The Long and The Short of It

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is The Long and the Short of It – Reading and is a celebration of literacy, in particular the joy of stories and books across genres and formats.

There really is a genre and format of story and book to suit everyone. I think this is something that is too easy to take for granted.

I look at the advantages and disadvantages of short and long fiction from both the reader’s and writer’s viewpoint. Hope you enjoy.

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

It has been a good week on the story front. Three linked stories of mine were up on Cafelit earlier this week and today I had a 75-word piece, Time Is Everything, on #ParagraphPlanet. I could do with more really productive weeks like this!

Time Is Everything was one of those stories when I did actually start with the opening line! I know, duh, every story starts with an opening line. True but sometimes I come up with a line which I know will make a cracking ending to a tale and I then work backwards to get to the beginning. This one I went from A to B rather than from B to A!

The Cafelit stories are three linked ones and are based on an idea from #DawnKentishKnox in the Prompts Book by Gill James. I picked some numbers and wrote stories to those numbers. I also used the numbers as a theme – in this case Time. Seven is for seven days in the week, Twenty Four is for the hours in a day and so on. The whole “package” is called Story by Number and I must thank #GillJames for picking such an appropriate drink to go with these tales. See the link for more! I usually select a drink to go with my Cafelit stories but, confession time, forgot this time.

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Hope to have more publication news to share tomorrow as well as the link to my CFT post.

For the latter, I’m looking at The Long and the Short of It – the It being a celebration of literacy. (Now there is a word you must make sure you spell correctly to spare your own blushes!).

I’ll be looking at the joys and challenges of long and short writing (yes, I include non-fiction). The problem with a post like this one is in keeping it down to one post! I do think literacy is something that is far too easy to take for granted. We are so fortunate having a wonderful wealth of materials to read and enjoy.

One wonderful thing about all of this is there is at least one genre and one format of writing/reading to suit you. And that goes for non-fiction too. Think of the wealth of topics there alone!

If you’re a writer you have the joy of creating said materials too.  Now off to work on more short fiction and non-fiction myself!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

 

How do I decide what IS the most important thing I have to get across in a flash fiction tale?

Sometimes it’s an obvious thing. I have an interesting character and I simply have to find out what happens to them. That is the single most important point. (That’s always a good sign when the writer is keen to find out what happens. I’m convinced some of that does get through to future readers).

Sometimes I know what the character is going to do to end the story so have to work out what has to happen for them to get to that point – the B to A approach so to speak. So again I’ve got the most important thing to focus on.

Sometimes the character has an attitude problem (!) and here I can go with either finding out what was behind that. There’s the point of the story. Alternatively, I can use the what are the consequences of that attitude approach. Both are fun to write.

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Story time again…

GUARANTEE

Genuine? Of course it is, Madam.
Unassuming but pretty little object, isn’t it?
And it can be all yours for £50.
Really, I’d be selling it cheap at twice the price.
Auntie Jo always said my kind heart would land me right in it, but you just have to go with your instincts sometimes, don’t you?
Nah, of course, I’m not conning you.
Tried it on with everyone else in the market today, have I – well, no actually, I really have saved this for you, Madam.
Ever since I was a nipper, I could match a face to a bargain and this one is designed for you.
Everlasting wish maker this is, okay so you know it as a magic lamp, but wouldn’t you say it goes rather nicely with that broom I saw you fly in on?

Allison Symes – 20th February 2020

I used a random word generator to come up with the trigger for this story. I don’t always use the first word that comes up. I look for a word that is open to interpretation. Ideally I’ll use a word that could be used in a funny or serious context. Then I can have some real fun with it!

Hope you enjoy.

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Am having one of those days where everything has run late. I may be a flash fiction writer but not everything I do can be said to be achieved in said flash! Oh well…

What do you do if you find that inspiration is hard to come by? I find a lot of the time when I feel “used up”, it is simply because I’m tired so I rectify that. I accept on those days I don’t write so much. I go to bed early, read, and wake up, hopefully refreshed, and ready to do much better on the writing front the following day.

Unless life gets in the way, as it can do, I usually do have a better “performing” writing day as a result. (One thing I’ve learned late is NOT to beat myself up if I can’t write much. I can and will make up for it. What matters is to enjoy writing as and when you can. If you’re not well or tired, it will affect what you do. Self care matters here too).

