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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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.

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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.

Goodreads Author Blog –

Are Books The Best Invention Ever?

Daft question time, I can hear you say in response to this blog title! And you’d be right. Of course books are the best invention ever but… well, without literacy and encouraging people to read, those wonderful books we all love are left literally on the shelf, aren’t they?

How do we get people to read who don’t currently do so? I wish I knew the answer to that. All you can do as a writer is put your works out there, spread the word about them (and this is where supportive writing friends are brilliant), and hope people will take a look between your covers (ooh…err…. Missus), whether they’re electronic covers or the lovely paperback variety.

I have wondered whether people have lost confidence in reading. You know they finish reading at school and then that’s it. They’re not reading another thing. They’ll get their stories via film, TV, audio even, but not from the printed page. This is why I think supporting children’s authors is so important. They play a vital role in developing a future reading audience and keeping that love of books going. (And I still like reading YA, even though it has been a long time indeed since I qualified!).

I loved the James Garner Support Your Local Sheriff type films. We need at least three more. Support Your Local Children’s Author. Support Your Local Writers. Support Your Local Libraries.

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The Writer’s Journey: Introducing Paula Readman

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay supplied the pictures unless otherwise stated. A big thank you also to Paula Readman for supplying some pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today interview of her this week.

Every writer’s journey is unique. For a story of grit, determination and perserverance, check out Paula Readman’s story in my CFT post this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a real pleasure to interview Paula Readman for my CFT post this week. While Paula and I have publishers in common, it is also true every writer has a unique writing journey. Discover Paula’s fascinating writing journey in this interview and why grit, determination, and striving to be the best you can be as a writer is SO important to any writer, published or not.

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It is always a joy interviewing writers for CFT but it is also great fun interviewing your own characters. I’ve used this technique for my longer short stories but even with my flash fiction, I’ve outlined what I need to know about a character and why it is I need to know that.

To do the latter, I have to quiz my potential character as to why they’d be, for example, greedy. What has triggered that? There usually is a reason behind it even if it is not a nice or honourable one. From all of that I begin to hear my character’s voice and away I go. I have to hear their voice before I can write about them at all.

Think about what you need to know before you write a character. Some writers need to know what their characters look like. I have to know my character’s voice and what drives them above anything else and I find physical description follows from that.

Sounds a bit odd I know but it works for me. I know my character is well spoken and is driven to prove themselves, for example. I quiz them as to why. Possible answer would be to prove all those who said they’d be a failure wrong. Their voice is to cover up the fact they come from a poor background – sounding upmarket is a kind of armour for them.

I’m then thinking of what my character might look like. They’d want to look smart for one thing so how that would manifest itself? Can I give them a real fad for fancy shoes, say, and make that a quirky trait that comes up in the story?

No two authors go about this process of discovery in quite the same way (which is another reason why it is such fun to interview them!). It is a case of working out what works for you.

I’ve often read of writers keeping magazine pictures of people to inspire how they would describe their characters’ physical appearance. I’ve taken that idea and modified it because I know I’ve got to hear the character’s voice ahead of anything else. Then, like a good actor, I need to know the character’s motivation. And then off I go!

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My CFT post this week will be a fab interview with #PaulaReadman, author of The Funeral Birds (and with more to come later in the year). She shares with me what books (reading and writing them) means to her. Her writing journey is a powerful one and inspirational. Link up tomorrow.

Interviewing other authors is great fun to do. None of us come into writing in exactly the same way. None of us are inspired by exactly the same things. All of us have a unique voice. And we all love books. What’s not to love?!

Many thanks to Paula for supplying her author shot below. And if you’re wondering what the owls have to do with anything, look up the link when I put it up tomorrow! Update:  Hopefully by now you will have seen the CFT post and know exactly what the owls are about though there is a good clue below!

 

Am making good progress on my edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get to ANY editing stage on a book, a short story, or a piece of flash fiction. It means I’ve got something I can work with! And, yes, I have cut my wasted words – very and actually especially! Those went before I submitted the book at all!

Over the course of an average week, I’ll have writing slots where I’ll create new stories for competitions, another book etc.

I’ll then have others where I’m writing non-fiction (covering my CFT posts, ACW blog spots, draft articles I hope to pitch in due course etc. A recent edition to this is preparing various posts I can use either here on on Goodreads for those times when I’m pushed for time. I hope this is going to make me more productive as I would like to schedule more posts in advance).

Then there will be those slots where I’m editing. That can feel as if I’m not doing much but I am, of course. The writing really is in the rewriting. The chances of me writing a perfect first draft is remote. The work is in getting rid of the dross from what I hope will prove to be gold!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some of my narrators in my flash tales are impartial observers and it is something I hope to use more of as a technique in my stories.

