from their work and tell us about their life as a writer. We shall give some insight into the publishing process. There will be free gifts for all attendees.

(Dawn is in the middle of the top picture when you click on the link and her The Great War is such a moving example of what flash fiction can do and be. Always happy to recommend that!).

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Boy, did the heavens open at about 5 pm. So glad I didn’t go out with the dog until 6 pm! Still plenty of idiots not allowing for flooding on the road etc and driving without a thought for anyone else. Mind, I guess they’d do that anyway regardless of what the weather is. Keep well, drive safe, and avoid the huge puddles, everyone!

I’ve TWO CFT posts to share with you this week. My usual spot tomorrow night is my review of the summer (and there are good points, honest! I also get to share my Waterloo Arts Festival video so if you would like to hear an extract from my winning story, Books and the Barbarians, you can do so!).

Meanwhile, I do have a stories page on my website so if you fancy a quick read do pop over (see link below). I hope to add more stories to this page in due course. One lovely thing about flash fiction is it can make a great advert for the other writing you do and it is easy to share.

My second CFT post is a Local Author Post with YA author, Richard Hardie (Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords). He has special news to share and that post will go out on Saturday.

Also on Saturday will be my spot for the Association of Christian Writers’ blog page, More than Writers. I’ll be looking at Creating Characters which I hope you’ll find useful. I look forward to sharing that.

Above my desk I have a framed print which reads “Don’t give up on your dreams”. I’ve found that very encouraging and no doubt will continue to do so, but if I could add a modifier to it, I would put in something like “it’s perfectly okay to change your dreams if you need to!”.

I say that because I changed direction with my writing to focus on flash fiction (and I am so pleased I did that!).

Just because one dream doesn’t work out quite as you thought, that’s no reason to think ANY dream of yours is bound to fail.

I have unpublished work that I hope at one point might see the light of day somewhere (especially after work on it!) but I will not fret much if it doesn’t happen. (I would like to say I wouldn’t fret at all but writers always have something that niggles a bit and it is usually an unpublished MSS they would like to do something with! It can haunt you…).

Why? Because my dream was to be a writer and then to be a published one. I hadn’t anticipated it would be in short form fiction but that’s fine and it came as a pleasant surprise.

I would say it was more important to be open to trying new forms of writing as you may well discover an avenue that you hadn’t known existed and who knows where that might take you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write and read.
L = Length of story may be short but the impact is powerful.
A = Adjectives are made redundant as you find better choices of word to suit your word count limit! (This is a good thing. Makes you think about word choice more).
S = Story. It is all about the story. Something has to happen that a reader wants to find out about.
H = Hero/heroine – oh yes. But the number of characters in a flash tale are limited. You have to focus on one or two at most AND the most important point.

F = Fabulous settings and worlds are possible.
I = Imagination can be set free. The limits of flash fiction encourage you to think outside the box more. Just where can you set your characters? Anywhere, actually!
C = Characters. They are your stars. Flash fiction has to be character led, even if that character is “just” your narrator. Monologues can be effective flash fiction pieces.
T = Time. The time frame in a flash tale has to be limited but having a framework, I’ve always found, encourages creativity. Just what can you do inside that frame?
I = Intensity. Flash focuses sharply. You are looking at one/two characters and what happens to them in a short span. So a flash tale is intense and can pack a powerful punch emotionally precisely because of its short word count.
O = Originality. I’ve found writing flash encourages this. You learn to think differently. What can I get my character to be/to do in this short space? What reaction do I want to trigger in a reader and how can the character act in such a way so that happens? Your character can be in any point in time and space, can be any species you care to invent etc. There’s a lot of potential for originality there!
N = Nothing new under the sun? Maybe. The very short form of story writing has been around for a long time. Think about Aesop’s Fables, Jesus’s parables in the Bible etc. We just call it flash fiction now. So what can you do with your flash fiction writing? Have fun with it. Explore what YOU can bring to the table here.

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I’ve written a mixture of story moods and word count lengths for Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as I did with From Light to Dark and Back Again.

For TTFF though I’ve written a flash story in diary form for the first time, which was great fun to do, though it does come in at the upper limit for flash. It was good to experiment though and I do love the characters in this particular tale, especially the feisty Rose – and that’s all I can say for now!

I loved putting the collection together for Chapeltown Books. I like a mixture of moods in what I read so it is only natural that should be reflected in what I write.

 

 

Flash fiction might be stories in miniature but they still need to have a proper beginning, middle, and ending. A successful flash fiction story leaves the reader feeling as if no more could be said.

I like to think of flash fiction as precision writing as you need to select words carefully to make the most of the available word count but it does help with any other writing you do.

The habit of selecting words carefully carries over and that is so useful. So often the first choice of word is not necessarily the best one for what you are trying to say. It’s natural to reach for the “obvious” when something with more depth is what is needed to make your story become something special.

That doesn’t mean writing purple prose though. Clarity is everything. Think specifics.

For example:-

Harriet wore a coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.

Not a lot of info there. Match what exactly?

How about:-

Harriet wore a red coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.

Better. Have got a little more detail here and we now know Granny clearly liked bright colours and matching accessories. No subdued shades either. That may well reveal something about Granny and Harriet.

Better still:-

Harriet wore a scarlet coat that belonged to her grandmother. Granny always said a scarlet woman ought to have an outfit or something to match.
Allison Symes – 26th August 2020

Now that’s better! (And doesn’t Granny sound an interesting character!).

 

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Fairytales With Bite –

Which Fairytale Character Should You Be Wary Of?

