The Joy of Editing

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. Hope you have had a good week.

Weather all over the place here in the UK – still it is only June! Writing wise, very pleased with response already to my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. (Screenshot of part of my latest story, Restless, taken by me, Allison Symes – hope it tempts you to read the rest! Link below).

AE - July 2021 - A great character drives the plot


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post about The Joy of Editing. I share my thoughts on why editing can be as creative as the initial act of getting a story down. I also share thoughts on how outlining characters or ideas for blog posts can save a lot of time on editing later on (and avoid that oh-so-easy-to-fall-into trap of going off on interesting but usually irrelevant tangents which only have to be cut out later). I also list what I think of as my editing stages and what I do for each one. Hope you find it useful.

(Oh and advance notice. I’ll be interviewing the lovely #HelenMatthews in an in-depth conversation on 2nd and 9th July. Helen shares lots of useful insights into the writing life and I am so looking forward to sharing these interviews).

(Further advance notice – my latest author newsletter will go out on 1st July. If interested please sign up to it at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com).

The Joy of Editing

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Enjoyed my swim earlier today but you can tell when the weather is “iffy” – the water feels cold. When It is hot, as it was last week, the water feels refreshing and I don’t want to get out. (Mind you what helps is knowing the shrivelled prune look when you have been in the water for too long suits nobody!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week I’m talking about The Joy of Editing. And, yes, I know you will say Allison, you are an editor as well as a writer, you are bound to be biased. Yes, sure, guilty as charged there, but there is much to be said for editing as I will share in my post tomorrow.

So looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest (and comeback) performance later in the summer. Along with singing in church and meeting up with friends, I think not seeing their wonderful shows has been the thing I missed most last year. (Their performances also raise money for different charities each year so well done to them and it’s another great reason to go and see their shows if you are local to Chandler’s Ford. If you’re not, I’m sure there will be great amateur theatre groups you can support near you – try them out and see!).

From a writing viewpoint, it is interesting seeing words performed rather than just read.

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Hope you have had a good day. More like a proper June day today and Lady got to play with her best mate, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Two tired and happy dogs went home.

Have got my ticket for the comeback shows from The Chameleon Theatre Group for the end of July. So looking forward to watching them on stage again. (Review to follow on Chandler’s Ford Today in due course naturally – it is so lovely to get back to this kind of thing again).

I’ll be sharing a fabulous two part interview with #HelenMatthews on 2nd and 9th July so plenty of good things to come on CFT. I met Helen at the Hursley Park Book Fair which I reported on for CFT a couple of years ago and again at the Winchester Writers’ Festival. You never know where networking with other authors might lead you! Anyway, really looking forward to sharing this interview as it is packed with great author insights (just one of many reasons why I love sharing author interviews here!).

Behind the scenes, I’m also working on workshop materials so yes watch this space for further news in due course.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction called Restless. A HUGE thank you to all who have commented on the tale so far. This is so much appreciated. (I also love the way this kind of thing helps writers engage with readers directly).

Restless is a different kind of flash tale for me in that every sentence starts with the same word. It’s an interesting technique, fun to do, but is something I would only do every now and again. (Generally speaking given the restricted word count in flash anyway, I wouldn’t normally repeat anything other than say the unavoidable ones such as the, and, but etc.


Screenshot 2021-06-25 at 19-03-20 Restless, by Allison Symes


Thanks for the great response to my acrostic yesterday. I use the technique sometimes for mini-blog posts as well as flash tales!

Looking forward to taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group later in July. Glad to report we had our first Zoom meeting a week or so ago and it went down well. (I also get to write up flash tales from the exercises set, whether these are set by someone else or me. I’m sure I can find a home for these stories at a later date!).

The benefits of flash fiction writing are learning to write with precision, to think about impact, to think about what your reader needs to get from your story, and to lose all fear of editing. Those things transfer well to other forms of writing too.


F = Fun to write – but the work really begins in the editing.
L = Looking for maximum impact on the reader so word choice is so important here.
A = Any genre, any character – have fun with the format.
S = Story, story, story – it is your character’s tale, let them tell it.
H = Have an outline for your characters before you write the story – it can be as simple or as detailed as you like but it will save you going off on unnecessary tangents. You will know what your character is capable of and why. I know this tip alone has saved me a great deal of grief (and work) later on in trying to fix characterisation problems. By working this out at the start, you can hit the ground running with the story itself because you know what your character is likely to do and say.

