The Writing Game – and What to Watch For

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

MAJOR NEW CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY SERIES

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales With Bite – Quirky Characters

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

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

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

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

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

 

This World and Others –

Elements of Worlds I Love to Pick Up On When Reading

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competitions, Reading, and Publication News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General

Every so often, I go through my list of potential competitions and whittle them down. I inevitably don’t get to enter all of them (time!) but I like to have a shortlist of contenders to pick from and I always go for the themes that appeal to me most. I do go in for open theme competitions too but actually prefer the set themes. I like to have a framework to work towards.

I wish I could say tidying the paperwork up immediately triggered inspiration for the Best Writing Idea Ever but I think I’d need the Writing Fairy to make a special appearance for that one to happen! 😆😆 I’ll let you know if she ever shows up….

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have been slowly getting back into reading again via the Kindle.

I talked about how I’ve not read that much since the lockdown began in my CFT post last week so I am pleased the drought is beginning to clear.

I have had patches of not reading much before, mainly at times of great upset/stress etc., but also know that those patches pass so it is a relief to be slowly coming out of this one. (The last time was around the time I lost my dad, just over three years ago and I didn’t start reading properly again until a week after the funeral).

And yes I’m reading humour. It is always what I turn to first to kickstart my reading “diet” again.

And if you find you’re not writing or reading so much (or both), go easy on yourself. See this as a temporary stage only. It is!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Managed to do a fair bit of editing over the weekend so am pleased with that. My CFT post this week will be looking at books on the radio and will feature YA author, Richard Hardie, as well as yours truly. More on that later in the week.

I must admit one advantage of writing mainly in the evenings is not having the heat browbeat me down! (I never work that well in very hot weather. Mind you, does anyone apart from the ice cream sellers?!😆).

I’ve long found creative writing to be therapeutic. I suppose it is because finding a form of artistic expression that suits me is so relaxing. I see writing as my wind-down time. I like to feel at the end of a session I used the time productively even if I “only” produced two flash fiction stories, say. I want to feel happy with what I’ve written even at first draft stage (because I know the work will only get better after that).

For longer term projects, I want to feel as I’ve made progress and I can see where I’ve got to go next.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post tonight. My story Breaking Out is now on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy.

The opening line comes from a prompt I contributed to the Prompts book produced by Gill James (see picture below). Do check it out in the usual places. You won’t run out of writing prompts!

 

Prompts 2020 by [Gill James]

Facebook – General

As you know, when I’m planning out a character I focus on their major trait(s) and there usually is more than one. After all, someone isn’t just brave, say. They may well be honest, charitable, compassionate and so on as well. It is the combination of traits that sparks a character (and therefore the story).

A character who is generally honest but is forced to lie to protect people they love is going to be a character I want to read about. I will want to find out what happens as a result of that lie but also how the character deals with their internal conflict here. While they’ll be happy to protect loved ones, they won’t be happy to have had to lie so how do they handle that?

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook –

From Light to Dark and Back Again – Story Time!

Story time again. Random question generator time again. Hope you enjoy.

The question was what are the two things you would do if you woke up to find you were invisible? My answers? Panic and wonder whether I’d ever “come back”! But I thought it would be fun to write a story on this.

IN TIME

I knew something was up the moment the alarm woke me. Oh it was set for the usual time – 5.40 am – but when I realised I couldn’t see my hand as I went to switch the wretched thing off, I began to panic. I thought at first I’d lost my sight but then realised I was looking at where my hand should be and I could see my wardrobe in one corner of my room. Opposite was my chair.

I got up and went towards the full length mirror which was something I’d inherited from my gran. There was nothing in the mirror. Now I know I’m not a vampire and you’ll just have to take my word for it on that. This is when my panic settings went from mild to through the roof and up into the stratosphere territory. Well, you just would panic, wouldn’t you?

And then I remembered. I was rushing home from work and bumped into a scatter brained old lady who stepped in front of me in such a way I had no time to stop. I shouted at her to look where she was going, was she blind or something, and yes I know I was bloody rude and I am sorry about that. I’d had a horrendous day at work and I just wanted to get home. I know – no excuses but I want you to know I’m not normally rude.

