Post-Swanwick and Reading Time

Publication News

Another story, The Delivery, will be on Cafelit very soon. Will share more details and the link next time. One thing I absolutely love about writing is the thrill of being published never diminishes.

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I expect the post-Swanwick blues to hit me on Monday when up to neck in the daily chores once again. What will keep me going is (a) looking forward to next year’s event (can’t start that too early, can you?) and (b) cracking on with my writing goals.

There was a four letter acronym at one of the courses which I’m not going to forget in a hurry and which I won’t repeat on here. (Get On With It is a politer version!). Let’s just say it’s all the motivation I need when the blues strike!

And one of the things I love about writing is the fact it DOES take you away from the world for a bit. I always feel better after writing, whether it is a short session or longer one, and that, for me, will always be reason enough to write at all.

 

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Catching up with some reading now I’m back home again. It does seem odd NOT to be talking writing and books all the time (but for the sake of my family and friends, it is just as well!).

Have written down some goals and a rough timescale in which to achieve them. When outlining my stories, I do actually then get on and write them so am hoping the same will happen with the goals I’ve set myself. (It does seem more real putting them down on paper, which is vital).

Have some blog posts to prepare so time to get on but I’ll leave some mottoes for genre writers to consider!

Fantasy Writers – Off In a World of Our Own

Crime Writers – Desperately Seeking Someone Annoying to Kill for Next Book

Horror Writers – It is Always Fright Night

Historical Fiction – The Past IS my present (career!).

Delighted to say another story of mine will be up on Cafelit soon. More details later in the week.

I’ll also be sharing a few thoughts on why I love Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT on Friday. I will also be looking at why writers should keep developing and honing their craft (which is only one good reason to love Swanwick as you have plenty of opportunities to do this there!).

Whether you go to conferences or not, getting out and about every now and then is a good thing for a writer. Trips out are splendid opportunities for people watching and you never know what you will come across on a visit.

One of the issues I have, given I write fairytales with bite, is it does make it difficult to find a place of direct relevance to my storytelling! I’ve yet to come across Fairyland…!😀😀 (And I am NOT the right age for Disney!).

But what I do is look for points of interest that may help feed the background of my stories later.

I went to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight a couple of years ago and came across a psaltery there. You were allowed to play its strings and the sound was beautiful. Have not used this recollection in a story yet (note the yet!). It is funny what images and sounds stick in the memory though. What I do know is those images and sounds will come in useful for stories at some point.

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Well I’ve had my Slimming World weigh in. Only half a pound on, which is my best ever result after a week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! Now if I could only manage that at Christmas…

One downside to writing is it that it is not conducive to exercise! Exercising the little grey cells to come up with the next blog post or story doesn’t exactly shed the calories. My main exercise is walking Lady at least three times a day (though one of those walks is her sprinting after her ball. She’s been playing lately with an 8.5 year old collie called Mobi and it has been great hearing a thundering collie gallop in perfect stereo!).

My other exercise is swimming. I did thnk when I first started swimming, I would be bound to come up with story ideas etc during it. Not a bean! Aside from ensuring I’m not in anyone’s way and getting round those who may be in mine (!), I tend not to think of much at all. But that I guess is where the relaxing side to swimming comes in. Freeing the mind for a while frees it up later to be creative again.

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I was “mugged” by the dog on my return from Swanwick so I was in no doubt she WAS pleased to see me back!😃😃 Dogs are very in your face about how they feel – literally so at times. There is no pretence about them, which is one of their great strengths.

Humans… well that’s another story. We have to work out how people are feeling (or guess at it) when there are no obvious clues to work with.

How do your characters show emotion? (Not in quite the same way as my dog I presume!). Are they “open” emotionally or is it hard work to get any reaction out of them?

In a flash story, there isn’t much room for detailed emotional relationships. I tend to focus on one main character and love to show what their emotional state is via their thoughts. It is direct, saves a lot on the word count, and you as a reader see what the character really thinks (even if the character is kidding themselves).

