What Books Mean to Me, Bridge House Publishing, and Random Questions

Image Credit:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of one of my stories from The Best of CafeLit 10. I also took the photo of my books at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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Hope you have had a good day. Not so cold today and Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, who is a very lovable Labradoodle.

Looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I’ll be writing about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival and sharing why events like this matter (and not just to the authors taking part either). Link up on Friday.

Am putting finishing touches to my author newsletter too and that goes out tomorrow, 1st December. Can hardly believe we’re almost at December already. (And I do hope you have a good number of books on your wish list!).

Also, I was delighted to come up with a new idea for a flash fiction story when I was taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group recently. Have written it up, polished it, and submitted it. Now fingers crossed time!

It’s my turn once again on the More than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about What Books Mean to Me and the challenge here was to keep to the 500 words limit!

Mind you, it is a topic every writer could go on about at length. We’re inspired by what we read. The more we read the bigger our “inspiration net” from which to fish. And we’re supporting the industry we want to be part of – win-win there I think.

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Brr… another cold day here. Am grateful for thick clothes, big coat, long scarf, and gloves for walking the dog. Glamorous? Err… no!

I’ll be talking about What Books Mean to Me in my blog for the Association of Christian Writers tomorrow. See link above. The challenge there was keeping that topic to 500 words! You can see how I did tomorrow when I put the link up.

Pleased to see more comments coming in on Moving Along, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction.

Am working on material for another Zoom talk in February and I’m almost there with material for my third flash fiction collection. It will need robust editing before I submit it but I am hoping to get that off by the spring of next year, earlier if possible. I am happy with the material in and of itself but I know thorough editing will sharpen what’s there and I enjoy that process.

But it is also a relief to know I’ve got the book “down”, the stories are a good mix, and editing will improve them still further. What’s not to like there? Do I wish it was a quicker process? Sometimes. But I know I need a decent break between writing the stories and then going back and editing them. Taking the time there has helped me enormously in the past to see more clearly what is working and what doesn’t. It then gives me my best chance of submitting the best I can to a publisher.

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Hope everyone is okay. Very stormy conditions in the UK today. Hampshire saw snow, sleet, rain, bitter cold, and strong winds for a lot of Saturday. Even Lady wasn’t that impressed. She isn’t usually fazed by the weather.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for sending out on 1st December. I share tips, prompts, video links and all sorts here. Head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if this sounds of interest.

I’ll be talking about the recent Brechin/Angus Book Festival for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Many thanks once again to Lynn Clement for the recent two-part interview. It is always a joy to interview other writers for CFT as I always learn something interesting/useful to know (and often both).

The great thing with creative writing is that it is an ongoing process to find out what it is you like to write and then to try and get better at it. Good for the old imagination and the brain as a whole. And then there are all those competitions and markets to still try and crack… no excuse for becoming bored then!

Screenshot 2021-11-30 at 20-37-37 The Appeal of AnthologiesCreative writing is a joy

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Am looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event on Saturday. It will be nice meeting up with Lynn Clement again, whose The City of Stories, has recently been published by Chapeltown Books. I recently interviewed Lynn to discuss flash fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Flash is a wonderful format for sharing on social media. For something to entertain without taking up too much of anyone’s time, it can’t be beaten. And it is easy to share at in-person events too. In the busyness of life, it is great to take time out for a very quick read indeed!

I’ve found it pays me to just get the story written and worry about the editing and word count later. Some flash pieces genuinely do work better at 250 words rather than 100 words, for example. It is only by getting the whole story down and giving myself breathing space to look at it properly later, I can see that yes, this needs to be kept in and that doesn’t.

Over time, you do develop an instinct for what will work better at a slightly longer word count and I’ve learned to trust that instinct when it kicks in.

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Back to my normal slot for story time. Hope you enjoy Going On. This one came about as a result of a question from a random question generator (what can you talk about for hours?). I’ve used the same question as the basis for my story for Friday Flash Fiction this week too. Good fun to do.


Am glad to report there’s a special offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon right now. See link below. And a big thank you to those who have picked up the Kindle version recently too. Much appreciated (and if you have time to leave a review, even better).

I’ve mentioned before I’m often using Sundays to produce new stories for YouTube and Friday Flash Fiction respectively and I often use the random generators to trigger my ideas here.

Having a quick look at a random question generator, the question that cropped up was “what can you talk about for hours”? I don’t know yet if I will use that for my stories tonight but the thought struck me it would be a good question to ask your characters as you outline them. You are sure to find out more about what makes them tick by getting “them” to answer that. It should highlight some of their overall attitudes to life too.

For example, if the answer is “military history”, say, you could then dig deeper to find out why your character is fascinated by that. What does that reveal about them? Could an opponent use this against them in some way? And there’s your story outline as you think about the answers to those questions. Using one question to trigger others works for story outlining.

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I often write festive flash fiction. My last Chandler’s Ford Today post of the year usually features some. And I have just written a piece and submitted it on a festive theme. Will report back it if it gets taken. I often share a festive dribble (50 words) or drabble (100) words on my Facebook pages too. (The 50 word ones also work well on Twitter).