Another way to refresh the inspiration pot is of course to read. This is the time to try reading away from what you would usually go for. If you usually read fiction, try something from the non-fiction shelves and vice versa. I find reading longer forms of fiction is a great aid here too because it is different from what I usually work in. I think this mentally refreshes me.

Getting out and about for a good walk with the dog works wonders too though I won’t be sorry when the weather improves. That can’t come soon enough!

Fairytales with Bite – Once Upon A Time

Well, it is a classic opening, but what does it mean for you? For me, it means favourite fairytales, of course, but from a writing viewpoint I take it to be as follows.

Once – I pick the single most important moment to focus on in my character’s life for my flash fiction stories. Flash fiction illuminates briefly so it has to be the single most important thing for that character I then write up.

Upon – What am I going to make my character face? Is it going to test them enough? How will they cope?

A – What is the turning point in my story? There has to be one. Great stories can often change direction completely upon one word and even more where it is placed in the story. My Calling the Doctor is one of my favourite examples of where I’ve done this. Book trailer below but look to see how the final word of the story changes the mood completely of what has come before. I see the “A” word as that tiny moment which is the pivot for change in my character and/or their situation.

Time – When am I setting the story and why have I chosen it? Does the time chosen make sense for the story I am telling?

 

This World and Others – Once Upon a Time

I thought I’d follow on from Fairytales with Bite above with a look at the classic fairytale phrase and how it can be used when it comes to world creation.

Once – Decide what is the most important factor your readers needs to know about the world in which your characters live. Why do readers need to know this? How best can you show them this? For example, if the most imporant element, is the employment opportunities in your world, show what these are and why they matter.

Upon – What could happen to your created world that would have a direct impact on your character and the outcome of your story? Think weather conditions, climate, pollution, earthquakes etc.

A – Attitudes of your created world to other worlds or to countries within it. Are there power blocs? Who dominates? Is there democracy?

Time – Again decide what time is going to be the most appropriate for your story and think about what kind of development your world has got at this stage.

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Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Thanks as ever to Pixabay for the images here.

Facebook – General

Good evening so far. Submitted a flash piece, pitched a couple of non-fiction ideas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Also sorted out my bedside cabinet and organised my reading piles (one for books, one for magazines before you ask!). Feel both productive AND virtuous and, trust me, that doesn’t happen often!

Hope the weather isn’t causing too much havoc where you are. Mainly tree debris where I am. Always sad to see trees down (though Lady will end up having more sticks to play with than she ever thought possible so there is that to it).

The other thing to be said about the weather is if you needed encouragement to stay cosy and warm and get on with writing at your desk, you’ve got it. Well, you’re not going to want to go out now, are you?

It WAS a dark and stormy night – and writers everywhere took one glimpse at the horrible weather, got on with their latest epics, only too glad to do so!😀😀

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

I’m looking forward to sharing two separate items of publication news later on in the week. It has been a good few days. I wish they were always like that but there you go!

Am almost there on a standard length short story I want to submit for a competition. I hope to get that submitted by the end of this week. And I’ve picked out the next competition I want to have a crack at so need to start thinking out some ideas for that.

I’m also going to be working on the edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, so have plenty in the pipeline.

But that’s how I like it – a nice mix of non-fiction writing (CFT particularly), sending stories out to hopefully good homes (!), and editing.

Reading wise, I’ve recently started London: The Biography. It’s an interesting concept for a historical book – a biography of a city – and I anticipate an enjoyable read. I love history – fiction and non-fiction. I won’t be sorry if story ideas spark from reading this book. (I’d be disappointed if I don’t get something. Non-fiction can be a great source of sparks for stories).

Hope the weather rapidly improves where you are. It is calmer here in Hampshire though there is some flooding. Lady gets a bit skittish in high winds (a bit like some young children can do) so it’ll be fun walking her tomorrow when said high winds are back. Still, at least it’s going to be dry.

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What do you love writing the most? I love getting inside my characters’ heads and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes said thoughts surprise me and I think where did that come from but it’s a wonderful feeling when that happens. It confirms to me the character has backbone, is taking on a life of their own, and is going to resonate with readers. All good things to aim for!