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F = Fun to write
L = Lively character(s)
A = Action immediately
S = Stories great for ending with a twist
H = Heroes/heroines are dropped right in it from the start

F = Finite story length but you do have some choice
I = Imagination intense to make an intense story work
C = Character(s) has/have to grip you immediately.
T = Tension, yes there’s plenty of that and not a lot of space to resolve it.
I = Intensity can vary. Reflective pieces can work well but the character has to be compelling to make that successful.
O = Oh my… what is your flash tale’s “oh my” moment?
N = Narrative take? I often favour first person.

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Sparks for flash fiction ideas have come to me from:-

1. A scene in classic Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers.
2. Pride and Prejudice.
3. Historical events.
4. Fairytales including narrating from the fairy godmother’s POV
5. Frankenstein
6. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
7. St. George and the Dragon (though my take on this is not the usual one!).
8. Crime stories
9. Nursery rhymes
10. Owning a dog!

The more you can mix up where you get your sparks from, the better. The more you read and take in from different genres including non-fiction, the better. Yes, watching film can help too. (When all is said and done, you are taking in a story this way. It’s just in a visual format).

Happy ideas sparking!

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Unless I’m writing for a specific competition or market, I don’t always know what word count my flash fiction will end up being. I’ve learned not to worry about this.

I write my idea up and then see what I have to work with. I then edit it and polish it, and check the word count then. If it is close to a standard format (e.g. 110, 40, 230 etc), I will edit it to get to that point (e.g. 100, 50, 250). This makes finding a home for the piece easier to do.

If I really can’t polish the story any more, then I submit it to a market or competition which is open on word count. It really is a case of finding the right home for your story and sometimes that takes a little longer than I’d like but it is the only way I know of to increase my chances of story acceptances.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Time

I’ve not long got back from the fabulous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and, naturally, I picked up some wonderful books from the Book Room here.

What I didn’t get while I was there was any time to do any reading! After a full day of courses, workshops, catching up with old friends, and making new ones, I was far too tired to do much in the way of reading.

I managed to read two magazine articles while I was there! Hmm… not much at all in six days.

Of course, this has meant my TBR pile has increased but there are worse problems in life than that one!

Having said all of that, I was taking in plenty of great material via the course presentations etc and that was the important reading I did want to focus on.

Catching up with my reading will cheer me up immensely as the post-Swanwick and back to the real world blues hit home.

There is much to be grateful for when it comes to reading!

My usual routine is to give myself enough time to read before sleeping and I will often dip into a magazine at lunchtime, say. That was out of the question while I was away but being immersed in a world totally dedicated to reading and writing stories, books, scripts, non-fiction etc. was fantastic.

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Plays, Writing Exercises, and Links

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My CFT post this week is called Plays – The Joys and Challenges.  This looks at playwriting, its links with flash fiction and the oral storytelling tradition, and why reading books of scripts (often TV series publish these) is a good idea if you would like to get into this genre.

I look ahead a little to my review next week when I will be reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays.  Playwriting has its specific challenges.  How do you convey information without having a character talk all the time?  How can your set convey enough information for the audience to be able to fill in gaps (and for radio the set has to be made of things the audience can hear so they can work out where they are!).

Image Credit:  Pixabay

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Further to my flag up for my CFT post this week about The Joys and Challenges of Plays, I must admit I was surprised to find there are certain elements in common with flash fiction.

One is that an audience has to imply a lot from the way actors act out stage directions and have to take in a whole world from the set (no descriptions or exposition here).

With flash fiction, due to the word count limits, I have to select the most important things for a reader to know and leave them to fill in the gaps. (For me that is one of the joys of reading and writing flash).

But it was nice to be surprised to find these connections to flash here!

Had a lovely evening watching a Spring Trio of Plays performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group. Review to follow on 3rd May though I do talk about the joys and challenges of playwriting in tomorrow’s CFT post.

