Hair Cuts, Publication News, and Editing

Now there’s a combination for you!

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

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Big news in the Symes’ household is we all managed to get our hair cut this week – AND I’ve mowed the lawn so that’s trim too now. Absolutely nothing else here will need a cut for some time so that’s good. (Lady doesn’t need a trim, ever. Cleaning, yes, especially if she’s rolled in rabbit/deer poo again but a trim, no. Funnily enough, she tends to leave fox poo alone and yes I am grateful for that.).

I only wish I could say my writing never needs cutting but alas! Editing is what makes a story come to life for me. Why? Because the wasted words come out, anything that needs trampling does get trampled, and what I’m left with is the real story. I wish there was a quicker way to get to the “meat” of the story but I suspect every writer has wished that at some point before picking up the red pen and getting on with the edit!

 

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Reading widely and well helps fuel your own imagination. It is also a huge challenge to you as a writer. After all, if you read a story that makes you go “Wow”, your next response is probably going to be along the lines of “I want my stories to have the ‘Wow’ factor”.

How to achieve that? There is no one quick fix answer to that (given the wide differences in reading tastes etc), but for me character development is a major part of it. Why?

Because if a reader can follow how your character develops and changes during the course of a 100-word story, a 1500 worder, or a 100,000 words novel, then they are hooked. It is only by being hooked to the story you’re reading the author has any chance of generating that “Wow” factor at all.

And it is always, for me, the character that keeps me reading. I want to find out what happens to THEM rather than discover how clever the plot is (though the really great “Wow” stories achieve both and I can guess at the hard work that has gone into getting to that point).

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How has your Monday gone? As ever, mine went by in a whirl though the best bit by far was Lady having a great playtime with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback. Always lovely to watch them play.

There will be a new series coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today by yours truly towards the end of this month where I talk about useful tips for newbie writers to know. There are wonderful guest contributions and it should make a good insight for someone at the start of their writing journey. More details to be put up nearer the time.

And the great thing with series like this is, given there is always something for writers to learn and apply to their own writing, there will be something in this for the more experienced writer too.

No one writer knows everything but the sharing of knowledge and advice is invaluable. I know I’ve been most appreciative of the knowledge and advice that has come my way.

I’ve had one of those lovely tasks to do – choose a book cover pic for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Job done. Really enjoyed doing that and can’t wait to share it with you in due course.

Meanwhile, with feet back firmly on the ground, I’ve plenty of editing and writing to be getting on with. Mind you, another task I’ve loved so far this week has been to put the finishing touches on my CFT post for Friday. I’ll be looking at certain favourites covering lots of different categories and there are a few reminiscent Youtube clips with this post too.

Looking forward to taking part in a Zoom workshop tomorrow afternoon. That should be good fun and keep me on my toes. (Just hope Lady keeps quiet while it is on! I guess she could run a Woof workshop if it came to it…!).

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction may be quicker to write due to the reduced word count but it takes as much craft as its longer cousins in getting the stories ready for submission.

You still need to edit and check that every word you leave in adds to the story and that the tale would lose something important if you take it out. (That “something important” can be anything from character development to the story not making grammatical sense without it).

I’ve mentioned before that I often read stories aloud to literally hear for myself how the tale sounds. What looks good on paper doesn’t always read well so out comes the editing pen.

The huge advantage of flash fiction here is that this reading out loud process is quicker to do – not so much to read out loud for a start! But I think because flash has to make a powerful impact due to its reduced word count, even more care has to be taken to ensure that every word you leave in punches its weight and contributes.

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Pleased to say I’ll have another flash fiction piece on Cafelit soon. Will say more later in the week and share the link in due course.

I do love writing and reading the very short form. I suppose what I like most is there isn’t long to wait until the pay-off! It also means even when pressed for time, I can make time for the two minutes read!

Do I prefer stories that deliver on the premise or the ones that wrongfoot me? I love both.

It can be fun to try and guess at the ending of a tale (though this is harder to do for a 100-worder. Why? Because the 100-word form is roughly a paragraph so it would be very easy to read the whole thing before remembering you were going to try and guess what the ending was!).