But the danger here is to only focus on the things you like writing most. I do enjoy writing narrative but I’ve come across too many books in the past where the narrative has gone on for too long and is keeping me away from the character whose story I want to follow.

For narrative writing, I’ve learned to focus only on what a reader needs to know for the character and/or story to make sense and there are absolutely no massive descriptions of setting etc. That I feel belonged to a bygone era.

I got into conversation with someone (and I apologise now because I’ve forgotten the name) who felt that the long descriptions of setting particularly in classic novels were necessary then – no TV or film back then. I think that’s a valid point. Now, of course, books are just one form of entertainment amongst many. Everyone knows the kind of setting that would be in, say, an ancestral home thanks to things like Downton Abbey, TV adaptations of stories such as Pride and Prejudice, etc., so do you now need to write every aspect of that down? I think not. You just want enough to conjure up the appropriate images in a reader’s mind and leave it there. Less is more and all that.

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PUBLICATION NEWS

Delighted to share not 1, or 2, but 3 of my linked flash fiction stories called Story by Number published on Cafelit. Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her excellent prompt idea in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. My stories here are directly inspired by that.

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

The titles all reflect the number of words in each story. Hope you enjoy.

Will I write more of this kind of story again? I hope so. It is great for the old imagination muscle to mix up how you write a story. It keeps things fresh for you and will do for a reader too.

(The image I’ve added to the link below comes from a recent Chandler’s Ford Today post of mine called Numbers into Writing Will Go. It seemed appropriate! Link to article below.).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Firstly, a big thank you to Val Penny for her lovely comment on the book on Twitter earlier today (18th February). Much appreciated, Val!

 https://twitter.com/valeriepenny/status/1229794879544479745

If you’re a reader and know some writers, I bet they’ll have asked for reviews of their books etc in the usual places. (My friends know I’ve asked them!).

If you think well hmm… I wouldn’t know where to start etc., I’ll just add that reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc., don’t have to be lengthy write-ups. A line or two would do and whatever your tastes in reading, the author will appreciate those reviews. They’ve got to be honest ones though!

(Oh and a good place to start is what YOU liked about the book and yes what you disliked too. Reviews have to be honest to have any meaning and writers will learn a lot from feedback they receive this way).

Making writing friends online is great but meeting them in person is even better

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use character traits to help me “get going” with creating a new person to either write about or to be my narrator for my next flash fiction story.

I also talked about this in my interview with #WendyHJones which went out on Wednesday this week. Naturally that gives me a golden opportunity to share the link again! (Shameless plug and all that….! 😊❤️).

Episode 4 – How To Write Flash Fiction

Feature Image - Local Author News - Allison Symes - Podcast by Wendy H Jones

It was lovely being able to write a bonus CFT post for this. Image by Pixabay

But going on from there, one question could be “could you run out of character traits?”. Surely there are only so many.

Well that’s true but I like to combine them with something else.

For example if I have a character who is feisty, I’ll give them a vice such as greed. There could be a crime story there. There could be a comic story too if their greed dropped them right in it. The reactions from a reader here could range from horror and disgust at my character to laughter as my character makes a complete fool of themselves.

The trick will be making readers care enough to read about a character like that. There will be a certain amount of wanting to see if that character either gets their comeuppance (I love stories like that!) or somehow redeems themselves. Either way there is going to be a significant change in that character or their situation by the end of the tale and I hope I can make a reader curious enough to find out what that is.

Another character who is feisty I may well make charitable but their big mouth lands them in it from time to time. So there I would hope a reader would want to find out if the character can carry on doing their good works and their loudmouth has not ruined things completely. Or perhaps the being outspoken ends up bringing in much needed changes and my character is a catalyst for positive change.

Yes, there’s that word again – change. The single most important thing about any story of any length. There has to be change. Your character has to be different in some way by the end of the story whether it’s 50 words long or 50,000. The challenge is to have a character your reader HAS to follow to find out what happens to them.

Image supplied by Wendy H. Jones

Will have flash fiction publication news to share later in the week so am looking forward to putting the relevant links up.