Basically what I’m saying here is the reason for the late post is I’ve been out gallivanting. And a jolly good gallivant it was too!

My CFT post this week looks at the challenges of playwriting.

I’m off to the see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays, tomorrow. I like their “mixed assortment” productions like this. Firstly, there’s a good mix of humour and drama usually and, secondly, it is a great opportunity to stage some shorter plays. Link up to my post on Friday. Hope to review tomorrow’s show next Friday.

I would say “break a leg, darlings” but the stage in the Ritchie Hall, home to the Chameleons, isn’t high enough! So I’ll settle for the good old-fashioned “good luck” instead.😀

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I sometimes write up to the 1000 words limit for flash fiction. Inevitably when I do this is a relationship kind of story as I have more room to bring in or refer to other characters having a major bearing on my MC’s life. My stories, Expecting and Rewards, in FLTDBA are good examples of this.

I relished having more words to play with when I wrote these two stories, but, even when you write to the upper limit more often, you still need to write with precision. What you show about other characters has to be relevant to the story but you can achieve more depth here than in the very short flash fiction stories. Mind, depth is not the main purpose of those tales anyway.

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Mood is an important factor in any story but with flash fiction it is particularly important to decide what it is going to be before I start writing. Due to the limited word count, the mood of the piece has to be set very early on.

Yes, a twist can come at the end to change the mood, but generally the mood (grim/funny etc) stays constant through the piece. I then work out how best to portray that mood.

A lot is implied of course, it has to be, but that’s no bad thing. Less really is more when it comes to flash fiction and I know as a reader I love working things out for myself.

 

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Some thoughts on flash fiction:-

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.

Fairytales with Bite – Looking for Links

I was surprised to find links between flash fiction and plays in my latest CFT post, which is on Plays – The Joys and Challenges.  More on that in the post itself but it made me wonder about links in our stories.

Some of these are planned of course but others can crop up as you are drafting your story.  One of the great joys of writing I think is when you’ve drafted a story and you spot other links between characters/with your theme etc., all of which have come out of your sub-conscious mind.

Reading widely in all genres and including non-fiction will help feed that sub-conscious mind which is why doing this is such a good idea for all writers, regardless of what you write.

You want to be able to draw on thoughts that have occurred to you as you read something, which you may not have noted for a story at the time of reading the piece concerned, but which come back to your mind as you write/edit etc and you realise it could fit in really well with your character.

So where to look for links then?

1.  Look at links between what characters fear.  Enemies can be united by a common fear of something or someone else.  Those links can be played on for good or evil.

2.  Look at links between what characters love.  That can also be used for good or evil.  If two characters love the same person, there’s going to be fallout from that.

3.  Look at links with regard to what makes people tick.  The basic drives – the need to survive and pass on genes to offspring – are common to most of us.  It is how we act on them that differentiates us of course.  One of my favourite moments in Star Wars is the famous scene where Darth Vader reveals he  is Luke Skywalker’s father.  Luke is horrified of course.  The very thought of there being any link at all between him and Vader is horrifying for Luke. What links can you use to make other characters react in a similar way?

This World and Others –

Three Writing Exercises to help with World Building

Hope the following ideas for writing exercises help with your own world building for your stories. The idea behind these is to get you to draft out thoughts as to how your world would actually work.  You won’t need to put most of this in your story but do see this as your blueprint.  It is crucial you know these things.  You’ll write with more confidence and it will come across that way in your writing.

It’ll also help convince you that this world could exist.  You are the first believer in it after all. Having worked things out in advance as to how things can work will also help against the dreaded “slump in the middle”.  You will already know what you need to know about your created world.  You can focus on the drama of your story with that knowledge behind you.

1.  System of Government.  Draw a flowchart as to who runs what, what their powers are and how these feed in to each other (local government for example is always answerable to national government at some level).

2.  The Need to Survive.  Write out ten things your “people” need so they can survive.  Draw a spider diagram of how they can obtain these things.