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Fairytales With Bite – Why the Bite?!

The classic fairytales have plenty of bite. Indeed, that is one of the things I love most about them. They don’t mince their words when it comes to villains. The stories show you the villains for what they are. The wicked stepmother is wicked (and definitely not in a good way).

The classic stories also like their heroes/heroines to do or be something worthy of being helped by a passing helpful fairy godmother and the like. Said passing fairy godmother is not going to help the lazy, those who just want riches and so on.

Right is also seen to be done. Evil comes back to bite those who commit it (which so often doesn’t happen in life and even as a young child I was aware of that).

What fairytales are not are twee. The characters are clearly portrayed and they are what they are. They also show characters can be redeemed. Fairytales are about choices made and not every character makes the right one.

So bite then is a vital ingredient to fairytales. From my perspective, it is what makes a fairytale a fairytale, much more so than a magical being waving a wand about.

Fairytales are truthful too – and again bite comes in here too. They show you aspects of human nature, a lot of which are not the pleasant kind. They hold a mirror up to our own behaviour – you just need to accept some of what you will see through the stories will be the kind of things we usually like to pretend are not there. Our own stories need to reflect this to be true to the genre. Our characters need to reflect that.

Even the tales read to very young children will show this. We know from a very young age the Big Bad Wolf is not to be trusted.

So when it comes to writing our own tales, we need to be brutally honest with our character portrayal. Are they the kind of character a fairy godmother would help? If not, why not? What role will this character play in your story? If they’re not someone who would “earn” magical help, how are they going to get said help when they need it? Are they going to change in some way so they do end up “earning” that help and what makes them realise change is necessary? Plenty of story ideas here.

Character change is key to a successful story. And there’s nothing a fairy godmother likes better than a character redeeming themselves to get her help. Readers like that too. So give your characters plenty of bite. They must not be twee. We need to see where the characters are coming from and where they are heading.

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This World and Others – Reaching Out

How do your characters reach out to others? Are they the kind of characters who would help others? If not, why not? Are they held back by fear or resentment of others and can they overcome that?

Does your fictional world reach out to other worlds near it or is it an insular one?

When characters reach out, is that as successful as they hoped it would be or does it backfire? Are good intentions misunderstood, deliberately or otherwise? Does this stop your characters from reaching out after that (as it would, at best, knock confidence)?

What is the impact of reaching out on the society immediately around your main characters? Does your society encourage reaching out or make it more difficult? Can your society be changed for the better by your characters who do reach out to others?

Hmm… I think there are story ideas there!

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The Interview Fence and Humorous Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And below – well books are such magical places to be, are they not?

 

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Nice big walk with Lady today before the weather set in. Not looking forward to tomorrow. I suspect Lady and I are going to get a good soaking, no matter what time I take her out.

Have drafted answers to second set of interview questions so will be reviewing those and sending them off to the interviewer probably tomorrow.

Now I am on both sides of the interview fence of course. I love questions which draw a writer out of their shell a bit. So questions which always find favour with me will include things like:-

Why do you write what you do? What made you pick that genre?

This is a fab question as it makes you think well why did I pick that route and why am I still sticking with it? In my case with the flash fiction it is because I love the challenge and variety of it. But that sort of question makes you re-evaluate what you’re doing and that’s a good thing. It should confirm you really do love what you write and it is that love which keeps you going during the tougher times of the writing life.

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Hope Monday has been okay for you. Very busy with the old domestics today. Only too glad to get to my desk and write. Writing relaxes me and I always feel so much better for having got something down on the old laptop.

Looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for CFT on Friday. As well as sharing my experiences with Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I’ll be talking to two Authors Reach writers – Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer. Plenty of useful tips and thoughts given “normal” writing events won’t be back with us for a while, even if everything does go well with controlling, and eventually beating, You Know What.

Still one lovely thing about writing is there is always plenty to be getting on with and it is something positive to focus on. My goal for this week is to return the other set of interview questions I’m working on and prepare material for something special I hope to talk more about in the next month or so.