The advantages are that I can get straight into the head of this character, they come to the situation in the tale with no preconceptions (as there is no way they could have any), and what might seem obvious to us could appear alien to them.

That in turn can make us think about how something WOULD look to someone who has never come across it before and therefore doesn’t know what to expect.

So how can you make your observer truly impartial?

By ensuring they are not part of the main set up in the story. They’ve been invited in by someone who IS in that main set up. (Exploring the reasons for that can also make for interesting stories).

For example if your set up is the Court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, your outsider could be someone who is the servant of one of the ambassadors to that Court. They would never be asked for their opinion by anyone in the English Court or by their boss but they would have some thoughts on what they get to see. Nobody is immune to having thoughts even if you do have to keep them to yourself.

Your impartial observer can share those thoughts in your story though! (And maybe the battle to keep said thoughts quiet knowing they won’t go down well with the boss or the English Court, say).

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As you know, I sometimes use a random word generator to kick start story ideas. This works especially well for flash fiction.

Some of the generators allow you to set your own parameters. For example, you can see how many letters or syllables you want in your selections etc. You can even set the first letter and the last one.

When I use the parameters, I focus on word length and maybe the starting letter but leave it at that. I don’t want to be too prescriptive. If the first word generated doesn’t seem to suit, I trigger another three or so. I’ve usually got an idea I can work on within three or four goes on these things. And they’re great fun. (Bear in mind too you could combine ALL of what you trigger for an idea as well).

It could be useful to have a “stock” of these in ready to submit to competitions and markets as and when you come across suitable ones. (And yes I have a stock of stories in! Every so often I have a big writing session where I write a lot of flash. I know I’m not going to be submitting them anywhere for a while but it does mean when I have market or competition information that interests me, I can go through said stock and find something useful to submit).

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Reading in and out of your genre inspires your own writing. You also take in subsconsciously how stories are laid out. I’ve never understood the attitude I’ve sometimes come across where, when people find you’re a writer, they seem surprised when you reveal you’re a reader as well!

It was the love of books and stories that I read which sparked my wish to be a writer at all. It is the books and stories I still read that fires my imagination and helps me to “up my game”.

So read away, folks, it’s good for you!

 

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Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

The first indication I had that fairytales did not necessarily have to have a happily ever after ending was when I read Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for the first time. That was an eye opener to me as a child. Likewise how dark The Snow Queen is – the image of the ice piercing Kay’s heart still makes me shudder.

The crucial thing for any story, fairytale or not, is that the ending is appropriate. Also the author should deliver on the promise made by the opening of the story. There has to be a proper resolution, whether it’s a happily ever after or not!

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This World and Others –

How To Drop Your Characters Right In The Mire

This is not the be all and end all list. I’m sure you can think of others to add to it.

  1. Use the elements of your created world against your character – unstable terrain, dreadful weather, and so on.
  2. Put them up against a tight deadline.
  3.  Put their loved ones at risk if they don’t complete the task you’ve set them whether this is to actually rescue their loved ones or to do something for an overlord to ensure their loved ones are not menaced at all.
  4. Put them in any other situation where failure is not an option though emotional ties are very good to exploit here. (I know, I know. Authors don’t have to be nice to their creations, okay?!).
  5.  Put them in danger directly.
  6.  Or put them at risk of losing that coveted promotion etc. What will they do to ensure they get what they want?
  7.  Get your character having to defend their reputation etc. Putting them up against a blackmailer here is good. Again what will your character do here?
  8.  Make them The Chosen One for a quest. Get them not to be able to get out of it either.
  9.  Going on the adventure is the only way to salvage a bad situation at home or, if that’s not possible, to escape the consequences of where they’ve mucked up here.
  10. Put them under pressure of society expectations. They can’t let the side down.

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Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Thanks as ever to Pixabay for the images here.

Facebook – General

Good evening so far. Submitted a flash piece, pitched a couple of non-fiction ideas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Also sorted out my bedside cabinet and organised my reading piles (one for books, one for magazines before you ask!). Feel both productive AND virtuous and, trust me, that doesn’t happen often!

Hope the weather isn’t causing too much havoc where you are. Mainly tree debris where I am. Always sad to see trees down (though Lady will end up having more sticks to play with than she ever thought possible so there is that to it).

The other thing to be said about the weather is if you needed encouragement to stay cosy and warm and get on with writing at your desk, you’ve got it. Well, you’re not going to want to go out now, are you?

