Further Thoughts On The Writing Game

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay unless stated. A huge thanks to my guest authors on this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post for their author and book cover pics.

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Am thrilled to share the second part of my CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For Part 2. Plenty of advice and tips here, Hope you enjoy. A big thanks to all of my guest authors. This week I feature guests from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Topics include handling professional jealousy and checking contracts.

This series is the kind of one I would have welcomed when I was a new writer especially. Why?

Because you don’t realise at the outset how much there is to learn. You don’t know what the pitfalls and hazards are. You’re not aware, to begin with at least, of the difference between vanity publishing and real self-publishing.

It is only when you’ve been writing for a while and you make author friends that you pick up tips and good advice from them, as well as from organisations like the Society of Authors.

If there is only ONE reason to go to writing conferences and events (when such things are possible again), the learning from others is, for me, the most important one. No one author can know it all.

Mind you, there are LOADS of other excellent reasons to go to writing events when you can and via Zoom etc in the meantime.

The nice thing about all of this? Later on, you can share what you have learned with others who, in turn, will share it later. What goes around literally comes around in writing circles – and it should always be to the benefit of the writer!

Hope you enjoy.

Many thanks for my guests this week – #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #AmandaJones, #PaulaCReadman, and #AmandaHuggins.

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Have gone from walking the dog before it became too hot, creosoting fence panels, to editing to about to have a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. Full of top tips, this week’s installment shares advice from writers from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Link up tomorrow.

Need to get back to flash fiction writing but hope to do that over the weekend. Am also enjoying preparing material for a blog where I will be a guest. Now off to chat!

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Facebook – General – and the Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – The Reading Challenge

I talk about The Reading Challenge in my monthly spot on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

This month I ask if writers SHOULD find reading a challenge.

So over to you. What do you read that challenges you? What benefits do you find from that? Do you read outside of your usual genres and how do you find that works? Has it inspired your own imagination and, if so, how?

 

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Many thanks to my lovely guests for their advice and tips in Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my new CFT series.

As well as avoiding the scams (as we all must), the writing game does have a fun side to it! There are so many kinds of writing to explore so if you’re not sure which is for you, try different ones out. You’ll soon know which you are likely to stay with, which you might write occasionally, and those you loathe!

Exploring different forms of writing led me to discovering the wonderful world of flash fiction and blogging. I have no regrets about either!

Whatever you’re working on this weekend, I hope you have a splendid time writing.

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Mixing up how you find ideas for stories is always a good thing to do. It’s fun too. I think that was the major thing that I took from the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on recently.

I’ve mentioned before that I will sometimes start my flash fiction with what I know will be the closing line and work backwards to get to the starting point. At some point I ought to try a line that would work best in the middle of a story and see what I can do with that. To work forwards and backwards would be a good challenge!

Stretching yourself in writing in different ways helps you discover what you like and, best of all, find new ways of writing stories you also develop a liking for – and it keeps you on your toes.

 

What have been the differences for me in writing FLTDBA and my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due soon?

I’ve had more fun with TTFF in terms of where and when I set my characters. I’ve also written some linked flash fiction for this one, which is a first for me, and I hope to do more of that. I strongly suspect some haiku flash fiction tales might make it into my next one!

Again themes have emerged as I put the collection together but I hope to talk more about that later. I am planning to have a cyberlaunch in due course and am looking forward to that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Reasons to Love Fairytales

Nobody really needs a reason to love fairytales, of course, but for the less convinced I offer the following:-

1. They are often the first stories youngsters come across and are a gateway into the wonderful world of reading. Once that spark is lit, there should be no turning back. It is no coincidence that those who read more develop a larger and more wide ranging vocabulary.

2. There is a clear sense of right and wrong in fairytales. (That appeals to children and those who decided growing up was overrated).

3. Some stories can act as warnings.

4. The stories can reflect injustice and cruelty but also usually have those things stopped by the end. (In life so often these things are not stopped. It is good to have stories where matters are rectified, justice is done etc. This is something shared with good crime stories too).

5. They’re great stories (reason enough!).

In fairytales the dragon does not win. (Shrek inverts that concept but there the dragon is one of the good guys. Love that idea).

This World and Others –

What Every Piece of Writing Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

 

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Keeping Busy, Desk Tidying, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Desk Tidying:  The fact I’ve put this as part of the title for this post should indicate how often I do tidy my desk! (Halley’s Comet comes around more often… – well, okay, maybe not, but I give it a run for its money!).

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

Facebook – General

Has tipped it down here in soggy Hampshire for a lot of the day. Not that Lady minds. She gets wet. Her owners dry her off. Why should she worry? (Is currently curled up on the sofa, dozing).

Many thanks for the great comments and response to part 1 of my new CFT series, The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. I look forward to sharing the other two posts in due course. I’ve also got some super interviews coming up too in August so much to look forward to there.

My main work this week has been the old blogging and that’s fine. I get weeks like that. So I simply redress the balance and I hope next week to focus more on the flash fiction.

Am also feeling a bit chuffed. Better half has added some wonderful protective material to my writing desk and it looks really good. Plus side of that: it forced me to tidy up said desk!

I am not one of life’s workers who always has a neat desk! I know where everything is and why it is there though but I can be accused of having a clutter habit!. Surprise, surprise NOT, I am surrounded by books, pens, and notebooks! But I can see the surface of my desk tonight so feel as if I am on a roll!😆😆

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Busy day working on editing but a productive one. Am making good progress on the remaining parts of my new CFT series. Then I will have some fab interviews to share. So all go but in a very good way.

One thing I’d like to try and do more of is schedule Facebook and Twitter posts. I’ve tended to save doing this for when I know I’m going to be away but it is a useful tool and I think I can make better use of it.