Plus there are always stories to work on and the new idea I referred to yesterday for a draft I’ve got prepared is something else I hope to write up later this week. I always jot down ideas like this in fairly detailed notes when I know I can’t write something up immediately. I’ve found it’s the only way to make sure I don’t forget something important.

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It is great fun being on the receiving end of the interview questions. I’ve just sent one batch back and will be working on another set but what is great is these questions stretch me and make me think. They make me think about what I write but also how and why. That’s a good thing. It pays writers every so often to take a step back and remind yourself of why you do what you do here. I look forward to sharing the links on these interviews later on.

Have drafted a story for submission, rested it for a week, and as so often happens a better idea for how to end the story has occurred to me so that will be going in. That is the whole point of resting a piece of work (and it applies equally well to non-fiction). You need distance between when you first wrote the piece and then when you look at it again.

Time away does help you see things more clearly, including where the story might be strengthened (and that is always worth doing. Someone said you should try not to write the boring bits that people skip when they read. It’s equally true you should try not to write the “weak” bits as people skip those bits too and you want readers hanging on your every written word!).

Had a lovely couple of writing Zooms over the weekend. Great fun to catch up with everyone and a much appreciated morale boost for yours truly – these things always are.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glad I delayed taking Lady out as the weather went from grotty to cold but sunny. She liked that too.

Just to say the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer via Amazon. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more on that. Many thanks for all of the fabulous reviews so far on this. Would always welcome more of course!

Whether it is for my book(s) or those of any other author, well thought out reviews are always welcome. They don’t have to be long and can be as simple as I liked this book because…. Or my favourite story is …………. etc. A couple of minutes and you’re done and you’re supporting authors too. So what’s not to like?!

Of course one problem all writers have faced in the last 12 months has been the lack of our usual writing events to promote and sell our wares. This is why I wanted to write the Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today.

That starts next week but my interview with Richard Hardie yesterday was insightful as to the challenges faced by publishers. I’ve found it pays to understand something about the way publishers operate as that helps me in turn to tailor my approaches in them in such a way it increases the chances of acceptances! It really does make sense, folks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Is there anything about longer forms of writing I miss when it comes to focusing on flash ficton storytelling?
I suppose if there is anything, it is the lack of subplots. There simply isn’t the room for any in a sub-500 words flash story. (You can get a simple one in if you write up to the 1000 word limit and I have done this with my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Also this is a good story if you want to be wary of how you upset someone with the power to get their revenge in print!).

But then I do see the joys of novels with their twists and turns as something to savour separately from the flash tales where I do just focus on the one important moment. And the great thing?

Both have their place in storytelling.

Both have their place on my writing and reading lists!

And there’s nothing to stop you writing in more than one form.


Wow! Many thanks for the huge response to my most recent Book Brush adverts involving my flash fiction collections, From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. That came as a very nice surprise after a tiring Monday. (I hadn’t twigged today is so-called Blue Monday. Mondays are tough days regardless of when in the year they are! I wonder if that is why Bank Holiday Mondays seem to be more of a holiday than they are. It’s not just a question of getting a day off, we’re getting a Monday off!).

I thought I’d reshare one of my most popular story videos from my Youtube channel. Last Request lives up to its title! Hope you enjoy. (I often create a new story over the weekend but did not have time to do so this time. Mind you, this story is a good example of the kind of quirky tale I love reading and writing).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXGNt9XndN8

F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.

F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.

TTFF - posh chairBookBrushImage-2021-1-3-16-443BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939


Have been having fun with Book Brush again re promoting for FLTDBA and TTFF. Easy to do too. (See above pics though the phone one I created a little while ago but is a favourite of mine).

One of the things I do enjoy on the promoting side is being able to share some of the stories. Flash doesn’t take long to read so it makes quite a good advert for itself!

A good advert is one you can remember years later so the ideal for book straplines is to try and do the same with those. This is where flash fiction writing can help, especially practising writing the one-liners. But it takes time, it is not always easy to judge if you’ve got it right so beta readers and the like can be an enormous help here.

Am looking forward to getting my third collection together too. That is one my tasks for this year. I’ve written a fair amount already but will be getting the rest up together while I rest my non-fiction project. These are the two major things I want to submit later this year. I like the balance of having a fiction and a non-fiction to work on and I did find using NaNoWriMo incredibly helpful so will be open to using that structure again.