I know, I know. Look out for the witch in the big, black pointed hat with a wand aimed at you. Yes, you should watch for her. But also look out for the disgruntled fairy godmother with a penchant for spinning wheels and very sharp needles.

Generally though I’d look out for the quiet characters in fairytales. They’re either going to end up as the unexpected hero/heroine or are a remarkably sneaky villain. And always look out for anyone who has a reason to get revenge because you just know they’re going to do so.

I’d also watch out for anyone who says they can do a little magic. Why? Because they’re either lying through their teeth and are experts OR they’re telling the truth and could kill everyone with their incompetence. (Think The Sorcerer’s Apprentice here).

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This World and Others – Time

How is time going to work on the fictional world you set up? Will it be the same as we have here or can it run backwards? Or does it run faster or slower than here? What are the impacts on the characters of all of this?

Think about how time is measured. Are your characters’ lives dictated by time (and by implication mortality)? If any of your characters are not worried about time, why is that? Are they immortal and what are the downsides to that? (There will be some and do see Doctor Who’s The Five Doctors for more on that. An excellent storyline!).

Is anyone able to control time? Anyone who could do that would hold a great deal of power so what would they do with that?

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Looking Back and Trailers/Videos

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I review last Friday’s online event for the Waterloo Art Festival’s Writing Competition for my CFT post this week.

It was great fun (though I admit missing getting together with the other writers involved in this. Still there’s always next year and I think Zoom has a role to play even when things get back to whatever comes to pass as being normal!).

I share the trailer for Transforming Communities, the ebook launched here. I also share a video where I read an extract from my winning tale, Books and the Barbarians. Enjoy!

Transforming Communities Full

It was a joy to review how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Event worked as an online only “get together” last Friday for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I also share the book trailer for Transforming Communities. Also see below.

This ebook is a compilation of the fifteen winning entries and includes my story, Books and the Barbarians. I also share the link to the video I created for the Festival. I read an extract from my story on that. Hope you enjoy.

Zoom and other social media have been a lifeline in keeping some writing events together. Indeed as I write this I’ve just come off a very interesting Zoom session looking at marketing. (There is always something to learn with that topic!).

I take the view if I can’t together with author friends and go to writing talks in person then I will do so online whenever possible. I must admit though I am looking forward to the usual events being back again but I see a use for Zoom and the like long after “normality” returns.

I hope these platforms make events more accessible to those where transport is an issue for one thing. There is great good to be kept there I think.

 

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C = Creating new fictional people is always fun.
H = Heroes or Villains? You need both.
A = Aspirations of the characters are something a reader should identify with; ideally the aspiration of the villain should be in direct contrast to that of the hero.
R = Reasons for behaviours, attitudes etc of the characters should be sensible to them and a reader should be able to see where they come from here.
A = Agreeing with those reasons is not necessary!
C = Conclusion of the story should result in resolution of the conflict between your hero and villain.
T = Tension should ratchet up throughout the story as hero and villain race to try to achieve their objectives, knowing one of them has to fail.
E = Energy should come from your characters so your readers feel these people could be real in some world somewhere.
R = Rationality is in the eye of the beholder; a villain will find reasons to justify their actions and those reasons will be rational enough to them.
S = Super stories as a result of the above? But of course!

Happy writing!

 

I’m a fan of the quiz show Pointless and love the word rounds. No surprises there to be honest. I like Scrabble and the quick crosswords, things like that. What word games do you like? Do you find they help your writing?

When I have time, I sometimes use word games to help me relax AFTER a writing session as they can be a good way for me to wind down yet still have fun playing with words.

Many decades ago, I used to write wordsearch puzzles for our church magazine (and to show how long ago that was, the magazine was produced on an old Gestetner duplicating machine. (For younger readers, these are the days before the photocopier became readily available. The last T-Rex had just left the earth.. you know the kind of thing. 😆).

Words are fun. They’re even more fun in a story or blog post!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was good to see some fellow flash fiction writers as part of the Zoom course I was on this afternoon. I learned a lot. I was also encouraged a lot by it too. I also hope to put some more things into practice over the next few months!

One nice thing about flash fiction in particular is it is an easy form to share online. The reduced word count means it is easy enough to share a story and it is the best way I know of showing people new to the format what flash fiction is all about.

And it is lovely to share some new stories on this page too from time to time. I find it great fun to do and I hope to share some more before too long.

I hope to catch up with some story writing over the weekend. Whatever your writing and/or reading plans are, I hope you enjoy them!

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Although flash fiction is necessarily short, I still mix up the length of sentences in my stories. I like a nice balance of short and longer sentences to give my tales a sense of rhythm. To me, this seems more natural to read. Nothing is at a fast pace all the time. Even in a flash story there can be pauses even if it is a pause of one line before the action starts up again.

Happily listening to Holst’s The Planet Suite on Classic FM when I drafted this. My favourite from it, Jupiter, is always one piece I turn the volume up for!

What I love about this suite is that each piece within it reminds me of a musical short story/flash fiction. Each piece represents each planet and they are so different. It is, to me, as if each piece is telling its own story.

And so nice to write and/or relax to as well!

Do you listen to music while writing? What kind helps most and why?

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

Ten Things I Look For in a Good Story

I suspect there won’t be any great surprises here but each one should be a challenge to all of us to ensure we keep doing these!