3.  Cultures.  Is your world going to be a mono-culture?  If not, what other cultures are there? Draft ideas as to what these could be, how the multi cultures interact with each other (if they do at all), and whether there is any sense of superiority (justified or not) by one or more of these.  If it is a mono-culture, were they always that way or have they driven others out?

Hope you have fun with these.  Be as detailed or as scanty with details as you wish but the idea is this will give you something to refer to as you write your tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Journeys and the Role of Stories

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I look at how what I’ve read has changed over the years in my CFT post about Reading Journeys this week. I also look at how the Kindle has impacted on my reading life too (and boy has it! My suitcase is a lot lighter thanks to it!).

I can’t remember what the first book I read all by myself was but wouldn’t be surprised if it was a picture book. I am still very fond of The Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which is beautifully illustrated. I’m also a sucker for a good map (see The Lord of the Rings!).

I’ve said it before, and will no doubt say it again, but adult fiction writers owe a huge debt to those who write for youngsters. So many readers of fiction for adults come from a background of having always read books/had books read to them. It is just a case of tastes changing over time. It is difficult to understate how important it is to create that wish to read spark off in the first place.

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My favourite moment when writing a story or a CFT post is when the piece “takes off”.

For a story, this is when the character hits their stride and there’s no holding them back. You, as the writer, are keen to find out what happens next (which is always a good sign!). And yes I outline but I deliberately don’t put down every detail. I need signposts but what happens between them is the really fun bit!

For a post, it is when one idea leads to another and that leads to more and before you know it, an article is written.

The scary moment? When you’ve outlined an idea and you begin writing and at that point you don’t know whether it is going to “go the distance”. There’s always a certain amount of relief when things “take off” and you realise the post or story will be fine (after editing later, naturally).

Image Credit:  The picture of From Light to Dark and Back Again was taken by my cousin, Raewyn Berry.  My book is on display at her guest house in New Zealand.  It is easily the furthest my book has travelled!

My CFT post this week will take a look at reading journeys and how they change and develop over time (as they should). Good excuse to put lots of pictures of lovely books up too! Win-win! I also look at how methods of reading have developed. Who would have predicted the Kindle when I was growing up in the 1970s?

Do you have a reading list of books you simply must read (in whatever format suits best) before the Grim Library Keeper tells you that you are way overdue and it is time to go?

One of my favourite cartoons is the one of a woman in bed ringing to tell someone her other half has been crushed by his To Be Read pile. I have a nasty feeling life could imitate art for many of us here on that front! So don’t pile them too high, eh?

And I really must go and reduce the height of mine!

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The spark for a new flash fiction story comes from a variety of sources for me. These include:-

1. Hearing a turn of phrase which catches my fancy.

2. A well known saying or proverb. (I can often twist these too so double whammy as far as I’m concerned).

3. I sometimes use a question as the story title. The story of course is then found in answering that question!

4. Writing prompts – picture based, theme set or what have you, I find all of these useful. (My writing diary is a boon for these. I should have 52 new stories by the end of the year at least given there is a prompt set every week!).

5. What is lovely is when a character I’ve created sparks off an idea for a follow-on story but the character and the follow-on idea both have to be strong enough for this to work.

6. I will sometimes put a character name into my title (for example George Changes His Mind). The idea here is to provoke curiosity as to find out who the character is and, in this example, what he changed his mind about! The implication also is that it has to be something reasonably important otherwise there would be no story.

F is for Fun which writing should be
L is for Lines for your characters to say
A is for Action without which a story is dead
S is for Story, the “must know how it ends” reaction
H is for Heroes, of all kinds, caped or not.

F is for Flashbacks which should be kept brief
I is for Imagination – feed yours by reading well
C is for Characters we all want to root for
T is for Truthful Narrators or ARE they? Make us guess!
I is for Illumination, that lightbulb creative moment
O is for Original – you have a unique writing voice
N is for Names – what do they reveal about your “people”?