Will be starting work soon on the edits for Book 2 – Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Looking forward to that. I do enjoy editing. Sure there are some tasks associated with that which ARE less interesting (yet another misplaced comma to remove etc etc!) BUT I keep in mind the overall goal is to improve my work and to get it to the best I can make it. That helps a lot.

I’ll be talking about short and long form fiction in my CFT post later this week and will share more on that on Wednesday. No prizes for guessing which is my big love here!

 

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How do you handle those times when you know your story hasn’t got anywhere with a market or competition?

My practice here is to look at my story again. If I spot anything that could do with strengthening, I do that but I then get the story back out again to another, suitable market or competition.

Another way of using a story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is to look at why you wrote it in the first place and analyse it as if it had been written by someone else.

If this story had been in a magazine, would it have appealed to you? If there were bits that didn’t seem to gel with you, ask yourself why?

This is a good editing technique and by putting your reader’s hat on, you might find something about the tale that could do with working on and which, once done, will give it more of a chance in the big, bad world out there.

The one thing I’ve found is you have to be totally honest about what you think works in the story and what doesn’t work so well. The trick of course is to improve those latter sections so there are no bits which don’t work so well!

And be persistent too. One market or competition may feel it is not right for them (they may have taken something similar to your story recently, you will never know), but it doesn’t mean others will feel the same way.

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Just a quick reminder for Writing Magazine subscribers that you can advertise your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. Proof of the pudding? See this link!

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

I hope later in the year when Tripping the Flash Fantastic comes out to put that on here (probably with a link back to From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Meanwhile over on Cafelit, do check out my latest three flash fiction stories. Yes, three of them. They are linked though. Linked flash fiction is relatively new for me and this set was inspired by a prompt in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. (Thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her cracking idea which inspired me here).

 

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Goodreads Author BlogReading Piles

How many reading piles do you have? Mine include:-

1. My book pile.
2. My magazine pile.
3. Everything on my Kindle!

It’s probably enough to be going on with though I suppose I could split my book pile into two categories: novels and short story/flash fiction collections.

Note I said probably just now. I’ve just seen a lovely post on Facebook where someone has come up with a new idea for an escape room – you have an hour to get out of a well stocked book shop!

I don’t know about you but that’s me well and truly stuck then. One hour would just about give me enough time to have a good look around and work out what was where. I might get to decide where I would be starting first if I was efficient with my time!

I’ve mentioned before I like to mix up my reading. There are some evenings where I just HAVE to read magazines, rather than books, and the other way round. I don’t really know why that is but I love reading both overall so that’s okay. So therefore it is absolutely necessary for me to have reading piles that suit all my reading moods.

How do you organise YOUR reading?

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Panto, Numbers, and Publication News

A real mixed bag tonight but hope you enjoy!

Image Credits:-

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

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

Facebook – General – and Publication News – Cafelit

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

Facebook – General

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

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

All good fun…

 

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

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

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

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales With Bite – Keeping Fairytales Alive

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

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

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

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

Long live the fairytale!

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This World and Others – How the Other Half Lives…

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

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

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

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

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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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A flash fiction story should be focused around one central character and one major point of change affecting that character.

There really isn’t room for anything else but I have found having a character think about another character or mutter about them under their breath etc is a good way of (a) showing something of what my main character is like and (b) the effect the character they refer to has had on them.

So much in flash fiction has to be implied but this is very effective. I know as a reader I don’t necessarily want everything spelled out. I want to come to some conclusions myself.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Lists

Do you have a reading list (or several)?

I tend not to bother with this. I read according to my mood. I tend to flit between non-fiction, read that, then move to fiction and read that for a while.

I also mix up whether I’m reading books or magazines, short stories or novels.

I can see the point of a reading list. My worry is I’d feel guilty if I didn’t get to the bottom of it and, given there is always so much I would like to read, I never would! And reading should never encourage a feeling of guilt.

I also like mixing up my reading according to how I feel and not to some prescribed formula.

I receive notifications in from booksellers as to what is on their recommended list and I will take a look. I’ll go for the suggestion if it takes my fancy but if not, forget it.

What matters is getting the reading done, list or no list!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Started and Genre Fiction

Image Credit

Unless otherwise stated all images are from the brilliant Pixabay.