I see it as a nice way to wrap up the old year and hopefully the tales will raise a smile or two. Naturally I keep the theme for thee stories light. I do avoid any kind of whimsy though. Even tales featuring Santa will have a bit of a bite to them (albeit a nice bite!).

And when I do write a fairytale kind of story, again apt for the rapidly approaching season, there will be a twist or a sense of irony in the story somewhere. Fairytales were never meant to be twee. I think stories with humour are often the best for getting any kind of message across anyway. It helps to make it palatable.

But what I want most for my festive fiction is for there to be a sense of fun about them. I certainly have fun writing them and I hope that comes across.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Appeal of Anthologies

Naturally I am a bit biased here as I’m honoured to have several of my stories appear in various anthologies over the years. It’s a pleasure to write short stories for these and even more of a pleasure when said tales are accepted.

But, regardless of that, I have always had a soft spot for anthologies. Why? I like to see them as a reading “mixed assortment”. Who ever said that just worked for biscuits or chocolates?! It works for books too!

What I get most from anthologies is the wonderful range of talent on offer. I get to read authors I might not have come across otherwise and, when the anthology is to a set theme, it is fascinating to see how so many different writers bring their own take to that topic.

I deliberately read anthologies, including flash fiction ones, between novels. They do act almost like a “starter meal” for my next longer read. Indeed, if I’m not sure which novel to read next, by the time I’ve come to the end of an anthology, I know which mood (and therefore genre) of novel I want to read next.

So do check the anthologies out. (They’re also useful for seeing if you like the work of an author new to you. If you like their short work, it is highly likely you will like their longer books).

And happy reading – short and long form!

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Triggers and Descriptions

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Image of me signing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School was kindly taken by Fiona Park while the photo of Lady and I examining my books was taken by Adrian Symes. I took the photo of my two flash collections for sale at Swanwick in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good few days. Writing going well. Weather less so right now!

Facebook – General

I swear it was almost time to call Noah out again given the amount of rain that has fallen in my part of Hampshire today! Hope it is not too bad where you are.

Have booked my train tickets for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. I always get tickets posted so hopefully these will be with me in a few days.

Have got my train tickets for the first Association of Christian Writers in-person to be held since before lockdown – that will be on 9th October. Looking forward to that and seeing everyone again. I will make use of my railcard this year! (And it will be nice to hopefully sell a few books in person again too!).

My lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today and I are planning to be at the next production by The Chameleon Theatre Group in October (which will be Murder With Ghosts – sounds fun!). Definitely time for another CFT “works outing” I feel. Not the same when I go on my own!

Hope you have had a good Monday. Was pleased to get a significant amount of editing done over the weekend on what I hope will end up being my third flash fiction collection. And I managed to draft some future blogs so those will come in handy in due course.

Am enjoying the new series of Just a Minute. It is odd not having Nicholas Parsons in the chair but Sue Perkins is doing a grand job. One of the reasons I love this show is there is some wonderful word play and I always have a lot of time for that! It also shows how difficult it is not to repeat. Every word has to count – and I guess that would always prove popular with a flash fiction writer.

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on An Undesirable Property, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Much appreciated. Am currently working on another story for this week’s submission and hope to get that polished and sent off later this evening.

I’ll be looking at Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month as my topic for Chandler’s Ford Today this week given Friday will be 1st October. I’ll also look at how we can use sayings in our fiction and non-fiction. I’ve used several sayings as titles and/or themes for my flash fiction stories, for example. So don’t throw out your books of proverbs and well known sayings. Mine them for ideas!

Talking of the first of the month, my author newsletter will go out on Friday as well. I share tips, news, writing prompts, and stories here. If you’d like to sign up head over to my website (landing page).

 

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice to catch up with friends and family today. Lady loved seeing everyone. She loves people (and the food they drop of course). Autumn evenings drawing in – getting dark here before 8 pm.

I don’t use a lot of description, mainly because in flash room for this is limited. What I look for is the telling detail, something that will show a reader setting, character age/class (often done via the name I give them – names can date people – mine does as I mentioned the other day), or story mood.

It is a case of working out what a reader has to know and what can be left for them to pick up on inference/context. I ask myself when editing a story, does the tale make sense without it? Does the tale lose anything if I take this out?

I am more interested in character than description anyway. I want to know what a character is like. Finding out where they live is, for me, something I will pick up as I keep reading. What I don’t want is to be switched off by long descriptions.

I want the dialogue, the character’s thoughts etc and description slipped in every now and then. I will “assimilate” that. I don’t want a great big block of description (and I am wary that kind of thing is likely to switch a lot of readers off. They want to know what is happening as opposed to what something looks like).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Triggers for story ideas can come from anywhere – and at unexpected times. (Not always convenient times either). I’ve never used the keep a notebook and pen by your bed so if you wake up with a great idea you can jot it down quickly. Why? Because when I’m asleep, that is it.

I don’t tend to dream story ideas. They come to me as I’m getting on with other things, which is fine if I can pause to jot things down, but that is not always possible. I have had odd ideas come to me when in the shower, when I’ve just parked, when on the loo etc. What I will do here is grab my phone and use Evernote to jot things down as quickly as I can after the idea has occurred. Best endeavours and all that).