I sometimes write tweets for the Association of Christian Writers (hence learning to schedule said things) and I know I can use that scheduling ability for other things. It’s a question of sitting down and actually doing so though. Isn’t that so often the way of it?!

But one thing has happened throughout my writing journey to date and I know it will continue to happen. That is, I pick up useful things to apply to my writing such as scheduling more, get on and use them, and then wonder how I ever did without them!😊

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Another soggy day in Hampshire, not that Lady minded. She needed all of two seconds to “unarrange” the sofa on coming in in from her late walk before deciding it was time to stop and get on with the important business of the evening – having a doze. Item 1 on the Agenda duly ticked…

I have now submitted for consideration some of the pieces I wrote as part of the Zoom writing workshop I attended over the last week or so. If accepted, they will be showcased so am keeping fingers crossed about that.

It is a fact I’ve got used to that I get good ideas for stories, CFT posts etc., when I’m busily doing something else. So I just pause, jot those ideas down, and then resume what I was doing.

I’ve never followed the advice to keep a notebook by the bed to write down any interesting dreams etc because once I am asleep, that’s it. It really does take the trumpet of doom or our alarm clock to wake me up.

I don’t dream much at all and, on the rare occasions I do, everything is disjointed. Trust me, if I wrote any of that down, you would wonder what I’d been drinking the night before! I’d wonder too!😆😆

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Belated Publication News – Cafelit – Strangers In the Night

The last few days have been particularly busy but I must admit it’s now confession time: I forgot to share my latest story on Cafelit, Strangers In the Night, which went up a few days ago. Oops! Still the great thing with online magazines is they generally don’t have a read by date!

And if you want to know what happened when Robbie the vampire met a monster who believes good manners are SO important, do check out my Strangers In The Night story.

Hope you enjoy. It was great fun to write!😊

 

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Could a flash fiction story be told in haiku and still have a proper beginning, middle and end? Let’s have a go!

1. The fish thief ran off
But in hot pursuit was the
Dog after the cat.

2. The happy ever
After could wait, she believed.
Breaking glass slippers.

Allison Symes – 25th July 2020

 

Hope you enjoy!

 

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The benefits of writing to a set word count don’t just apply to flash fiction. I’ve found that writing “tight” has paid off with my blogging and longer short story writing. Writing flash has developed my “AWW” detector no end!

AWW Detector? What’s that?

Simple: Allison’s Wasted Words Detector.

We all have wasted words. Mine are very, actually, and that. Sometimes I can justify the that. Less often I can justify the actually. (A character will sometimes actually speak like that!). I’ve never been able to justify the use of very.

But you do get better at knowing what can come out immediately on the first edit. I’ve found getting this done helps me get back into the stories quicker, spot other things to be tightened up, and away I go.

So it does pay to know what your wasted words or pet phrases are. You can ensure then if there is a case for using them, you know what it is and you’re not just putting them in because you always write those things.

I’ve not yet found a way of stopping myself writing these things in the first draft so have given up trying. I accept I’m going to do it. I know those words won’t make it further than the first draft so that’s okay (and I can justify that that!!).

Oh and several cases of that bit the dust before I hit send on this post!😆😆

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Monday. Hmm… Busy. Expect yours was too. Do you find writing more difficult on days like these?

I always find writing a pleasure and a way to relax, funnily enough, though Monday is the one day when my word count is significantly less than the rest of the week. I’ve learned over time not to worry about it. Just write what I can, enjoy doing it, and edit it later! All that needs to be cut WILL come out in the edit!

The thought of writing though at the end of a busy day spurs me on to get to the end of that business though so writing helps me that way too.

And Monday is often the day when I will focus on draft blog posts and flash fiction pieces for use later on. So Monday has its uses then!

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The one thing you can guarantee about any New Year is not all of the 12 months will go as smoothly as we would like - Pixabay

I was a bit cross with myself for forgetting to share my latest Cafelit story, Strangers In the Night, earlier than this, but these things happen!

If you’re wondering about the drink assigned to the story, Cafelit ask for writers to come up with something they think they will suit their tale. Given I’ve got a vampire in this one (called Robbie), I thought Bloody Mary was an appropriate drink to use for this. Hope you enjoy.

http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/strangers-on-nigh…

Goodreads Author Blog – Intriguing Titles

What kind of book titles grab your attention? For me, they’ve got to intrigue.

For example, Josephine Tey’s marvellous historical detective novel The Daughter of Time grabbed my attention because it made me wonder how that could apply to a story. I found out of course!

As for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I had to find out who was the proud one and who was guilty of prejudice. I found that out too!

I like open titles too which can set a mood in any direction. A good example of that is The Lord of the Rings. Yes, really. Why? Because I had to find out who the lord was and whether they were good, evil, or something in between. The title itself does not reveal that. You also have to find out why the rings matter so another good hook there.

When I’m writing my own stories, I have to have a title as a “peg” to work to but I often find I come up with better thoughts after I’ve got that first draft down.

That’s fine. I simply change the title to the better one but do find I have something to help me get started.

Titles matter. They are a great advert for a book. I would argue they’re the first great advert for a book. If the title doesn’t grab me, I’m not going to even look at the blurb. Again lessons for all writers including me there.

Whatever you’re reading, enjoy. And I hope it has a super title!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Writing Game – and What to Watch For

Image Credit:  Pixels/Pixabay. A HUGE thank you to my lovely guest authors in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series for their photos.