Below is the video I created for the Waterloo Arts Festival back in the summer of 2020 as that had to go online. I share an extract from my story Books and the Barbarians here and talk a little about my work. Hope you enjoy.

Goodreads Author Blog – Humorous Books

If ever there was a time for humorous books, it is now isn’t it? Something to cheer people up with and I must admit I was pleased to see that sales of P.G. Wodehouse books have gone up during the pandemic. (I hope the same has happened with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books too).

And of course humour creeps into other genres too, including crime and horror. I do love a witty one-liner from a character where you know the character is capable of coming up with such things.

It is a bugbear of mind that humorous books aren’t taken more seriously. They are “proper” literature and shouldn’t be looked down on. If anything a writer capable of writing humour should be lauded simply because it is not the easiest thing to do. Humour is subjective after all.

Mind you, the written word has a huge advantage here. I love “seeing” puns come out, where appropriate to the storyline. Language, and playing with it to make stories, should be fun and I like to see fun in the final results.

I guess this may well be one reason that misery memoir really is not for me, no matter how well written it is. I’ve got to have some cheer somewhere and even a gripping crime novel, with the odd bit of humour in it, will always work better for me than that.

Have you any favourite funny books you turn to for literally light reading relief as and when you need it?

 

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Podcasting, Flash Fiction, and Spring

Now there’s a right mix for you!

Image Credit:  As ever, unless stated, images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

CFT – Part 1 –

The Writing and Marketing Show – Podcast by Wendy H. Jones

The post below is an amalgamation of the FB posts I shared on my author page and book page during the week.

I thought I’d start by sharing the link to my Local Author News page on Chandler’s Ford Today earlier this week where my news is the podcast interview of yours truly by Scottish crime writer, Wendy H Jones, on my favourite topic, flash fiction. I also share the link to the episode I appear in (and I repeat the link below too).

I was delighted to take part in The Writing and Marketing Show, which is Wendy’s new podcast. It does what it says on the tin, folks! I’m on Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction. Well, I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to talk about my great writing love now, was I?

As well as discussing flash fiction, I share some tips, particularly on nailing those crucial opening lines. I also discuss what you can do with cliches – now, now… tune in the show and find out exactly what it is I DO do with them!

Every so often CFT puts up Local Author News posts when local writers have book events etc. It is lovely to put such a post up for myself! (And a huge thanks to Janet Williams, CFT’s very supportive editor who is great at encouraging sharing news like this. It is appreciated and not just by me).

I also want to say a big thank you to Wendy H. Jones for inviting me on to her show. It was huge fun to take part – and do check out the other episodes too. Episodes are released on a Wednesday. Well worth making a note in your diary for especially if you are keen to have insights into the wonderful world of writing.

Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction

CFT – Part 2 – Spring Approaches

It’s always a pleasure to write posts like the above which celebrate something positive. Despite Storm Dennis being on its way, there are still signs of spring out there and I’ve already noted the daylight lasting that little bit longer each evening.

I also look at spring in the terms of new life/new developments. What new developments, as a writer, are you hoping for this year? (The podcast with #WendyHJones earlier this week was a new development for me and so much fun to do). Comments as ever welcome over on the CFT page.

Feature Image - Spring Approaches

As part of my Spring Approaches post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I look ahead to the Chameleon Theatre Group’s next production. This has the charming name of Spring Quartet. Love the sound of that. I am hoping throughout the next few months to put up additional posts featuring members of the Chameleons. More details as and when.

Do you find writing easier or harder to do when the weather gets better (it will eventually, honestly!)? I have no real preference here though I can understand the lure of getting out and about when perhaps I should be at my desk writing.

Mind you, when I do go out and about, there is always part of me which sees these trips as great opportunities for “research”.

Now that can be anything from picking up inspiration for characters (e.g. overhearing odd snippets of conversation I know I could use in totally different contexts for a tale or two) to going to a specific place and learning from it. What I learn then ends up in a story.

It’s a great excuse and I’m sticking to it!