  1. Characters I love or love to loathe. They’ve got to be memorable.
  2. Situations which are critical for the characters. They’ve got to strive for something important.
  3. A setting I would love to visit! (Anyone fancy a trip to The Shire in The Lord of the Rings? Mordor, I’d be happy to miss!).
  4. Great pace. Absolutely no boring bits!
  5. It’s a story I’d be happy to re-read at any time and enjoy it all over again.
  6. Humour, where apt for the story and the characters. I have a very soft spot for irony.
  7. Tragedy, when necessary as it often is, not to be overdone. (I think tragedy has much more of an impact when it does not become melodrama).
  8. Snappy dialogue.
  9. Catchphrases I can remember – and enjoy doing so.
  10. The story shows me something of the human condition which I’d either not considered before or reaffirms something. Funny stories can do this surprisingly well.

What are the most important elements to a story for you?

 

This World and Others –

Where to Find Ideas for Creating Your Fictional World

The best way by far is to read plenty of books across all genres and I do mean all. You can obviously learn directly from science fiction and fantasy as to how their worlds are set up. You learn a lot from what the writer decided you as the reader needed to know. But bear in mind you can also learn from history (fiction and non-fiction).

There is a lot of truth in the saying “the past is a different country, they do things differently there”. For a writer that’s wonderful stuff. So consider going back in time and having your fictional world set there. But do your research.

For example, readers may not need to know every detail of King Henry VIII’s court but they do need to know how many times he was married and how that affected life in the country (clue: it did and in a massive way!).

As for crime novels, again look at what the authors decided you needed to know. Setting is often used almost as a character in its own right in crime novels. What can you learn from that and apply to what you’re writing?

Work out a list of what you think you need to know. Then do a second one working out what it is a reader needs to know so they get the most from your story. And good luck!

 

Waterloo Arts Festival Online and Story News

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels generally unless stated otherwise.

Plenty going on over the last few days… phew!

Facebook – General

Had a wonderful time at the online Waterloo Arts Festival launch for Transforming Communities last night (Friday, 12th June 2020). Great to see many friends there and the readings were fantastic. Well done, everyone.

I’ll be sharing a book trailer for Transforming Communities later in the week but meantime I thought I would share this…

Hope you enjoy. Video also below.

As well as my video being here (with a taster of my story, Books and The Barbarians), there is a great intro for #MaxineChurchman too.

There is a series of these Meet the Winners posts, each combining a video with a short text from two winners. These will give you a good flavour of the wonderful mix that has gone into this ebook. Do check it out.

 

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. This one has been really nice for me. I

Loved being part of the Waterloo Arts Festival online on Friday. It was good fun and it was great to see everyone. I always love hearing extracts from stories. What’s not to like about that?

For the first time since lockdown, my sister and her partner came over for tea and cakes in the garden and a lovely time was had by all. Amazing how the simple things can boost your morale the most at times.

And I’m reading some smashing short story collections on Kindle at the moment so my reading drought is over. Hope to review in due course.

I’m preparing interview material where I’m on the receiving end of the questions AND where I’m setting them. Watch this space as they say!

And the ebook of Transforming Communities is now on my Amazon Author Central page. It is lovely to see the number of books increasing here! I can’t wait to be able to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic up on here too!

Hope you have a fabulous week.

Facebook – General – Further Publication News!

Lovely start to the week. My story It Is Time will be published in Bridge House Publishing’s Mulling It Over anthology later this year. Always a pleasure to return a signed contract to a publisher! I could do with more Mondays like this…

Many congratulations to all of the other wonderful writers in the collection. Good to see some familiar names here and equally great to see names that are new to me in this anthology.

I am very much looking forward to reading the collection in due course. What can be guaranteed is a fantastic mix of stories in terms of style and mood.

 

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Many thanks for the good wishes and congratulations yesterday on my recent publication news. Very much appreciated!

My CFT post this week is going to be a look back at how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition Event worked as a purely online Zoom affair. It is the first time I’ve taken part in a festival in this way. All good experience! (And for the WAF running it too I should think!).

On to other issues and question of the day is what it is about stories you love the most?

For me, it is always about the characters. I’ve got to be intrigued enough by them to want to read what they get up to but how about you?

My big problem with books, though it is a lovely one to have, is having too many I want to read and not enough time. Doesn’t matter if they’re paperback or ebook, I have the same dilemma. Still I’m never short of a good read! How about you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Waterloo Arts Festival ebook launch for Transforming Communities went very well last night. Great mixture of styles and stories. Was lovely to hear the extracts and I enjoyed reading mine too.

If you want to check the stories out in full, see the link above or my Amazon Author Central page (link further up this blog post)!

Transforming Communities Full

 

I was having some fun with the random word generator tonight and selected choosing four words at a time. The ones that came up were:-

Experience, Elect, Rebellion, and Uranium.

Now there’s an explosive mix for you!!

So how could you use these in a story?

1. You could try getting all four words into your story in any order.

2. If you want to make your life a bit more difficult, get them into the story in the order in which they were generated.

3. Pick one of them as your theme and/or title but get the others into the story itself.

4. Ensure your first paragraph contains the four words.

5. Or finish your story with your last paragraph containing the four words.

The nice thing with the generator is you can choose the number of words you go for. So play around with things like this and see them as a generator for story ideas. The fact you don’t know what will come up forces you to think creatively around what DOES emerge.

Have fun!

 

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Great start to the week with my It Is Time being accepted for the annual BHP anthology. That will be called Mulling It Over and will be released later this year.

One joy of writing both flash fiction and short stories is while nobody should underestimate the time taken to produce these and edit them etc., because you are writing so many more of them, publication news can come in much more frequently than if say you were writing a novel a year.