MAJOR NEW CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY SERIES

I’ll be sharing Part 1 of a major new Chandler’s Ford Today series called The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. The series will be packed with useful advice. It is particularly useful for new writers or those seeking publication. More experienced writers should find plenty of useful tips too. More on this in a moment but I wanted to give a big shout out to all of the lovely authors who are taking part in this.

Richard Hardie, Brenda H Sedgwick, Francesca Tyer, Teresa Bassett, and Maggie Farran for Part 1 – tonight’s post.

Dawn Kentish Knox, Gill James, Amanda Baber (aka Amanda Jones), Paula C Readman, and Amanda Huggins for Part 2 – next Friday’s post, appearing 31st July.

Jacci Gooding, Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, and Wendy H Jones for Part 3 – the following Friday’s post, appearing 7th August.

See the slideshow below. Do check out the posts, not just for the great advice given by everyone, but to discover for yourself what a wealth of talent there is here. The genres represented here cover such a wide range of writing – think romantic fiction to horror and so much in between too!

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You will gather from the above I am rather proud of this new series. Guilty, as charged! BUT this is the kind of series I would have lapped up when I was starting out as a writer. My guests and I all hope you find it useful and entertaining. Now to business!

Am pleased to share the link to my new CFT series – The Writing Game and What to Watch For. This is a three-parter and it’s the kind of post I would have lapped up when I was starting out as a writer.

Many thanks to the guest authors today and to the others who are taking part in the next two posts. Between us all, we have a wide range of experience in writing and cover a fantastic range of genres.

There is everything from YA fantasy to romantic comedy to horror. There’s flash fiction (I know, guess who!) to short stories to novelists. There are the traditionally published to those who have deliberately self published and have done a fantastic job doing so.

The tips and advice given here will be particularly useful for new writers or for those who have written for a while, but are now seeking advice about publication.

But, having said that, I’ve always found it to be true you learn so much from listening to or reading what other writers have to say so I’m sure there will be plenty of good “pickings” for more experienced writers too.

I very much look forward to sharing the next two posts on this topic. Today’s fab authors are #RichardHardie, #BrendaHSedgwick, #FrancescaTyer, #TeresaBassett, and #MaggieFarran.

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Am looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my new series on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow.

Called The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, I set guest authors three questions. These questions are:-

1. Which tip over the years has proved most useful to them?

2. What do they know now that, with hindsight, they wished they’d known when they started writing seriously?

3. What do you think a new author should most be wary about?

My guests have come up with fabulous answers to these and we all hope the three part series will provide a wealth of useful advice.

Naturally I answer the questions myself, one over the next three weeks, and share another Top Tip I’ve found invaluable over the years.

Guests come from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, the Association of Christian Writers, Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown, the world of self publishing, and some fantastic local (to me!) authors. Between us we cover a huge variety of genres including non-fiction.

Link up tomorrow. And a huge thank you to my guests for their great contributions and photos.

I’ve switched back to the old Facebook and lo and behold I can now add pictures! I was more disappointed not to have ANY responses to my Report a Problem comments to be honest. Still back to service as normal here. I’ll stick with the old school then! On a more positive note:-

Enjoyed the follow up Zoom creative writing workshop this afternoon (Wednesday 22nd July). Have a promising funny flash fiction tale from it so will work on that at some point as it needs some editing to sharpen it up. Both workshops have shown me new ideas for finding story ideas so will make good use of those I’m sure in time.

It has also been a while since I had to write something in ten minutes so it was good to get back to that kind of thing again. It keeps you on your writing toes which is always good.

And I really have loved the haiku exercise that was set so to finish for tonight…

When the midweek blues
Hit home always remember
Two days – it’s Friday!😊

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Am listening to the theme from Dick Barton Special Agent on Classic FM as I type this. I don’t remember the original series (though it is repeated every so often on Radio 4 Extra) but the music IS very evocative.

It was great fun choosing the music for the book trailer for FLTDBA. I went for Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as I saw it as quirky music for quirky fiction.

I’m currently drawing up a shortlist of suitable choices for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Finding a piece that reflects either one specific mood of story OR has different moods within it which reflects the variety in the book is not always easy. But it is still great fun to try to do!

And of course it combines my two great loves – classical music and stories!😊I just need to find a way of somehow getting chocolate, prosecco, and a decent cup of tea into the mix!😆

 

My CFT series The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, which starts tomorrow, has a wealth of advice, especially for new writers or those who are seeking publication whether that is immediately or after having written for a number of years first.

I didn’t start out seeking publication myself. I wanted to prove to myself I could write and it was a long time before I actively sought to be published. I don’t regret doing that. I learned a lot. My ONLY regret with writing is not having started at all a lot sooner than I did.

One thing I could’ve added to this was be open to the types of writing you do. As I’ve mentioned before, it is how I discovered flash fiction. Also, taking part in writing exercises on Zoom this week, has reminded me of the importance of using different ways to trigger story ideas. You need to keep an open mind and to use things that are not immediately obvious story material. But it pays to look into different writing exercises and see what you can do with them. It’s fun too!

(I shall be writing more haiku for a start!).

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A writing exercise I took part in via a Zoom workshop today involved two objects (given from a list) and drafting a story about them. I’ve got a rough draft of a funny flash tale from that. Good fun to do.

It struck me that it was useful the list was set by someone else. There is a certain amount of the “you’ve got to get on with it then” syndrome here.

Could you scupper yourself by choosing your own objects? Possibly. The temptation would be to stick to the things you know you could write about. The whole point of the exercise is to make you think outside of the box and stretch yourself here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Quirky Characters

There are those who might feel that the reason I love quirky characters is because I am one! Hmm…

So what is it about quirky characters that appeals to me so much, both in terms of reading about them and writing them myself?