It WAS a dark and stormy night – and writers everywhere took one glimpse at the horrible weather, got on with their latest epics, only too glad to do so!😀😀

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

I’m looking forward to sharing two separate items of publication news later on in the week. It has been a good few days. I wish they were always like that but there you go!

Am almost there on a standard length short story I want to submit for a competition. I hope to get that submitted by the end of this week. And I’ve picked out the next competition I want to have a crack at so need to start thinking out some ideas for that.

I’m also going to be working on the edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, so have plenty in the pipeline.

But that’s how I like it – a nice mix of non-fiction writing (CFT particularly), sending stories out to hopefully good homes (!), and editing.

Reading wise, I’ve recently started London: The Biography. It’s an interesting concept for a historical book – a biography of a city – and I anticipate an enjoyable read. I love history – fiction and non-fiction. I won’t be sorry if story ideas spark from reading this book. (I’d be disappointed if I don’t get something. Non-fiction can be a great source of sparks for stories).

Hope the weather rapidly improves where you are. It is calmer here in Hampshire though there is some flooding. Lady gets a bit skittish in high winds (a bit like some young children can do) so it’ll be fun walking her tomorrow when said high winds are back. Still, at least it’s going to be dry.

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What do you love writing the most? I love getting inside my characters’ heads and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes said thoughts surprise me and I think where did that come from but it’s a wonderful feeling when that happens. It confirms to me the character has backbone, is taking on a life of their own, and is going to resonate with readers. All good things to aim for!

But the danger here is to only focus on the things you like writing most. I do enjoy writing narrative but I’ve come across too many books in the past where the narrative has gone on for too long and is keeping me away from the character whose story I want to follow.

For narrative writing, I’ve learned to focus only on what a reader needs to know for the character and/or story to make sense and there are absolutely no massive descriptions of setting etc. That I feel belonged to a bygone era.

I got into conversation with someone (and I apologise now because I’ve forgotten the name) who felt that the long descriptions of setting particularly in classic novels were necessary then – no TV or film back then. I think that’s a valid point. Now, of course, books are just one form of entertainment amongst many. Everyone knows the kind of setting that would be in, say, an ancestral home thanks to things like Downton Abbey, TV adaptations of stories such as Pride and Prejudice, etc., so do you now need to write every aspect of that down? I think not. You just want enough to conjure up the appropriate images in a reader’s mind and leave it there. Less is more and all that.

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PUBLICATION NEWS

Delighted to share not 1, or 2, but 3 of my linked flash fiction stories called Story by Number published on Cafelit. Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her excellent prompt idea in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. My stories here are directly inspired by that.

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The titles all reflect the number of words in each story. Hope you enjoy.

Will I write more of this kind of story again? I hope so. It is great for the old imagination muscle to mix up how you write a story. It keeps things fresh for you and will do for a reader too.

(The image I’ve added to the link below comes from a recent Chandler’s Ford Today post of mine called Numbers into Writing Will Go. It seemed appropriate! Link to article below.).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Firstly, a big thank you to Val Penny for her lovely comment on the book on Twitter earlier today (18th February). Much appreciated, Val!

 https://twitter.com/valeriepenny/status/1229794879544479745

If you’re a reader and know some writers, I bet they’ll have asked for reviews of their books etc in the usual places. (My friends know I’ve asked them!).

If you think well hmm… I wouldn’t know where to start etc., I’ll just add that reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc., don’t have to be lengthy write-ups. A line or two would do and whatever your tastes in reading, the author will appreciate those reviews. They’ve got to be honest ones though!

(Oh and a good place to start is what YOU liked about the book and yes what you disliked too. Reviews have to be honest to have any meaning and writers will learn a lot from feedback they receive this way).

Making writing friends online is great but meeting them in person is even better

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use character traits to help me “get going” with creating a new person to either write about or to be my narrator for my next flash fiction story.

I also talked about this in my interview with #WendyHJones which went out on Wednesday this week. Naturally that gives me a golden opportunity to share the link again! (Shameless plug and all that….! 😊❤️).

Episode 4 – How To Write Flash Fiction

Feature Image - Local Author News - Allison Symes - Podcast by Wendy H Jones

It was lovely being able to write a bonus CFT post for this. Image by Pixabay

But going on from there, one question could be “could you run out of character traits?”. Surely there are only so many.

Well that’s true but I like to combine them with something else.

For example if I have a character who is feisty, I’ll give them a vice such as greed. There could be a crime story there. There could be a comic story too if their greed dropped them right in it. The reactions from a reader here could range from horror and disgust at my character to laughter as my character makes a complete fool of themselves.