That is one aspect to writing in the short form I like a lot! And I highly recommend it!

One thing I learned years ago was that if writing appears to read easily, regardless of whether that work is a novel, a play, a 100-word story or what have you, the guarantee is that the author worked hard for years to get to that point. And continues to work hard!

On that particular piece of work they will have edited, put aside for while, edited again and again.

I do find deadlines useful here. It can be easy to put off submitting something because you’re not quite happy with your story. Having a deadline (even if it is one you impose on yourself) is a great way of making yourself submit work.

I can’t recommend enough getting into the habit of regularly submitting work. It makes you produce more stories. The more you write, the more you will learn, the more chances you have of one of your pieces or more being “out there” and therefore in with a chance of being acepted.

I found it helped a lot when I recognised rejections were nothing personal, that every writer has them and keeps getting them, but you learn from what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!

Many thanks for all the support after yesterday’s publication news. It has been a good couple of weeks! 😆😆

Of course the reality is I wrote those stories a while ago. You can’t know if your work is going to be accepted or not. And stories I’m writing now or have done in the last few weeks… well it is likely to be at least a couple of months before I know anything about those.

I do know a couple of competition entries haven’t been placed (no hear basically!) so I will be looking at those again at some point and seeing what else can be done. There is always room for improvement in these things!

But taking the long view, having work nearly always out there or on the point of being about to be out there, ARE good things and I’ve found both very useful. No time to mope over no hears or rejections for a start! On to the next story. Allow a little time to go by. Look at the old story and see if it can be revamped or whether it is worth trying a different competition with it.

Always things to be working on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Ebook -v- Paperback

Now I must declare an interest in this topic. I’ve been published in both formats and so, naturally, I love both. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

My trusty old Kindle goes with me whenever I’m away at events or holiday (not that this is happening right now!). But when I want some comfort reading, I will nearly always turn to a trusty paperback.

Flash fiction and short story collections I nearly always have on the Kindle. Most of the novels I read are in paperback.

I have a nice mixture of ebook and paperback for non-fiction books. (And yes I do take advantage of special offers on ebooks. It can and does make the difference as to whether I buy a book at all at times and this is another reason why I have no problems with book format. I also don’t mind at all if my book and the anthologies my work has appeared in sell well in either format! Naturally, ideally I’d like them to do well in both!).

So however you read, enjoy.

Whatever you read, enjoy!

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Friends and Traditions

Image Credit:  Mainly the marvellous Pixabay, but also a big thanks to Debz Brown, Paula Readman, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their images of the Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I discuss Friends and Traditions in this week’s CFT post. I think the image below from Pixabay may well prove to be a favourite. Just love the thinking behind it.

It is with great pleasure I look back at the Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Celebration Event which was held at St. John’s, Waterloo, last Saturday.

I must say a big thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox, Paula Readman, and Debz Brown for kind permission to use some of their pictures. The big problem with taking part in an event is not being able to take pictures of yourself doing so! If you ever want to know how to help a writer friend out, do consider taking pics for them!

I also look at what traditions writers could have. Hope you enjoy.

Captions as ever over on the CFT link.

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What kind of picture prompts do you find most useful for generating story ideas?

I prefer “open-ended” images which give me ideas for settings and then I work out what characters would live in those places. I don’t want specifics. I want to be able to fill in some gaps for myself.

I also find quirky pictures don’t work well. They tend to dicate the mood of your story (which inevitably will also be quirky and while I LOVE quirky fiction and write it, I don’t want to write it all the time).

And forget cute pictures of kittens etc. Lovely to look at but dreadful for inspiring story ideas. (I know, that’s not the purpose of cute kitten pics, but whenever I do see a photo, if a story idea is triggered, I see it as very welcome input. You just can’t do that with a cute kitten pic!😀).

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I’m looking at Friends and Traditions for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

I look back at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event held last weekend. I’ll also be looking at how writers can make their own “traditions” by figuring out what works best for them when it comes to settling down and getting the words out.

I also celebrate my lovely celebration of meeting up with other writers. I always come back from doing that with a real “buzz”. Encouragement is contagious! Link up on Friday. Next week I’ll be looking at what makes for a good story. I suspect I’ll have to put a strict word count limit on that one!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction can take many forms. I’ve written acrostic stories which can work well and, of course, you can write a story in a poetic form. A lot of the Christmas carols do this. Think of The First Nowell for example. You have the telling of the Christmas story in one carol there. Good King Wenceslas is also a great story told in song.

But the point remains, whatever the length or format of your flash fiction story, there has to be one central theme to focus upon. Everything else hangs off that, of course, but there is no room for sub-plots (and those are wonderful for the longer short stories, novellas, and novels. I love the fact that every aspect of writing has a purpose and a joy of its own).

I’ve found it helpful to sum up my stories in a line, especially for flash, as that becomes the “peg” I write the story to!

(Oh and one other Christmas tradition I’ve happily upheld tonight is watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. Easily the best film they made and a classic telling of a brilliant story).

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Am listening to a hilarious version of The Twelve Days of Christmas on Classic FM narrated by Joanna Lumley (as at 12th December!). Could well count as a flash fiction story though likely to be towards the upper end of the spectrum. Do check the piece out. It is very funny. (Oh and the writer of this piece has stuck to the “golden rule” of flash fiction by not having too many named characters!).

And talking of Christmas related flash fiction, I hope you enjoy this one.