Humour – there’s usually a lot of humour, often irony, involved here. That appeals directly ever since I first came across irony in Pride and Prejudice which I read at secondary school many, many moons ago. That book was an eye opener for me in terms of how irony can be used (and the best kind is subtle with it too). It paved the way for me to appreciate more direct irony in the works of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, to name but two, later on

The Unexpected – The irony (!) here is you expect the unexpected from quirky characters. You’d be a bit disappointed to say the least if they didn’t come out with something. Often this is the pivoting point of the whole story too. What is fun is trying to guess what they come up with.

Memorable – You remember quirky characters. It’s why I’ve always loved Jo March in Little Women and George in The Famous Five. Again I wanted to find out what they could do and whether they could surpass what had gone before. It kept me reading! The trick for a writer is to achieve the same thing. It is also the challenge! What is it that makes your characters memorable?

 

This World and Others –

Elements of Worlds I Love to Pick Up On When Reading

In fantasy and science fiction, the created world can be a character in its own right. (The very name Mordor to me will always imply evil, for example). I don’t need to know the nuts and bolts of that created world. I just need to know what the main characters think of their world and that shows up in how they react to it.

The kind of information I do need is basic common sense stuff. If everyone in the world flies everywhere, how do they do it? What problems does that cause? How do they deal with traffic congestion at peak flying times (and I refuse to believe there isn’t any!)?

I needed to know in The Lord of the Rings that it was highly unusual for hobbits to go on adventures and they certainly weren’t considered as hero material by anyone one else in Middle Earth. I didn’t need to know the ins and outs of daily life as lived by a hobbit.

So what do you like to know when it comes to reading alien worlds? What does your reader know to know to make sense of the world you’re showing them?

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Favourite Things and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay and Pexels unless otherwise stated.

PUBLICATION NEWS

As you will see from my posts below, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my second flash fiction collection, is almost ready to be published by Chapeltown Books. I will share more news when I have it but I can say now that the cover is stunning. I hope to share a book cover reveal in due course. Am I excited? You bet! This week has been very busy in working with the cover designer and ensuring there is nothing further to change to the text but it has been a great few days as you can imagine. I do hope to have a cyberlaunch in due course.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Favourite Things was such a fun post to write but with a title like that, it should be really! I share five favourites in various categories ranging from book genres to dog breeds to TV themes, stopping at favourite meals and drinks along the way.
Do check the post out and send your nominees in via the CFT comments box.
Also check out the fab TV themes I picked, they will bring great memories for many, and it was marvellous hearing them again.

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Gracie, my much missed bearded collie cross (with border collie). Image by Allison Symes

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Mabel, my much missed border collie. Image by Allison Symes.

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Lady, the border collie cross (flat coat retriever and chiahuahua, yes really,the inquisitive and loveable! Image by Allison Symes

Glad to see that the beautifully painted stones around my neck of the woods are still in place. I’ve enjoyed spotting those when out and about with Lady. I’ve no artistry at all when it comes to painting, drawing etc., but I do know what I like when I see it!
My CFT post is all about Favourite Things. I share various categories and pick my five favourites. Link up tomorrow. See what you think and do send comments in. There are also some TV themes from yesteryear as part of this post too and it was fun looking those up and playing them again. Hope you’ll enjoy them too. And with all of the categories I’ve chosen, I could’ve picked a lot more than five!
Incidentally, a good way to outline your characters is to think about what their favourite things are and why “they” would choose them. (By all means use the categories in my CFT post tomorrow to start you off and good luck!).

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Another nice day. I’m shortly going to start the final text checks on Tripping The Flash Fantastic so that will keep me out of mischief for a while.
I was also “on” a hugely enjoyable Zoom creative writing workshop this afternoon which was good fun. Live writing to different challenges and work produced I plan to polish up in the next couple of days. There will be a follow-up Zoom workshop to this one next week so am already looking forward to that.
Good workshops will show you what you can do and then set you the challenge to do it. They’re a great way of stretching your imagination. For example, I wrote a couple of haiku this afternoon. Fun to do, not my normal area of work at all, and will I write some more in due course? I expect so.
I write in notebooks;
I write on laptop and phone;
Edits by red pen!😊😊
Allison Symes – 15th July 2020

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

This week has been a very exciting one as I’ve worked with the cover designer from Chapeltown Books on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. I’ve also checked the text for the final time. So a busy but productive week and a lovely way to go into the weekend.
I hope in due course to post a cover reveal and I plan to hold a cyberlaunch. More details to follow.
This is the lovely side of writing. So much goes on behind the scenes and often for a long time at that. When you get to the point that the book is shortly going to be “out there”, then that’s the exciting and lovely pay off for all that hard work behind the scenes.

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I was at a creative writing workshop via Zoom on Wednesday afternoon. Great fun it was too and I have a few flash fiction pieces from it I will polish up in due course! Now there’s a result.
Okay, I could’ve done without the dog barking an hour into it but she doesn’t like disembodied voices. That’s not going to change any time soon. Even when I’ve been away at events like Swanwick and I call home, I am told she looks at the phone, she can clearly hear my voice, and she backs off from it. (Phone eaten Mum type of scenario in Lady’s head I guess!).
So is Lady an aide to my “muse”? Err…. no. That’s not going to change any time soon either though I have sometimes written dog related flash fiction stories.

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I need stories to make me react in some way, whether I write them or read them. A story that I’m indifferent to is one that has failed for me and it is always a challenge to make sure I don’t write tales that people would be half-hearted about.
This is the biggest reason I think why the characters are the most important element in a story. If I can’t get behind the characters, or see why they are the way they are, then why should I read on?
So when I write stories, I try to ask myself throughout editing, how do my characters make me react? Do they still make me laugh, cry, scream or what have you? Is there anything I can do to “beef up” their portrayal?
Sometimes slipping in an odd extra detail can help make that portrayal more realistic and add depth. But it’s not until I’ve read the story afresh I can see where that odd extra detail might be necessary.
(So for anyone thinking stories just get “bashed out”, they really don’t!).