The trick will be making readers care enough to read about a character like that. There will be a certain amount of wanting to see if that character either gets their comeuppance (I love stories like that!) or somehow redeems themselves. Either way there is going to be a significant change in that character or their situation by the end of the tale and I hope I can make a reader curious enough to find out what that is.

Another character who is feisty I may well make charitable but their big mouth lands them in it from time to time. So there I would hope a reader would want to find out if the character can carry on doing their good works and their loudmouth has not ruined things completely. Or perhaps the being outspoken ends up bringing in much needed changes and my character is a catalyst for positive change.

Yes, there’s that word again – change. The single most important thing about any story of any length. There has to be change. Your character has to be different in some way by the end of the story whether it’s 50 words long or 50,000. The challenge is to have a character your reader HAS to follow to find out what happens to them.

Image supplied by Wendy H. Jones

Will have flash fiction publication news to share later in the week so am looking forward to putting the relevant links up.

Will be starting work soon on the edits for Book 2 – Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Looking forward to that. I do enjoy editing. Sure there are some tasks associated with that which ARE less interesting (yet another misplaced comma to remove etc etc!) BUT I keep in mind the overall goal is to improve my work and to get it to the best I can make it. That helps a lot.

I’ll be talking about short and long form fiction in my CFT post later this week and will share more on that on Wednesday. No prizes for guessing which is my big love here!

 

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How do you handle those times when you know your story hasn’t got anywhere with a market or competition?

My practice here is to look at my story again. If I spot anything that could do with strengthening, I do that but I then get the story back out again to another, suitable market or competition.

Another way of using a story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is to look at why you wrote it in the first place and analyse it as if it had been written by someone else.

If this story had been in a magazine, would it have appealed to you? If there were bits that didn’t seem to gel with you, ask yourself why?

This is a good editing technique and by putting your reader’s hat on, you might find something about the tale that could do with working on and which, once done, will give it more of a chance in the big, bad world out there.

The one thing I’ve found is you have to be totally honest about what you think works in the story and what doesn’t work so well. The trick of course is to improve those latter sections so there are no bits which don’t work so well!

And be persistent too. One market or competition may feel it is not right for them (they may have taken something similar to your story recently, you will never know), but it doesn’t mean others will feel the same way.

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Just a quick reminder for Writing Magazine subscribers that you can advertise your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. Proof of the pudding? See this link!

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

I hope later in the year when Tripping the Flash Fantastic comes out to put that on here (probably with a link back to From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Meanwhile over on Cafelit, do check out my latest three flash fiction stories. Yes, three of them. They are linked though. Linked flash fiction is relatively new for me and this set was inspired by a prompt in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. (Thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her cracking idea which inspired me here).

 

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Goodreads Author BlogReading Piles

How many reading piles do you have? Mine include:-

1. My book pile.
2. My magazine pile.
3. Everything on my Kindle!

It’s probably enough to be going on with though I suppose I could split my book pile into two categories: novels and short story/flash fiction collections.

Note I said probably just now. I’ve just seen a lovely post on Facebook where someone has come up with a new idea for an escape room – you have an hour to get out of a well stocked book shop!

I don’t know about you but that’s me well and truly stuck then. One hour would just about give me enough time to have a good look around and work out what was where. I might get to decide where I would be starting first if I was efficient with my time!

I’ve mentioned before I like to mix up my reading. There are some evenings where I just HAVE to read magazines, rather than books, and the other way round. I don’t really know why that is but I love reading both overall so that’s okay. So therefore it is absolutely necessary for me to have reading piles that suit all my reading moods.

How do you organise YOUR reading?

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Editing, Dream Characters, and Story Collections

Facebook – General

I’ve never understood writers who edit as they write. I know full well I would stymie myself if I tried that. When would I ever accept I had written a good enough first line yet alone a first page etc?

It has helped me enormously to know you don’t have to get it right all in one go. Indeed, the one guarantee is you won’t! So I write and focus on getting the story written.

Then I worry about:-

1. Does the story work?

2. Does the structure make sense?

3. Have I overwritten anything? (The answer to that is always yes!).

4. What “flabby prose” can I tighten up by better choices of words, phrases etc? (There is always something to be improved here but that’s fine. You get better over time at knowing what to look for here and how you can put it right. It is slightly annoying you can’t stop yourself writing flabby prose but at least nobody else has to see it!).

5. Do my characters come across the way I want them to do? (There’s nearly always room for improvement here).

I love editing. It’s a great feeling when you know your story has improved dramatically because you’ve dealt with the 5 points above properly.

But it is a case of one thing at a time. Write first, edit later.

 

Pleased I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces. Won’t know results for a while but it’s such a joy being able to submit work online.

