PROGRESS, PLANS AND MOODS

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Does the mood you are in affect what and how you write? My own answer to that is it depends!

If I’m in a flat state of mind but the writing I’m working on has a character in a similar state, then I can use my own mood to help write that piece! (I get something useful out of being in a flat mood! Ironically that knowledge cheers me up so win-win!).

Sometimes I deliberately write opposite to my mood so, again if I feel flat, I try to put myself in the head of a character in a lighter mood and find myself writing light. Again that can be a mood booster for me. Writing can be amazingly therapeutic at times.

What I do know is writing anything is a good “outlet” and later, once in a better frame of mind, I can evaluate any writing done in a flat state and see what I can do with it. But the great thing is I have still written, I still have work to do something with, so my advice would be, if you feel flat and don’t feel like writing, try to write something, even if it is a very short piece. I’ve found many times once I get started, I keep going, and writing takes me to a different, better place. Again, win-win there, I think.

Drafted first flash fiction story that I’ve created using a picture prompt in my new writing diary. 51 challenges remaining then given there’s one such prompt a week! Also enjoying working on my novel again. I want to try to enter more short story competitions (1500 word type) this year too. I like mixing the writing up. Challenges the old brain and that’s never a bad thing.

Third flash fiction volume coming along nicely though I need to group my stories at some point. Am hoping to get along to Winchester Writers’ Festival and, of course, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later in the year, also the ACW Writers’ Days. I think one of the best things about writing is you never stop learning whether it is how to improve what you do, new places to try to submit work or what have you. That is also a very good thing.

Feed that brain!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for the image of me reading an example of what flash fiction is at their meeting last year.

Having completed a picture prompt generated story yesterday, I see this week’s prompt in my diary has no picture whatsoever! Still will tackle that prompt later in the week I hope.

I’m planning to share a few of my favourite writing tips and why they’re useful on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. You pick up lots of useful tips from conferences, chatting to writer friends etc., but as is the way with these things, some advice will always be more useful to you than anything else. It can be a question of working out what is going to help you most. Anyway, will share the link on Friday.

Made good progress on the novel and short story ideas over the weekend so will resume work on those shortly. A writing session for me is most useful when I know I’ve made progress on work, whether that progress is editing something, adding a line or two to something already down, or writing a whole new flash fiction piece/draft CFT post.

It’s when I feel I haven’t got anywhere that is most discouraging and that’s when encouragement from writer friends is enormously helpful. I still wish my fairy godmother would turn up though and grant me “elastic time” which I could stretch as and when I needed to without any side effects/damage to history etc. You know I’d use it to stretch my writing time!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at the 2018 Bridge House celebration event.

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Am looking forward to sharing book offer related news later this week. Will share info and links soon!

Meanwhile, am making progress on a longer term project (non-fiction) I’d been wondering about doing for a while and have finally got around to tackling. I don’t know yet whether I’ll submit this to publishers or self publish but it is good to have both options on the table.

Am also making good progress on my novel too. My writing times are fairly consistent (which helps a LOT) and I’ve learned how to use which sessions for which projects in a way that suits me best.

I suppose the biggest lessons I’ve learned are to make the most of the time you do have AND accept you are in writing for the long haul. Stamina and persistence are key. (Good luck is a useful extra though!). How like life!

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Once I’ve finished a few posts tonight, I’m going to use the picture prompt in my writing diary to draft a new flash fiction piece. The diary has one for every week in the year so that’s potentially 52 new stories to be written!

I do use picture prompts sometimes to trigger stories but tend to use phrases, proverbs, and things like that to get me started on stories. I’ve posted before about mixing up sources for ideas so I will be practising what I preach tonight at least!

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We talk about “moments of illumination” – well, flash fiction could be the written version of those! Such moments are always brief and reveal something not known before. Your flash stories should do that too and be to the point.

From the writer’s viewpoint, this is the fun bit as you get to decide what that moment is in your story. For me, it has to be a turning point, whether you “turn” the character or the direction your story is going in to surprise the reader. It is where twist endings come in because you can save the moment of illumination until then.

I often, when reading stories like this, then go back through the tale to look for any clues I may have missed that hinted at the story ending up the way it has. I usually spot something on that look again read and of course I can learn from that and develop the techinique for my own writing.

When I work out ideas for a story, I focus on the lead character and then plan all sorts of havoc either for them to experience or to be the cause of – all good fun! But I do need to know the lead character’s main trait/attitude first – I use this as a “driver” for working out who they are, what they know they are capable of, and so on.

For me, character is everything. The right characters for the right stories make them spark and come to life for the reader. A good character in a weak plot – both end up being disappointing. You get the feeling the character has been “wasted”.