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Many thanks, everyone, for the lovely feedback on the podcast interview for those of you who tuned in when the link was shared on Wednesday this week. For those of you who haven’t, do check out the episode via the link above. It was a joy to talk flash fiction with #WendyHJones. (And do check out the other episodes too. The link to all episodes is in the top left corner).

My usual CFT post will be up tomorrow and it is called Spring Approaches. Now I know Storm Dennis is due (named after Dennis the Menace, do you think?) but, hang on in there folks, spring really is on its way.

There are already signs of it out there. Tonight I managed to walk the dog with my better half and we only needed a torch for the last 15 minutes. That figure will reduce week on week too and I love that. Two weeks or so ago, we needed the torch for 25 to 30 minutes so those lighter evenings are slowly coming in! (On a personal note, I find the increased light helps with my writing productivity too and I bet I’m not the only one who finds that).

My post celebrates the approach of spring then but also looks at how, given we rightly associate spring with new life, what that can mean for us. A new life can mean new starts or developments. (Being interviewed for a podcast was a new and enjoyable development for me!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write
L = Length of story can vary but should not go over 1000 words.
A = Alliteration can be effective in titles but best to use sparingly (otherwise readers will tire of it. You don’t want anything to seem “faddy”).
S = Story should focus on ONE important point only as you won’t have room for more, particularly in a sub-500 words tale.
H = Have fun mixing up which genres you write your flash fiction in as the good news is you don’t have to stick to one!

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When you want to mix up your flash fiction writing, how do you go about that?

Some of my favourite ways to mix things up include:-

1. Work out an ending to a story and work backwards to the start instead of working linearly. (If you usually start this way, simply reverse the process and start at the beginning!).

2. Try writing a flash fiction story in a genre or format you’ve not tried before. If it doesn’t work out, why worry? You were playing with words. I would suspect also some of what you write you would probably be able to use elsewhere. Equally if you discover a new way of writing flash, even better. This is how I started writing historical flash fiction pieces. Until fairly recently, it wasn’t an area I had explored.

3. Write to different word counts. While my natural home is between the 100 to 250 word count limit, I do write much shorter than that. I also go up to the top end of the scale for flash at 1000 words.

And why mix things up at all?

Firstly it keeps things interesting for you. You really don’t want to become bored with what you do.

Secondly, a variety of stories, whether it’s in genre or word count or both, means you have a wider selection of markets and competitions to aim those tales at! Good luck.

Fairytales With Bite – 

When the Magic Wand Isn’t Enough

One of my favourite things about fantasy fiction is when magic is limited in some way. That is a character can only do so much with their powers and no more. Or if they go beyond that, then there is a dreadful price to pay.

What is fascinating there is finding out how the characters get around this. When you can’t or dare not use your special skills, what do you do?

Likewise if two magical characters have the same kind of powers, then you know they’re going to cancel each other out effectively. What does each of them do to try to get the upper hand on the other?

I believe more of the real personality of the characters comes out when they can’t just rely on magic to get them out of trouble (and even more when they know using it will exacerbate their problems).

I love stories which show the downside of using magic and where characters have to use their wit and intelligence to overcome problems. My favourite of all here has to be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series given, when in doubt, she goes to the library to look things up! What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – 

What Do Your Characters Make Of Their World?

Asking yourself this as you outline your fictional world is useful as:-

(a) it will show you insights into what your characters really think revealing more of their attitudes which should prove useful later and;

(b) it will show you what your characters think is the most important aspect of their world. It might not be what you originally thought!

I would then probe further as to why that is. If you thought the most important thing was your created world’s fantastic lakes but your character thinks the best thing since sliced bread is the mountain behind their village, look at why. Have they got a fear of water, say? Have they got a famous ancestor who was the first to climb that mountain? Could that come into your story at some point?

How do your characters react to their world during the course of the story? What aspects of it get in their way on whatever their mission is? What aspects help them? Does the transportation make their mission easier to carry out or more difficult? How easy is it for them to get provisions? What do other characters think of their mission? What and/or whom gets in their way?

If your character is trying to save their world, are they doing so out of love for that world or knowing that whatever the world is facing is too dreadful to contemplate allowing to happen so has got to be stopped no matter what else they think? Is the world around them grateful for their efforts?

