The Writing Life and Show, Don’t Tell


Image Credits:- All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good weekend. My workshop at the London Jesuit Centre went down very well and many thanks to all who came. Also for the lovely feedback. Happy writing to you all! (I plan to have a write up about this for Chandler’s Ford Today once I have also ran my flash fiction workshop at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee celebration weekend in June. Meantime, there are pictures taken by me from the event throughout the post).

 

Facebook – General

Strange day – gorgeously sunny and warm and by this evening it was pouring down. Fortunately Lady and I missed the worst (we’re never sorry about that) and she got to play with her pal, Coco, today.

When do you know you really are a writer? Is it when you get your first publication credit or contract or you’ve mapped out your self-publishing route? Not necessarily! I would argue it is when you recognize that writing can not be part of your life and you will write regardless of anything else. Doesn’t matter if you only have a few minutes a day or several hours. It is the commitment and regular writing that matters I think.

Also the acceptance that rejections happen to everyone (and even more so not hearing back from a publisher or a competition) is an important factor. Another one is recognizing nobody’s work can ever be described as perfect. It is a question of making it the best you can make it at the time you wrote it.

I can look back on several of my earlier stories and see how I could improve them. They act as a record of where I was at the time and as encouragement to keep going and to continually try to improve on what I do. That is the challenge of writing – to keep on improving. Resting on your laurels doesn’t encourage you to see what else you might do either.

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Hope your week has got off to a good start. Changeable weather here again though Lady got to play with her two best girlfriends today and all three dogs went home very happy. It is quite something to see a Collie cross, a Ridgeback, and a Vizler playing! You do learn to get out of the way quickly, mind you.

Many thanks for the comments in so far on Creation, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is encouraging and much appreciated.

It’s almost time again for my monthly Authors Electric spot – my post will be up on Wednesday (18th May so will be included in my next round up here) and I will be talking about Why I love the Shorter Fictional Forms. There you go! A good example of writing about what you know! Screenshot 2022-05-13 at 09-12-04 Creation by Allison Symes

More like an autumn day out there today than a spring one!

I plan to write up a bit more about my workshop yesterday for the London Jesuit Centre later in June, after I come back from The Hayes in Swanwick after the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee weekend. I will be running my flash fiction workshop there and am looking forward to doing so and catching up with friends old and new.

That means I continue with my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today and next Friday’s post will be about Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions In Fiction. There’s some nice alliteration for you!

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of each month so please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc.

And I got my story off for one of the competitions I always have a try at so that rounds off the week nicely! As I mentioned to someone at the workshop yesterday, I really don’t miss having to send everything off in the post. I am so grateful for email submissions. It’s quicker and I can know my story got there straight away too!

 

A huge thank you to the lovely people at the London Jesuit Centre for making me so welcome today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). I ran my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started there this morning and there were some fabulous discussions and questions as a result of the workshop material. Many thanks all – I love interactive workshops whether I’m running them or attending them!

Also a quick trip down memory lane here as I always used to try and “buy” Bond Street on the old Monopoly board when playing this as a kid and my Tube Station stop today – you guessed it, Bond Street!

In other news, as they say, a big thanks also to all who have commented on Creation, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m sure we’ve all heard the expression “show, don’t tell” and it took me a long time to work out what that meant. Writing flash helped me enormously here.

When I “clicked” it was all about getting your characters to say/do things and not the author, I was away. (Catherine walked through the wall as if there was nothing to it as opposed to me saying something like The character, Catherine, did this, did that. Oh and by the way she’s a ghost. My first example shows you she must be a ghost without my spelling it out).

The flash element helped me develop this because of the limited word count. I had to ensure my characters were doing all of the work.It’s a bit like a play – what does the audience want? To see the actors perform the story (or listen if it’s an audio play). What they don’t want are the stage directions. Those aren’t for them.

Likewise, a reader doesn’t want to see my early drafts of a story. They want to see and read what my characters get up to – and it has helped me to remember that it is the character’s story.

Why am I writing this character’s story up? What is so important they get to do this? Only answer there is for the characters to show me (and ultimately the reader) through what I get them to say and do. The only people readers want to hear from are the characters.

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It’s Monday (16th May 2022) and time once again for a YouTube video. Hope you enjoy my latest, 47. Linda has an unlucky number but it’s not one of the usual ones – she has no problem with the number 13 for example. Why 47? Find out here!

 

I suppose one of the reasons I love characters so much in any kind of story is I usually understand where they are coming from, even if I still disagree with their attitudes and actions. I want to then see how things pan out. Did those characters make the right choices for them and their situation after all or not? That is the big draw of fiction and I need characters to make things happen.

Okay, sometimes those things will make the initial situation worse but a “good” character will find ways of overcoming that/learning where they went wrong and put things right. In flash fiction, naturally, all of that happens so much more quickly so you get the payback more quickly.

And for any kind of story collection, I like a mixture of moods of story too. It is why I called my first book From Light to Dark and Back Again after all!

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble


I was sharing a flash piece today as part of my workshop Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre today (Saturday, 14th May 2022). The great thing about doing this is that it doesn’t take too long, flash can illustrate points quickly, and it is easy to demonstrate the point of hooks, powerful opening lines etc.

Also you can show a character does not necessarily have to be right about conclusions they’ve reached for themselves but what should happen in stories like that is the reader should have empathy with that character. They should be able to understand where the character is coming from even though they think the character should have reached a more positive conclusion, say.

Stories, of any length, should make you react, make you feel something, make you care about what happens to the character (and something does have to happen. There should be a conflict which needs resolving. It should matter to the characters that it is resolved).

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Books Acrostic

B = Brilliant books in all sizes and genres, sure to be something to suit you.
O= Original storytelling from contemporary writers or do you fancy the
O = Old Classics? Why choose – have both!
K = Kindles now mean you can now have an overflowing electronic book shelf as well as a physical one!
S = Stories you read may well inspire the ones you write.

A = Adventures or animal stories – enjoy them all.
C = Children’s fiction, YA, adult, – work your way through!
R = Reading feeds the mind, liberates the imagination.
O = Off in a world of your own – maybe when you read but then the author has done their work well if that is the case.
S = Scary or silly – there are stories for both.
T = Twist endings are not just for crime tales though there are plenty there.
I = Imagine what it might be like to live in a different world – books can take you there.
C = Characters – it’s all about the characters for me whether I love them or loathe them. They have to make me feel something. The very best linger in the mind long after I’ve finished reading the book.

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Spring-like Writing


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A hectic start for the week for me after a lovely and happy birthday weekend spent with family. Mind you, snow is forecast later in the week. Never let anyone tell you the weather in Britain is dull – it is anything but!

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Facebook – General

It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, More Than Writers, today. This time I talk about Spring-like Writing. What do I mean by that? Well, I take a look at the mood of our writing but also discuss the “energy” within a story. Hope you enjoy the post and many thanks to all who have sent in some wonderful comments already.Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-34-37 Spring-like Writing by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good start to the week. As ever, it has been a hectic Monday here but at least there is only one Monday in any week! Had a lovely weekend with the family (Lady adored having everyone here) and I was back to story writing yesterday.

My latest More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers is out tomorrow, I’ve sent something off to Friday Flash Fiction, and I’ll share a new YouTube video on my book page shortly. See below for link. So not a bad start to the writing week then!

I look to complete certain things by the end of the week (such as two of my website round-up blogs on the Tuesday and Friday) and then work on stories and blogs around that. It means I know what I’m doing on each day and helps me ensure I never waste a minute of precious writing time.

I like to hit the ground running for my writing as well as getting my characters to do likewise. It keeps things interesting for me – and I trust for my characters too.

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#Had a wonderful time with friends and family at my birthday do yesterday. Lovely to have a good chat with the fabulous #JanetWilliams, my editor at Chandler’s Ford Today. It’s been a funny week. I started off coming home from Scotland to having a big do and I could so have done without losing an hour’s sleep this morning thanks to the clock change!