But I worry less now about “missing an idea” because I know now in a way I didn’t when starting out that ideas will crop up. It’s not as if you have one “go” at getting ideas, far from it.

The best trigger I know and often make use of is to ask the old “what if” question? For Being Yourself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I knew my character was going to be accused by a love rival of being cold. So I asked myself what if my character could become cold? What would that make her capable of and how could she use this against her rival?

And random generators can be a good way of triggering words to put into a story. I’ve done this recently and I came up with promising words and then asked the what if question. That showed me how to use this words well and two of my more recent videos on my YouTube channel came about because I did this.

 


Delighted to share my latest YouTube video called Housework. Even dragons tidy up when they have a strong enough motivation to do so. Hope you enjoy.

F = Fun to Write – and you can write across genres too.
L = Less is More – what are the telling details your reader must know?
A = Always axe anything that does not move your story along in some way.
S = Story, story, story. What happens? How does your character change? What is the important thing we need to know about your character in this tale?
H = Has an upper limit of 1000 words but you can write across the spectrum. There are different categories including the dribble (50 words) and drabble (100 words – and my favourite). You can pack a lot into a tiny tale whether or not you go to the upper word limit.

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I was talking over on my author page about not wanting a lot of description. There isn’t room for it in flash anyway. I chatted about telling details and working out what a reader has to know. Some examples from my published stories include:-

Making the Grade – one word, “magical” ahead of the word “exams” shows my reader the character is not in any ordinary school and they have talents we do not.

Pen Portrait – “brushed her hair once a day” shows you my character, whatever else she is, isn’t vain.

It Has to be Me – the words “you break customs at your peril” shows you my character lives in a repressive world.

There is an indication of setting in two of these as well.

Also, given we live in a TV and film era, the days of long descriptions are behind us, I think. Someone like Dickens had to spell out what London looked like for readers who would probably never go there. We, on the other hand, can take shortcuts here as we can set a story in London and most people will have their own ideas as to what that looks like.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shopping

Book shopping is an absolute pleasure, of course, and I like to mix up how I do this. I do shop online but mix up the retailers I use (and I like to also support those who support independent bookshops. I have used You Know Who and I have found them helpful with out of print books in the past. I also believe in not putting all my eggs in one basket here but that goes for You Know Who as well as the other retailers here).

I also love going into a “proper” bookshop and browsing. Have not done the latter yet since the pandemic restrictions were lifted but hope it will be something I get back to before too long.
And the nice thing here is that book shopping is easy enough for family and friends to do for you for Christmas etc. Just give them a list of the books you want and send them to Waterstones!

I also like to mix up asking for paperbacks and ebooks (though usually I’ll sort out the latter myself). And I like to have non-fiction as well as fiction on my Wish List. The downside of all of this?

I know I need to sort out my book shelves. Adding more books is not going to help! But it is a nice problem to have!

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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.

 

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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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Moments, One Liners, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots of my latest CafeLit story and latest Author Electric blog spot taken by me, Allison Symes. (But do go and check the links out – see posts below!).

Spring has finally turned up here in the UK – hooray!

 

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Loving the spring weather (now it is finally here!).

Don’t forget the ebook of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon for £0.99 for the next two days. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter. If you would like to sign up for a monthly newsletter, full of tips and stories, as well as news, please go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – and on sign up, you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

In other news, as they say, what do you make of writing prompts? I love them though I appreciate not everybody does. My favourite kind is the opening line. I like to rise to the challenge of them! I also like picture prompts though I find it easiest to use a prompt like that where the image is taken by someone else. I suppose with my own photos I’ve already got the links and stories in my head associated with those pictures.

I find writing prompts are a great “go to” as a warm-up writing exercise but the most important thing about them is to have fun with them. If they take you out of your comfort zone, then you’re being stretched as a writer and it is only by being stretched like that, you will find out what you are capable of and it may well prove to be more than you think.

Definitely worth a go I think!

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CafeLit – Publication News

Pleased to share a new CafeLit story from me – Smashing Sally. This is a long piece (by my standards!) but I hope you enjoy it. I was rooting for Sally all the way through – and I don’t always do that for my characters as it depends on how I’ve portrayed them! – and hope you do too. (Also nice to have a longer piece published again. Makes for a nice balance with my recent drabbles on Friday Flash Fiction!).

 

Facebook – General and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my latest post for Authors Electric. This time I talk about editing. I look at when to edit and discuss whether you can edit too much. I always feel a sense of relief when I’ve got my first draft down because I then know I’ve got something to work with and improve and it will improve after a decent edit.

I can’t edit as I go. I have to reassure myself it is okay to write total rubbish to begin with because it is not going to stay in and that nobody but nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft. That’s definitely not going to change with me!

However you write and edit, what matters is you do and it helps enormously to get as much creative joy out of both processes (if only for your own sake!).

Hope you enjoy.

Thought the funeral service for HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was beautifully done. Felt so sorry for the Queen sitting alone. (And for anyone who has had to do that this past year).

Looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric blog tomorrow and there will be a new CafeLit story from me up on that website on Monday.

Oh and a quick shout out for #ValPenny who kindly gave me a mention on her blog today.

Friday night is often Zoom night for me and it was lovely catching up with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. To think just over a year ago, if someone mentioned Zoom to me, all I would think of was that it is a fabulous ice lolly and a great word to get out in a game of Scrabble, especially if you can get it out on the triple word score! Yet since then, I’ve attended various writing events on Zoom, given a talk on Zoom, and been part of an international writing summit (the Share Your Story Writing one) all thanks to it. I wonder where we’ll be a year from now!

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Many thanks for the great response to my new story video, Fear. (See below for link to it). Some aspects of life never change and my character’s attitude and actions in this prove that!

It has been a joy to find a way of using my mini-tales (the one and two sentence kind) as a way of flagging up (a) what I do and (b) what flash fiction can be. I never anticipated having my own Youtube channel only a year or so ago.

I adore writing the mini tales because they are an excellent challenge (and would also work well on Twitter incidentally which reminded me to just put Fear on there!).

I like writing across the range for flash. The form has more flexibility than it might at first appear. Not only can you set your characters in different genres and times etc., you can choose the word count to write to as long as you don’t go above the 1000 maximum allowed. I’ve written across the word count range though my natural home is under 500 words. Have fun with the format!

 

Time for a new mini-story video again. This one is called Fear. Hope you enjoy it though it will have more meaning I suspect for the cat owners out there! (Also like to think of this as a kind of tribute to the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Absolutely adore those though clearly Jerry was the intelligent one. Being small myself, I like that!).

 

 


One reason I like to start my stories with a character I know well enough to write for is that stories encourage empathy and understanding. Therefore I think it crucial to understand your character and where they are coming from so you understand (as will your reader) their actions and attitudes. It is that which I think keeps readers reading. Readers will follow a character they can get behind.

The great thing is you don’t have to like the character. You don’t have to approve of their actions either but you do need to understand why they are the way they are. Interviewing your characters is something I’ve mentioned before but it is a useful way of making sure you know what you need to know before getting that first draft down.

It is also my belief it will save you a great deal of time later. I know I’ve stopped myself going off on unhelpful tangents by simply using an outline of my character so I know what they are likely to do. It doesn’t stop them surprising me but when the surprise comes, my reaction should be one of “yes, that’s possible because they’re capable of this, that, and that, so doing this ties in with that”.

If something comes completely out of the blue, I need to look at my character again because I want to know where that surprise came from. There is always a trigger. And it flags up to me I didn’t know my character as well as I thought I did.

Oh and a quick bit of promotional – the Kindle version of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently available on Amazon at the bargain price of £0.99 so do grab a copy. Offer lasts for four days.

Little moments can have a powerful impact and that is something flash fiction brings out so well. I mention this as I was moved at seeing the late Prince Philip’s hat and gloves on the seat of the horse drawn carriage today. (17th April 2021 – for the royal funeral).  (Also loved seeing the sugar lump pot for his horses). Things like that mean a great deal.

Another item that brings things home are shoes. If you ever go to the Imperial War Museum or the Mary Rose Exhibition when such things are possible again, there are a collection of shoes there, which brings home to you the people they’re telling you about were real. And, for me, there is a link forged between the past and the present.

So when it comes to our storytelling, what are your characters’ little moments? The things that mean the most to them? Why do these things mean so much? What it is about them that will convince your readers about the truth of your character portrayal?

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Goodreads Author Blog – One Liners

What are your favourite one liners from stories etc?

I love the opening to Pride and Prejudice.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Sets the scene and the tone. Beautifully done.

I also love this one, by complete contrast, from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.


“Many phenomena – wars, plagues, sudden audits – have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for exhibit A.”

Hard to argue with that one! It certainly explains the queues…

A good one-liner usually makes me smile or laugh out loud. A really good one-liner will make me pause, read it again and enjoy it again, before moving on to the rest of the story.

And there are far too many from P.G. Wodehouse to quote here but that in itself is a tribute to his wonderful ability to come up with lines that just “hit” you and make you laugh out loud.

As you will gather from this, my favourite one-liners are of the humorous variety. Which are yours?

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Keeping Busy, Desk Tidying, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

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

Allison Symes - Published Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Belated Publication News – Cafelit – Strangers In the Night

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Allison Symes – 25th July 2020

 

Hope you enjoy!

 

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

AWW Detector? What’s that?

Simple: Allison’s Wasted Words Detector.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goodreads Author Blog – Intriguing Titles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editing, Haiku, and Swimming

A lovely mixture tonight, I think!

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay if not stated otherwise.