I’ve talked about titles before but some tips I’ve found particularly helpful include:-

1. Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.

2. Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).

3. Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am very 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.

4. Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!

5. Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with really 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 and it often does as you’re writing that first draft.

Put yourself in a potential reader’s shoes and ask yourself if your title “grabs” you the way it should do. This is again where time away from the story helps. I recommend at least a week away from it (and ideally a fortnight). Time away makes all the difference in terms of the fresh perspective you have on the story when you re-read it.

 

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Nice day today working with the book cover designer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Look forward to revealing more later.

This, of course, is the lovely side to writing where you can see your work almost ready to be out there in the big, bad world. What isn’t seen is the writing, rewriting, editing etc that goes on to get the stories into shape for a collection like this.

It is so true that overnight success usually takes years!

 

Goodreads Author Blog –

The Short Read or the Three Volume Epic?

Okay, so what would be your first choice? I must admit I’m torn as I love both.

A lot would depend on time available and I love reading, as well as writing, the short forms of fiction. I love the idea of crystallising a whole world in a few hundred words or so.

Short story and flash fiction collections have the huge advantage of giving you a chance to taste an author’s work and see if you like it before you read their longer works. From a writing viewpoint, it is lovely to be able to write and submit short stories and flash tales to different markets and competitions while working on longer term, bigger projects in the background.

But for the creation of a huge world it’s hard to beat the three volume epic and The Lord of the Rings is the definitive version of that for me. (Just don’t drop the book on your foot!).

It is a little ironic that, as a flash fiction writer, I veer between the quick read and the very long one! But then maybe that is why. There are times I need to read the exact opposite of what I do.

Hmm… I guess that means I ought to get around to War and Peace then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titles and Quirky Characters

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Ahead of a review on They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, which has to be a strong contender for the all time longest play title (!), I look at titles in general.

I look at the role they play, why I change my use of them for flash fiction, and discuss how they can set a mood you want your reader to pick up on or can be used to keep said reader guessing.

How easy (or otherwise) is finding the right title for you? I share a few thoughts on that too.

Image Credit:  As ever, the marvellous Pixabay.  Captions on the CFT post.

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Looking forward to the Chameleons’ production of “They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Guild’s Coffee Morning”. Just try saying that quickly! Should be good for several laughs and I look forward to reviewing this next week.

Lady and I have not enjoyed the heat. Shout out to all our human and doggy friends. You know who you are. Keep cool! Glad it’s going to cool down tomorrow. The thought of the Tube in this heat on Saturday when I’m in town… uggh. Sympathies to all who’ve endured it today (or will do shortly). Still I guess it’s a great test of whether your deodorant works or not…!

How do I go about writing reviews for local theatre productions and the like? I always try to find something positive (I’ve never been a fan of hatchet jobs. I think it says more about the reviewer than whatever it was they reviewed). I look at the story. I look at the performance of that story. I also look at the background to the story (and I am looking forward to researching tonight’s one. Is going to be fun!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I thought From Light to Dark and Back Again was a long enough title for my flash collection, but it is well beaten by They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, the play recently staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group.

I look forward to sharing a review on that on Chandler’s Ford Today next week though I do discuss the importance of titles on CFT this week.

I’ve discussed titles before here but I can’t stress enough how vital it is to get them right. I must have a title to work to when writing almost anything but if a better idea occurs to me as I’m writing (and it does), then I’ll switch. Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone!

For flash fiction competitions where sometimes the title is part of the word count, I take extra care. I work out whether I want my title to give a good opening to the story, or whether I want it to set a mood, or to be open to more than one take on it, so I can keep a reader guessing. What I decide here will determine how long that title is and that will then set how much room I’ve got left for the story itself.

Where I don’t have to worry about the title being part of the word count, then I tend to focus on the impact I want it to have and I can give myself a bit more leeway as to how long I want the title to be.

Generally, though unless you are writing a spoof as the play clearly is, you are better off keeping a title relatively short.