Talking of CFT, I resume my In Fiction series this week with an interesting post based around the letter K – Kindness and Killing in Fiction. How can I get a post out of a topic where the title is such a contrast? Link up on Friday – you will have to wait until then to find out!

My author newsletter goes out next Friday as well (see my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for the sign up page).

Talking of my website, a big hello to all who have started following me here – it has been encouraging to see steady growth here.

And last but not least, there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic over at Amazon. Do check out my Author Central page for more details at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent


Getting together with family and friends today so thought I would post early. How do your characters handle get togethers? Do they relish them or dread them? And who controls the events? Is your lead character really the one running the show? They might think they are but…

Get togethers are often the source of family traditions so which would your characters have and do they uphold them? Do they cherish them or feel they are being held back by them? For your lone characters, which traditions do they remember from the past and do they miss these? How do they cope with being lone characters now? There is a sense of loss implied here so your story could focus on that.

This is where our own life experiences can help us in crafting a tale. We all know loss. We may not know what it is like to live on an alien world but we can take what we know of life here and help our characters to come across better to a reader. Empathy matters.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have had one of those days where I’ve run late all day. But the nice thing about flash, and something I especially appreciate during a busy day, is with its restricted word count, I can still carve out five minutes some when during the day to draft a story! Or jot down ideas for stories, possible titles and so on. Those quick writing times mount up and give me a store of things to come back to when I’ve got more time. There is nothing to dislike about that scenario!

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It’s good to be sharing story videos on YouTube again after a brief break due to my being at the Scottish Association of Writers conference. Hope you enjoy A Scent of Sense. This story was triggered by a question which came up on a random question generator – what is your favourite smell? I thought it a good way to write a tale based on one sense and to focus on that.


If you’d like to check out some of my flash fiction, do visit my YouTube channel. As well as sharing mini stories there, you can find the two book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, here, both of which have a free story included in them. Hope you enjoy (and new subscribers to my channel are always welcome).

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 21-21-11 Allison Symes - YouTube

Am having a family do today in celebration of my birthday. It will be lovely seeing everyone again and the weather is gorgeous. So am posting early. I’ll be resuming my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today next Friday. I also hope to get back to writing for Friday Flash Fiction this week. And I’ve a number of blogs to draft so I will be out of mischief for some considerable time!

Now there’s no reason not to use gatherings in your stories as long as they move your plot on in some way. What could your character find out at a gathering that will make them change what they do next? And could it change the outcome of the overall story?

If your character Is the shy type and a gathering of any kind would fill them with horror, how do they find out information they will need for their “quest”? And how would they handle things if they absolutely had to to go a gathering? Don’t be afraid to drop your characters right in the mire – this is where you find out if they will sink or swim and where you will find out so much more about what they are capable of, whether that’s in a good way or not.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Celebrating the Booksellers

We should celebrate the booksellers, yes? If you’re lucky enough to have an independent book store near you, make the most of it! Even where you have a known chain, still support them. Where I am, we were lucky enough to have a lovely independent book shop as part of our main shopping centre but the owner retired (understandably) and now the nearest bookshops are at least five miles away.

One of the joys of going to a writing event, such as the one I’ve recently returned from, is there is usually a book stall connected to it. These are often run by a local independent bookseller so, as well as supporting the authors whose works you buy, you support these good people too. And it does make sense to support the industry you want to be part of!

Although online ordering can be convenient, I don’t want the physical bookshops to disappear. I think we would lose something important. Browsing through bookshop shelves is a far more pleasurable experience than trying to browse online!

So go and support your local bookseller. You know it makes sense.

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-47-10 Celebrating the Booksellers

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J is for January (and power cuts!)

Image Credits:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good start to your New Year. Bit of an “iffy” one here given a major power cut took me offline for several hours on a very cold night this week. Mind you, when power was restored, I found I really appreciated lighting, heating, being able to have hot drinks etc again!
Onwards and upwards though and I am glad to share my first CFT post and Friday Flash Fiction story for the New Year here.

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share my first post for Chandler’s Ford Today for 2022. J is for January looks at what I like and dislike about the month, shares some amusing “national” days associated with the month, and I discuss its usefulness for planning out what you would like to achieve, writing wise, for the year to come. I also flag up using historical events for story and article inspiration and share a useful link, naturally for events linked to January!

Screenshot 2022-01-07 at 19-28-56 J is for January - Chandler's Ford Today

Hope you enjoy the post. It is such a relief not to be writing by torchlight and tea light. See below for more on this – it has been one of those weeks! It has not been the best of starts to a New Year but do I appreciate my lighting, heating, being able to write properly etc now after that power cut? You bet!

J is for January

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5th and 6th January

Sorry not able to post on Wednesday as major power cut in my area went on several hours. I remember the Three Day Week back in the 1970s when power often went off and this reminded me of that. Not a good reminder either!

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What I had hoped to post is below.

Came home from the dentists today (went okay) to then have the house plunged into darkness thanks to a power cut! I am typing this by torch light. Have no idea when power will be back on though the powers that be say to allow 3 hours. (Update: It wasn’t. Closer to 12 hours!).

On the plus side Lady got to play with her best friend, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her other pals, a lovely Hungarian Vizler and Labradoodle respectively, and a marvellous time was had by all. There was another Ridgeback out, a lovely gent of a dog, and it is quite some show when two Ridgebacks decide to have a play fight! Given they weigh 100 kilos between them, you stand back and watch the show! Even Lady does…

Writing wise, I’m working on a talk I’ll be giving in February and looking forward to sharing my J is for January post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I am also brainstorming ideas for a short story I want to write up.

Now you know I’m a big fan of characters. For me they make the story, they drive the story, they are the story. When we think of books we’ve loved it is, for me at least, the characters I recall. So what is it about characters that will make them work for me?

They have to be believable, even if they are set in an incredible setting. I have to be able to see where they are coming from and to understand their objective even if I disagree with it. I either have to root for them to succeed or for them to fail, depending on whether I agree with their objective or not. I have to care about what happens to them.

And that is the challenge for me as a writer. To come up with characters readers will care about.

And it is not just a challenge, it is great fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is a joy to be sending stories in for Friday Flash Fiction once again. Am pleased to share my first for the New Year. Appropriately it is called New Start and I hope you enjoy it.
Screenshot 2022-01-07 at 15-13-01 New Start, by Allison Symes

5th and 6th January

Sorry not able to post on Wednesday due to major power cut. My part of the world was without power for several hours on a very cold night – no happy bunnies around here I can tell you! What I had hoped to post is below. (I couldn’t even sync on Evernote – needs net connection for that!)

Have to admit typing by tealight and mini torch thanks to a major power cut is not fun. I guess it shows that (a) the smallest of lights helps against the darkness and (b) extending that out, the short form of story can show something of human nature just as much as the longer forms can. Indeed the short form can be more intense.

Flash light illuminates then. So does flash fiction! It can be a question of asking what reaction you want to bring about in your reader as a result of their having read your story. So what do you want to illuminate – the dark or lighter sides of human nature?

I like to write both (though there is a limit to how dark I go due to personal taste and my faith). I suppose it is because we all know life is not a laugh a minute and I guess I like my fiction to reflect that. Yes, there are laughs but not always.

BookBrushImage-2022-1-6-20-1432fromlighttodark_medium-2Tripping the Flash Fantastic Small.jpgreflection-is-a-major-part-of-lifeWRITERS DAYS - Try to give your writing an uplift

Fairytales With Bite – Attitudes

What are the prevailing attitudes of the characters in your fairytales? I have a very soft spot indeed for feisty aka take no nonsense heroines. I have no time at all for those who seem to be helpless but whom you know if they put some thought in it could help themselves (if only by avoiding the obviously stupid things).

What are the attitudes of those in authority in your setting? Do they lord it over everyone or do they seek to serve? Is there a democracy or a benevolent dictatorship? What are the attitudes of the people to those who rule over them?