Above all, what changes have to happen in and to the characters to make them want to carry out their mission? It is not uncommon for the hero/heroine to be reluctant to take on their quest and they have to be persuaded into it. So who does the persuading? What makes the character “bite”?

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Rules That Need to Exist

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Thinking further about my CFT post this week about Rules That Need to Exist made me consider which rules I absolutely follow when writing. The ones below are not in any order of importance but I think they are all necessary.

1. Keep my prose, punctuation, grammar etc simple. It helps clarity and pacing.

2. Always edit on paper, not on screen.

3. Read work out loud.

4. Accept the first draft is only that. Of course it won’t be perfect and that’s fine. That is what editing and polishing are for.

5. Be entertaining whether I’m writing blog posts, flash fiction, or short stories. I want my readers to engage with what I’m writing and a simplistic, entertaining style is a good way to do that. Incidentally never confuse simplistic with simple. It really isn’t the same thing. It’s easier NOT to write simplistically. I’ve forgotten who it was who apologised to a friend for sending a long letter because they hadn’t time to write a short one but whoever that was SHOULD have been an editor!

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I’m a fan of Pointless, the game show where the idea is to score as few points as possible while still coming up with correct answers.

Am I annoyed when I don’t get as many as I think I should on the literature/author rounds? Oh yes. Am I equally annoyed when nobody gets the Terry Pratchett or P.G. Wodehouse question right? Yes and yes.

I really enjoy the words rounds. You know the kind of thing – name a word ending with two or three particular letters. I find with these that the first ones I name are the obvious ones. It’s only when I make myself think that bit deeper I come up with some good low scoring words. (My dilemma then is working out whether something is hyphenated or not – great for a flash fiction story as it counts as one word but not for the Pointless words round when it counts as two! That really does scupper me.).

Having said that, the thinking deeper bit is relevant for all writers, regardless of what you write, because the same point is true. We DO think of the obvious ideas and links first and we need to clear those away before coming up with something much better. When I have brainstorming ideas, I just write down what comes to me, knowing the first few on the list I’m almost certainly not going to use. But that’s okay. It’s what I’m left with that gives me the most interesting material to work with.

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W = Writing is my idea of a brain workout.
R = Rigorous challenges range from the word count limits of flash fiction to ensuring your Great Novel is not TOO great in terms of size and fits in with the kind of size your publisher usually brings out. (Or the publisher you would LIKE to be your publisher!).
I = Integrity – you’ve got to be true to your characters. They need to be realistically drawn (no matter how fantastical a world they live in or whether they’re magical beings themselves). Readers have got to be able to identify with the characters and either love them or loathe them.
T = Tension. Is there enough in your story? Does the tension increase as you get closer to the end of the story or book?
I = Identifiable. Is your writing voice identifiable as you? Do you have a distinctive style?
N = Names (of characters). Are they memorable? Are any too close in sound to others in the same story? The answers should be yes and no respectively!
G = Genre. Can you say where your book or story would fit? Can you target your work to the right genre of competition or the right publisher for it?

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I look for when editing my flash fiction?

1. Wasted words. I’ve mentioned before mine are actually, very, and that, and these add little to a story which cannot be expressed in better ways. Out they go then! The odd that is useful sometimes but nowhere near as often as you think. I have had to learn to cut them out where they’re really not needed.

2. Phrasing which doesn’t trip off the tongue when reading it out loud. Out comes the red pen again then! If I trip over it, a reader will too.

3. A nice mixture of short sentences and longer ones. I want my stories to have a good rhythm to them but too much of one type of sentence length can and does disrupt that. (That was a necessary that – and so were those!😀😀😀).

4. Clarity. Is there anything which could be misunderstood or misconstrued in any way? Could something have a double meaning you really did not intend? All worth checking for, if only to save yourself some blushes when you re-read work later.

5. Looking at the story as a whole, does it fulfil the promise of its title? Does it grip me? Would I like to read more? (That’s usually a good sign as it shows the characters have come to life for you).

What kind of characters do I enjoy inventing for my flash stories the most? It can vary but they include:-

1. Characters who are full of themselves. I just love bringing them down to earth.

2. Characters who see things from a different perspective. I’ve written stories from a dragon’s viewpoint before now! Trust me their view on gold is somewhat different to that of a typical fairytale dwarf. I just know…

3. Characters who are prepared to bend/break the rules. For this kind of story, I love dropping them right in the mire and finding out whether their willingness to break rules helps them or lands them further in it. All good fun!