When I first started out (and the dinosaurs had just left the planet etc etc), all submissions had to be done by snail mail. When I think of the costs and time tied up in that, the mind boggles!

The great thing is I have acknowledgement of receipt of entries pretty much straight away too. I recall having to put in stamped addressed postcards to publishers when I was particularly keen to know if something had reached them.

So am I pleased at the development of email submissions etc? You bet! Technological change is often a good thing.

What would you class as a dream character? For me this would be someone who was:-

1. Feisty and honourable. (Funnily enough, that can apply to villains too. They will have a code they adhere to no matter what. It may not be one we as readers like or agree with but there will be something there where we can see why the villain would act the way they are. What I can’t stand are characters who do things for no apparent reason. They leave me thinking “What….?!”).

2. Comes up with all the best one-liners

3. Gets on with most other characters because they’re not full of themselves or, in the case of a villain, is able to charm other characters into obeying them. The fascination there is how they draw people in.

4. Is the type of person you would definitely want on your side in a fight/life or death scenario. In the case of a villain. who is the cause of said fight/life or death scenario, they are the kind of person you would run a million miles from. They have got to be PROPER villains.

5. Fascinate YOU as the writer. You are your own first audience.

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I’ll be looking at What Do You Think Makes a Good Book in my CFT post later this week. I’ll also be naming three of my all-time favourites, which are varied in genre and era, and look at what they have in common. Link up on Friday. I love writing for CFT but posts this like are especially fun to write!

How to spot a committed writer (and possibly one that should be!):-

1. Their book shelves are piled high with books from across the genres

2. They have notebooks everywhere (but can have trouble finding a pen when asked).

3. They can go on about stories for ever and ever amen (and do given half a chance).

Hmm…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Editing is my theme for tonight. One of the issues with flash fiction is how far do you edit? It is too easy just to focus on getting the word count right and not look at the balance of the story overall. It’s something I have to watch out for.

If a phrase, say, tells me something more about a character than a shorter expression would, the longer phrase stays in. It’s all about the relevant details. Focus on what HAS to be in your story. What’s left is where you can cut back.

But look at how the story flows and do read it aloud to hear this for yourself. An edit doesn’t work if you’ve taken out ALL that makes the story flow. This is the point if I decide a story works better at 250 words than 100, it stays at 250.

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What are the advantages of using the first person in flash fiction?

1. I can take you straight into that character’s thoughts.

2. That in turn will show you their attitudes (which will also give clues as to what their significant traits are likely to be).

3. I show you the story through that character’s eyes and I think it creates immediacy.

4. I can vary how my “I” character talks to you as a reader – and that can in turn help you guess at likely age and so on. My Calling the Doctor has a confiding tone to it. My They Don’t Understand has my narrator looking back at life with regret. I don’t need to tell you the latter is going to be a senior citizen as a result. It is all implied in how they “talk”.

5. As first person is so direct, it can save a lot on the word count!

What do I look for in a writing prompt? The obvious answer is something to stretch me (no, not a rack or a huge elastic band!). The format of that prompt matters less.

I’ve used picture prompts, opening line and closing line prompts, list so many words connected to a theme prompts and so on.

I do think it a good idea to mix up which prompts you use to keep things interesting for you and also to ensure you ARE challenging yourself frequently enough. It can be easy to get into a rut of using only certain kinds of prompts/ideas to get you started.

Mix things up, have fun, play with words. Once you’ve got your thoughts down, then stand back and put your editor’s hat on.

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I’ve long been an advocate of reading work out loud. I’ve picked up errors this way and find out if my dialogue really is as smooth as I thought it was when I wrote it. If I stumble over it, a reader will too, and out comes the editing pen again.

It is one of those oddballs that something which looks great written down does not necessarily transfer well to speech.

The other advantage of reading work out loud is you hear the rhythm within the prose and you can tweak that to the advantage of the story’s overall impact.

The great thing with flash fiction?

Reading work out loud doesn’t take long!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

I have got a very soft spot for story collections for several reasons:-

1. My first real reading loves was the Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales, which I still have.

2. You get a lovely mixture of tones and length of story in an anthlogy.

3. I’ve been published in such anthologies (and am due to be so again) so am not unbiased here!

4. If you’re not sure what to read next novel wise, why not switch to short story collections for a while? I’ve found reading a collection makes a nice “refresher” before I pick which novel I’ll read next. You also get to mix up your reading here (which I think is always a good thing as it can be a great way to discover authors new to you).

5. You can have collections on a single theme or genre so it is easy enough to go with what you fancy here.

6. You can support the indie presses who bring out such anthologies as these give more authors a voice (and readers more choice too).