Anyway she called out that she would teach me to look and I just laughed at that and thought nothing of it. I laughed even more when she got a big stick from her handbag and waved it in my direction. Who did she think she was – a fairy godmother or something?

I don’t know what to do. Will this wear off? She did call out I’d have to come and grovel to her soon. I laughed at that too.
Trouble is, it doesn’t seem so damned funny now.

I’ll be off. I’ll get my coat. If I’ve got to grovel, I’d rather get it over and done with.

Ends

Allison Symes – 23rd May 2020

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope you enjoyed my story, In Time, yesterday. This is the first time I’ve used the random question generator as the theme of the story, rather than as the title, opening or closing line. So yet another use for the generators then!

I’ve sometimes come across writing prompts that I would like to have a go at but I’m not happy with the ideas I come up with so I will bear using the prompt as a theme instead. I think that will give more flexibility.

What I would be inclined to do here is save such stories generated this way for open competitions where you set the theme anyway.

It means an idea could well produce something for you that you might otherwise have written off if you weren’t happy with something you’ve prepared with a specific theme-set competition in mind.

I’ve always found it best to submit the very best stories I can produce. Anything I’m not happy with for any reason doesn’t get binned. Neither does it get submitted. I save it and see if I can salvage something from it later and usually I can. Okay it can’t go in for that competition but that’s fine. If the author’s not happy with the story, the competition judge won’t be either!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What would you say are your favourite kinds of stories and why?

I love:-

Humorous prose, especially fantasy, as I enjoy a good laugh.

Crime(though not the very violent type) as I enjoy the puzzle and seeing justice being done.

History – fiction and non-fiction. I learn from both. A well told historical fiction story does seem to transport me back to the era it is set in. (Music can do this too. I love Ralph Vaughan-Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for that reason). A good non-fiction book will show me aspects of a historical character I’d not considered before.

Fairytales –first love, storywise. Always enjoy seeing the deserving get what they deserve (and this is even more true for the villains!).

And what I love most about flash fiction is the form is open enough for you to write in those genres and many more. All you need worry about is the word count and even there you have flexibility from the very short to the right on the 1,000 words limit. There are competitions and markets to suit the entire range too.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I mix up how I approach writing flash fiction in terms of word count. There are times I know I want to write to a specific count (usually 75 or 100 words) for a chosen market and/or competition.

At other times, having outlined my story and character(s), I write it and then work out what word count it works best at. I then keep that story one side until a suitable market/competitiion comes up.

If a story works best at 250 words, I keep it there and won’t try and edit it down to get to a sub-200 word competition.

And how do I judge where a story works best?

It’s always about the impact of the character for me. The next thing I ask myself is whether there is anything I could add to or take out of the story which would improve the tale and its impact. When the answer is no, I’m there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events

One of the things I miss most as a writer at the moment is the ability to go to book events.

Much as I do deeply appreciate what is available online, and it is a lifeline, I miss going into libraries and bookshops.

I also miss going to author events and I look forward to being able to do all of these things again in due course.

The Waterloo Arts Festival is going to be online this year. I’ll be taking part in that as one of the winners of their writing competition and I made a video for this.

It was good fun to do but oh I shall miss meeting up in person with my fellow writers. (We will all miss the pub lunch beforehand too!).

But the good news is books can still be celebrated and they should be. Of all the times to need books for escapism, it is now, isn’t it?

Whatever you’re reading, I hope you have a wonderful time “between the covers” and, whoever it is you’re reading, do consider leaving a review in the usual places including here. It really does help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favourite book images. They really are magical. Transportation into other worlds and around this one in a few hundred pages. Brilliant! Image via Pixabay.

WHEN A CHARACTER KNOWS THEY’RE IN TROUBLE

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

When a Character knows they’re in trouble is another of my “sum it all up in the title” posts! A short, sharp list of points for a character to ponder – do you agree with what I’ve come up with?  Can you add to the list?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Reviewing Characters is another sum it up title!  I appear to be on a roll with these tonight!  But it occurred to me it would be no bad thing for writers to review their characters every so often.  Are the characters still coming across the way you want them to do so?  If not is this because they’ve developed and do you need to change your story to handle that development correctly?  Characters should change and develop of course, it’s the classic sign they “live” (and as a result so does the story), but a check to see the character is still “up to the job” is no bad thing I feel.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I was really pleased Andy Murray won in Vienna.  I discuss my thoughts on that and the creative arts in my FB page tonight.  A strange mix?  I don’t think so.  Sports people can be creative in how they play after all (AM is a great example of that.  Some of his shots take my breath away in a “how the hell did he do that” kind of way).  I also love the fact that there are so many forms of creative arts, so much so there is bound to be at least one to suit most people!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F811856708917310&width=500

When I'm not at my desk, I'm likely to be in the swimming pool or walking the dog (never both at the same time!). Image via Pixabay.