Allison Symes – 14th February 2019

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Flash fiction can be great for giving little insights into a character and/or their setting which would not be enough for a standard length short story. You can imply their world without going into lots of description.

My Every Little Detail doesn’t spell out who the reader mentioned in the story is until literally the last word but so much is implied in the run-up to that, my closing word acts as a confirming punchline in many ways.

I relish writing stories like that. The fun comes from working out what clues to put in and how best to do so. The reader needs to work things out without you spelling everything out but the clues must enable them to do that.

Fairytales With Bite – Character Traits

I like to look for a major trait in a character and use that to help “round them out”.  For example, if I decide a character is a coward, I dig deeper and look for what has led to the character being like that.  I can also look at whether they’re ashamed of this or not.  Not everything I outline here will make it into my story but I know that if I know what the answers are here, I will write my character with more confidence (and therefore conviction as well) and I believe THAT comes through to the reader.

So useful character traits to consider then could include:-

  1. Cowardice/Heroism;
  2. Being a Liar/Being Honest (the latter could cause as much trouble as the former and the potential for comedy is here too);
  3. Stubbornness/Being Flexible;
  4. Being Unfriendly/Being Sociable;
  5. Being Prejudiced/Being Open.

There are of course many more traits than these and practically every trait has its opposite flaw/virtue which could also be used.

Questions to ask yourself when using these:-

 

  1. How did the character develop this flaw/virtue?
  2. Do they see it as a flaw or virtue?  Are they right about this?
  3. How do others around the character react to them and their flaw/virtue?
  4. What are their society’s expectations?
  5. Does the character change – for better or worse?

Have fun!

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This World and Others – The Role of Stories

We all know how important stories are to us personally and to our society but when creating your own world, what thought have you given to the role of tales there? Does your world have its own legends? What are these? How are these legends shared?

Was/is there an oral storytelling tradition? Are only certain stories allowed (and who chose these and why)? Are books easily available to all (or the technological equivalent)? Is reading encouraged? Are there libraries?

How does your world decide whether something it is civilised or not? You’ll guess from the questions I list above I consider the ready availability of books, libraries, stories being generally available etc to be major considerations as to whether I think something is civilised!

How do the characters in your stories treat books and stories? Do their views agree with those held by their society or not?

The role of stories is important (they’re a great way of getting a message across without preaching and are a wonderful form of entertainment. Does your fictional world treat them in the same way? If not, why not?).

Publication News:  Cafelit

I will have two new stories up on Cafelit on 16th February and 16th March.  Will share links as and when.  I am also pleased to say two stories of mine are being voted on for consideration for the Best of Cafelit 8 print anthology due out later this year.  Will keep you posted on how I do but do check out the Best of books as there are wonderful stories in here from a lovely variety of writers.  (How do I know they’re lovely?  I’ve met them!).

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Writing Wish List, Why Write Flash Fiction, and Special Offers

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If you could make a writing related list for Santa, what would be on it? I’d ask for:-

1. The ability to stretch time so I can get all the writing I’d like to do in and done! Naturally I would not feel any side effects from this.

2. The ability to spot ALL typos etc before submitting work anywhere ALL the time. (If it is any comfort, most writers spot errors in work later on. We just don’t admit to it! We do feel annoyed at ourselves over them though – very much the “why didn’t I spot that one?” school of thought.

3. To never run out of pens, notebooks, ink cartridges, paper etc and also to arrange for the printer toner NOT to run out half way through a print run ever again. (You do get sick of this happening when it occurs more than once. Trust me on this).

4. To never miss a writing competition that might suit you ever again. (It is difficult to keep on top of them all so help from Santa here would be useful).

5. To never run out of inspiration and ideas and to always follow them through thoroughly.

6. Extra stamina would also come in handy. You need it when the umpteenth rejection comes in during the week.

7. More reviews of my book!

8. For the charlatans in the publishing industry to disappear from it for good so nobody is ever taken in by false promises again. Meanwhile, do check out the Society of Authors and/or ALLI, the Alliance of Independent Authors websites for sound advice on what to look for in publishing contracts, self publishing services etc.