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Having spent most of the day feeling like I was being roasted (goodness knows what my cooking time to the pound would be and yes that does show my age!), along with the rest of the country, it’s a relief to get to my desk where it is relatively cool. Note the relatively.

I find with flash fiction I can get the story ideas down fairly quickly (which is fab. Nobody wants to work too hard in this weather). Where the time and effort comes in is in the crafting of those ideas. Have I really used the right words to conjure up exactly the images I have in mind? Can I think of anything better? The answer to that is almost always yes!

The one thing that cheered me up a long time ago was knowing that nobody but nobody has ever written the perfect first draft! So I never worry about perfection in my writing. It’s not going to happen. Even when you send a piece out, it’s as good as you can make it at that time and that’s absolutely fine.

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Fairytales with Bite – Quirky Characters

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

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

  1. Humour – there’s usually a lot of humour, often irony, involved here. That appeals directly ever since I first came across irony in Pride and Prejudice which I read at secondary school many, many moons ago. That book was an eye opener for me in terms of how irony can be used (and the best kind is subtle with it too). It paved the way for me to appreciate more direct irony in the works of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, to name but two, later on
  2. The Unexpected – The irony (!) here is you expect the unexpected from quirky characters. You’d be a bit disappointed to say the least if they didn’t come out with something. Often this is the pivoting point of the whole story too. What is fun is trying to guess what they come up with.
  3. Memorable – You remember quirky characters. It’s why I’ve always loved Jo March in Little Women and George in The Famous Five. Again I wanted to find out what they could do and whether they could surpass what had gone before. It kept me reading! The trick for a writer is to achieve the same thing. It is also the challenge! What is it that makes your characters memorable?

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This World and Others – Titles

I look at Titles in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and hope you find it helpful as I share some thoughts on where to find good title ideas. I also discuss the uses of titles. But now to look at the topic from a different angle…

Firstly, the world in which your story is set – do they use titles to denote rank? Do these differ between species? Are some species excluded from any titles at all? How are titles given? Can they be earned and, if so, how?

Secondly, property (you knew it had to come in somewhere!) – how does your world distribute title to property? Can anyone own property? Do your characters have to earn their right to obtain title like this? Or is all land owned by one feudal or royal overlord and all title is held by them?

Can title (of any sort) be challenged or revoked? Who would do so and why?

Now there are some thoughts for story ideas for you!

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Publication News

I look forward to next week when I can share publication news of a story that has a special place in my heart. More details next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAIR REPORT AND READING OUT LOUD

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Had a great time at the Hursley Park Book Fair today. Good number of visitors, chatted to people, sold some books, and my talk on flash fiction went well (albeit to a small audience). All positives to build on, I’m glad to say, and that’s also true for the Book Fair itself. I very much hope it becomes a regular event in the calendar.

It was lovely catching up with some writer friends too. I’ll be writing a fuller review for Chandler’s Ford Today later. Pics are from the sports hall at the venue, and the theatre where people gave talks etc. Nice place.

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Many thanks to all who came and checked out the Hursley Park Book Fair. It was great fun and it was lovely to chat to people about the joys of flash fiction. It was also lovely to meet fellow authors.

I will be posting a review of the Fair up in a couple of weeks’ time on Chandler’s Ford Today but I want a little time to elapse before I do this. Exactly as I do with writing a story in fact – write it, leave it for a bit, edit it looking at the piece with a fresh pair of eyes and post/submit it!

Favourite moment from the Fair? To the lovely lady who bought a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again and then came back to me later in the afternoon. She wanted to show me one of my 100-worders that had made her laugh out loud (and yes it was meant to!). Now that IS a review!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Introduced a few people to the delights of flash fiction at the Hursley Park Book Fair today. What was lovely was when one person came back to me, having had time to dip into From Light to Dark and Back Again, and wanting to tell me she’d laughed out loud at one particular story! Now isn’t that the kind of feedback most of us writers want?!

One of the nice things about giving a talk on flash fiction, as I did yesterday at the Hursley Park Book Fair, is that reading some is often the best way to show what it is. And you get to choose what to read out! The 100-worders tend to work best.