AN UNEXPECTED STOP
‘You do know at what speed you were travelling, sir?’
‘Er… no… officer, I’m afraid I was concentrating on getting to my next destination. I have to cover everyone on my list, you see, and I don’t have much time. Was it important?’
‘I’ll say so, sir. You will cause chaos flying at that speed. If everyone did that there’d be accidents galore.’
‘But, officer, it’s Christmas Eve, I’m Santa Claus, there’s nobody up here except us and I’d love to know how YOU got here.’

ENDS
Allison Symes

 

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Do I ever feel frustrated by word count limits imposed by flash fiction?

No. If a character has a longer story to tell, then I tell it and it goes on to be a competition entry for, say, a 1500 to 2000 word market.

If I can’t enter a 100-worder flash competition, I can always enter a longer piece for a 250 or sub-500 words kind. I do like that kind of flexibility.

The really important thing is getting the story right and if it works better at 150 words rather than 100, you are better off sticking to the longer word count. There will be a home for it somewhere out there.

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Fairytales With Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 4

Final section with some tricky letters to tackle but here goes!

U = Unique. Your fairy godmother will always come up with a unique way to help you. Pumpkins are often involved and she seems to have a bit of a thing for extremely uncomfortable footwear (for you that is) but she means well so bear with her. Her unique approach will work out.

V = Variety.  Where the fairy godmother will demonstate variety is in the number of ways they transform errant beings into hideous beasts and so on. Naturally there will be a need for someone to set said errant beings free from their horrendous transformation. Naturally the errant being needs to have learned enough humility to recognise they need to be set free. There is no room or point in continued arrogance here. It is that which led to the horrendous transformation in the first place.

W = Wands. A magical being will have their wands on them at all times of course. Fairy godmothers will still have the star on the end. Tradition is a big thing in the magical world and also the end client expects to see something of that nature. Letting people down is not what a fairy godmother does!

X = X-Ray Vision. A fairy godmother won’t “do” a Superman here. Where her vision is at her sharpest is in assessing character. Let’s just say when a being gets transformed into something hideous, there’s always a good reason for it. Nobody has been wrongly transformed to date. So when it comes to reading a character’s soul, your average fairy godmother has wonderful X-ray vision and will not be fooled. (Indeed trying to pretend you’re something you’re not is even more likely to encourage her to ensure you are next on her “to bring down several pegs or so” list).

Y = Yarns. Not wool! What your average magical being likes is a good story. Sometimes they like being the star of said yarn but it naturally has to have a happy ending and make them look good (even if they don’t do so at the beginning).

Z = Zest. Every magical being is expected to be full of zest. Nobody wants a bedraggled and tired looking fairy godmother turning up to help out. Magical beings are expected to keep themselves looking and feeling good, no matter what it takes to do so. (This may explain Snow White’s stepmother’s attitude towards her own looks).

discovery-space-shuttle-1757098_640Even in a fantasy world, the author will share some of its history to make the world seem more real to the readerEven in time travel stories there is a history involved

The best books take you right into their world - it's a painless procedure

Books take you into other worlds.

The perfect way to end a day - with a good book - Pixabay

Fab end to a day I think. Pixabay.

This World and Others – What Is A Good Fictional World

For me a good fictional world has to have the following attributes.

  1. I’ve got to be able to see it in my mind’s eye and either wish to live there or avoid it like the proverbial plague. Sounds like a contradiction, right? What matters here is being able to visualise that world so well it will trigger either reaction in you. That world has drawn you in – job done!
  2. A good fictional world will reflect the lives of different species/classes/genders within it. There generally isn’t one species/class/gender etc. Okay, the story may focus on only one but you should be able to see how that one reacts and acts to the others living in that same world. (They’ll often be the source of conflict driving the story or will be supporting your hero/heroine in some way).
  3. A good fictional world will give some details on its virtues and shortcomings. What do your characters love and loathe about being where they are?

 

 

Celebrating Writing

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

A very big thank you to Paula Readman, Debz Brown, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their photos which were taken during the Bridge House Publishing celebration event.

Facebook – General

On my way to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event as I draft this post at 7.30 am on Saturday, 7th December 2019. Not going to see much of the lovely Hampshire countryside this time – it’s pitch black still and will be again on the way home.

Am happily ensconced in a comfy seat plugged in and listening to Classic FM as I write. Generally I find classical music soothing unless they put on the 1812 Overture when I have to resist the urge to use my stylus as a conductor’s baton! You’ve heard of air guitar. This is my equivalent!😀

When I get to read my stories publicly, I like to pick a mixture of tales in terms of length and mood. For today’s event I’ve picked short humorous (which can also be used as a description for yours truly!), a mid-range fantasy with a twist, and a crime tale. Hope they go down well. Will be writing the event up for CFT for next Friday.

What I am looking forward to most is meeting up with my fellow writers. It will be fun!

And the pics below prove it was fun!

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Loved the Bridge House event yesterday. Got home shattered but happy – always a sign of a good event, that! Many thanks to Paula Readman and Russell for the group pic of us holding up the books we were in this year. It’s a smashing photo. And this gives me the perfect excuse to repeat showing it!

Was very happy with my work during the day too. Drafted my FB and Goodreads blogs on the way up to London, posted them on the way home. Drafted two new flash fiction stories and wrote a reasonable section for a non-fiction book I’m working on as well. On getting home I started drafting my CFT post for this week so plenty of writing done I’m pleased to say. Naturally I came home with books to read too…

I do love Evernote and a smartphone! Even better was being on a train where I could keep my phone charged up as I actually had a power socket! (I know, I know, writers can be pleased by strange things indeed but I’ve been on too many trains where there is no power socket for phone charging or, worse, where there were some and they’ve been blanked out so I don’t take this kind of thing for granted!).