7. It’s my belief short stories and flash fiction can encourage reluctant readers to venture further into the wonderful world of books. You’re not asking them to commit to too much at the start. Hopefully by the time they’ve finished a collection, they’ll be hooked and will want to read more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bluebells, Beautiful Books, Ants, and Editing

Hmm… now there’s this week’s contender from me for Unique Blog Title!

Facebook – General

Bluebells out all over the place at the moment. It’s always great taking Lady out for her walks but this time of year is special. Not that she appreciates the local fauna. If it’s a convenient place for her to have a wee break, that’s precisely what she’ll do! (No. She hasn’t weed on the bluebells. Have had couple of close calls though).

I don’t tend to write much about nature partly because flash fiction is not the place for lots of lovely descriptions! I prefer to get my characters up and running quickly within their setting.

The weather, the nature of the area my characters are in are gaps for readers to fill in, though the clues are there. In my The Haunting my character is trying to get rid of a hated umbrella that somehow is managing NOT to be got rid of. The implication there is the weather must be reasonably okay. You don’t dump a brolly on a wet day generally. I don’t specifically spell that out but there’s no need to do so.

I’ve found it useful when outlining to work out what the reader HAS to know, ensure that gets put into the story, and get on with the action of said tale. It is all down to selecting what is the most important thing(s) for the reader to know. Often in flash fiction there will be room for one or two things. The trick is to ensure what you can’t put in can be implied in other ways.

Bluebells in Knightwood

Bluebells on a local walk.  Stunning sight.  And this is just a short section of them too.  Image by Allison Symes

When do you know you’ve finished editing a piece?

When you’ve put it away for a while, come back to it and read it, and can’t think of a single thing to change. Also that it has the impact on you that you wanted it to achieve.

Does that always take longer to achieve than you originally hoped?

Oh yes!

Went for a wonderful walk with better half and Lady to round off Bank Holiday Monday. The bluebells were amazing (though frankly I was far more interested than the dog was. Lady didn’t wee on them tonight so I guess that is a plus!).

I remember thinking ages ago that I’d use walking time to work out ideas for stories/articles/blog posts etc. I haven’t done that once! This is partly due to being far too interested (aka nosey) in what is going on around me including, tonight, trying to spot the noisy woodpecker who was clearly doing some DIY. (How apt for a bank holiday weekend!). The other reason is, of course, Lady and the need to keep an eye on her though, if she thinks she needs attention, she’ll give you a nudge with her nose.

But a break away from the desk does refresh the mind and the spirit and that feeds into my writing, so that’s okay. Pleased to say I sent off some submissions over the weekend and made good progress on my novel. Onwards and upwards!

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Enjoyed listening to the new Hall of Fame on Classic FM over the weekend. Mixed bag of results from my votes.

Jupiter (The Planet Suite) – Holst – down 18

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis – Vaughan Williams – non-mover

BUT

Danse Macabre – Saint Saens – (the wonderful piece I use for my book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back again went up a whopping 50 places. It was also used as the theme to Jonathan Creek to great effect).

I love music which conjures up a mood or in the case of the VW piece seems to take you back in time. Perfect background music as I work out what to do with my next batch of flash fiction characters. Will they meet a horrid end? Will I put them in humorous set-ups? Ah! The joy of creating!


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do you use spider diagrams for working out story ideas? I do sometimes. They can be useful for working out variations on the “what if” question so you can decide which is the strongest to write up.

I like to start with a potential character name and a bizarre situation (but then I love reading and writing quirky fiction). I work out how the character could’ve ended up being in that situation before going on to work out how they get out of it. The nice thing with this sort of planning is I just need rough ideas at this stage.

If Character X is going to end up on Mars with a limited oxygen supply, then logic dictates they’re either going to be rescued or die. For me, the story there is how they got dumped there and above all, why. So a spider diagram for that could be something like this:-

Character X brags, is pain in backside etc – demands lead position on next space exploration. (Motive here immediately)
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Character X has been driving Character Y mad for years without being aware of it. Character Y is a quiet soul and for once would like an uneventful space trip. (More motive here).
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Character Y pushes Character X out of the space capsule and heads off, knowing Character X would insist on leaving the capsule first. Character X would swear profusely at this point but realises the need to save as much energy and oxygen as possible.

That is very rough but you get the idea. Must admit though spider diagrams for me look better when drawn out on paper!

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Editing is a crucial skill whatever you write but writing flash fiction is a great way to improve what you do here.

I’ve found I’ve got into the mindset of looking at phrases to double check they make as much of an impact as possible in the fewest possible words once I’ve carried out an initial typo/grammatical error edit.