One question I was asked was about the different forms of flash and whether the crafting was the same. Yes, it is, whether you write a 50-word or 500-word flash fiction story.

While you have more room for manoeuvre in the latter obviously, you still have to make every word count. Every word must serve a purpose in being in the story. (One of my guiding principles is write what I need to write and then get out! Anything you can cut without losing the story should be cut as it clearly isn’t necessary).

And yes you can have flash fiction written as a poem, I’ve written some of these myself, but you still need to put in the time on the editing. I find I tend to write my stories quickly, which is great, but it is the editing and the looking at how I can phrase things better to have a more powerful impact on the reader is where the time really gets eaten up.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Reading Out Loud

Do you ever read stories out loud when you are on your own? (I accept if you do this on the Tube, the bus, or what have you, you WILL get some funny looks, so probably best not go there! If you’re driving, stick to audio books for your sake and everyone else’s!).

I’m thinking of those times when you’re curled up at home with a cup or glass of something nice and have got a lovely book on the go.

I’m also not talking about reading to children (though this is one of the best things you can ever do as a parent. I cherish my love of books and stories, thanks to my mother doing this for me when I was a child. It was a great joy to share the joy of this with my son as he was growing up. Guess what, he loves books, though in totally different areas to me, which is fab.).

I sometimes read my own work out loud, record it, and play it back on something like Audacity to hear how my dialogue sounds. Does it sound natural? Am I tripping over something etc?

But why not read out loud with books you are reading for pleasure when you’re on your own? Why? I think you pick up nuances as you hear how the prose sounds. I think it can give you a deeper appreciation of how well the words have been put together. And there is something about reading out loud that calls to mind where we get our storytelling from – the oral tradition – so very much a case of revisiting our roots here.

Chandler’s Ford Today – Graham MacLean Art Series

I acted as series editor on this.  Am glad to share the links to all three parts of the series now.  If you would like to know a bit more about art, the media used, and some of the most well known artists, do have a look at these.  Graham’s own artwork is used throughout the series and is stunning.  See what you think.

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-1-why-i-love-art/

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-2-media-used-in-painting/

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-3-my-favourite-artists/

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting.

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting. Just one of Graham MacLean’s fantastic artworks. Look at that light! Image kindly supplied by Graham MacLean

The Thames at Mortlake

Pi Toi O Fishing Village NT Hong Kong – image and original painting by Graham MacLean

The wild Croatian coastline outside Dubrovnik. The brilliant blue of the Adriatic Sea contrasted with the rocks and dark green foliage

The wild Croatian coastline outside Dubrovnik. Painting and image by Graham MacLean

These are just some of my favourite paintings by Graham.  There are many more fabulous pictures in the three part series.

 

Twists, Trailers, and Judging Your Own Work

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Lovely night out at a local pub/restaurant. Good opportunities for people watching! (You never know when something said or what someone wears will strike you as a good idea for your own characters).

Have earned my first royalties on my published works, many thanks to #GillJames and Chapeltown Books for such hard work here. Glad to say will need to put in an order for From Light to Dark and Back Again before too long.

Have confirmed I will be going to a big Book Fair later in the year. More details later but am looking forward to this.

 

 

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Book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fvideos%2F1236887723080871%2F&show_text=0&width=560

I’ve put up the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again on my main writing page as I was thinking of my choices in this year’s Hall of Fame that Classic FM put on at the Easter weekend.

Danse Macabre by Saint Saens was one of them. I came across it when I watched the TV series Jonathan Creek but it struck me as being the perfect piece for my book trailer. Quirky music for quirky fiction!

I nearly always do have classical on when writing. It relaxes me and I write better when in a good state of mind. It also has the huge advantage of using up zero calories (sadly, the odd glass of prosecco and bar of chocolate cannot claim that! Sighs…. there really is some fantasy that is unlikely to be realised!😁).

 

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Facebook – General

Why do I like twist ending stories so much? For one thing, I like guessing at the ending. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m not.