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Nice day today working with the book cover designer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Look forward to revealing more later.
This, of course, is the lovely side to writing where you can see your work almost ready to be out there in the big, bad world. What isn’t seen is the writing, rewriting, editing etc that goes on to get the stories into shape for a collection like this.
It is so true that overnight success usually takes years! Meanwhile a story from From Light to Dark and Back Again to enjoy.

 

Fairytales with Bite – Murphy’s Law

Now we all know Murphy’s Law is no respecter of barriers. Whatever profession you’re in, whichever hobby you enjoy, it will strike at some point. So as to the actual creating of a story, what are the things to look for so you can avoid them?

Naming Characters

For longer works of fiction, it is too easy to give characters names that are too similar to others (for example Stephanie and Stephan. Two different characters but the problem with names that are similar is they can make the characters forgettable or interchangeable, neither of which you want).

I get around this by ensuring each of my characters has a name that starts with a different letter of the alphabet. It’s simple but it works.

Murphy’s Law can kick in here by making you not spot this until after you’ve got your first draft down. (Yes, it can be fixed at that point but it can be frustrating when you’ve got two similar sounding characters. The last thing you want is anything that might cause confusion in a reader or a sense of “what is that character doing here? I don’t see the point of them” reaction).

Outlining –

The query here is how much to do? Will Murphy’s Law strike in that you either outline too much or not enough? How can you judge what is correct for the writing you’re working on?

A rule of thumb I use is have I got enough to get started on the story? Have I got enough to get me to the middle of the story? Have I got enough to be able to conclude the story? You don’t necessarily need to outline everything. You just need enough to get you to the next stage in the story. Think of this as outlining the major markers. Get those right and it will help you get everything else in place.

You just want to stop yourself going off at unproductive tangents and that is where Murphy’s Law will trip you up. Stop the unhelpful tangents and you save yourself valuable time too. Work out what you think you need to know.

Settings –

The trap here again is detail. How much do you need to know before you write the story? What impact will the setting have on your characters? Preparation is the key to beating Murphy’s Law hitting you here.

Again work out what you think you need to know. And bear in mind the setting must have some kind of impact on your characters – they’re either going to love where they are (but it is under threat – which is where your story comes in) or loathe it and want to escape (which is where another type of story can come in).

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This World and Others – Making Space and Characters

Where does making space come into your creation of characters?

I think the best way to answer that is to list what I think a truly great character needs to have. Also, it really does pay to take time out (make space) to think about your characters in advance and plan them out. It doesn’t mean you have to plan everything but you do need to know about your people in enough detail to be able to write about and for them with utter conviction. You need to decide what you need to know first!

I am convinced that when a writer writes with conviction something of that does show through in your writing and readers subconciously pick up on that. I also think they pick up when a character really doesn’t work and I know, for me, when that has happened, it is nearly always due to my not taking the time to flesh my character out properly in the first place.

So a truly great character should:-

Be Memorable – (and that usually means having distinctive traits a reader will love to love or love to hate. Both work but not usually in the same character!).

Be Someone –  Be someone a reader would want to identify with or be happy they’re nothing like them!

Be Put in Situations – Be put in situations a reader has to find out whether the character resolves or not (and how. Failure to resolve something can ironically be a resolution of sorts. For example, a character wants to achieve a goal, they find they can’t do it, but they do achieve something positive they had not done before despite the overall “failure”. Readers will pick up on something being achieved, a positive point of change for the character, and everyone accepts not all endings are happy ones necessarily. Endings do have to be appropriate).

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Walkies and Interviews!

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay or Pexels unless otherwise stated. The ones of Hiltingbury Flower Meadow were taken by me!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is called Walkies and I look at the joys of local walking and living with collies. I am also pleased to share pictures taken by me this week of our beautiful wildflower meadow at the Hiltingbury Recreation Ground. It is absolutely stunning and it always cheers me to see such brightness. See if you can spot the poppy by the way!

I also look at how walking dogs has helped me. I did think I would get loads of ideas for stories and blog posts when I was out walking a dog. My sum total of ideas that have come to me doing this is precisely zero!

I’m too busy keeping an eye on the dog, particularly my young mischief, Lady, but walking her (and my previous two) relaxes me, gets me out into the fresh air, and I come back, refreshed, having had a break from the writing desk. That is important. Tiredness is the biggest factor, I think, in stifling any kind of creativity.

Hope you enjoy the post.

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Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, Val Penny, for hosting me on her blog today (9th July 2020). It was great fun to take part! Hope you enjoy.

Amongst other topics, I talk about my writing routine and share some tips I’ve found useful over the years. I also talk about how I got into flash fiction writing. It wasn’t something I anticipated when I first started out but it is easily my happiest “writing accident”!’

I also talk about what I like and dislike about marketing. See what you think – do you agree with my choices?

Transforming Communities Full

My CFT post this week will be called Walkies! I share the joys of walking with Lady during lockdown, the latest pics of our beautiful wildflower meadow, which is looking stunning right now, and share how walking has helped me. Link up on Friday.

I did think when I first became a dog owner 15 years ago, I would be able to think up ideas for stories while out walking Gracie, then Mabel, and now Lady. Not a bit of it! Haven’t thought of one story idea at all walking them!

Mind you, I have made many wonderful dog owner pals and Lady especially has made a few four-legged friends too.