What is the general attitude towards magic? Is it seen as just one of those things and taken for granted or is its power, and those who wield it, feared, resented even? What problems could those attitudes cause for your characters?

Attitudes affect actions. A belligerent character could be useful in a situation where toughness, determination to see something through matters. They could be a complete pain in the neck where you need diplomacy and levelheadedness to see your characters through!

So attitudes matter. It pays to give thought as to why your characters have the ones that they do and how these are going to shape your story because they will. They kind of have to as characters make the story and attitudes make the characters.

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This World and Others – The Role of Magic

Is magic a major asset or hazard in your created world? The answer to that will depend on the attitude of your characters. Do they use magic or have they been used by it? Is magic in the hands of the elite or is magic controlled by someone else the elite answer to? Who would that be? How have they come to wield the power that they have?

Also, have there been any kind of magical accidents which have impacted on the landscape of your created world (politically, geographically or both)? I would expect here people to be wary of magic due to that but what happens when magic has to be used? How are fears overcome so magic is used in a safe way?

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Finding Ideas, Themes and Judging a Book by its Cover Part 3

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to my guests for Part 3 of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Author and book cover pics were supplied by Amanda Huggins, Dawn Knox (with Colin Payn), Gail Aldwin, Alyson Rhodes (who writes as Alyson Faye), Jim Bates, and Paula R.C. Readman.

A huge thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks. It has been a joy to discuss and share book cover thoughts! Hope you have all had a good week. Looking forward to giving another talk about flash fiction via Zoom next week.

Oh and my author newsletter goes out tomorrow, 1st May. Do sign up at my landing page – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – for more details.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share the final part of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks for their fabulous contributions. For this post, I chat to guests from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Also a shout out goes to #WendyHJones as a comment from her gave me the spark for the idea for this series. As I mentioned for the More Than Writers blog spot I shared yesterday about Finding Ideas (see below), ideas are there. The trick is to spot them and yes they can come from comments from other writers or things you overhear. The clever bit is gathering those ideas up and running with them! (It is also why it is a good idea to keep a notebook on you as we slowly go out and about in the world once again. Never rely on your memory to record a good idea. You do forget!).

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Bonus Post – My Interview by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website

A little while ago I was interviewed by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website. Francesca has been a guest on Chandler’s Ford Today too.

Delighted to now be able to share the link to that interview. Hope you enjoy it and a huge thank you to Francesca and Authors Reach for hosting me.

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

Pleased to share my latest blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I discuss Finding Ideas and hope you find it useful. I share a few thoughts on how I find ideas.

Earlier this week I came up with another useful method which was to use a random word generator to come up with a random word and then use that as a topic for the picture site, Pixabay. I then used a random picture from them based on that topic to inspire me to write a story to fit the theme. Good fun and I hope to use that method again.

For my MTW blog, I also take a quick peek at how I find ideas for blogs. Well, that is useful to find ON a blog, yes?!

Hope you enjoy.

Hope you have had a good day. (Lady went bonkers, in a good way, with her girlfriends, Khaya and Coco, in the park today. Wish I had half their energy but there you go).

Have a new ACW blog post to share tomorrow and the final part of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Submitted my flash piece to the Bridport Prize. Glad to get that done well ahead of the deadline (end of May so there is still time to enter if you’re interested. There are other categories too including short stories and poetry).

I chatted over on #Val’sBookBundle earlier about whether poor proofreading would put you off reading the story afflicted by it. It wouldn’t necessarily put me off. It hasn’t put me off the book I’ve just read which had so many poor word end splits. But I was itching to get my red pen out. And that is never a good sign.

What is important to remember though is, while books do get out there with this kind of thing happening, we still need to get our books and stories out there and ensure they are at the highest standards possible. We owe it to our wonderful stories to make them the best we can make them so they have the best chance of attracting readers. So take your time over your own proofreading.

For short stories and flash fiction, check them several times before you submit them everywhere.

For a novel, you do need an independent editor here.

The big problem every writer has is we are far too close to our own work to always spot things that need correcting. So it is a question of accepting that and being prepared to invest in our work.

The dream ticket here is having a writer who has got their work polished as much as possible before it goes to an editor. That editor will see what the writer has done, will understand the story, but will pick up the things and ask questions the writer may not have thought of but which, when answered, will strengthen that book and give it a better chance out there.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Will be sharing my author newsletter tomorrow. I issue this once a month on the 1st and I share exclusive flash fiction tales here. I hope later on to gather some of those into a further collection but you do get to have the first read! For more do go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

It is hard to say what I love most about flash fiction. Yes, I am always going to have a very soft spot for the form given it was my way in to having books published with my name on them (and on the front cover too!). But I’ve always loved inventing people. That, to me, has been the big thing about stories so getting to do this all the time for various flash fiction tales is a win-win for me.

I suppose the foundation of all storytelling (and this can apply to non-fiction too) is to have a curiosity about what makes others tick. There has to be a certain amount of curiosity to make you want to find out what happens to the characters or what the writer of the non-fiction piece comes up with as a conclusion.

So my job as a writer is to try to make my characters as intriguing as possible so others will want to read about what happens to them. If I’m intrigued by the characters, others will be too.

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Do you have favourite themes for stories? I’m fond of the “underdog” winning through kind of tale (and you can set those in any environment. A lot of fairytales are based on this). I also like to see justice being done stories (again fairytales often have this as a theme, though not always. You could argue there wasn’t any for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen).

I also like characters who are not all they appear to be and the great thing with that is you can take this in two directions. Make the character turn out to be a villain or a hero. You can have great fun going with either of those options. Though I would add there should be some indication early on this character is not all they’re cracked up to be otherwise a reader may feel cheated.

I love it when I read a story like this as I look back at it to see where it was the author planted the first clue to flag up to me as reader I really should look out for what this character is going to do and be. I can learn from that for my own writing and I love that too.


A huge thank you to the wonderful response to my story, Hidden Gems, yesterday. This story came about as a result of using the sixth random word to come up on a random generator. That gave me a topic. I then put that topic into the Pixabay search bar and used the sixth image that came up. I then based the story around that image.

I will certainly use the random word and random image idea again. It made me think outside the box and that is always a good thing.

Am looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter (1st May) and I often share exclusive flash fiction stories here as well as useful tips. If you would like to know more please sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

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Fairytales With Bite – Defining Happy Ever After

Do your characters have a happy ever after or just a happy for now? And how do you define what happy is anyway? So much depends on what your characters want and whether they achieve that (or something better).

Also does one character’s happy ever after mean ruin for others?

That usually is the case with fairytales. Cinderella is a classic case in point but there is no question that the wicked stepmother and the Ugly Sisters had that ruin “coming”. But you are not told that. You see the “coming to ruin” play out as the story goes on and the attitudes and actions of the characters show you whether or not said characters deserve to be brought down.

So we need to set up our characters so a happy ever after or happy for now is seen to be merited. You want the reader to root for their success. (Wishy-washy characters simply don’t do that for me which is why I dislike Miss Price from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).

Likewise the characters deserving to be brought down – they too need to be fully rounded individuals, who by their actions and attitudes, show the reader they’re not going to be redeemed. And again you get the reader rooting for these folk to get their well deserved comeuppance.

All stories focus on actions and consequences, conflicts and resolutions so a happy ever after or happy for now has to be the logical resolution to what comes before.

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This World and Others – Making Your Characters Stand Out

How do your characters stand out? What is special about them? I feel it is vital for the author to be totally committed to their characters to be able to write their stories up effectively. Therefore something about the character has to grab the author. That same something is likely to be the element which grips a reader.

So ask yourself what is it about characters you yourself love to read about? Can you apply that to your own characters? If you like characters who are feisty but with hearts of gold, those are the kind of characters you want to write because you will write from the heart because you yourself love these.

It may help to list qualities you want to find in a character (and don’t forget the villains here. You need to give plenty of thought to them too. Your hero/heroine has to have an opponent who will test them, bring out the best in them and so on). Then work out ways in which you can show those qualities.