A really good twist tale will make me admire the way it was set up and carried out (even if I did guess the outcome). An even better one not only surprises me with the way it turns out, but makes me go back through the story to look for the clues I clearly missed in the first place. I then berate myself for having missed them!

 

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When do you know your story, of whatever length, has really “taken off”? For me, it is when the characters come to life. You know (though almost certainly won’t say in the story) what they have for breakfast, what their major traits are, and what they’d be like in a fight – just to name a few random examples!

I find outlining a character before I write “for” them really helpful (and this is one reason I love Scrivener. The character and setting outlines in the fiction – short story option are amazing. The great thing is you can adapt them with anything you feel you want to jot down before you write the story itself).

For my flash tales, I prepare a brief outline (appropriately!) but I just need to know what my character is really like. Sometimes “awkward but brave” is enough to get me started on a character.

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction takes at least as much crafting as any other type of story because of the need to get the story across in as few words as possible. There is a balance to be struck here between the needs of the writer getting their story down and the editor ensuring the story comes in at the right word count.

I’ve found that it never pays to do the two writing tasks together. I get the story down and worry about editing later.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve talked about classical music on my main writing page tonight and why I used Danse Macabre for my book trailer theme for From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Do I have music in my mind when I write my stories? No, but I can often think along the lines that Character X would be a huge fan of rock or Character Y would love opera and so on. Thinking about what a character’s tastes would be is a great way of helping you to bring them to life on the page and, from a reader viewpoint, a very easy way to tell characters apart.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Sometimes you’re not always the best judge of your own work, but it is always good to know you are not alone here.

Spoiler alert!

I’ve been listening to Classic FM’s Hall of Fame and the 1812 Overture is the new No.1. Listening to it now in fact. Love the piece. Its composer,Tchaikovsky, however thought it had no artistic merit. Well, how wrong can you be? Quite a bit as it turns out!

I’ve found when looking through my stories, I’ve got to allow some time to pass between writing them and editing. I’ve got to come back to the pieces as if I’d not seen them before. It’s the only way I know to be objective about what I’ve written.

And it’s nice to know sometimes you can be wrong about your own work when you’re negative about it and others like it!

Classic music can make a classic filmMusic, whether writing it or playing it or both, is just one form of creativity - image via PixabayWriting, whether it is fiction or otherwise, is a wonderful way to create something new - image via Pixabayonce-upon-a-time-via PixabayOne joy of blogging is ease of publication via Pixabay

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction can be great for brief character sketches which give you a glimpse into that character’s life. My Pen Portrait is an example of this. What I’ve revealed in this tells you all you need to know about my heroine, Mary. The final line also shows something of her nature.

So what would you convey in a flash fiction piece like this given you haven’t the room for backstory as such? Just enough information to tell you what you need to know (in Pen Portrait you need to know what Mary’s job is) and leave enough “space” for your readers to fill in the gaps. In Pen Portrait, Mary has found a way of avoiding causing embarrassment to one of her neighbours but I don’t tell you why this is important to her. That’s for you to figure out!

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

I love listening to classical music as I write my flash fiction. So what has this got to do with books and stories generally?

Firstly, I find classical music relaxes me and so I write more easily. Secondly a great piece of music can help you envisage the world you create. If it is vivid for you, as it should be, it will be vivid for your reader.

Reading, however, whether it is my work or not, is carried out in silence. I don’t want music distracting me. Besides, my main reading time is just before I sleep! Definitely not time for something like the 1812 Overture (much as I love that!).

Music can convey so much. There have been some truly amazing film scores which can enhance the original story. I’m particularly thinking of the score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy here. Fabulous and fantastic story. The music for the film version reflected those aspects well, I thought.

Sometimes I can hear a piece of music and it will make me immediately think of a story. I hear Danse Macabre by Saint Saens and think of the stories in my From Light to Dark and Back Again as this great piece was used for my book trailer. I hear a Bond theme and I think of the film first but without the books by Fleming in the first place, there would be no movies.

It is quite nice to think that a creative work such a book leads to a film and in turn leads to wonderful music being created for that. What can the stories we read and write to lead to ultimately, I wonder? Well, it should be fun trying to find out!