9. To never run out of bookmarks. When I don’t need them I seem to have loads. When I do, can I find any? What do you think?

10. For more independent book shops and for them to thrive and do well.

I’m not putting these in any order of importance though 10 should be very high up on any list to Santa, I think.

Am glad to share, via the link, details of some special offers on Chapeltown Books’ flash fiction collections, including From Light to Dark and Back Again by yours truly.

The offers are open until the end of the week. There are currently 8 books in the Chapeltown series and there is an offer on for all of those. Equally you can buy three or four of them and still have a special offer! This offer is on until 21st December.

Some last minute Christmas present ideas, everyone?

Hope that whatever else is amongst your presents this Christmas, some good books are amongst them!

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The YouTube below shows the books produced by Cafelit/Chapeltown/Bridge House during the year. A lovely selection.

I was in the To Be…To Become ebook produced by Bridge House. This contains the 16 winning entries to the Waterloo Arts Festival’s first writing competition. I hope they go on to have others!

What can be confirmed is there is a lovely variety of books and stories to suit all tastes here.

When do you know a story is really special? When you can’t forget the characters.

For me, story has always been about finding out what happens to the characters. I don’t necessarily need to like them (though most of the time I do) but I do need to be intrigued enough to find out what happens to them. So then there has to be something about the characters I can either identify with or which hits my “curiosity switch” and keeps that pressed down so I have to keep reading!

A good plot can be let down by characters that aren’t strong enough for it (and this means the writer hasn’t got to know his people well enough before writing about them). Great characters will lift any story they’re in. Great characters will generate plot. Imagine the chaos a devious character can cause when they set out to cause mischief deliberately. All sorts of stories can come from that, humorous and otherwise, but the character has to be well portrayed for that to work.

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Time for some micro Christmas stories then:-

1. The innkeeper smiled, having seen his guests to the last available room. Nobody else would be disturbing his sleep tonight then.

2. Scrooge grimaced as he walked home, having heard some youngster tell a snippet of a ghost story. Ghosts! Whatever next?

3. In the bleak midwinter, they could have done with a snow plough.4. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer found that telling everyone he was suffering from a nasty cold stopped the awkward jokes about what he was adding to his water trough to generate said red nose.

5. Frosty the Snowman was the first to admit he really could not appreciate the benefits of central heating.

Allison Symes – 15th December 2018

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Never worry about overwriting a story. That overwriting can and should be cut later. Usually this is a case of sharpening up phrases etc. I like the creative aspect of that side of editing where you are happy with your characters and story but know you can express things better than you have done with your first draft.

For me, it is far more of a problem when, on odd occasions, my story is too short. Not a problem for my flash fiction but it can be for standard length short stories (usually 1500 words or so). This always means one thing in my book, pun intended (!), and that is my idea simply wasn’t strong enough. I needed to do far more outlining to see where the idea could take me before I committed to writing it and that process would have shown up inherent weaknesses in it.

So do outline. It can save you a lot of grief later.

Reasons to write flash fiction:-

1. You learn how to edit well.

2. You learn to be ruthless when cutting out anything that is not moving the story forward.

3. You really do watch your word count. (This pays off for other forms of writing competitions too).

4. Given flash fiction markets and competitions have different requirements (for example some include the title as part of the word count, others specificially do not), you learn to make sure you ARE following the right rules for the competitions you’re interested in.

5. It is a great way to get work out there while you are working on a longer project.

6. There ARE more competitions and markets out there now so there should be at least one to suit your style of writing.

7. You have to write character driven stories but there’s nothing to stop you setting that character in any time, genre, or setting of your choosing. You are definitely NOT stuck to one genre here.

8. Flash fiction can make a great warm up writing exercise ahead of a longer project. The great thing is you can now do something with what your produce from those writing exercises!