What walking the dog does do though is enable me to unwind. Ideas for stories are far more likely to come to me when I’m in a relaxed state after getting back home again. And of course there are plenty of opportunities for practising observational skills. A particular colour of a front door might strike me as nice for Character A’s cloak in a flash fiction story – that kind of thing.

Never despise the little details! They may come in handy in a story one day.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been a good week with another flash piece up on Cafelit (Rotten Day) and my interview on Val Penny’s blog post (see next piece down for the link to this).

Oh and a bit of promotional news – From Light to Dark and Back Again is currently on offer on Amazon. So if you fancy quirky fiction at a discounted price, do check the link out. Reviews are always welcome too.

My favourite story in FLTDBA? Hmm… tricky one though I do have a very soft spot for Calling the Doctor which you can check out for free on the book trailer. (See below!).

Whatever you read or write this weekend, have a good one!


A big thanks to Val Penny for interviewing me on her blog today. (9th July 2020). See link for more but one of the topics I discuss here is how I got into flash fiction writing at all.

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned! Let’s also say I am very pleased with how it has turned out and hope to keep going with it for as long as possible!

On a side note, interviews like this really make you think about what you’re doing and why and where your writing journey has brought you to date. That’s no bad thing. And interviewing your characters can make you as their creator think about what they’re doing in your story and why. It’s a good way to see who is really necessary to your tale and who isn’t.


Much as I love listening to classical music when writing, I haven’t used it in my stories. The only time I use it is when trying to pick something what would work well in book trailers or when I am creating videos of flash tales to put on my website.

Music can set mood of course and I think I would rather my characters did that directly through what they say and do. (And isn’t it always more interesting when what they do goes against what they say?! Hypocrites are always good fun to write stories for!).

 

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

F = Fantastic has to come into it somewhere, usually in the form of magic being performed, usually to help the deserving.
A = Animals often play a crucial role and sometimes at least prove to be more intelligent than the humans in the story.
I = Inventiveness can come into the stories – you wouldn’t usually think of turning a pumpkin into a coach would you?!
R = Realism? Well maybe. Fairytales can show a great deal of truth about human nature, not all of it is pleasant either, but it is accurate.
Y = Your fairy godmother awaIts… hmm… not necessarily. The character often doesn’t know they’ve got one until they show up. Best not to assume here!
T = Tension between the forces of good and evil is a given in this world.
A = Animated versions of the tale are generally good but some of them can’t be as originally written given the latter are often more violent!
L = Love and its importance is a key theme. Not just the romantic kind either. Think of Hansel and Gretel and their care for one another. Also I thought Gerta was a magnificent character in The Snow Queen with her commitment to rescuing Kay. (And I so loved the idea that the girl was rescuing the boy here).
E = Elephants! Have always had a very soft spot for Dumbo. Always will do. I see it as a classic film fairytale.
S = Stories. The classic fairytales have very strong storylines behind them. Wrong is righted. Evil is confronted. Good prevails. Not always a happy ending though. And I love fairytales for all of those reasons.

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This World and Others –

Questions to Ask Your Characters

One great thing about this topic is that it is a timeless one! (Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying). So what to ask then as part of your outline?

What do you really want and why?

What stops you getting what you really want?

Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?

How are you going to achieve your objectives?

Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?

Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).

What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?

What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).

Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).

Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

 

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Word Games

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I set some anagrams and other word puzzles in this week’s CFT post, Book Games.

I also share some memories of word games played on car journeys when I was a kid (and most of them you could still do now, once we’re out and about again).

I also look at why word games can be helpful to a writer. Having fun with the language is a good thing! And for flash fiction writers like myself where I often want more than one meaning to words for punchline endings and the like, playing with words and exploiting those meanings is vital.

I’ll be putting up the answers mid-next week. No prizes but kudos to anyone getting them all.

Hope you enjoy.

Feature Image - Book Games

It was great fun setting some word puzzles for this week’s CFT post. I used to invent word searches for the church magazine when I was in my teens. (The last T-Rex had just left the planet. You get the idea of how long ago it was!).

I love playing with words and will often unwind by playing these after a writing session. Of course with the likes of Scrabble, you can get a side benefit of improving your vocabulary as you look up what those strange two and three letter words that ARE valid actually mean!

Looking forward to sharing a new Cafelit story from me which is due on site tomorrow. Have just submitted a short story to a competition. Need to pick on another one to have a crack at. I like writing to themes set by others. It’s a good discipline and makes me up my game here, which is never a bad thing.

Am also looking ahead with prepping material I know I’m going to need later in the year so busy, busy.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend writing/reading/both wise, have fun! Writing is hard work but it should be fun, most of the time anyway.

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W = Wonderful characters created by you.
R = Realistic or fantastical worlds? It’s entirely up to you.
I = Imagination stretched – yours and your readers!
T = Tension increasing as all manner of obstacles get in your lead character’s way but it is fun to drop them right in it!
I = Inventiveness is a great trait in your lead character(s) as they overcome what you’ve thrown at them.
N = Nearing the end of the story, the tension should not let up. There must be a proper and satisfactory resolution. It doesn’t have to be a happy one necessarily!
G = Genre – there are so many of these to write in but what will you choose and why?

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I’m sharing some anagrams and book title puzzles in my CFT post this week. I’ll also be looking at word games in general, how they’ve long been a part of my life, and why I think they’re good for writers. Link up on Friday. (Will post the answers in the comments box on this post at about this time next week. No prizes but plenty of kudos if you get them all).

Lady had a lovely day playing with a border collie lad and then went on to have a “girlie” party in the park with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and a golden retriever friend. Fab time had by all. It was great to watch them “at work”. None of them were sorry the temperature has dropped! Must admit though it felt more like autumn at times out there today.

Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or when the nights draw in? I try to be fairly consistent but it is easier to focus at your desk when there isn’t the temptation to stay outdoors so I guess that says something positive about autumnal like weather after all!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve been talking about word games this week in CFT. So how do they help me when I write flash fiction?

Firstly, for my punchline ending tales, I’m often reliant on a humorous one-liner and for those to work best, double meanins of words come into their own. So I have to know ALL of the meanings of the particular words to come up with something suitable for my character/story.

Secondly, I’ve found that playing around with words via crosswords, Scrabble etc., can trigger story ideas and I’m never sorry to have plenty of those to work with!

 

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A = Always think of flash as being focused on the most important character, the most important situation they have to face.
C = Characters make a story so what is special about yours?
R = Reactions to your flash tale – what are you seeking to achieve here? Think about impact on your readers. What would be appropriate for this character and this situation?
O = Originality – it is said there are seven basic plots but what you bring to the mix which is unique is your writing voice. The more you write, the sooner you will discover what that voice is and then you can use it to great effect.
S = Story, story, story. What will keep your readers with you to the end of your flash tales?
T = Tension is even more important in flash fiction. You have ground to cover in fewer words. How can you use these to maximum effect? The tension should not let up until the resolution.
I = Imagination. As flash needs to be character led, flesh out your characters a bit before you write their stories. Make sure you know what they’re capable of and then have fun putting them in situations they have to resolve. Do or die? Literally maybe but not always. There are other ways a character has to overcome something and it is still absolutely vital. What can you explore here?
C = Change. Stories are about the most significant point of change in your character’s life. That literally is their story. So what matters to your character? What has to change and why? Does your character react well to that?

Happy writing!

 

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I suppose the biggest thing getting in the way of writing for me is if I’m really tired. One thing I do when I’m “buzzing and raring to go” is draft blog posts and flash fiction pieces so I have something to post fairly quickly. It makes me feel better (which in itself can help lift some of the tiredness. Feeling down because you’re shattered – well, it doesn’t help).

On days when I’ve been particularly busy, it’s a case of being kind to myself and not expecting too much. This is where having material good to go helps. A bit of polishing finishes the material off nicely and I feel as if I have done something positive. And THAT is always a good thing.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Triggered Your Love of Fairytales?

I have the nagging feeling I really should have asked this question a long time ago!
For me, the trigger for my life-long love of fairytales comes from The Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which came in two volumes. Both are hefty hardbacks and you wouldn’t want to drop them on your foot!

I loved the stories and beautiful illustrations. These books were given to me by my late parents. I still have the books. The spine on Volume 1 in particular has been bound up by tape! I’m probably going to leave the building long before these books do!

The stories are those collected by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, as well as originals by Hans Christen Andersen etc. I remember the shock at discovering fairytales didn’t necessarily have to have happy endings when I first read The Little Mermaid.

My favourite overall fairytale is Cinderella. Mind, my first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I look at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the younger stepsister who is not best pleased with the fairy godmother turns up again. Great fun to write and, being my first published story, it will always have a special place in my heart. I still love writing fairytales from different viewpoints. It’s good fun!

Looking at why you love stories can help inspire you write your own (and do so better!).

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This World and Others – 

Putting a Fictional World Together

The basic building blocks for putting a fictional world together are, for me, as follows:-

Species – Who will live in this fictional world? One species, a couple, many? If more than one, how do they interact with each other and if they don’t interact at all, what is the reason for that? If you have only one species, how are they sub-divided? Do you have the majority of the species living in an area and a minority live elsewhere? What are the reasons behind this?

Government and Society – This ties in with 1. How are your species governed and by whom? Are they governed well or badly? Can governments be changed? How is society organised? What is expected of everyone and does that vary from species to species? If so, what are the differences and why do they exist? What happens to rebels? (You can pretty much guarantee there will be those who do not like the status quo and won’t accept it so what happens to those who do this?).

Survival – How do the species survive? What do they eat/drink? Is their world an agricultural one and what shape does this take? Do they farm crops as we would know them or farm something very different? Climate and weather and their impact can come into this category too. How much do your readers need to know?

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Non-Fiction Journey and Author Interviews

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

Hope you enjoy!

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

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

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

Have also been busy drafting flash fiction pieces.

I’ve also recently revised my Linkedin profile.

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

Screenshot_2020-06-26 Allison Symes LinkedIn

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Murphy’s Law of Fairytales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – 

Creating Something Out of Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Genre Fiction

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

REMINDER –

WATERLOO ART FESTIVAL – WRITING COMPETITION – LAUNCH OF TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES EBOOK ON FRIDAY 12TH JUNE 2020 FROM 6.30 PM UK TIME.

Just a quick reminder that the writing side of the Waterloo Arts Festival is on this evening, 12th June, from 6.30 pm to about 8.00 pm.

The event has to be online this year but it is free. You do need a ticket for the event but the link is here.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers.

Hope to see you!😊

Image from link above to the Festival.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction.  I share what I love about it and why I loathe the snobbery that can exist around it. Genre fiction is the bread and butter for publishing houses and helps fund literary fiction.

That’s fine but I do wonder if some of the snobbery is a hangover from the old “penny dreadfuls”. Though I’d argue even those had their place. They got people reading! Anyway, check out the post and see what you think. Do share your favourite genre books too. It’s another way of building up a reading list!

I’m taking part in the online Waterloo Arts Festival – Writing Competition Ebook Launch later on this evening and hope to report back on that for my CFT post next week. I hope some of you can “pop along”.