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When you edit your stories, what are you looking for first and foremost? I look for the impact. Does the character make me react the way I want them to make me react? The way I thought they would when I drafted the story?
Of course, I check for typos and grammatical errors too. Yes, I’ll inevitably find some. We all do! But it is the impact of the character that is the most important thing for me. Why?
Simply because if the character doesn’t make me feel something, I, as a reader, am not going to care that much about the perfect grammar and the exquisite spelling!
Grammar and spelling do matter (and this is where writing buddies can be so helpful if these things are not your strong point. They will see things you do not etc). But I would argue get the story right first and then tidy the other matters up.
It will be the story and the characters readers remember.
Incidentally when people don’t notice the spelling and grammar, that is a very good sign. It shows you’ve got these things right. It also shows people were so gripped by your story and characters they had to keep reading.
Where spelling and grammar do matter is when people are enjoying your stories, you don’t want them to have their reading flow interrupted by an annoying typo. But get the story straight, then polish the spelling and grammar up.

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Hope you’ve had a nice weekend. Lovely to have family around in the garden yesterday. Weekends are starting to feel a little more like weekends.
Writing wise, I’m working on a new series for CFT. Details later in the week. It is going to be one of those series with plenty of tips and advice which I, and my lovely guest contributors, all hope you find useful.
And naturally I’m itching to reveal the book cover for Tripping the Flash Fantastic so am looking forward to when I can do that.
Am also working on “homework” as a result of pieces created during the creative writing workshop on Zoom I “went to” on Wednesday. That was good fun as I mentioned yesterday. Definitely liked the haiku challenge.
My longer term projects, including a non-fiction one, are on the backburner at the moment but I hope to get back to those before too long.
I also need to find another short story competition to try and polish up those entries from earlier in the year I now know didn’t get anywhere in the competitions I submitted them for.
But I’ve sometimes had success with a reworked story submitted to another competition or market so this is worth doing. Occasionally I find I can’t do anything else with the story but the character really grabs me (and I would hope other readers) so I see if I can do something else with them.
Must admit though I am also looking forward to when the writing conferences etc come back and I can meet up with friends in person. Zoom is an asset but it is not/cannot be quite the same. (For one thing, whether I’m drinking tea or prosecco, I much prefer to do that in company!).

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Hope Monday has not been too tricky for you. Lady has had a cracking start to her week. She got to play with her best doggie buddie today. Tonight she is zonked (and I suspect her pal is too). There’s a link there somewhere.
I’ve started my writing week by updating the blurb which appears on this author page. It’s about time I had something about the flash fiction in there! Ooops. Still sorted now.
It’s easy to forget, I think, there is a whole wealth of things going on behind the scenes for most writers. Updating websites, profiles etc., takes time but I see this as part of the marketing work. I try to do something on that side of things most days even if it is just joining in with a writing topic of interest somewhere on the web. I see that as engaging with other people and THAT is a big part of what writers do. We want people to engage with our stories, of course, but they’ve got to know we write them in the first place!😊

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Bit of good news today. I should be able to book swimming soon. I have missed that. But it is good that this aspect of life is coming back.
I had thought I’d use my time in the pool to think out story ideas etc. As with walking the dog, not a bit of it, but it is wonderful “down time” and I always go back refreshed. So there’s the mental benefit I think.
I swim the front crawl. It IS going to be a crawl for a bit I should think!
Am catching up with some reading on Kindle and thoroughly enjoying that. Hope to post a couple of reviews by the end of the week. (Reviews matter!).
I read inside and outside of my genre, flash fiction, and I love the mixture of what I read. My absolute go-to has to be humour though. And if ever there was a period of time in my lifetime where a laugh from a good book has been a blessing, it really has been over the last few months.

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

I’ve been drafting some haiku this week as part of a Zoom creative writing workshop I enjoyed this week. Can you tell a flash fiction in haiku I wonder? Let’s see, shall we?
1. The bear squashed the chair
To stop Goldilocks, that mare
Revisiting house.
2. Spinning wheel needle
Pricks the girl’s finger and then
Extended nap time!
Allison Symes
18th July 2020
Hope you enjoy!

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If you have a scene with a character that can’t go into a story, why not turn it into a stand alone flash fiction tale?
The most common reason for a scene not making it into a story is that the scene doesn’t add anything so what’s the point of having it in there?
That’s the right response incidentally. Anything that doesn’t move your story on should be cut.
I’ve had an issue since the new look Facebook came in re posting pictures to my FLTDBA page. Have reported it. No response as yet! It is a pity as I like the new look one but if not sorted out, may have to return to the old. Still I CAN post pictures for you good people here!

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It may seem an odd mix to be both a flash fiction writer and a blogger but I like the contrast. I like making things up for one and sticking to the facts for the other. I’ll leave it to you to work out which way around that works out!😆
One thing on my fairly long To Do list is to have a crack at writing what I’ve heard called flash non-fiction. I do wonder if that is just another name for blogging which is 500 words or under. Any thoughts on that? It is interesting there are calls out now for factual pieces kept to a tight word count.
I can see the point of that. Short, sharp pieces to encourage people to read further into a subject later – yes, I like that idea.

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1. The click of the mouse
Means I am writing again;
I still love my pen.
2. A flash fiction tale
Often has one character
With one main focus.
Allison Symes – 21st July 2020
I really DID enjoy the haiku challenge set on the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on last week. There is a follow-up session tomorrow which I am looking forward to but the point in the second haiku here remains!
Oh and it proves I can count to 5, 7, and 5 again so I guess that’s a bonus!
Flash is remarkably open to form. I’ve written flash in poetic form (and there will be some examples of that in Tripping the Flash Fantastic). I’ve also written flash in diary format too (and again see the next book when it is out). I’ve written flash in all sorts of genres. It is a great vehicle for strong characters and having fun with said strong characters.