When I’m not at my desk, I’m likely to be in the swimming pool or walking the dog (never both at the same time!). Image via Pixabay.

FICTIONAL TEACHING, ADVICE AND INTERVIEWS

Both of my website posts tonight were inspired by my Chandler’s Ford Today interview post with Barbara Large, the second part of which went up on site tonight.  Link below.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I look at fictional interviews in tonight’s post and these can be a great way of revealing more about characters (both interviewer and interviewee) as long as the interview serves the story and moves it onwards to its conclusion.

Some of my previous posts on my websites have discussed interviewing your own characters and that can be a useful technique to find out more what makes them tick.  But whether the interview is actually in the story or you are using one to help flesh out your portrayal of a character, it should convey significant information, which is crucial to your story in some way.

This is because you may well find out something about the character that you had not originally envisioned but the interview brings out.  Find out where that takes you, it could be fun (!), indeed I think it should be fun (!!), and it should add depth to your character portrayal if nothing else.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Teaching and Advice looks at the role of teachers, advisors/mentors in the role of fiction.  What experience do they have?  How does it help the one they are advising?  Are the teachers and advisors generally respected or not (and why is this the case)?  Plenty of story ideas to be found here I think!

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share details of my Chandler’s Ford Today post, which is part 2 of my interview with Barbara Large.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F810170759085905&width=500

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

Part 2 of my interview with Barbara Large is now on site and, as ever, Barbara shares a wealth of advice for writers of all backgrounds.  It was a great joy to meet up with her again and I can’t overestimate how much she has supported writers of fiction (all genres) and non-fiction over the years.  It was lovely to talk to her and thank you, Barbara, for sparing your very precious time for the interview.

The Writing Life with Barbara Large is a two part interview and now available via Chandler's Ford Today, Image via Pixabay.

The Writing Life with Barbara Large is a two part interview and now available via Chandler’s Ford Today, Image via Pixabay.

 

Story Shuffle Project: Choosing what to read. Image supplied by Eastleigh Borough Council.

EXPECTATIONS OF A FAIRY GODMOTHER

I’ve written lists tonight for both of my website posts.  I do love a good list!

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Expectations of a Fairy Godmother lists ten things an experienced fairy godmother should expect during the course of her career.  If you can think of any to add, I’d welcome comments!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Why Annoying a Writer is Not a Good Idea gives 10 reasons why this is so.  Again, if you can think of others, I’d be glad to get your comments!  This post was inspired by a Facebook photo doing the rounds earlier this evening.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

I’ve written a quick update post tonight on the Story Shuffle Project.  This project is a great way of encouraging local school children to create their own stories and use their local libraries.

The idea is they write a story which, for this project, will be based on the tales of Sir Bevis of Hampton, Southampton’s legendary hero – think James Bond on tapestries basically!).  The stories are then digitised and put into the Shuffle app.

The children are given a code and have to visit their local library to use this code to unlock their own stories and gain access to a wealth of other books and stories.  From a writer’s viewpoint there is nothing not to like about this – creative writing and library use, wow!

I do hope all who use this project have a great deal of fun with it.  Tonight’s update shares further images sent into CFT about this.  I think the app looks great.  See what you think!  (And I hope ideas like this spread – great use of technology, stories, history, animation etc).

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share news of my CFT update and must thank Eastleigh Borough Council for supplying the images.  They support the Story Shuffle Project because of its role in encouraging creative writing and reading.  I must also thank my lovely editor for re-arranging the feature image.  She is very creative on this sort of thing!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F806716466098001&width=500

Story Shuffle Project: Code Setter. Image supplied by Eastleigh Borough Council.

Story Shuffle Project: Code Setter. Image supplied by Eastleigh Borough Council.