I’ve found it pays to take my time in outlining a character (and this is a feature of Scrivener I adore. On their fiction setting, you have a template you can fill in to help you plot out a character and I’ve used this several times. Scrivener also have one for working out what the setting of the story is and I have used this but the character development one is really useful. I don’t tend to use it for flash fiction but for longer stories where I’ve got 2 or more characters to flesh out).

Once I’ve got my character, I’m generally well away into writing the story. While editing is always necessary, outlining at the start does stop you going off at an irrelevant tangent and has saved me considerable time.

Will have book offer related news later this week so stay tuned! Links and info up when I have them.

What are the difficulties of writing flash fiction?

1. It is so easy to overwrite and be well over the word count limit. Okay a very good edit will take care of that but the story still has to flow, make sense, and impact on readers, once that editing is done. There’s the real challenge, I think.

2. Knowing where and when to stop! (Having said that, if the idea is a strong one and you can continue it so you end up with a standard length short story, do so. You just enter that piece for standard length short story competitions and markets instead!).

3. Getting people to take the form seriously, though this situation is improving!

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Idea Spotting

Do you ever indulge in story idea spotting when reading a favourite novel? I do!

I love looking for what I think are the influences for a writer. To me this adds extra enjoyment to the story and gives me the perfect excuse for re-reading a book. Not that I really need one but never mind.

It’s my experience you never find all the influences/links in one read through! Sometimes not in two reads either!

Sometimes I know what the writer’s influences are in advance because I’ve read interviews etc and can then have fun seeing how these play out in what they have produced. Other times I don’t know and I get to play detective here.

What I like best is when spotting an influence in a book and it is clear the writer is a fan of another writer I also love. Double whammy!

Reading is fun anyway of course but for me this is extra and I love that.

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LIGHT BULB and OTHER MOMENTS

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It was another get some writing done on the train day on Saturday. Managed to draft most of my next Chandler’s Ford Today post and two new flash fiction stories. On the way back, feeling more than a tad tired, I managed to get some editing done. So pleased with what I achieved!

Let the train take the strain? Yes!

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My CFT post later this week will reference one of my favourite series of books when I was growing up – the Famous Five by Enid Blyton. I never really read any of the Secret Seven and as for Noddy, the less said the better. (In fairness, by the time I discovered Enid’s works, I was way beyond the age range for him!).

Much as I enjoyed the Five’s adventures, I never really did “get” their love of ginger beer. Oh well. I collected the books as the local independent newsagent got them in regularly, which was fab. Back then, most newsagents had a reasonably sized books section (and it wasn’t just W.H. Smiths or Menzies either). I do miss that.

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The lightbulb moment in any story for me is when I have to find out what happens to the main character in it. Then you know you’re hooked! Doesn’t matter what the length of the story is but the characters have to interest you enough to keep you reading.

Plots in themselves aren’t enough. They have to be driven by the right characters. It is possible to have a wonderful plot let down by characters that simply don’t hold the readers’ attention. Get the characters right and the plot will come from them. Why? Because the right characters will find themselves in conflict(s)(they’ll be unable to help themselves!) with something or someone and that’s where the story really lies.

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Hope to submit some more flash fiction stories during the week. Very pleased to be making progress on what I hope will in time become my third book. Train journeys are great for drafting stories. I’m usually far too tired when I get back to do much writing done then, as I normally would, so not only do I feel like I’ve made progress, I feel as if I’ve made the most of the time available to me. I always like that.

I did wonder when I got the smartphone how I would get on with a stylus for writing. No problems! Just hope I don’t lose the thing…!

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I love that moment when I’m drafting a new flash story when you can feel the tale “coming together” and you know exactly how it will end.

I outline my stories but deliberately don’t set everything down to the “nth” degree as there has to be room for the old creative juices to flourish and “do their stuff”. But when you’ve written the ending that comes to you and you look back at the piece and think “yes, that works”, that is a good feeling.

It’s an even better one if you need a bit of encouragement to keep going. It reassures you that you are coming up with the ideas. So keep going!

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Flash fiction can be a great mood reflector (of the main character that is!). I know I wouldn’t want to read page after page of a character’s introspection but a brief flash story showing what a character is feeling and why is fine.

Of course, there is nothing to stop you then expanding that idea out and having a standard length short story which shows how the character got into that state (and ideally out of it again if the state is not a good one. I feel a good story of this kind has to have some sort of hope within it. This is why I personally can’t get on with “misery stories”. There has to be something uplifting, even if at the end of the story, the character has just found what they think may be a way out a dismal situation).

Of course, flash, like any story, can reveal something of the author too so you may want to watch what you write!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

WRITING DAYS AND WORKING OUT WHEN TO STOP

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What counts as a good writing day? When you’ve got the right amount of words down (whether it’s a few hundred or a few thousand)? When you’ve completed a specific writing task? As ever with these things, so much depends on the writer.

For me, either completing a task or getting to the stage I wanted to reach for a longer one is my definition of a good writing day.