Goodreads Author Blog – 

First Books You Chose For Yourself

Do you remember the first book you chose for yourself?

The first single book I chose was Jane Austen’s Collected Works. It is handy having them in one volume!

The first book series I collected (and still have) was the Agatha Christie series published via Odhams Books. Remember them? The nice thing with that series is it covers all of her major characters from Poirot to Marple to Tommy and Tuppence. Great stories.

The first fantasy book I chose for myself was The Lord of the Rings.

The first history book I chose was Simon Schama’s History of Britain which tied in with his TV series of the same name.

The first comic series I went for was P.G. Wodehouse’s wonderful works. (I don’t have them all but do have a fair number). I started with Jeeves and Wooster, thanks to the fab TV adaptation where Stephen Fry played Jeeves and Hugh Lawrie played Bertie.

I then went on to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. I started with Jingo and then worked backwards to the beginning with The Colour of Magic.

Oh and I mustn’t forget Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. My local (at the time) ITV network, Southern TV (sadly long gone), produced a great adaptation of these and the books were reissued with the covers showing the child actors in their roles. Sadly Southern lost their franchise and I believe the series ended. I don’t know what happened to the books I managed to collect (I used to be able to buy them from the local newsagent – how times have changed!) but loved the stories.

So can TV and film have a great influence on book buying? Oh yes!

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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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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competitions, Reading, and Publication News

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

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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….

 

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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!

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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.

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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]

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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?

 

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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

 

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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!

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Debts and Colours

Image Credit:  As ever all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

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It’s colourful out in the garden at the moment with the laburnum in bloom and my favourite, the lilac, out too. I wouldn’t wear the combination of yellow and purple but for garden plants, they work beautifully!

Colours are a good way to work in a bit more detail into your fiction for few words. For example, instead of saying something was red, say it was crimson or scarlet. Be specific.

And if you want some inspiration do a search for colour charts. The paint companies have loads online and there are other lists of colours available including nail polish shades. So think pink (to quote the Pink Panther), think blush, think hot pink etc etc.

I love the telling detail in a story. I don’t need lots of description. Writing flash fiction also means I haven’t room for it anyway. But I can picture a crimson chaise longue better than if the colour isn’t in there.

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Submitted a short story for a competition today and have picked out the next one to have try at so am pleased with that.

I try to ensure I have a story “out there”, one I’m drafting, and a completed one I’m “resting” so I can come back and edit it later.

I need sufficient distance away from a story before I can edit it. I’ve found if I don’t do that, I have one of two responses to the story. One is it is total rubbish. The other it is the best thing I’ve ever written! Neither is true!

What IS true is there is a potential great story here but it needs the dross editing away from it, turns of phrase sharpened up etc. Nobody ever writes a perfect first draft and that’s fine.

I love Terry Pratchett’s quote that a first draft is “you telling yourself the story”. And that does sum it up brilliantly. It is then a question of making that story as good as you can make it before sending it out to the market/competitions. But you have to be able to realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of your first draft and time away from the story does help enormously with that.

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What proverbs could be adapted for writers?

1. If at first you don’t succeed…. rewrite.

2. Try, try, try again and don’t be afraid to change writing direction if you need to do so. If you find novel writing is not for you, go for short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction writing etc. Try the different forms out and have fun with them. It should become apparent which other forms take your fancy. Run with them!

3. Never say… no to a good edit. We all need them!

4. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Have this thought in mind when you editing. Look for the weak points in narrative or characterisation. Think about what a reader might consider weak. Put your work aside for a while so you can read it as a reader would. It can help to record a piece of work and play it back so you hear it as a reader would.

5. A little bird told me that networking with other writers will bring you friends who understand your compulsion to write. The writing community is generous with its advice and support and we all need that! And in time you will be able to share advice and support based on what you’ve learned. What goes around really does come around here but it is generally beneficial. I’ve had cause to be grateful for good writing advice which has come my way and I’ve no doubt I will be again!

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One event I was looking forward to going to was the Waterloo Arts Festival but that is now being held online and I will share more details about that a bit nearer the time. Meanwhile my social life on Zoom continues to blossom…!

Have submitted another story for a competition so am well pleased with that and have picked another one to try. The lovely thing about this is even if the stories don’t do anything in these competitions, I can always revamp the tales and try them again in other competitions later on.

Very little is wasted in writing. You may not get to use something immediately but that’s okay. You may find it useful later on. And you can always learn from what worked, what didn’t and so on. A number of times a story that didn’t work out in one environment found a home in one that suited it better.