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Regardless of what I write where, the hard part is getting started. Once I’m away, I’m away. But I have learned over time to trust the instinct that something will come which I can work up into a story or a blog post. The great thing is it’s going to be a first draft and the only person seeing that is me.

I never worry about getting the writing right first go. I know I won’t. What matters is getting started and putting something down on paper or on screen. You can only work with what you’ve put down to work with after all!

So ways to get started on a piece of writing then?

1. Look through any brainstorming notes and see if ideas jotted down there take your fancy now. If so, away you go.

2. Have another brainstorming session and write anything down that occurs to you. I’d do this for about five minutes. Then look through the ideas. Did one in particular stand out? If so, great, off you go. If not, what was the idea you like the best and why do you think that is? Then still write it up. There will be a reason why you like this particular idea so go with it.

I’ve found that once you start writing, the ideas continue to flow. It is a bit like turning on a creative tap. Stronger and better ideas come as you write too. Jot them down. Come back to them. But just get writing and have fun. Nobody has to see this work but you.

Out of what you jot down, there may come ideas to write up fully. Even if you seem to draw a blank, you are clearing away some creative clutter from your brain in getting these ideas down and out of your system. Just put them away for a bit. Come back to them later. You might see potential in them THEN.

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Am forging away with my CFT post for this coming Friday – and it will include a quiz too. No prizes – just bask in the glow of getting the questions right! More details later in the week.

Revamping a website always takes longer than you think. I’m adding pages to my work on Cafelit and Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books. I also hope to have a page on writing tips etc. Looking forward to sharing more details when all done. Do explore the rest of the site. There will be more goodies to come in due course. The site is now known as allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Next big event for me will probably be the Bridge House celebration event in December. Looking forward to that a lot. So good to meet up with fellow writers that, for the rest of the year, I meet courtesy of Facebook! Incidentally, I do think that is one of the nicest aspects of social media – writers being able to encourage one another even if they can’t meet in person.

More immediately, I’ve got short stories to draft and non-fiction ideas to work on too. Why is it that it can take ages to get started on a piece of work, you get into your stride with it and THEN the time whizzes by and you have to stop? Oh well. The one comfort there is I know I’m not alone on that one!

Allison Symes and published works

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Glad to say Staying In is my latest story on Cafelit. It ties in with my last story, Humourless. I’ve been working on some linked flash fiction this year and hope to write more of these.

Definitely on the darker side of my particular writing scale but I hope you enjoy them both.

 

Catching up with reading on the Kindle at the moment. I’m also re-reading my novel on there too (I do love the Send to Kindle function!) and am trying to read it as a reader would.

I tend to save using the Save to Kindle function for my big projects. I think I might try batching my short stories and flash fiction in one document so I can review them like this too.

When I put the Kindle on, I am straight into reader mode which is precisely what I want to achieve here. The inner editor has been told to go away somewhat forcefully and I can relax and read.

Ironically, I’ve found on the novel it has made me spot things I can improve but that is because I’m reading it in a relaxed way. I’m not at this stage trying specifically to do anything to it. I think state of mind as you read is key here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to write flash fiction in a variety of moods. My absolute favourite are the humorous kind but that’s because I’ve always had a very soft spot for funny writing. I also think it’s under-estimated. (Anything that looks easy to write, you can bet the writer has worked very hard for years to get to that point).

Humour, I think, is the most difficult to get right in any form because it is so subjective. You have to accept not everyone might “get” your sense of irony.

My dear late mum loved a wide range of books but just didn’t “get” funny writing at all. I suspect that’s one reason I DO love it. Well, I guess it is one way of rebelling… albeit very tamely. (She would have been delighted though about From Light to Dark and Back Again and my other published stories).

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I’ve mentioned using random word and phrase generators before as good triggers for story ideas. I thought I’d take a look at the random phrase generator and again and came up with:-

Two Down, One To Go
Down for the Count
On the Ropes

All of those would make great titles and/or themes for stories. May well have a crack at some of these myself. The nice thing is you can keep clicking until you come to a phrase you like the sound of and, also, how about combining phrases?

Two Down, One to Go could make a great title while On the Ropes could be the theme of that same story.

Happy writing!