Often a tweak or two will (a) reduce the word count and (b) strengthen what it was I wanted to say. You never come out with the exact wording immediately. Well, I don’t anyway. Usually a stronger adjective than the one I’d originally chosen will increase the impact of that particular sentence.

It’s a great weight off my mind to know I don’t have to get it right on the first go!

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Managed to submit three flash fiction pieces over the weekend so pleased with that. Would like to try and get more out this coming weekend. I try to carve out a specific writing slot for sending submissions out and weekends tend to be my best time for this.

It always pays to double check submission requirements given these vary from market to market/competition to competition. There have been times I’ve been cross with myself for spotting a typo after I’ve submitted a piece. And that’s despite editing on paper, putting work aside for a while so I come back to the piece with fresh eyes etc The one comfort I take from things like that is this happens. It happens to a lot of writers at some point.

What I don’t want to ever happen is for a piece to fail because I missed something on the submission requirements. To date, it has never happened. So help me, it never will. It really does pay to take extra time to ensure you have got everything spot on here. Don’t rush this aspect.

I’ve found it useful to take at least a week off the official deadline of any competition etc to give me that breathing space I need to ensure everything is as perfect as I can make it. (I usually take two weeks off in fact). Give yourself time and space.

Time to have some fun with the random word generator again. I used a as the start letter and t as the final one and selected six words. These were:-

achievement
account
argument
ant
accept
announcement

Let’s see what can be done with these (and I won’t count the title as one of the words).

ACHIEVEMENT

The ant was of little account in the grand scheme of things. She was just one of thousands of worker ants whose greatest achievement would be to ensure the survival of their colony. There was no room for argument. Her role was her role and that was that. It was best to accept this. Everyone knew a sole ant would never survive long outside of the protection of the colony. For the colony to work, everyone had to fit in with their alloted roles. So when the announcement came the queen ant had died, there was consternation. There would be no more ants. No more worker ants like her. Not in this colony.

Ends

Allison Symes – 23rd April 2019

This is almost certainly the tiniest character I’ve created and is likely to remain so!

But have fun with random word generators and see where they take you. They can be great ways of triggering fresh story ideas.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Beautiful Books

I love books in all their different forms, of course, but I do appreciate the art in a really good book cover.

Difficult to say what my favourite cover is but I must say I love the children’s editions of the Harry Potter series and the original Discworld covers.

I don’t get the tendency to produce plainer covers for “grown ups”. Blow that. I want escapism in a good book and the cover has got to entice me in. A plain black or grey cover with sensible lettering just isn’t going to do it for yours truly.

I also appreciate beautiful bindings. I inherited my late mother’s collection of hardback Dickens (all in green with gold lettering) and they are a joy to look at. They are even more of a joy to read! I also have a fab Agatha Christie collection (red hardbacks with gold lettering). Great stories but my enjoyment is enhanced when I can appreciate the physicality of a book. (This is where the Kindle DOES lose out to “proper” books).

At the end of the day, it is the story which matters most of all, naturally. But I’m all for getting as much enjoyment out of a book as possible and beautiful covers and production standards can make books very special indeed.

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Objectives

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Looking forward to seeing the Chameleons’ production of Blackadder later this week. Should be a very good night out. The last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth is one of those sublime moments of writing where comedy meets tragedy and both are done superbly. Definitely not an easy thing to do.

Blackadder clearly had one objective in mind in Goes Forth – to get out of the war and go back home. Totally understandable.

What is your character’s overriding objective in your story? What will they do to achieve it? What gets in their way? In those three lines, you have a plot outline!

Pleased to have sent off some flash fiction stories last night. Plan to get more out later this week, there is one particular website I’m keen to try out, and finally want to get around to doing so!

One of the trickiest things to handle is time. (And yes I think Doctor Who showed that brilliantly in the Rosa Parks episode). How much time do you spend working on new stories and ideas? How much time do you spend marketing?

As with so much in life, there has to be a balance. I’ve found it helpful to look at the week as a whole. By the end of it, I want to have written some new material, be editing older work ready for submission, have my next CFT post up and ready to go, and have carried out at least some marketing. Okay life does not always go according to plan but whatever I’ve not quite done enough of writing wise in one week is what gets the focus of my attention during the following one. It does all balance out eventually.

Acronyms featured in this morning’s church service sermon and of course they’re a common feature in writing. KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid is probably the best known one. Very much the antidote to “purple prose” – the days of the long descriptive passages are behind us!

I suspect that is due to everyone being used to films etc where you get into the action quickly but it is not a bad thing. I like descriptions in stories to be to the point and to feel as if they are a seamless part of the narrative and not a “bolt on”.