Persistence, the willingness to relook at and rewrite stories, and stamina – all underrated qualities but oh so necessary!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was talking about colours in my author page spot earlier this evening and looked back at how often I have used colour in my flash tales. There is the odd mention in From Light to Dark and Back Again but I do have some linked flash tales which revolve around a colour coming up in my follow-up book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

Telling details that are useful for flash fiction precisely because they don’t take up a lot of room include:-

1. Colour

2. Noise/Sound (I don’t want to know something was noisy in a story. I want to know the kind of noise. For example, I would rather read Martina dropped the saucepan lid for the third time as opposed to Martina was being clumsy in the kitchen. The first version gives me more detail as to HOW Martina is being clumsy for a start and I can picture it. Being clumsy could mean almost anything here. I’ve found it has paid to have specific details which a reader can visualise, even if it means a few extra words, than something general that they can’t imagine).

3. State of decoration When a story calls for the action to take place in a “set”, a brief indication of the state of decoration of that set helps make a greater impact. For example, if I told you poor old Martina’s kitchen was dimly lit though you could still see the peeling paintwork, that will conjure up a stronger image than if I said Martina’s kitchen was shabby and dark. The peeling paintwork is a specific detail a reader can hone in on.

So think specifics. A reader literally doesn’t need chapter and verse here but well planted details do make a big impact.

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C = Creating your own people is great fun.
H = Have a ball outlining their flaws as well as their virtues. Nobody’s perfect after all.
A = Attitudes reveal a lot about characters so what will yours be? Why have your characters got the attitudes they have? Think backstory here.
R = Reality. Readers identify with characters who ring true. Their attitudes, motivations and actions should be understandable, no matter how bizarre a setting you might put them in.
A = Actions can include inaction funnily enough. A character not acting at all or quickly enough can turn a story as well as a character taking direct action.
C = Compassionate or Completely Selfish? What will your people be? What are the consequences for your characters here?
T = Tension. There is no story with conflict/tension and some of the best is between characters with either different attitudes OR where they both want the same goal but cannot agree on the way to achieve it. Up the ante here! The tension should be something readers can identify with and have sympathy over.
E = Energy. A well outlined character will have an energy of their own and seem to come to life on the page. It will be a joy (most of the time anyway) to write their story. It really does pay to think your characters out.
R = Reason. Your characters should have good reasons for being the way they are/for seeking the goal that they are. It doesn’t mean other characters/your readers/you yourself have to agree with those reasons! But there should be a sense of understanding where your villains, as well as your heroes, are coming from and why.
S = Story, story, story = characters, characters, characters.

Have fun planning your next lot of people out!

 

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What topics/genres have I covered in flash fiction? This is not a definitive list but gives a good idea of the flexibility of the form when it comes to genre. I have:-

1. Given an insight into historical events from either an outsider viewpoint or from a historical character one. This will feature in my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, due out later this year.

2. Given individual flash fiction stories to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy in From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used first person for both of them

3. Killed some very nasty characters off in my flash crime tales. Now that is always fun to do.

4. Ensured poetic justice was dished out in appropriate ways for characters who deserved it.

5. Shown viewpoints from other worlds/fairytales.

6. “Flipped” legends particularly the tale of St. George and the Dragon. For more see FLTDBA.

All good fun to write. And I think the flexibility of genre probably is the single most important reason why I love flash fiction, reading it and writing it.

What has helped me the most when writing flash fiction? I would say it was the following tips:-

1. Don’t have too many characters in your stories.

2. Focus on THE most important part of your tale. What IS the story?

3. Work out what it is the reader HAS to know so you ensure that goes in. Work out what can be inferred and infer it! (I must admit I love being left to deduce things when I read other authors and it is a real strong point of flash fiction for me).

4. When editing, look for your wasted words. Don’t worry you seem to be unable to stop writing them at all. It is what the edit is for after all.

5. Put your story away for a while, get on with more flash fiction, and then come back to your tale so you read it with a fresh eye. Ask yourself what is the impact on YOU now you’re reading it as a reader would? Is it the impact you planned?

And good luck!

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Goodreads Author BlogReading Debts

Do you remember how you developed a love of reading?

I remember being read to regularly when I was a child and my late mother taught me to read before I started school back in the 1970s. She was told off for doing it too. Apparently she’d done it the wrong way! (These days I think she’d be given a medal!).

Not that I felt anything was amiss. I owe Mum a huge debt for giving me a love of books and stories and I’m sure she’d be pleased with the end results for yours truly.

I also spent a lot of time in local libraries in my teenage years. They were a great place to go for someone who loves books, who didn’t have any money, and it was a great way to explore genres and authors which were not represented on the book shelves at home.

Mind you, that was a tough call. Mum had almost everything on her shelves from science fiction (H.G.Wells) to thrillers (Ian Fleming) to classic (Dickens and Shakespeare).

Her one blind spot was humorous prose. It completely bypassed her so on my shelves are works by Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse. It was a kind of joke amongst us that Mum would read Terry Brooks (The Shannara series) while I’d read Terry Pratchett (Discworld)!

The best way of repaying any reading debt is, of course, to read and keep reading! So on that note…

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Running Orders, Tech Issues, and One-Liners

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

Facebook – General

Have not long completed the first edit on my second collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic. It was good fun to do and eye opening too.

I had gone through my draft at least three times before submitting it and I still missed things! This is why it is important an outside eye does see your work. They will pick up on things you are too close to the work to be able to see.