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Are there themes that really resonate with you whether you’re writing the stories, reading them, or both? I think I’d list mine as:-

1. Seeing the tables turned on superiors by a character who has been underrated or rejected.

2. Injustice put right, especially if someone has been falsely accused. (This is why Azkaban remains my favourite Harry Potter story).

3. A quest carried out by someone who is assumed will never fulfil it but they do. Take a bow, Frodo Baggins!

4. Where someone technically inferior is clearly far superior to their boss (but their boss knows it and acknowledges it) – Jeeves and Wooster are the top men here.

For flash fiction, of course, you would need to show a “brief taste” of these themes but there is nothing to stop you fleshing our a short piece into something much longer if you wanted to do so later.

That is one aspect of flash fiction I love – you CAN have a second bite of the cherry here. It’s just that the second bite is going to go much deeper (and go on for longer) than the first one!

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Am having great fun revamping my website at the moment. Am planning to put on an All About Flash Fiction page with hints and tips. Will share once it’s ready. Plan is to update it regularly. I’ll also use it to compile some of the advice I’ve shared here and I hope to share thoughts on writing exercises too.

I love flash fiction for the way it shines a sharp light on one moment in a character’s life. There is something about the intensity of flash that really appeals to me. And I love getting to create so many different characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Genre Fiction

I’ve never understood snobbery around genre fiction. Genre fiction encourages people to read according to their tastes and isn’t the idea to get people into books in the first place?

My favourite genres include:-

1. Fantasy
2. Crime
3. Historical

(And yes you can combine those. Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes novels in his Discworld series combines 1 and 2 and I’m sure you can think of others that blend genres).

I suppose the only “properly literary” fiction I’ve read is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which I adored, but my go-to-for-a-good-read first is always something which is genre based.

Yes, I know what to expect from, say, a crime novel, but what is fascinating is seeing how different crime writers handle their material. (As a writer, I can pick up tips there myself so win-win!).

I’m always fascinated as well by character creation and different writers take varying approaches to this. So reading widely across genres opens my eyes to different ways that this can be done.

So reading books then is a good idea then? Well of course it is!

Now to decide which genre I’m going to go for next…

Happy reading!

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Competitions and Revamped Website

Image Credits:

1.  A huge thank you to Stuart Wineberg and The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos for my CFT post. As ever, captions for the photos appear on the CFT post.

2.  Unless stated otherwise, the rest of the images come from the marvellous Pixabay as usual.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford production My Husband’s Nuts.

I discuss farce (well, with a title like that, this wasn’t going to be a serious documentary now, was it?!) and what it is meant to do.

I also research the background of plays etc that I review. Putting this title into a search engine produced some interesting results, including a link with candied almonds! See the post for more.

Also a big thanks to the Chameleons who seem to like the review!

Fantastic review of ‘My Husband’s Nuts’ by Allison Symes on Chandler’s Ford Today. Thank you, Allison! :

 

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Am revamping my Word Press website (this very one!). Enjoying doing so and looking forward to sharing the results once I’m done. (Mind you, I bet there’ll be something I’ll have forgotten to add and then remember later but hey, that is the way of things!).

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest play put on by the wonderful Chameleon Theatre Group – My Husband’s Nuts. I’ll refrain from further comment other than to say the link will go up on Friday. Fans of serious documentaries may wish to skip this one… titles DO give clues!

Many thanks to all who’ve given great feedback on my latest Cafelit story, Humourless. I will have more work up in November and look forward to sharing that. It’s hard to believe it WILL be November on Friday! I get a sense of how fast the year is going by every time I schedule a CFT post as I have to know the dates!

I do wonder what that blue tit is telling the other one in the first picture below (from Pixabay as ever). Any chance is it’s nagging the other one to get up earlier to give it the best chance of getting the worms, do you think?

Image may contain: bird

I hope it’s a good story the blue tit is relating here! Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Reviewing is not the easiest thing to get right. You want to give a flavour of whatever it is you’re reviewing without giving away all of the “best bits”. It was good fun going to see The Chameleons’ My Husband’s Nuts and reviewing it this week for Chandler’s Ford Today though.

This play’s title confirms the importance of getting your title right to reflect the mood of your play, story, book etc! You just know this play isn’t going to be a serious documentary.