It was also lovely to chat to different people during the speed “dating” exercise at the event yesterday. Books, whether writing or reading them (or both), are a great conversational ice breaker. (Many thanks also to Dawn Kentish Knox for the pic of me reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Oh and the Christmas tree at Waterloo was lovely. More pics in my CFT post later in the week.

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Am enjoying singing along with the carols on Classic FM. Lady doesn’t really know what to make of it all though… 😀😀 – mind you, she does love Christmas. For a household with a collie in it, there is no such thing as left over turkey! And we get to go on post-Christmas walkies, which always goes down well – with Lady at least.

One of the nice things about coming back from events like the Bridge House one on Saturday is I can be sure of being “mugged” by the dog (demanding a big cuddle, how dare you go away, Mum!) on my return home! (Lady has almost followed me on to the train to Swanwick before now!).

I’ll be writing about Friends and Traditions for my CFT post this week. The Bridge House event has become a tradition for me and it involves lots of friends so win-win there! Link up on Friday. (I’ll also be looking at the benefits of meeting up with other writers).

Oh and I was delighted to find one fellow Bridge House author, #LindaPayne, is a fellow fan of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Another instant topic of conversation right there!

I remember being a very nervous newbie when I went to my first writing event aeons ago. Now, I can hardly wait for my favourites to come around. What has helped here? Why, making writer friends of course. It makes a huge difference. And I’ve always found that when you meet up again, you continue your conversations as if there hadn’t been a break of months or what have you since you last spoke directly.

There is so much much to enjoy about writing and this is one aspect of that. All hugely encouraging too and we all need encouragement on a regular basis.

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A very wet day (as Lady would testify if she could) and I spent a lot of it fervently wishing my glasses came with mini windscreen wipers!

I don’t tend to use the weather much in my stories as, if I wish to add atmosphere to a story, I can usually do it in some other way. If I want to show my characters under stress, there are usually better ways of doing it.

I tend to save the weather for when the story wouldn’t make sense if it wasn’t brought in. That way I can avoid parody (“it was a dark and stormy night”, anyone?) and any description of the weather is kept to the minimum I need to achieve my objective.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction lends itself well to being read publicly and also gives an instant demonstration of what flash is. Its brevity is its strongest selling point. Not got enough time to read?

Well, you can read a 50 or 100 worder quickly enough! See it as a great way to enjoy a fiction fix! A good friend has described it as a bus stop read, which is a great way of summing it up as well as suggesting where you can read it!

I love to read shorter fiction in between novels too. Flash fiction is the story form you can enjoy between “meals” of longer works without ruining your appetite for long or short fiction! Anyone else out there who remembers the old Milky Way advert?!

 

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A story comes to life for me when the lead character comes to life. For flash fiction, that has pretty much got to happen in the opening couple of lines. I try to do this by:-

1. Giving an intriguing situation the character has to solve and you want to find out how the character does it.

2. Take you inside the character’s head immediately and something about their attitude/thoughts will make you want to read on.

3. In my Punish the Innocent, I use a letter format to show my lead character addressing “their” reader and by opening with powerful lines. “Dear Sarah, They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong.” Again I’m seeking to intrigue a reader here into wanting to find out if my letter writer is right or not and if THEY’VE committed the perfect crime as their line clearly implies they think they have. It is the “got to know what happens here” scenario and if there was a kind of holy grail for writers, I would say that was it.

So basically then my way into a story is via an intriguing character or intriguing situation. The ideal, of course, is to have both but often (and I’ve found this in works I’ve read by other writers too), you don’t always realise how intriguing a character is until you have got to end of the story.

After all, if you take A Christmas Carol, you would hardly warm to Scrooge if you only read the first page or two, would you? There has to be something to make you want to read on and it is only at the end of that Christmas classic, you have got to see the depths of the real Ebenezer. In flash fiction, you have to do that much more quickly but it is a fun challenge!

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I sometimes write one liner flash fiction stories. (These are great for the 25 words and under competitions/markets). One of the stories I drafted in London on Saturday was one of these. I saw the potential for expanding it and did so! I’ve got work to do on it but the character comes across better in the longer version so I will stick with that.

The flexibility of flash here is one of its strengths I think. If I want to I can still submit the one line version but to a different, appropriate market for that word count.

At other times I will look at my one line stories again and realise they are best left as they are. But this is added reason to put work aside for a while before coming back to it. You need distance to be able to assess whether something would work at a longer word count than the version you originally came up with.

The deciding factors are whether the character is strong enough for their story to be expanded at all and does that character benefit from this.

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Thought it would be nice to share a story tonight. Hope you enjoy it.

WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS THINK
Had the neighbours seen the appearance of a witch in the huge chestnut tree?
Mary fervently hoped not. She also hoped they hadn’t seen her frantically wave at the witch indicating exactly where she could go. Back into the sky on that dodgy looking broomstick and away from Mary.
What is it about me that attracts the oddballs?
Mary poured herself a cup of tea and added a decent amount of brandy to it. She felt in need of it.
Even by her standards, the appearance of a witch was unusual. Annoyingly it was nowhere near Halloween so Mary couldn’t pretend it was one of the neighbourhood kids taking a prank that bit too far.
Looking again out of her kitchen window, Mary sighed with relief. The witch had gone. Mary turned back to her tea only to discover she now had company in her kitchen.
‘Well, aren’t you going to make me a cup of tea then, sister?’
Mary grimaced. She now knew where the witch was.