Also if they come back with comments, it will help you to see if you really have got things across as clearly as you thought you had. (The answer to that one incidentally is sometimes no! And in those cases I rewrite. An editor’s eye can also help you realise what comes across as a bit clunky and therefore awkward for a reader to enjoy smoothly. So again rewrite time there),

There are no shortcuts but editing is what is going to make your work special so it is worth taking time over.

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It’s been a strange old week. I suspect next week will be stranger still. On the plus side, there is plenty of reading and writing to be cracking on with so I’ll focus on that. It is positive at least!

I’ve got a nice queue of items on my Kindle TBR list so will be trying to catch up on some of those.

Writing wise, I’m drafting a story for a competition which I need to finish. I also need to press on with my other major projects. And I do keep an eye out for interesting flash and short story competitions too. I like good writing competitions. They help me to “raise my game” which is never a bad thing.

Keep well, everyone.

 

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Apologies to anyone who is having trouble accessing the Chandler’s Ford Today sitetoday (16th March 2020). The technical side of things I leave to my lovely editor #JadeCloud and I have emailed her. Hopefully this will prove to be one of those irritating hiccups that can soon be sorted. I don’t know if it this is something at CFT’s end or whether it’s a browser issue. Will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I will look ahead to my post this week. I will be talking about Mixing Things Up as a writer and share a few thoughts as to how you can do that. I also look at the advantages (and otherwise!) of competitions with set and open themes. Post up Friday.

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What are your favourite one-liners? Mine have to be:-

‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.’
‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me.’
‘I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.’

(And if you want to play name the film, feel free!).

What do I like about one-liners in stories? Well, they pack a punch when well placed in a story. I sometimes use them to finish a flash fiction piece. They have emotional impact and a good story will have that, whether it makes you laugh or cry.

Great one-liners are memorable of course and it is always a pleasure to re-read them again when going back through favourite books. And you know those one-liners will have been through several edits as the author seeks to make every word carry its weight so what is left, well you know nothing could be added or taken out.

ALSO:-
Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for flagging up an access issue to Chandler’s Ford Today yesterday. Am glad to report the issue should now be resolved.

The auto renewal of the site’s SSL certificate did not happen. Goodness knows why. A big thanks to our technical guy for sorting that out and putting measures in place to hopefully prevent it happening again.

Meanwhile, I’m sharing the post Dawn Kentish Knox had wanted to comment on – the Local Author News spot I put up on behalf of #RichardHardie and #FrancescaTyer. Hopefully all well now!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Don’t make the mistake of thinking because flash fiction is short, the editing of it won’t take long! Ahem…

Well, obviously it will take less time than editing a novel but you still need to apply care and precision, especially since the placing of a word in a flash fiction piece can turn the story round just on that alone.

My Calling the Doctor has the mood of the story changed by the last word (see trailer).

It’s also not just about editing for word count. You want to make sure your story works without all the bits you’ve put the red pen through. The story mustn’t feel as if there is anything missing.

The aim is for a reader to feel as if another word couldn’t be added to the story while, at the same time, being unable to think of anything that could’ve come out from the tale they’ve just read. Not an easy balance to get right but so worthwhile when you do!

 

One of my favourite stories in FLTDBA is Circle of Life because it is a poetic justice tale. I’ve always been fond of those.

It’s a theme I can turn to time and again as you never run out of dodgy characters who you can dole out suitable retribution to! You are just limited by your own imagination and if ever there was a challenge to keep stretching said imagination, that’s it, I think.

I’m also fond of funny poetic justice stories. You don’t necessarily have to kill off the miscreant though I suspect my crime writing colleagues would beg to differ!😆😆😆

One of the joys of fiction, of course, is you as the writer can always ensure justice is done to those deserving it. So go on, have some fun!

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If it hasn’t happened already, there will be loads of virus tales across all story formats soon! I won’t be writing any though. The market gets saturated very quickly.

It is far better to write what you would like to write to the best standards possible and find a suitable competition/market for it than to try to write to a trend. Trends are often gone by the time you get your story out anyway.

The only thing I hope might come out of our current crisis is that people, if stuck at home, rediscover the joy of reading but I would really rather they did that without this horrid or any other virus contributing in any way. Books are fabulous and should be treasured and loved and read and re-read anyway!

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Getting the running order in a flash or short story collection isn’t always as straightforward as it might appear. I look for impact on a reader here as well as from the individual stories themselves.

I like to group themes together (I think there is a stronger overall impact) but, as with chilli powder, you CAN have too much of a good thing here. (I once made a chilli with too much powder in it. I could’ve sworn there wasn’t much in it. I was wrong! Oh I was SO wrong…😆😆). So I tend to group 2 or 3 stories with a similar theme together but no more than that.

I write a reasonable number of poetic justice tales, to name one example. I’d group a couple of those together, then have a couple of say funny fairytales together, then some historical ones, then back to the poetic justice ones again. (I do like to think of my collections as “mixed assortments”. I’ve always loved those!).

It does pay to give plenty of time and thought to think about how you want your running orders to be. It will make the impact of your book that bit stronger and that is always a good thing.