So how do you decide which title is right for your latest flash fiction story, say? The methods I use include:-

1. I use my titles to reflect the mood of the story.

2. I use my titles to reflect something of the main character.

3. I often keep my titles open so they can be taken in a humorous or other mood (e.g. Time Waits For No Man can be a funny story, could be a very sad one but the title flags up to the reader that the mood of the tale could go either way so that’s fine).

4. I sometimes use a pun as a title.

5. I’ll often use proverbs of famous sayings as titles, again because they can be open to interpretation. What I hope to do here is hook the reader’s curiosity so they want to find out which way the story goes.

If a better idea for a title occurs to me as I’m writing or editing the story, then I switch to that. You do get gut instincts that a title would be better if you went from Title A to Title B and I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct here. It’s rarely wrong.

 

 

Aside from writing flash, I, of course, read it, but I also like turning to longer works of fiction and non-fiction as something completely different.

It pays to mix up what you read to keep your reading life interesting AND ideas spark from all over the place so reading widely helps widen the areas where those sparks can originate from! And of course it is so much fun…

(One of my great joys is having books on my shelves at home written by friends. Always lovely to add to my collection there).

What do I look for when reading flash fiction by other authors?

1. I want to be hooked by the character(s).

2. I want to be surprised by the ending. (This does not mean it has to be a twist in the tale funnily enough, though I love those. I want to be able to foresee a good ending for the story and then discover the writer has come up with something better!).

3. I want to half wish I’d writen the story!

Why only half wish? Because I learned a long time ago I’m not in competition with other writers nor are they with me. Why? Because I write in my voice and they write in theirs. They are not the same.

You can take a dozen authors, give them the same word count and title and there will be a dozen different takes and styles.

The Waterloo Art Festival’s ebooks (produced by Bridge House Publishing) have proved that. My entries in To Be…To Become and, for this year, Transforming Being, are very different in style to the other tales. And that’s how it should be. Makes for a wonderful eclectic mix too.

Am revamping my Word Press website as I mentioned on my author page. I am hoping to have a specific flash fiction spot on this. Will share when it’s all ready. There is something creative in doing this though and I am enjoying it. I just feel that possibilities are opening up… (I do hope I’m right there!).

Flash fiction was known as postcard fiction and I can understand why. A story you can fit on the back of a postcard makes sense as a definition. Doesn’t really work for me. My handwriting’s tiny. I could get a three volume trilogy on there!😉😉😃

Flash has also been known as sudden fiction but I’m not keen on that definition. There can be some very poignant pieces written in flash and you’d hardly describe those as “sudden”.

The biggest challenge in flash fiction writing isn’t actually the word count – honestly. It’s coming up with different, interesting characters for each and every story you write. Mind, I love doing that. For me, it’s where the creative juices flow.

Fairytales With Bite – 

How to Tell If Your Fairy Godmother is Out of Warranty

  1.  Her wand keeps misfiring. You will get a lot of pumpkins but think of all the lovely recipes you can use those for!
  2.  Her spells will only last for so long and always expire at midnight. This may well prove not to be convenient but tough. There is nothing she, or you, can do about it.
  3. She proves to have a bit of a thing for changing animals into human characters – rats a speciality – despite knowing such a spell cannot last and it is going to really confuse the animals when they truly become themselves again. What memories will they have for a start?
  4. If she uses a sleeping spell on you, beware! Her alarm clock is stuck to 100 years, not a minute less. Again this may prove to be inconvenient. On the plus side, you’re never going to beat this for a lie-in!
  5. Your fairy godmother, if she is on the ball so to speak, will make herself known to you early in life so her arrival doesn’t come as a huge shock to you later on…  ah… I see you’ve only just met her… ooops.  Good luck. You’ll need it but you probably are in for an entertaining and unforgettable evening. Have fun!

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This World and Others – Foundations

What are the foundations for your stories and the worlds in which you set them? Mine are:-

  • I’ve got to know the characters really well, especially their major traits. I don’t necessarily need to like them but I do have to know how they are likely to react to events and why and whether anything could throw them.
  • I then visualise the setting in which these characters would fare best, work out why that is, and flesh out details of what the characters would face here. Not every detail will end up in the story but I will put in enough so readers can conjure up images of what the world is likely to be like.
  • I like to get a sense of how the world is governed (as that may well be the direct cause of conflict in my story. Even where it isn’t, I need to know what my characters could expect to face in terms of authorities, how they might interfere with what the characters are doing etc).