For example, if you love honesty in a character, then you can use that honesty to land that character in trouble. (This could make a great comic piece). They are bound to say things that, with hindsight, might have been better expressed and with less bluntness, for example. That will have consequences.

It will also imply they have got to come up against another character who doesn’t appreciate that honesty. And the second character has to have good reasons not to appreciate it so work out what those reasons could be. Perhaps they dislike being spoken to like that because it reminds them of a family member who used to do so and it caused great upset. Perhaps they don’t like the main character speaking out because the second one is up to no good and they’re concerned they’ll be found out.

Have fun playing with ideas here. But think about the one thing that will make each of your characters stand out. What is it they are best known for? How does that play out in your story? What makes your characters deserve to be written up?

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Titles,Writing Magazine, Publication News, and Part 3 of Launches in Lockdown (and Lady news update!)

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A huge thank you to Val Penny and Jen Wilson for their author pics and book cover images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

This post title should indicate what kind of week I’ve had – good but busy! Am just hoping the drink in the Pixabay picture below is a nice hot chocolate… I’m not a coffee fan. (I know, I know, writers are supposed to be but there you go).

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The advice and tips given in this series so far has been top-notch, not to be missed etc., (and the good news is there is more to come!). A huge thank you to #JenWilson and #ValPenny for their contributions this week.

Jen, Val, and I are huge fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is where we met and we are all hoping to meet up again there this year after last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We are also part of a team there called the Prosecco Queens (anyone fancy a guess at why we went for that name? Anybody? Anybody at all?!).

Last week’s post was from writers from the Association of Christian Writers. Now I mentioned earlier this week one of the joys of reading Writing Magazine is spotting how many of your writing pals you spot in between the covers, so to speak. I have to say it is usually a fairly even split between people I know from Swanwick and people I know from ACW. Keep going, folks!

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Hope Thursday has worked out okay for you. Glad to report Lady is now running again (and is very happy to be doing so, I can tell you). Mind you, it does look like she’s had a mud bath by the time I get her home. Thank goodness for my late mum’s old towels… perfect for dog cleaning duty! Also thanks goodness for an excellent washing machine!

Writing wise, I am looking forward to sharing part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up for that tomorrow.

This week I feature two fabulous guests and writing friends I’ve come to know thanks to the marvellous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (So not only have I learned from the wonderful courses there, I’ve made fantastic friends and they are the best support any writer can have. Who else but another writer knows the elation when things are going well and you have work out there? Equally who better to sympathise with when rejections are all that seem to appear in your inbox?).

Further news. I had a fab time appearing on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show last week. I’ll be writing a CFT piece about that and resharing the link once the Launches series has finished so that is my CFT diary full for February!

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One of joys of subscribing to Writing Magazine is opening it up and spotting your writer friends in there. This month it’s my turn! My February edition has just come in and I’m on the Subscribers’ News page, talking about my happy writing accident in discovering the joys of flash fiction writing. Naturally my website and Tripping the Flash Fantastic get a mention! (And It was fab my publishers Chapeltown Books had a good write-up last time).

Also delighted to see another 5 star rating come in for From Light to Dark and Back Again. A good day then!

Lady had her first proper but limited run today and loved it. Her paw is fine. The only thing we could have wished for was better weather but it is supposed to improve as the week goes on.

Looking forward to my first blog appearing on Authors Electric on the 18th. Meanwhile do check the excellent posts out there at https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/

Towards the end of this month is going to be a bit busy as I’ve lined an interview up amongst other things and I’m looking forward to all of that (and to being able to say more about the other things too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discussed titles before here but it is an important topic and they carry more weight in flash fiction stories than in other types of fiction. Why?

Firstly, the right title will set the mood and tone of the story in and of itself and that will save you on the word count for the tale itself.

Secondly, some websites and competitions do include the title as part of the word count (so always watch for that) so you want the title to do some of the “heavy lifting” for you.

Some other thoughts:-

  • Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.
  • Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).
  • Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.
  • Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!
  • Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up.

I’ve had the privilege of judging a flash fiction competition, which was interesting to do, but I was surprised to find some stories didn’t have titles with them. The really important thing to remember about a title is it is your story’s first “advert” to hook the reader in with and you want to make the most of that.

Remember only the Ten Commandments were set in stone so my advice would be to go with a working title and then change it later if you think of better (and that often does happen as you write the story. A better idea will “just come to you”. Note it and then examine it later in the cold light of day to see if it is as good as you thought and/or better than your initial idea. If it is, go for it!).

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I’ve often discussed, especially on my author FB page, the joy of outlining. I find it helpful to outline my characters. Now can you do all of that for a 50 or 100 word piece of flash fiction? Of course you can!

Like the story itself, the outline won’t be a long one, that is all. Less than a short paragraph like this usually does the job nicely – and I then get straight into writing the tale. Prep helps a lot! I’ve found it saves me a lot of time later as the outline has stopped me from going off at a tangent etc. Tangents are fun but are often not relevant to the character or plot so they shouldn’t go in. Everything has to be relevant!

So for a flash fiction outline (and especially for those tales which will be under 500 words), I ask myself a couple of questions.

  • Why do I want to write about this character? (In many ways it is for this character, it is their story I’m telling).
  • What mood is the story going to be? (This does affect the type of character I’m going to produce for the tale. If I want a funny tale, you don’t necessarily need a funny character to service it. What you do want are characters full of their own importance who need taking down a peg or several. That’s where the humour is, not necessarily directly in the character. Often a character who thinks they are funny are not and can often be tragic.).

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Publication News

Many thanks for the great response yesterday to my plug for CafeLit now the list of those appearing in The Best of CafeLit 10 is now known. (And yes this is another crafty way of getting another mention in for CafeLit and the book!). Yes, it does include me – see next post down. Sometimes a date order blog round up goes against you!!

For me the success of any story, regardless of its length, depends on the character(s). If they grip me, I’m reading the rest of the story, book or what you. If they don’t…. Well, life is just too short to perservere with something that just isn’t engaging me.

And that is the continuing challenge for me as a writer. Just how can I make my characters appeal to a reader (and especially one who may well not have come across my work before. There is a certain truth in the saying you only have the one chance to make a first impression and with my stories, I want my characters to hook readers in right from the start. You have got to have that “must find out what happens next” moment and to keep that going until you do reach the end).

One way I try to achieve this is to come up with characters readers can understand. They don’t have to like them but they do have to get where the character is from (and ideally ask themselves if I was this character, would I be doing this? If not, what would I be doing instead? If a reader is asking questions like that from a character, you know what character has intrigued them to keep on reading).

This is where outlining the character helps. And the great thing is you can pick the kind of outline that suits you. I don’t particularly need to know what my character looks like (that can come later) but I do need to know what their major traits are and what their flaws are. Think about what you would want to know from your character if you could interview them “for real” and use that as a basis for a useful outline template you can use over and over again.


Fairytales With Bite – When the Wand Isn’t Enough….

Okay, we’re in a magical world in our stories. How can a wand ever not be enough?

Well, firstly, if a wave of the old wand solves every problem, you haven’t got any stories to write. Where is the conflict in that? Problem A arises. Problem A gets resolved with said wave of magic wand. There’s no character development. And just reading problems being resolved like that will become boring so quickly! Readers want to find out what the characters do and how they react and it takes more than a wave of the magic wand to really show readers what the characters are truly made of. Are they sterling stuff or treacherous rats etc?

Also when everyone has a reasonable amount of magical power, there has to be a way of distinguishing between them (and it helps your readers to tell them apart too).

It is also a reasonable assumption to work on that some species will have more powers than others either by learning or by inheritance or both so what do the weaker species do to ensure they can survive? They’ve got to find ways of beating “their betters” without the use of magic (and that’s when stories can become really interesting. Characters are having to think on their feet here though of course you as the writer have planned this all out!).