All parts of the story must feel to the reader as if they have to be there and the tale would fall down without them. If you’re not sure if something should be cut, ask yourself how your story works without that something in it and that should indicate quickly enough whether it is needed or not.

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Had a fabulous time at the Writers’ Day run by the Association of Christian Writers today. The topic was on writing for children and YA but there was discussion on crossover fiction and contracts, all very useful stuff. From my viewpoint, it is lovely to meet some of the membership face to face given I usually only meet them via emails!

The importance of networking came out as well during the day and I lost my own fear of this when I realised it meant chatting naturally about books, what I’m writing and so on. I have no problem going on at length about that topic!

(Oh and a quick reminder: if you’re offered a publishing contract, always get it checked out. The Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors are the places to go for that. Both I believe issue guides which are free to members. There’s a small fee charged to non-members. Never be afraid to ask).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A = Alliteration. Can be useful for titles in flash fiction (though I don’t use it much) but as with any story, it can grab the attention and help set the mood. Best not overused I think. You want each title to set the tone for what it is to come and a variety of methods for doing that is best. Keeps it fresh for you as the writer too.

B = Backstory. Not a lot of room for that in flash fiction! Best to hint at it through one or two vital details the reader has to know and leave it at that.

C = Character. The kingpin of fiction I think. Get the character right and the plot will come from them. Know your character inside and out – I find it useful to know their chief trait (and I piece together a mental picture of what they are like from there). Find the appropriate starting point for you but it is worth taking the time to know your character well before you start. Your writing will flow better because you write with that knowledge. It does come through in what you write.

There was talk at the ACW Writers’ Day today of how boundaries, far from restricting creativity, help it to flourish. This is SO true for flash fiction as well. The limited word count means you have to dig deeper to come up with those original ideas that make flash fiction stand out and have the most impact on a reader. It is worth the effort!

I usually know what impact I want a story of mine to have on a reader before I write it. This is to help me choose my words with precision. However, sometimes a story (more accurately the lead character) surprises me and the tale ends up being funnier, darker, sadder than I’d originally thought. This is no bad thing. It means the character has life and if they surprise me, they’ll surprise the reader too.

It may also indicate I hadn’t outlined enough but the great thing is ideas that come to you as you write a piece are not wasted. Jot them down, step back and take a look at where they can fit in. Are they better than your original thoughts? Do they add depth to your original thoughts?

 

Back to working my way through the alphabet again then…

D = Drama. Even the shortest flash fiction has to have some drama in it! But it is also true that serious drama doesn’t necessarily have to have lots of words to make it so! There is drama and anguish in Hemingway’s famous example of For Sale: One pair Baby Shoes. The drama should suit the story though (and be to the right length for that tale).

E = Editing. Every story needs this and I don’t think it should be something a writer dreads. I always feel a sensible amount of relief when I’ve drafted a story as it means I’ve then got something to work with. Editing improves a story and, as a result, increases its chances of success. Take your time over the process though.

F = Fun! Writing should be fun. You are creating something new for others to enjoy. The first person to enjoy said tale should be you!

So marching on then:-

G = Genre. One of my favourite things about flash fiction is because it has to be character led, due to the word count restrictions, you can set those characters anywhere. So, if you’ll pardon the pun here, you do have an open book when it comes to genre in the stories you write. Have fun with that, I do!

H = Humour. Can work well in flash fiction as you can end the story with what is effectively a punchline. Also when you have a very short funny piece, look at turning it into flash fiction. It can be an ideal vehicle for those pieces which would be spoiled if you added anything more (and this often goes for humorous pieces).

I = Imagination. True for any form of fiction, but I find with flash fiction I’m using my imaginative muscles far more. Why? Because I try not to come up with the obvious idea from a theme or title. I dig deep and see what else I can come up with, something that will make a greater impact on the reader.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog –

After the End, What Next?

If you’ve enjoyed a really good book, what do you do when you finish it? Go on to read more books by the same author, or read more in the same genre, or do you go for something that is completely different in mood and style?

I have done all three of these (though obviously not at the same time!) and it very much depends on my mood at the end of the story. If I’ve loved a gory crime thriller, I may well want something humorous to show the lighter side of life, albeit a fictional one!

With short stories especially, I tend to read a few by the same author before moving on. With novels, if the book has really gripped me, I’ve got to check out what else the author has done, even if I decide I’ll come back to those later.

The important thing though is that whatever you read, you enjoy it so much, you keep on reading, no matter what author, genre, style etc you choose next. Happy reading!

FAIR REPORT AND READING OUT LOUD

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

While you have more room for manoeuvre in the latter obviously, yo