4. Fairies or other magical beings confronting sceptical humans. Someone is heading for a fall here…

5. Characters who are either secondary in fairytales or are the villain. Very much an alternative rendition! (And I make no apologies for the pun on the title of the first Bridge House Publishing anthology I was in called Alternative Renditions where my A Helping Hand took the viewpoint of Cinderella’s youngest stepsister!).

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F = Fast, frenetic (at times), and fun writing
L = Like being able to set my characters in any time/genre/setting I choose. I just worry about the word count.
A = Animated conversation in the stories? Not really. Not enough space but you can show so much though a character’s thoughts and attitudes coming out of those thoughts, you don’t really need this for this kind of of story anyway.
S = Simplifies your writing and helps increase your clarity. This is always good!
H = Historical flash fiction has been a recent development for me and I hope to write more of this. Using characters who may have witnessed events is a good way forward here.

Fairytales with Bite – Rules That Need to Exist

I discuss Rules That Need to Exist in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week, but how can we apply this specifically to our fiction writing?

Rules for Writing

When it comes to writing rules, there are specific ones I always follow. These are:-

1. Keep my prose, punctuation, grammar etc simple. It helps clarity and pacing.
2. Always edit on paper, not on screen.
3. Read work out loud.
4. Accept the first draft is only that. Of course it won’t be perfect and that’s fine. That is what editing and polishing are for.
5. Be entertaining whether I’m writing blog posts, flash fiction, or short stories. I want my readers to engage with what I’m writing and a simplistic, entertaining style is a good way to do that.

Rules for Characters

1.  The character must be someone I can identify with, even if I loathe them and their attitudes. There has to be some spark of understanding why someone has turned out the way they have.

2.  The character must be memorable (whether it is for good reasons and they’re the hero, or for bad ones where they’re the villain). What they must never be is forgettable, else why have them in the story at all? If you’ve got a character you think you can cut out of your story, you almost certainly can because they’re not contributing anything and your tale will tighten up in terms of word count and pacing if there is no unnecessary baggage.

3.  The character must have at least one distinctive thing about them that can’t apply to anyone else or handle situations in ways that are unique to them.

What rules for writing or for characters do you use and why?

This World and Others –

Creating Something Out of Nothing

I was listening to UK based radio station Classic FM earlier this week when it was reported a well known composer still suffered nerves when coming up with a new composition. They were still made nervous by the blank page, despite their many years of successful composition. Ironically, this cheered me up somewhat. It’s the same for any creator and I know it’s true for me. That touch of nerves before you start writing is the worst bit. Once you get going, you’re absolutely okay.

I’ve learned over time to just get the words down any old how. Editing and polishing happen much later. Nobody writes a perfect draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Austen didn’t. Dickens didn’t. I’m certainly not going to but that’s fine! So how can you get over the nervous start bit or, at least, make it not so bad and easier to handle?

I’ve found having a range of ways to get started on stories or blog posts helpful. I also find having brainstorming sessions every so often useful to jot down ideas and when I am struggling, I can turn to these and find something to inspire me there. My range of ways to get started include:-

1.  Using a random word generator, pick three, and put them into a story. Using random words like this makes me think deeper and if there is no obvious link between the three words, even better. It makes me think again!

2.  Look back over my old blog posts and stories. Often there will a link there I didn’t follow up at the time but might prove useful now.

3.  Take a well known saying and use it as a theme or title (sometimes both) for a story or article.

4.  Use a spider diagram or flowchart to flesh out basic ideas. That will soon show if ideas in the back of my head do have some “legs” to them or not. Naturally I go with the ones that do! This is especially useful when used in conjunction with a random word generator.

5.  Look up writing competitions. Sometimes I’ll enter said competitions. Sometimes I’ll just write up a story to the theme and not submit it deliberately. I will go back to that story at a later date to polish it up further knowing it is not ready for a competition yet but I can still write to the theme. Who knows? The story might end up in an anthology later. Themes come up reasonably often so there will be other competitions the story the might fit.

However you get over the blank page nerves, happy writing and good luck!

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