So just as writers we shouldn’t rely on magic or coincidences getting our characters out of trouble, the characters themselves need more than the old magic wand waving too.

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This World and Others – What do Characters think of their Environment?

The answer to this question will also tell readers a fair bit about what your characters are like.

Do they care about the environment or are they oblivious to it?

If your created world has different climates and regions, are the characters you’re writing about aware of all of this or is there a certain amount of Here Be Dragons about their attitudes?

Here Be Dragons was something written on old maps where a map maker had literally got to the limits of where they were prepared to go to make their maps so anything unknown had this slogan added to it! They could get away with it because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to challenge them (and I’m sure they worked on the theory, well there could be dragons!). (Never get away with it now due to Google etc!).

How characters treat the world around them is likely to flag up to readers how they are likely to treat other characters. One of my own favourite characters in Losing Myself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic appears to be one who cares much more about the environment and natural world than any other of her own kind. That was an interesting story to write because it made me think deeply about what would make a character be or become that way.

And then there will the opposite – those who do not see or care about the environment around them. How did they get to be that way? And is there a point where they have to change their attitude?

So my lead question here can be a great way into some interesting story ideas.

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Twitter Corner



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Preparing An (Online) Party

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Book cover image from Chapeltown Books.

Image of Val Penny giving a wonderful talk at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School kindly provided by her and used in previous CFT posts.

Images of Gill James and Dawn Knox also provided by them respectively and again used in CFT posts.

Many thanks also to Penny Blackburn for her picture of me reading at the 2019 Open Prose Mic Night at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Many thanks to everyone who has already reviewed Tripping the Flash Fantastic and/or has shown support for my cyberlaunch. Very much appreciated. (Further down I share a link to a wonderful review on Val Penny’s Book Review Blog and I hope to share further reviews in due course).

No prizes for guessing why I wrote this piece for CFT this week! See link below (and I do like the way this aspect of the new WordPress works).

My CFT post this week is all about that launch with all relevant details included, BUT I also go on to talk about the advantages of this kind of event. I also share some thoughts on how people can support their writer friends. Hope you enjoy.

Preparing An (Online) Party

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Also, just a quick reminder about the author event I am taking part in tomorrow afternoon, with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox. Would be good to see you “there”!

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It has been a good day. Delighted to get off in the post copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic to someone I know who has been waiting for the book to come out almost as much as I have! So first sales – yippee!

Did I mind going round to the Post Office in a mask for that one? Not a bit! (Got a sneaky bit of advertising in while I was there too. You know how they always ask you what is in the parcel…. well I told them!).😆😆

Also delighted to see the latest review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic is now up on Val Penny’s Book Review Blog. Many thanks, Val. (It is particularly nice to see the covers for both of my books forming part of this review).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about my cyberlaunch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. All the necessary details will be there but I’ll also be sharing thoughts on the advantages of having launches this way.

There are several advantages (and not just for the writer either. Events like this can be huge fun for the audience and I love attending the ones my writer pals hold for this reason. A good event should be entertaining. The idea is to engage with an audience and, yes, hopefully generate book sales but engaging with the audience is SO important. The event has to be fun for them as well as for you.).

I’ll also discuss how readers can make a huge difference in supporting their writer friends holding this kind of event. Link up on Friday.

And just a quick reminder that #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox and I will be on Zoom this coming Saturday between 3 and 4 pm discussing our works. There will be stories. There will be giveaways. Hope to see you at both events! Should be fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

For both the author event I’m involved with tomorrow and my cyberlaunch on 10th October, I am particularly looking forward to is reading out some of my flash fiction. Flash works excellently for this kind of thing as it is short and to the point and I’ve always loved being read to! Hope you enjoy that too.

I read work out loud regularly as it helps me to literally hear how the story flows. If I trip over words while reading, then I know readers will, so I can correct that. I sometimes record and play back too (usually for longer pieces) and that is also helpful.

Have a lovely time with your reading and/or writing this weekend!



I’ve mentioned before that flash, despite the word count limit, has more flexibility than you might think. Not only can you vary the word count you choose to write to (up to 1000 maximum of course), you can vary the genre of flash story you write.

In both FLTDBA and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have deliberately exploited that. I’ve written crime tales, historical ones, fantasy ones, and so on. I’ve also varied the format of my flash tales. In TTFF there are stories told in poetic form. I’m working on linked flash stories for what I hope will end up being my third collection eventually.

I like to mix up the way I approach a flash story because it keeps things interesting for me and it makes me “up my game”. It’s not a bad thing for a writer to be kept on their toes. Indeed I’ve found it helps my flex my imaginative “muscles” and the more you use those, the more you find you CAN use them.

That is one reason to write regularly. Naturally you need to read regularly too to help feed that imaginative muscle too. We are all inspired by the stories that have come before us. It would be nice to think later others will be inspired by the stories we’re writing now.

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I love that moment when I know I’ve got a character “set” and ready to go. It means I know what makes them tick and, whether I then put them into a funny story or a darker one, I know they will “rise to the occasion”.

For me, a story of whatever length is always about the character. It’s their story. It is them I want to find out about. (Mind you, I am a curious soul like that!).

That doesn’t mean plot is irrelevant. Far from it but you do have to have a “cast” who can get the most out of the plot you devise for them.

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Fairytales With Bite – Magic in Words

A good story has a magic all of its own. It will make you forget the cares of this world for a while and take you into the created world the writer has set up for you. This is why a story that is written “just” for entertainment should not be looked down on in my view. Helping people escape for a while through stories is a wonderful thing to do. And stories inspire people, which is another reason to love tales of all kinds.

So there is magic in the words we write then but for me, as you know, it is all down to the character. They have got to draw you in and one of my favourite ways of doing this is to ensure a reader HAS to find out something about said character.

That can mean showing the reader a character’s obvious flaw and the hook here is to see what that flaw does to that character during the story. If my character is a bossy boots, how does that flaw get in their way to achieving their objective? Does the character realise the need to change and how do they do it? There is the story. A reader has got to be curious enough to want to read on. So always think about what your hook is going to be. (And that’s a good marketing tip too!).

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This World and Others – Advantages of Using An Alien Setting

A number of my flash stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic involve alien worlds to a certain extent. Due to the restricted word count with flash, I can’t show a lot of the settings, but I can imply such an alien world in few well chosen words.

For example in my story, Job Vacancy, I start with the words “Wanted: Wizard’s Assistant”. Now that tells you immediately, the story has to be set in a magical world and your imagination can conjure up (pun intended!) what that might look like while I get on and show you the rest of the wizard’s job advert!

In The Terrified Dragon in TTFF, I have arranged things so said terrified dragon is surrounded by angry humans right at the start of the story. Now that means this story could be set on an Alternative Earth where dragons existed. Or we go right back in time right here on the planet we know and love where dragons could have existed. I leave that to the reader decide while I again get on and show you what happens to the dragon.

With alien settings which are either directly spelled out or implied, that gives me freedom to suspend some rules. If my story is not set here but on some strange planet at the back of beyond, then maybe that is a place where gravity doesn’t exist or the sky is coloured British Racing Green. People accept all of that and more as long as it is clear from the outset that the world is alien to what we know and, as a writer, I can have a lot of fun with that.

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And once again, thanks to Val Penny for a fab review of Tripping the Flash Fantastic.  See screenshot for more.

Screenshot_2020-09-25 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

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Writing Prompts and Publication News

Image Credit

As ever, images are from the fantastic Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers  – More Than Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot, More Than Writers.

I’m on the 29th so that means I get every three Februaries off! 😆😆

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful. Mixing up how you write stories is fun and keeps you on your toes too!

I talked about writing prompts in my monthly slot for the Association of Christian Writers today. As well as sharing some tips, I share a story I produced using one of the tips. Annoyed librarians may well like it… hmm… go on have a look then!😊

What I’ll add here is that I’ve found it useful to mix up how I approach writing a story. It keeps things interesting for me. It keeps me on my literary toes too.