ENDS.
Allison Symes

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Reading Does For Me

Hmmm….where to start on this one!

1. Reading helps me escape. It doesn’t matter if the day is a good one or not – when I get to read I get to switch off.

2. Reading shows me worlds, real and fantastical, and expands my horizons. You can’t know everything, no one person could, but books are a brilliant way of expanding your knowledge. They can help you develop new interests too.

3. Reading inspires my own writing. I see what other authors do with their characters and think well I would have written them this way instead because… and off I go with my own tales.

4. Reading non-fiction expands your general knowledge. Handy if you like quizzes!

5. Reading expands your vocabulary. Handy if you love word games as It do.

6. People will never run out of present ideas for the book lovers in their lives!

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Trains and Wish Lists for Writers

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a joy to write about trains for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. It is one of my favourite inventions. I share how it has affected my writing (in terms of how I use a train journey and writing events I get to) and share some links to some great places to visit connected with the train. All of this just ahead of my going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event tomorrow. Naturally I’m travelling by train!

Yes, I did have a train set as a kid, shared with my sister, but you can’t beat going on the real thing and I’ve loved trips on the Fort William to Mallaig line (think Harry Potter) and the Watercress Line amongst others. (The latter has a Permanent Way sign on one of their engineering sheds as a tribute to Terry Pratchett. They also have an old advert for Nosegay tobacco – make of that what you will – see the post for the picture proving it!).

One thing I didn’t mention in the post was I love stories connected to trains too. I’ve always loved Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington (a Miss Marple story) – and who could forget Murder on the Orient Express? And I’ll always have fond memories of my book signing at my local railway station. That was good fun. (Many thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their help there and I’m pleased to advertise their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event coming up on 13th December. See the post for more).

Oh and my favourite Terry Pratchett story? Very hard to say but I do adore Raising Steam.  Captions over on the CFT post, as always, but I will say a big thank you to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their poster for their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event.

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Had lovely day in Dorset celebrating wedding anniversary with other half and Lady. Plenty of walking and very fresh air! Hope both prove to be inspiring!

Many thanks to all who read my story Staying In on Cafelit earlier this month..it is nice to know it did very well in the number of reads for the period. Things like this are so encouraging.

If there was a wish list for writers I would include:-

1. Encouragement to always come when most needed.

2. Time to somehow magically expand when the writing is going well and you are on a roll.

3. Inspiration to always come when most needed.

4. Always knowing not only have you found the right publisher before submitting work you have sent them the perfect pitch.

5. Never running out of paper, computer consumables, and good ideas!

And below is Lady having a fab time on West Bay beach!

Lady having a good time at West Bay

Lady having a good time at West Bay in Dorset. Image by Allison Symes.

What dates have special meaning for your characters and why? How do they celebrate key events/mark the more sombre ones? Do they live in an environment where commemorations/celebrations are enforced? If so, what led to that and do they toe the line or rebel? What are their reasons?

Questions like these are useful for fleshing out the characters you want to write about but also their setting (which can often be treated as a character in its own right).

In flash fiction, I have to hint at a setting but for standard short stories (1500 words +), there is more room for manoeuvre. I’ve found that the telling details (often only a line or two) are the ones that create the greatest impression of the world you’re trying to convey and so have the biggest impact on a reader.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event tomorrow and enjoying hearing fellow writers read their creations. I love being read to – doesn’t happen often enough (though this is where audio books are brilliant).

I’m planning to read some of my flash fiction stories too and this is where my favourite type – the 100 worders – come into their own. Short and with a sting in the tale. What’s not to like?! Looking forward to sharing new material and an old favourite or two.

I hope to write further stories on the train. I usually get a couple drafted, along with blog posts etc.

And one of the best ways of showing someone what flash fiction is simply to read them an example!

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What do you like your characters to be? I like mine to show spirit, whether or not that stance is justified! I also have a very soft spot for the older hero/heroine.

All of that is fine but I have to watch out I don’t just write characters who are all like that.

It can be a challenge to write about characters I dislike. The even bigger challenge is ensuring I do that so a reader would never know!

It can be really satisfying though when a character you don’t particularly like wins you round by the end of the story you’ve put them in.

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All fiction writers are given the advice to show, not tell in their stories. It’s even more crucial for flash fiction writers to do so. We have to imply so much and leave readers to fill in the gaps (which is just one very good reason why I love reading and writing flash. I’ve always loved filling in the gaps – and yes I was a huge dot to dot fan for much the same reason when I was a kid! I HAVE to fill the gaps in!).

All we can show you is this brief moment in a character’s life and its impact on them. You should be able to see the point of every flash fiction story and why this moment is important to that character. I’m particularly fond of those stories which leave me wondering at the end whether I would have made the same choices as the character. A story that encourages you to think is a very good thing indeed.

 

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Fairytales with Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 3

O = Obscure Origins. Fairytales love their lead characters to have humble beginnings. Many a hero has sprung from there. So never despite anyone coming from such a background. In the fairytale world, they usually go on to greatness.

P = Poverty. This is often an underlying theme. Look at Cinderella. She was made to live in poverty. The fairytale world generally looks kindly on such and will go out of its way to help. Good news if you are that person. Less good news if you’re the one forcing the character to live like this in the first place. There is a comeuppance in most fairytales and you will face it.

Q = Queens. Don’t always get a good press in the fairytale world. Just ask Snow White’s stepmother. Alternatively, there are those such as Sleeping Beauty’s mother, who struggles for a long time to conceive (there is a whole story there which would resonate), gives birth to the heroine, but is not even named (which I think is a great shame).