 

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What Writing Means To Me

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

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

1. Escapism. (Always welcome that!).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication News

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

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

AUTUMN

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

Allison Symes – 26th October 2019

Not based on a true story, honestly!

 

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Reasons to engage with other writers positively:-

1. It’s fun – best reason of all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. This is genius. Not true, sadly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing, editing etc etc!

Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do I Want Books To Do For Me?

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What Books Mean To Me Part 3

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay. A big thank you to my guests on the Chandler’s Ford Today Series What Books Mean to Me for supplying photos.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m delighted to share the final, bumper edition of my What Books Mean To Me series for Chandler’s Ford Today. A big thank you to all of fantastic guests for sharing their insights here. It has been a superb series to put together and great fun!

This time Gail Aldwin, Paula Readman, Jim Bates, Wendy H. Jones, Val Penny and yours truly answer the three questions I set.

I asked which ONE book would you save in the event of a disaster, what does reading mean to you, and what do you think reading has done for you as a writer.

As ever, do share your thoughts on the books you’d save over on the CFT page.

A HUGE thank you to all of my guests appearing in the What Books Mean to Me series on Chandler’s Ford Today.

The series was great fun to put together. The wide variety of books chosen to save was amazing (as were the reasons why).

There is plenty to learn from also when my guests discussed what reading had done for them as writers (and of course continues to do).

If you were ever in doubt about the importance of reading for writers, do check this series out. My guests’ comments will leave you in no doubt that the best thing any writer can do to help them improve their craft – read and read widely and read lots. But, hey, don’t just take our word for it. Get on and read and discover how true this is for yourself (and the great thing is you can include reading the posts as part of that!).

Incidentally one of the joys of my CFT posts is choosing a Feature Image (nearly always from those magnificent people at Pixabay). Isn’t the library image for this week’s post just gorgeous?! See the slideshow!

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W = Welcome into a new world (sometimes it’s this one but seen from a new angle).

R = Real characters you can identify with come to life before your eyes as you read and you root for them all the way to the finish.

I = Imagination. The writer has clearly shared theirs with you. Does your imagination picture the world the writer has created clearly enough? Does the story spark your imagination and maybe inspire you to write your own stories or, even if that is not the case, can you think how the characters might live on after the book is finished? The latter shows the characters really are “live”.

T = Tension. There should be plenty of that, even in the funniest of books. Characters have to strive for something important. Other characters should get in their way for good reasons of their own. No tension/conflict = no story.

I = Intensity. Does the story grip you with its intensity? Do you feel the emotions the characters are being made to feel? (You should. No cardboard cut out characters here, thank you).

N = Narrative should be lively and speed the story along. The information given here should be crucial to your enjoyment of the tale.

G = Genre. Read widely in many! Think how many worlds you can explore through book covers if you do that!

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Looking forward to sharing Part 3 of What Books Mean to Me on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. It has been great fun putting this series together and there have been some fabulous insights and books selected to be saved. More to come on Friday!

My guests this week are #GailAldwin, #JimBates, #PaulaCReadman, #WendyHJones, #ValPenny and…. er… Allison Symes. Well I thought I should answer the three questions I set! Never ask other writers questions you’re not prepared to answer yourself!

(And if the series gives you a marvellous Wish List for a certain season due in a couple of months’ time, even better!).

Second image in was taken on my phone at the pub just before the Waterloo Arts Festival in the summer. Here are three happy flash fiction writers – Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin, oh and me.

Many thanks to Wendy Jones and Jim Bates for supplying their pictures. Val Penny and I were having a selfie moment at the Winchester Writers’ Festival earlier this year.

Do check out everyone’s thoughts on what books mean to them on Friday. Meanwhile, there are Parts 1 and 2 to catch up on over at CFT.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say I will be having more stories on Cafelit later this month and into November. Two of them are linked. I’ve experimented with linked flash fiction stories this year and have found these to be good fun. I think the trick, if there is one, to them, is to ensure the link is strong enough and don’t keep it going for too long. Will keep you posted.