Zoom has been a lifeline for many writing events and I hope the good from that continues once we are back to any kind of normality again. It will make events more accessible for more people I think and that’s a good thing always.

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Funny old day weather wise here. Sun, thunder, lightning, heavy rain, sun again. Still it IS only June…!

Stages of Storytelling for me:-

1. Get initial idea for a character and flesh that out.

2. Get initial idea for a situation to dump them in and flesh that out. Well, I’m not going to make their life easy for them. There’d be no story otherwise.

3. Write first draft and put aside.

4. Start thinking of other story ideas and making notes.

5. Back to story 1 after a suitable gap away from it and re-read it on paper. Immediately notice lots of ways to improve it and do so. Put aside again.

6. Start fleshing out story 2 following steps 1 and 2 above.

7. Re-read my story 1. Less to improve on this time but I can see the odd awkward phrase so reword that. I can see how a change of phrase will make the flow of the story more even so go with that. I finish correcting any typos and grammatical errors.

8. I write the first draft of story 2.

9. Final read through of story 1. I often read dialogue out loud to make sure a reader won’t stumble over it and make any final changes.

10. Knowing the story is as good as I can make it, I ensure I am following publisher/competition guidelines and submit the story, well ahead of the deadline.

And then back to story 2!

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction and what I love about it. Great fun to write. Hope you’ll share some of your favourites in the comments box when the post goes live on Friday.

I’ll also be interviewing authors over the next few weeks and am on the receiving end of the questions for an interview I’ll be taking part in. So busy busy and that’s how I like it.

Looking forward to Waterloo Art Festival on Friday night. I will share the link again for where you can get a free ticket at some point during the day on Friday so do keep a look out for that.

I hope to report back via CFT on how everything went. The strange situation we’re all in pandemic wise has led to some creative thinking about how we do things and I hope the good from that continues long after the pandemic is over (or as over as it ever will be).

Facebook – General – and Book Cover Challenge

See previous post for Days 1 to 5!

Day 6

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #FranHill who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. Wonderfully funny.

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A wonderfully funny writer!

Day 7

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #DawnKentishKnox who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. I love the Discworld series and this has two of my favourite characters in it – Sam Vimes and Moist von Lipwig. It’s also about trains and I have a soft spot for them too! Great storyline.

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One of my favourite Discworld stories.

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

Where does the time go? I was looking through my Cafelit stories and came across my first 100-word tale on there. A Study In Magic appeared all the way back in 2013! This story made it into FLTDBA and I’m looking forward to sharing more details about Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course.

I must admit I couldn’t imagine my writing life without flash fiction now.

Can I see how I could improve this first flash tale now?

Of course. I’m not saying how though! Why? Simply because you write to the best of your ability at the time you write. Hindsight is a rotten mistress!

What you do though is pick up on how you can improve things and apply that to the next story, the one after that and so on. The idea is to try to continually improve on what you do. Doing that stretches you and, for me, it makes writing more fun.

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Flash fiction has to be to the point but that’s a good thing regardless of word count. Any story needs to reveal what a reader needs to know to make sense of it but no more. Flash fiction forces you to cut the waffle and I know that has gone on to help me with my blogging, short story writing, etc.

I keep some questions in mind for when I’m editing a story and have found these useful. Hope you do too.

1. Does this contribute to the story in any way? (If no, cut immediately!).

2. If yes, how vital is it? Is it something a reader absolutely has to know? If yes, fine. It stays as it is.

3. If no but the information is important enough to add depth to the story, then note it. At the end of your first edit, prioritise what information the reader has to know. Is this particular piece STILL vital after all of that?

4. If yes, keep it in. If no, then look at whether you can get this information into the story another way so it IS vital. If that’s not possible, then the information almost certainly isn’t as crucial as you first thought!

5. Does everything in the story move it on to the conclusion? If there is anything in there that doesn’t move the story on, then I’d remove it.

Happy editing!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when it comes to Open Prose Mic Nights, you know you’re not going to send your audience to sleep. You’re not on for long enough!😆😆😆

Joking aside, flash fiction does work really well for this. You haven’t long to keep the audience’s attention but you are only reading/performing a short piece so that helps.

And of course you can also make a story trailer/video for your website and use that as an advert for what you do, writing wise.

On my book trailers page on the website, there are videos for FLTDBA, Nativity, The Best of Cafelit 8, and I experimented with one of my stories, Job Satisfaction, from FLTDBA too and produced a trailer for that. I hope to do more of this. It’s good fun to do and helps add interest to your website.

 

Fairytales With Bite –

Top tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale? Top tips include:-

1. Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2. You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3. Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story).

Let your writer charge up their batteries and give you the proper star billing in the story.

 

This World and Others –

Do You Have Favourite Characters?

So do you have favourite characters of your own making and, if so, should you?

I must admit I can’t see how any writer can avoid having favourites amongst their characters. There are bound to be creations we prefer over others, simply for things such as we like Character A’s sense of irony, which Character B, noble as they are, simply doesn’t have. What DOES matter is that we are scrupulous about how we create our characters.

By this I mean when planning out characters, we should ensure each and every one of them has flaws and virtues. Each and every one of them must have good reasons for acting the way they are. Each and every one of them should feel real to a reader. No cardboard cut-outs here!

You, as the writer, have got to know what makes them all tick. You need to know what drives them, what would frustrate them, what would tempt them away from the path they’re supposed to be on, and how they handle weakness in themselves, yet alone in others.

A good sign of a “proper” favourite character is knowing you’ve created a character that for many reasons you dislike (e.g. you disagree with their attitudes) but have brought them to life in such a way your reader will be intrigued by them and there will be no sign of your antipathy towards them either. Good luck!

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