R = Royalty in general. There is a right royal mixed bag here. The fairytale world is full of princes who aggravate magical beings (Beauty and the Beast), kings who send their three sons out on missions (and it will always be the youngest one who succeeds), and those who try to prevent a bad spell from ever being activated by burning all the spinning wheels in the kingdom. Nice try that but the king concerned should have guessed it only needed one to escape that particular edict and for story purposes that was bound to happen, wasn’t it? Even kings are bound by the rules of story in the fairytale world.

S = Story. There has to be a beginning, a middle and, a lot of the time, a happy ending though The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl are notable exceptions to the latter. But it is also true in the fairytale world that the hero/heroine will overcome all obstacles in their way, sometimes with magical assistance. The story is usually a test of character for that hero/heroine and they have to pass it.

T = Time. Most fairytale stories play out over a relatively short period of time (Sleeping Beauty notwithstanding!). What always begs the question for me is why did Cinderella’s fairy godmother turn up so late to help her goddaughter, who clearly needed help much sooner?!

Final section next time.

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This World and Others – Visiting Fictional Worlds

A recent question which came up on my Goodreads page was which fictional worlds would you visit if you could and why? Well, my choice was Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings, as I’ve always loved its portrayal and the films just confirmed what I had already imagined this glorious place would be like. I also liked the hobbit holes and fancy one myself as they look lovely and cosy. Mind you, I’m under 5′ tall so I would probably fit in quite well! I must admit though I’d happily give Mordor a miss.

My second choice would be Narnia from The Chronicles of Narnia, though I would ensure I wrapped up well (see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for why!). I wouldn’t mind visiting Harry Potter’s Hogwarts either. I like the look of the school grounds! (And to tie in beautifully for this week, I would love to get to Hogwarts on their train!).

So where would you go if you could and why?

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Reading Lists and The Joy of Writing

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

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Delighted to share the link to Green Door, my latest story on Cafelit. I was particularly pleased with the ending on this one. See what you think and I hope you enjoy it.

HISTORY - What stays in your book or story must grip your reader and only you can decide what details must go in

Hope you enjoyed Green Door, my latest on Cafelit, which went up yesterday. More to come in December and January. I’m very fond of my lead character, Emily, in this one but I do have a very soft spot for feisty older heroines.

I’ll be taking a look back at my writing year in a couple of weeks’ time. I like to review what I’ve achieved, where I’m making progress, and what I’d still like to do. I then make plans for the coming year and give them my best shot.

One thing I have achieved this year which I am pleased about is entering more competitions. Okay I haven’t been shortlisted in them but I can (and have) reworked some of those stories and either will or have got them out elsewhere.

I’ve found very little is wasted in writing. Especially for short stories and flash fiction, taking another look at the piece, submitting to another competition or market, is very much worth doing.

One nice thing about this time of year as the weather gets colder is I get to write with Options hot chocolate keeping me going! This is where I am thankful writing is NOT an outside thing!

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I’m not the world’s most gregarious person but two things have got me chatting to people. One is becoming a dog owner. That really does break down barriers of reserve. The other is becoming a writer.

Instant topic of conversation at writers’ events and so on: what do you write, how long have you been writing etc? By the time you get to compare your favourite kinds of stationery (and you will), you’ll feel like you’ve known the person you’ve been talking to for YEARS.

 

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Top tips for writing:-

1. Enjoy it. Know you would write whether you are published or not. Know rejections are part and parcel of the writing life. Go into writing with your eyes wide open.

2. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different forms of writing. I didn’t start out writing flash fiction after all.

3. If you can, get along to good writing conferences. You’ll learn lots from them and hopefully make friends too. Having writer friends is wonderful. They will understand the ups and downs of the writing life better than anyone else.

4. Never be afraid to ask questions about writing services etc. All industries have their charlatans, publishing sadly is not exempt. (Do check with the Society of Authors/Alliance of Independent Authors and again writing friends can be invaluable here. You learn so much from them and they can learn from you too).

5. Have fun with your writing. The first one to enjoy your work should be you!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My goal on the flash fiction front is to try to get my next collection ready for submission. Hopefully I’ll then submit it next year.

I’m still adding stories to it, which is a joy, but I need to go through it and ensure only the very best make it.

Of course that is the challenge. What is the very best?

Again I am looking at the impact the stories have on me. If they have the impact I hoped they would have, then they’ll stay in because they’re likely to do the same for a reader. If not, out they come and I’ll rewrite.

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One liners can work well in flash fiction because they have to keep to the point. They can be a great ending to a story, especially a humorous one.

I sometimes draft a few possible one liners and then work out what could lead to a character coming out with them. (This is where writing the story with the ending mapped out and then work out what the beginning and middles are is useful).

The advantages of drafting one liners like this are (a) it’s fun and (b) your one liners will be justified. That in turn will lead to the story finishing on a natural, funny ending, leaving a reader with a smile and on a high point.

 

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Looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing event on Saturday. Plan to draft plenty of flash fiction and blogs on the journey to and fro.

I’ve long loved the train (I’ll be writing about that for CFT this week) but also love having that period of time when I can just sit and get work written. It’s extra to what I’d do back at the old desk and I get to go home, having had a wonderful time and feeling virtuous I’ve got new stories mapped out! Win-win.

Learning to work almost anywhere obviously increases productivity but I’ve found it helps me cut out distractions back at home. It’s a question of what works for you.

 

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