By mixing up the methods, I avoid the dangers of becoming formulaic too. I don’t want any of my stories to sound the same to a reader after all. What I do want is someone to read my stories and spot my voice through them all, but to also enjoy each tale for its uniqueness. My characters are very different people after all. The way I tell their stories should reflect those differences too.

 

Facebook – General

Loved the finale to Doctor Who but that’s all I’m saying about that. It is nigh on impossible to say anything else without unwittingly revealing a spoiler so best not, I think. Give it a week and then I should be all right on that!

Well portrayed characters, for good or evil, will keep you glued, whether they’re on the page or on the screen. The challenge as a writer is to ensure the characters you create have that quality to keep a reader hooked. How do you make the readers care about what happens to your people?

Firstly, YOU’VE got to care what happens! Thankfully this happens rarely but I have come across instances where I’m bored with a character portrayal and I suspect the author became bored too.

Secondly, your character has got to have a problem that must be resolved somehow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death problem, though that is obviously a great one for winding up the tension in a tale, but the issue your character HAS to resolve must be something they can’t run away from. Their situation won’t improve until they DO do something etc.

Thirdly, your character mustn’t give up easily. When their initial attempt(s) to get out of their situation fail, how do they react? Do they learn from their failures? What gives them the break through to success?

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Facebook – General and From Light to Dark and Back Again and Publication News

Story time again. Hope you enjoy. A little humour at the end of a busy Monday is never a bad thing!

Taking Time Out From the Day Job is my latest tale on Cafelit. (I’ve written flash fiction tales with fewer words than the title for this one in my time but there you go!). I have every sympathy for my lead in this one.

It’s lovely having one of my humorous fairytales with bite up on Cafelit.

Taking Time Out From the Day Job shows what happens when a fairy decides to do just that.

Hope you enjoy reading it. I loved writing it but then I do adore characters like this one.

It is a real contrast in mood from my recent linked stories on Cafelit but now you know why my collection is called From Light to Dark and Back Again. It sums up what I write!

Just to say that #ParagraphPlanet archive stories at the end of each month and the February 2020 “lot” are now available. See the link.My Time Is Everything is amongst the collection here. #flashfiction #amwriting #75wordstories

Is it easier to write to a specific word count or write the story first and then work out what the word count would suit it best?

Hmm… I’ve done both. The discipline of working to a specified word count is a great one and keeps you on your toes. It really does force you to check that each and every word has to be included in your tale. If there’s anything that doesn’t carry its weight, out it goes.

When I am working to a theme or title (often generated by random word generators), I write the story first. I see what I have, edit it, and then decide on whether it would work better at 100 words or 200, for example.

However you write, have fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Conflict in stories can take many forms of course but some of my favourite tales are the ones where a character is in conflict with themselves.

This is why I find Gollum from The Lord of the Rings an interesting character. You know you can’t trust him but I found on reading the tale for the first time, I desperately wanted him to somehow come good at the end. (And I’d say it’s open to interpretation whether he did or not. I am with Gandalf on this one when he says Gollum had his part to play in the history of the Ring and left it there).

In my story, Rewards, which is one of my longer flash tales, I use thoughts to show my lead character’s conflict. The reason this tale needed to be towards the upper end of the flash limit was because I needed some space to show those thoughts and then how my character acted on them.

But then that’s the joy of flash. You can go from the tiny tales in terms of word count to the longer ones but still have a limit you need to stick to. (I do find that a really good writing discipline. It’s why when I prepare my Chandler’s Ford Today posts I set my own word count and stick to it. I have to have parameters!).

The conflict a flash fiction writer has is deciding what word count will work best for their story. Sometimes you do have to go to the upper limit. Sometimes you can say all you need to in 100 words or less. Always think of the impact of the story on a reader. Don’t water it down by padding it out. If the conflict in the story is played out in 250 words, leave it there! But if you need 999, that’s fine too.

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Symbols have a great deal of meaning of course. Can they be used in flash fiction?

Yes, as long as readers are likely to know the meaning of the symbol or can get to the meaning from context. As with any writing, clarity is the important thing here.

Could you come up with your own symbols for your characters?

Yes but it would be useful to base them on what we already know.

For example, red roses are associated with love but what could black roses be associated with?

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Reviews are so important for any writer for a variety of reasons but the good news is they don’t have to be lengthy. One or two lines would be absolutely fine. A big thank you, while on topic, to all those who have been kind enough to review From Light to Dark and Back Again.

So if you’re looking for a way to support author friends, do review their books. The one caveat is reviews have to be honest for them to have any meaning. Honest reviews also aren’t usually at risk of being taken down!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B07T…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Openings

What is it about a story opening that makes you want to read on?

For me, either the character has to be “hitting the ground running” in such a way, I’ve got to find out what happens to them, or the set up is intriguing enough to make me want to read on.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”.

There is the wonderful association with happy childhood reading of those great stories. That opening just, for me, sets the tone for what is to follow.

I know to expect fairy godmothers turning up at surprisingly convenient moments. (I’ve always wondered why Cinderella didn’t berate hers for not coming to her aid a lot sooner but that’s another story).

I know to expect talking animals (and I should imagine the Three Bears had quite a bit to say about Goldilocks that was best kept off the page. I know how I’d feel if someone destroyed my chair and bed – though they’d be welcome to the porridge. I’ve never liked the stuff!).

I know to expect the villains to get their comeuppance. It’s just a question of finding out how and when.

And there is something wonderfully poetical about Charles Dickens’s opening to A Tale of Two Cities (which I confess I’ve not read but is on my To Be Read list), but even I love the sound of “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times” and the rest that follows. The rhythm of that opening paragraph is amazing.

So what I’m saying here is I want a story opening to take my breath away so I have to read on. Now there’s a challenge for any writer (including me!).

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What Makes A Good Story

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I share what I think makes a good story and why. I also name some of my favourites and share my reading “diet”. I also invite you to share your favourite stories. Hope you enjoy – and that you have plenty of wonderful books and stories as Christmas presents this and every year!

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Two posts from me tonight. This second one also ties in with my CFT theme of What Makes a Good Story too.

Below is the book trailer for Nativity, this year’s Bridge House Publishing anthology. I’m delighted to have a humorous fairytale in here – What Goes Around.

Do check out the wonderful stories in here. There’s a lovely mixture of styles and moods but of course you don’t just need to take my word for it!

Boxing Day is my chance to catch up on some reading – books old and new – and I relish the opportunity to put my feet up for a bit and get my nose stuck into a good read!

Must admit to being a bit miffed Doctor Who has been pushed back to New Year’s Day. It always was the highlight of my Christmas Day viewing.

Have no idea what I’ll be watching this year. If nothing appeals, it’ll be back to the Morecambe and Wise box set. Can’t go wrong with that! The scripts were wonderfully written and brilliantly performed.

This is also where I particularly miss mum. She loved a good game or two of Scrabble. You knew word play had to come into this somewhere, right?

I’ll be taking a bit of time off from writing naturally but what is lovely about this is (a) a brief break does me good (and does for everyone) and (b) I’m raring to go again when it is time to start again. Gets the New Year off to a good new creative start and I love that.

Am I ready for Christmas yet? Umm…

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I’ll be asking What Makes a Good Story in my CFT post this week. I know – I could’ve gone on at length on that one. I haven’t, honestly (the link will be up on Friday so you can see for yourself!). I look at a good reading “diet” too and share a couple of festive flash fiction stories.

I can’t remember what the first book I read by myself was though the Reader’s Digest Fairytale Collections and Little Women have got to be strong contenders for that. What I do know is once I was hooked on stories, that was it.

What I like now is the range of ways in which you can take stories in – I love audio books for example and a great film adaptation can bring stories to life for many and may drive them to read the book too. The latter is one reason I love The Muppet Christmas Carol so much as The Great Gonzo aka Charles Dickens recommends reading the original book! (And very good advice that is too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Good stories (my theme for Chandler’s Ford Today this week) come in so many varieties of style, mood, genre and, of course, word count length! The phrase “less is more” could have been invented for flash fiction writers. It wasn’t but it could have been!