9. You learn to write precisely because you are looking for the maximum impact on your readers for the minimum word count . This is a fantastic discipline which can be transferred across to other forms of writing you enjoy.

10. It’s fun! I’ve loved the challenge of writing to 100 words, to 75, to 50 etc. Flash fiction can be addictive!

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F = Fantastic Fiction
L = Lines that Hit Home
A = Amazing Characters
S = Stories with Impact
H = Humour and sometimes with a twist too.

F = Fairytales with Bite
I = Imagination is fired up!
C = Can cross genres
T = The word count is the main thing to watch
I = Insist on ruthless editing to cut all that is unnecessary
O = On the look out for markets and competitions
N = Never underestimate the time taken to craft your tales!

Allison Symes – 18th December 2018

Goodreads Author Programme Blog – Christmas Wish List

Naturally I’m assuming books are high up on your Christmas wish list. I would like to add to that though the following:-

1. More time to read!

2. More time to re-read old favourites. Does anyone else feel a pang of guilt sometimes when you really want to go back to a novel you’ve read a few times when you know there are so many other books you really should be getting on with and reading? That you actually want to read but the “clarion call” of the old favourite just can’t be resisted.

3. Being able to read “children’s” books without feeling guilty or embarrassed. Incidentally I understand the point of more grown up covers for certain books to get around this issue but for me this doesn’t really work. I like the original covers far better in the majority of cases and want to stick with those!

4. That all adaptations of stories and books do justice to their source materials. Too many don’t!

5. That I can always find a bookmark when I want one. (I either have LOADS when I don’t need them or none at all. Don’t ask… it is the way it is!).

Hope you have a book and story filled Christmas. The joy of the winter months is WANTING to stay indoors and curl up with a good book!

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Mixing It Up

Facebook – General

Which author do you turn to when the world is grim and you just need to step away from it for a bit? My mother always used to say “stop the world, I want to get off” when the world seemed particularly madder than usual, a feeling I totally understand at the moment.

My go to choices are Pratchett, Austen or Wodehouse. In a grim world, comedic writing is very much my first choice of escapism. (And unlike alcohol and chocolate has no calories in either!).

One of my big bugbears is why humorous writing can be looked down in certain circles. If something looks easy, that writer worked their socks off to get their prose to that point. Easy writing is hard writing and even harder editing.

I’m a big fan of the “what if?” school of developing story ideas. I look at all possibilities when I’ve got an interesting theme/title/character to play with (one of them is the trigger – it isn’t always the character for example. I would say it’s a pretty even split between my three triggers here).

I start by writing down the “obvious” links and dismiss those but in the act of writing those down, the thought “oh I could do this instead” crops up and that’s when the ideas really start flowing. It’s also when the writing really kicks off and that’s a great place to be.

I do use spider diagrams sometimes. Sometimes I draft a series of sentences outlining possibilities and then go with the one I like the best. (You can guarantee if it’s quirky, 95% of the time I’ll go with it!). But I like to play with ideas before I commit to one. The great thing with this approach is if Idea B appeals to me but Idea A is stronger and appeals to me more, than I’ll go with A. But there’s nothing to stop me having another look at B and developing that further for another story another time.

Busy night yesterday submitting flash fiction pieces so pleased with that. Third collection coming along well too.

I often draft fiction and non-fiction pieces with eyes open to potential markets and then submit at a later date. This is to give me time to put work aside for a while and then look at it with fresh eyes before editing and submitting those pieces.

Regarding the non-fiction, which is relatively new to me, I’m putting those pieces aside for a bit as I need to work on pitching to the markets I have in mind (but I wanted to make sure I had written the articles first. There is no such thing, to my mind, as wasted writing. If I find I can’t sell these pieces, I will end up recycling them in other ways. Also, you do write better the more often and regularly you write even if you can only write a small amount each time. It all builds up over time and I am one of those writers who likes to know they have the work to submit before approaching a market!).