There is no way I can complete my Chandler’s Ford Today posts in one go for instance so I aim to write the post as one/two tasks, edit it and put it up on site ready to go (but not scheduled yet) as another, and then I sort out the images and feature image as the third part. The final, fourth part, is checking I’m happy with the text, images, links and feature image overall and, if I am, I then schedule the post.

So I think I’ve had a good writing day when I can tick off all those specific tasks.

Another great joy of writing flash fiction is I can count writing the first draft as one task because I CAN complete that in one go! There is a huge advantage in writing 100-word stories as opposed to 100,000-word novels (though I love both!).

Writing first, editing later but both needed - image via Pixabay

Get those ideas down, then edit. Image via Pixabay

What is the best thing about writing a story of any length – flash, short or novel (and script come to that too)? For me, it’s that moment when I realise I’ve “got something here”. I usually find I’m about halfway through my draft when I get to that point. The great thing is it really motivates you to finish the piece!

And what is it more than anything else that leads to me realising this? It is the characterisation. Something about one or more of the characters in the piece has gripped me and, if they grip me, there’s a good chance they’ll grip other readers.

It is at this point I have to resist the temptation to start editing and make myself wait until I have got the complete first draft down. Editing too early can kill off the joy of creating the characters in the first place so, for me, writing and editing have to be treated as two separate tasks.

 

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What are the challenges of writing flash fiction? Obviously, there is the tight word count but I think the toughest thing is working out what is the real essence of your story so you know when to stop.

The other big challenge is to ensure the flash story is a complete tale in and of itself. It mustn’t be just a short bit of prose. Each flash story must have an impact on your reader (which, to my mind, can only happen if it has a “proper” conclusion!).

If a short story is like a snapshot of a character’s life, then a flash tale is like a tweet. Brief, to the point and then all over. But it should leave you feeling something. There should be a moment of change in the character’s life. It is just a shorter moment than the one you would have experienced from a standard short story.

 

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Cafelit

One thing I love about the Cafelit series of books is there is a good mixture of story lengths in them.

There’s a good range of my favourite flash fiction but it is nice to have these interspersed with standard length short stories and those that fall somewhere between the two. So whatever my reading mood is, there is something to cover it here!

The link below covers the whole range of Cafelit books. I’m delighted to be in 4, 5 and 6 (and I reviewed 3 some time ago too!). So if you know someone who loves their short stories but likes a mixture of styles and story lengths, Cafelit books would be a great place to start.

Now then: note to self – get some more flash fiction into Cafelit!

 

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IS YOUR CHARACTER WORTH IT?

I’m full of questions tonight!

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Is Your Character worth it? I ask a series of questions to put to your character(s) to justify them ever being in your story at all.  If you can answer all of the questions positively, you will have created a character, who can not only justify their presence to you, who will make an impact on others and keep on doing so

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In The Final Read Through I discuss the importance of taking your time and getting things right by your story, though I am often sick of my tale and want to get it out there at this stage!

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

There were a number of posts while I was away and I hope to share the links to these later in the week but I would like to thank my lovely editor for including my book signing in the Events section.

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I share my thoughts on favourite story types tonight. I like the Prisoner of Zenda type story.  What is your favourite kind of theme?

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FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I share the CFT events link here and tonight’s websites posts.

Themes pour out of good books - image via Pixabay

 

You can't beat a good book. Image via Pixabay.

WHEN IN DOUBT…

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

When In Doubt looks at editing as my motto when deciding whether something should go into a story or not is when in doubt, leave it out.  If I have to think too hard about whether something should go into the story, then I inevitably won’t put that in as it will not weave seamlessly into what is already written.  I share what I do in the way of editing here too.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

What I look for in a story applies across all story forms.  I list five different things here though the biggest and most important one (for me anyway) is any decent story has to have strong characterisation.  Do you agree with my list?  Can you add to it?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss what, for me, makes for a good writing session.  Short post tonight.

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The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay

One of the best ways to escape is with a good book. Image via Pixabay.

WHAT WOULD YOU ASK YOUR CHARACTERS?

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

What Would You Ask Your Characters if you Could is a good exercise.  Putting your characters through their paces so to speak helps you to know them really well and so you should then write (for/about) them more convincingly.  I share three questions that could be useful for you to ask your “people”.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

When Push Comes to Shove continues the theme of knowing your characters well enough to write (for/about) them convincingly.  And putting your characters through hell is a good way to find out what they are really well enough and whether they are strong enough to be in your story.  A weak character still has the potential to be in your story just as long as they are crucial to the plot.

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I discuss the snow that’s due tomorrow, how it will make for a good evening in for reading, and how weather can be used as a character in itself in fiction.  I don’t do this myself but the best example is in The Lord of the Rings I think.

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Two formats for reading and Chandler's Ford library stocks both. Image via Pixabay.

A cold night = more reading perhaps.  Image via Pixabay.