Of course good stories for me are centred around the characters (as I discuss further in my CFT post) but the characters don’t have to be likeable. Well, Hannibal Lecter is memorable, is he not? Would you want to have dinner with him? I’d pass on that one… you’d never know who you would have having with the Chianti, would you? (I refuse to believe that’s a plot spoiler after all this time!).

So how do you make your characters memorable then? For me, they have to have a distinctive voice. This is one reason I use the first person a lot for my flash fiction. I can take you straight into the characters’ heads and show you their thoughts and attitudes. You then decide whether you like them or not!

A good story, whether it is a flash fiction piece or longer work, has to engage with a reader and the characters are, for me, the key to doing that.

As you know, I like a mixture of darker and lighter stories in my reading “diet”. I do find at this time of year when the nights draw in so early, I read more of the lighter side. I guess I’m trying to balance things out here! I know I need something to give me a bit of a lift reading wise and that’s why I head to the funny/amusing side of fiction first.

And, yes, as the light gradually increases, that’s when I turn to the darker stories for a good read.

Whatever your reading diet, I do hope the books you’ve asked for end up under your Christmas tree this year. The best things about winter by are having more time to read and hot chocolate!

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Flash fiction can be written in different styles as after all it is a very short story and tales can be told in varying ways as well as in a variety of word counts!

They’ve been told in many different ways for centuries – from the oral tradition to the printed word from stories told in letters, diaries (think Adrian Mole!) etc.

I’ve occasionally written limericks which tell their own story. Hope you like this one.

TAKING THE PEN AWAY

There was once a cracker joke writer
Whose puns made people curse the blighter
So when his pen was taken
He felt forlorn, forsaken
But the world felt oh so much brighter!

Ends
Allison Symes

I suspect there are many of us who could identify with this!😊

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Transformations

Fairytales often have transformation as a theme ranging from the changing of an arrogant prince into something ugly (Beauty and the Beast) to changing someone’s life completely (Cinderella).

In all of the stories there is justification for the transformation ranging from deserved punishment to rewarding virtue/delivering from a dreadful environment. So when you use transformation in your stories (especially if it is done courtesy of a helpful and handy to have around fairy godmother), ensure you have a good reason for it.

The actual transformation is a pivotal point of the story of course. The arrogant prince becomes the beast and his story after that point is in discovering whether someone will love him enough to free him from the curse. For Cinderella her life is turned upside down by the fairy godmother’s intervention. Think about how your characters could handle that. Not everybody would handle it well and there could be some interesting stories there.

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This World and Others – When Your World Works…

This is by no means a definitive list but useful pointers for gauging whether your fictional world works include:-

  1. You can imagine living there yourself.
  2. You can picture how the different species in your world could co-exist (whether they do so or not is then up to you!).
  3. You know where your characters fit into the overall picture. Not everyone can be a leader so who are the governed and who does the governing?
  4. You know how your characters live and what they do for housing, food, sanitation etc. You have to convince yourself your world could work if it existed somewhere. You may not need to put all of these details into your story. You just need to convey enough so a reader is convinced you know how your world works!
  5. You know what could threaten your world and its characters and why.

 

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On Characters and Being a “Proper” Writer

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

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What I look for in a great character:-

1. I totally understand why they’re acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean I have to approve though!

2. You can see how they got into the situation they’ve got to overcome and are keen to see if/how they get out of it again. You believe the character has the potential to get out of it and it’s a case of seeing whether you were right about that or not.

3. I love characters who come out with great one-liners but only as long as they arise naturally out of the situation and the character. It must never feel forced.

4. They stay with you in your imagination long after you’ve finished reading the story!

Examples of great characters for me:-

1. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy

2. Jeeves and Wooster

3. Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil Ramkin – Discworld

4. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee

5. Aslan – Narnia

6. Ebenezer Scrooge (though I prefer him AFTER the visitations! Am very fond of the Muppet Christmas Carol. Thought that was the best Muppet film too).

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I’m delighted to share Part 3 of Peter Russell’s local history series on The Hutments for Chandler’s Ford Today. If you have any memories to share of a part of the community that has now gone, do comment via the comments box. I know Peter would be pleased to hear from you.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

It has been a good writing week. There has been plenty of progress on the novel. I’m enjoying it ! (That HAS to be a good sign, right? 😊😉).

Short story and flash fiction submitted. Am fleshing out another standard length short story for a competition and have got another “resting” for me to have a look at again, hopefully later this week.

Almost done on next week’s CFT post too. Continuing to add to my website and working on a non-fiction project.

So, no, I’m never short of things to do but that’s how I like things to be!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in the CFT post for Friday.

Am really looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event. Not far away now. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and to make new ones!

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Word association can be a great way of triggering words to use in a story. You can play the standard way by setting a word and then finding others to link to it – e.g. play, toys, games etc.

Equally you can play the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue version where there should be no connection at all to the chosen start word – e.g. play, universe, green.

Whichever version you go for, I suggest setting a limit of how many words you are going to use – I find that helps me focus. But of course you can raise or lower that limit for future stories.

 

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How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

 

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I always consider impact to be the most important aspect to my flash fiction writing, but do you go about creating the impact you want to achieve?

Some of it is out of your hands. You may write a funny story but a reader doesn’t find it amusing – this is why humorous writing is so hard to do. It is subjective after all but what can you do to level the playing field a bit?

Having decided what the impact of my story is going to be, I look at what would make ME feel that impact. For example, if the tale is going to be a sad one, what would trigger that feeling of sadness in me?

Then it’s a question of picking the most appropriate trigger for your story. I prefer to go for understated emotional impact too. A story that tips overs into melodrama can put people off. I know it would do so for me. But sadness that is shown through the character without laying it on with a trowel will always make me want to read more if only to find out if the character “overcomes” the sadness or is beginning the process of adapting to the sitution by the end of the story.

For example if your story is about a fairy godmother rapidly approaching retirement and she really doesn’t want to retire, you could take that in a humorous or sad direction. So decide what you want it to be first.

If funny, what would make you laugh? Would setting your character into a ridiculous situation do it or are you better off having a wise cracking character who comes out with tremendous one liners?

Think about what you would like to read here as if the story was being written by someone else. I’ve found this to be really useful and hope you do too.

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Have you tried writing a piece of flash fiction to, say, 25 words, and then separately, writing it out to, say, 250 words?

It’s all perfectly legitimate but there will be different markets and competitions for the two stories.

I sometimes do this as a writing exercise (it’s a good way to get into a session of writing).

Not all stories or characters will be capable of being expanded. If the impact you are seeking to make on a reader is over and done with in 25 words then leave it at that. Never ever pad out a tale.

But if you CAN expand the story because the character is capable of so much more (and that’s the key way to judge whether a story IS capable of being expanded), explore what else you can do with that character and then you can either submit the two stories to two DIFFERENT places or pick the one you like the best and just submit that.

I like my titles to give a flavour of what is to come in the story without giving away too much. I like the title to lead people into wanting to read the rest. Of course, the challenge for me is to make sure I deliver on that promising title!

I occasionally use questions as story titles but prefer the statement, though I try to keep this as open as possible. Most of my titles could be taken in a humorous or serious direction.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to work to as I draft my story but I am more than happy to change it if something better comes along as I am writing. It does sometimes and it is best to go with the flow here. Again, as with the story itself, I am looking for the likely impact of the title on the reader. The stronger impact title always wins.

 

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Do you ever think of music to suit your flash fiction stories?

The main time I have was coming up with ideas for the music for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I plumped for Saint-Saens Danse Macabre – quirky music to suit quirky fiction.

One of the things I love about music (and especially classical) is that, like flash fiction, there is something to suit every mood. I’m not going to be at any risk of running out of ideas for suitable musical themes any time soon either!