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Am looking forward to seeing a local production of one of my favourite stories, A Christmas Carol, on Thursday night. Review will follow in due course.

Am also pleased to say I’ll have some publication news, from different places, over the next few days and am looking forward to sharing some links to new stories with you.

Am also looking forward to sharing an interview with an author of a very special cookbook via Chandler’s Ford Today in next couple of weeks.

My post this week will be looking at light and darkness. Link to go up on Friday.

Not impressed with the cold weather. Am very much looking forward to dodgy CH boiler pump being sorted out tomorrow. Meanwhile, I am wearing loads of layers! It is just a pity that writing isn’t a warmth generating activity but there you go!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun stories, told briefly
L = Lights up the characters
A = Animated dialogue and internal thoughts
S = Show, not tell (and what else could this be)
H = Hard impact from few words

F = Fantasy and fairytales feature in what I do
I = Imagination running riot (what fun!)
C = Characters compel you to find out what they’re up to.
T = Truth emerges in fiction, better than straight telling.
I = Inventiveness emerges from using low word counts
O = Omnipresent narrator, first person or third? I use all.
N = Narrator must be intriguing to your readers.

Some thoughts about flash fiction!

Time for some more one line stories.

1. The swirling leaves made a great disguise for a human-hungry shapeshifter as nobody spotted him turning up for his latest snack.

2. When even the bats find the dark too scary, you know there is going to be trouble.

3. The fairy godmother smashed her wand against a pane of glass and watched as the splinters turned into a pair of beautiful shoes – one user only for these.

4. Find the monster, the people cried, though they screamed when it was found.

5. Being befuddled was Molly’s normal state of being, which is why they didn’t let her have her magic wand any more.

Allison Symes – 18th November 2018

I have three main triggers for writing flash fiction: a character who intrigues me, a theme I just have to write about, or a title with interesting possibilities so I just need to find out which is the most fascinating and go with that!

I’ve found it pays to have different writing triggers. It keeps things fresh and I’ve never believed in the “one approach suits all” school of thought. I’ve never seen how that can work! Being open to different methods helps with competitions where the theme is set for you anyway.

I do recommend having brainstorming sessions every so often where you just jot down potential ideas. I must do so again myself soon but it is great to come back to these later and work them up into stories or articles for Chandler’s Ford Today, as the case may be. It also means never being short of anything to write about!

(And photos can make a great trigger too. Another reason to love Pixabay!).

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Publication news coming later this week with new flash fiction stories from me and in different places too. Looking forward to sharing the links with you as and when. Nice mixture of word counts here too.

What makes me decide when a piece really won’t work as a flash fiction story and that it has to be a standard competition length short tale instead?

When the theme is such a powerful one, I need to give the characters more room to explore it is the basic answer. As you write more, you develop a gut feel for when to stop a story (nearly always turns out to be a piece of flash fiction) or when you need to continue (this is where it can become a 1500 short story instead). Just be open.

 

Goodreads Author Programme BlogMixing It Up

I like to mix up what I read in terms of genre and word count. I love (and write) flash fiction, likewise short stories, but there are times when nothing but a full length novel will do. There is no way Tolkein could have done justice to The Lord of the Rings in three short stories!!

Having said that, I am still stunned they managed to get three films out of The Hobbit, given it was only one book. Hey ho…

The correct word count for any story, of course, is when no more can be said and when to remove anything would be to the detriment of the tale in some way.

I think as a reader of too many years to count, you do develop an instinctive feeling for when a writer has got the word count right. I want to feel at the end of a story disappointed it has come to an end, but at the same time, know within myself, there really was no more to be said. Naturally that’s a challenge to me for my own writing but this is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes!

One of the things I love about creative writing is one of the best tips any writer has to improve their skills is to read widely and across the genres, including non-fiction. You do learn by absorbing what others have done before you. Absolutely no problem with that, then, and bring it on!

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