I’ve not yet used a piece of music to influence a story idea but may well give it a go and see what happens. The potential is there!

Goodreads Author Blog – Juggling the TBR Pile

I must admit I couldn’t physically juggle my TBR pile. There would be an almighty crash and some inventive language on my part, I think, if I tried that.

I love reading a mixture of fiction across many genres, non-fiction, short stories, novels, articles etc. I also like to mix up reading on the Kindle with reading “real” books but I also want to put magazine reading into the overall mixture too.

Over the course of a week, I try to cover most of those bases. I’m currently reading historical fiction, true crime, short stories, flash fiction, and my own novel (on Kindle. I’m reading it as a reader would. It has been illuminating!).

Over the course of a week, I have been thoroughly entertained too!

And yes I have a TBR pile on my Kindle too. One of the reasons I don’t put a Kindle app on my phone is so I don’t have a TBR pile on there as well.

It is true – too many books, too little time!

Still I’ll press on and have a fab time doing so.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

My Writing Journey

Image Credit:  If not otherwise stated, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay!

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I can’t say a particular story made me decide to write creatively. My journey into writing was a long one. I had always loved composition as it was known at school but I didn’t start writing seriously until I was 30.

It was one of those moments, having always loved books, that made me feel if I am going to have a go at storytelling myself, I had better get on with it then. So I did!

My only regret is not starting sooner as it takes far longer than you can anticipate to find your voice, develop confidence in submitting work, learning how to deal with the inevitable rejections etc. Then there’s the time needed for further development as you work out how to improve your work and so on (usually by trial and error and feedback), until that magical day when the first acceptance arrives. Well worth it though!

 

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One of the joys of writing my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is sourcing the pictures (take a bow, Pixabay).

But the funny thing is themes that seem to be open can often prove to be the most difficult to find suitable images for. I have no idea why that is but it is happening again this week with my topic of favourites. Yes, I know. You’d think I’d find loads for that.

The great thing is I have learned to think laterally in looking for suitable pictures so know I will find images that can fit the post. And I suppose it is a good thing to make yourself think laterally too. (It can be annoying at times though!).

 

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Where do you find the most fun is in writing a story? For me, it’s when I go into a character’s head and show a reader their thoughts and attitudes.

Why? Because If I show you a character who’s irritated, you will conjure up your own mental image of what such an irritated person could look like. I don’t need to spell that out and it saves a lot on the word count, which for flash fiction is crucial.

It also means I get into what makes that character tick so much more quickly and I really love that. I then know what I can do with them, what triggers will really wind them up and that’s when the creative sparks really fly.

Also, it’s at that point when I know what the character’s major trait is (often shown through their thoughts and attitudes), I know whether I’m going to love this character or love to loathe them.

Either reaction is fine as long it is the reaction I want to generate from that character. A character that makes you react is one you want to read about, even if it is just to find out if they get their comeuppance or not. (Confession time: I have been known to cheer to myself when a character who deserves that comeuppance gets it! I had a hard time NOT cheering out loud when Molly Weasley “deals with” Bellatrix in the Harry Potter story. Doing so with the book was fine but I didn’t want to embarrass myself in the cinema!😃😃).

I would far rather read (and write) about a character who I dislike but has purpose and I can kind of understand why they are the way they are than read or write about a character who does nothing for me whatsoever. I have got to react to the characters in some way. It doesn’t always have to be positive.

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The writing journey is not without its ups and downs, but (a) this is true for everyone, and (b) if you can get something out of the downs, great.

In my case, many years ago, I was almost caught out by a vanity publisher. What good came out of that?

Well, firstly I wasn’t caught out! Secondly I joined the Society of Authors as a result of the very helpful advice they gave me when I wasn’t a member. To begin with I joined as an Associate but became a Full Member later once I had enough short stories published.

If you’re ever in doubt about an agent or a publisher, don’t hesitate to check them out.

If you are going to spend money on self publishing, get all the advice you can first, and ensure your money is genuinely spent on self publishing! That does NOT include selling you your own books (which is effectively what vanity publishers do).

There are reputable service companies for self publishers out there. Never be afraid to ask pertinent questions. The decent ones won’t mind answering them (and will be expecting them). If you’re not sure what to ask, go to the Society of Authors or Alliance of Independent Authors for advice on what to look for and what to avoid.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I started writing, I was unaware of flash fiction as a form. Am very glad I discovered it though! Mind, I don’t think I would’ve tried the form even if I had been aware of its existence then. Why?

Partly because I really didn’t know what I wanted to write. I wrote a novel. I wrote short stories. I have written the odd script or two as well. All great fun. The short stories were published eventually after many a rewrite and edit! The novel I’m working on again now and I hope to do something with the scripts at some point.

The important thing is to enjoy your writing journey wherever it takes you and not to worry about experimenting with different forms of storytelling. You will find the one(s) that really suit you and which you love writing. The fun bit is finding all of this out!

 

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Most helpful tips I’ve used for flash fiction writing (and still do) include:-

1. Don’t have too many characters. One to two is best (especially for the 500 words or under type of story).

2. If a word adds impact, leave it in. Word count is important, obviously, but it is not the only thing that matters.

3. If a word does nothing for the story, take it out.

4. Be aware of what your wasted words are and cut them out on your first edit. You may not be able to stop yourself writing them (I can’t with mine) but they don’t have to go anywhere further than the first draft.

5. Always get your story down first and then edit.

6. Outline your character in as much detail or otherwise as you want before writing the story. You need to know enough about them to be able to write “their” tale convincingly. Only you can decide what is “enough”. For me, I have to know the major characteristic. Is the character brave, a wimp, humorous, as miserable as sin etc?

7. For open themed competitions, I’ve found it useful to set my own theme in advance and work to that. I find it helpful to set my own parameters here. It stops me going off at tangents that do nothing for the story or which could stop the story altogether.

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Do I always know in advance what will work best as an opening or closing line for a flash fiction story? The really good lines can be used for either and I have sometimes deliberately written two very different stories, using the same line like this.

I outline my character and often as I do that it will become apparent where the line is likely to work best.

Take, for example, the line is something like:-

She was a clumsy clot.

I would almost certainly put that at the start of a story and then shows what happens to my unfortunate character. It is, if you like, the obvious way to write that particular line into a story. I would also think of it as a negative way to finish a tale. (It sums up the character but there’s no space left to show any redeeming features, which is why I would consider this a negative ending). Sometimes you want that, of course.

But my gut feel here would be to write a humorous tale that ends on a positive note, such as something useful coming out of my character’s mishaps which helps another character.

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Writing exercise time… how about some lines to work on? But unlike the ones you might have been set at school, these should be fun, honest!

It’s up to you whether you use them as opening or closing lines. You could see if you can manage both. Good luck and have fun with these.

1. He would be extinguished if he didn’t get out before the candle burned out.

2. There were rats everywhere.

3. The temptation to go through the portal was just too much.

4. Less is more, she fumed, well I’ll show them.

5. The glittering gold couldn’t tempt him away from the mission but there was something that would.

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Goodreads Author Programme Blog The TBR Pile

How large is your To Be Read pile?

Mine hasn’t quite got to the point where I need scaffolding to keep the TBR pile upright but give me time…

I also have a considerable reading list waiting for me on my Kindle too.

The positives with this are:-

(a) I’m never going to be short of things to read;
(b) I have different things to read to suit my moods;
(c) It doesn’t matter if I want to catch up with reading at home or away – the Kindle takes care of the latter nicely enough.

The negatives with this are:-

(a) Being only too aware of the finiteness of time! There will never be enough time to read every book I want to!
(b) Having to get the scaffolding out in due course to prop up my TBR pile!
(c) It’s going to take me a while to update what I’ve read here on Goodreads!

I read most just before settling to sleep or, on a long train journey and I’ve finished what writing I want to do, I then switch to reading.

However large your TBR pile is, happy reading! Whittle it down gradually and then you’ll have room for more lovely books…!

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