Storylines, Dialogue, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Am pleased to share one of my humorous fairytales with bite, Rotten Day, which is now up on Cafelit.

See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you enjoy!

This kind of story is always great fun to write!

This story came about as a result of an idea suggested in the Prompts book by Gill James. I am slowly working my way through the ideas in here, some of which I contributed.

Is it odd I’m writing a story to my own initial prompt? A bit but still good fun. And I didn’t make my opening lines, my favourite form of prompt, too easy either! There’s no fun in that. You have to rise to the challenge of the prompt but that means it does have to be challenging!

Oh and before you ask I deliberately sent the prompts in without having written the stories for them first. I wanted to come to these prompts “fresh” and tackle them as if they had been written by someone else.

Now that’s not a bad idea for those odd times when you’ve got a few minutes. Jot down ideas. Put them away for a while. Come back to them later and then see what you can do with them. Above all, have fun!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope you’ve had a good weekend. Blustery here, most unseasonable, but Lady’s had plenty of exercise and is now napping on the sofa. I know… ahhh….

I was watching one of my favourite films earlier – The Ladykillers with Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers in it. (Possibly his first movie too as this came out in 1955). It is a masterclass in tight storywriting and seamless editing. The storyline is excellent and there is a lovely twist at the end. All of my favourite ingredients in a story basically.

Important point: not a word out of place. No scene felt unnecessary either. And that I can apply to whatever writing I do too.

So I’m not going to call it taking time out to watch a film. I’m going to call it visual research into storytelling techniques – and that IS my story and I’m sticking to it!😆😆

(I took the image of Lady, of course, the rest are from Pixabay).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lady played with her best pal, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, this morning so both of them got their Mondays off to a great start! Why is it when dogs play together they feel the absolute need to run into their owners when they’ve got all the space of the park around them? Answers on a postcard…

You do develop quick reflexes to dart out of the way though!

Writing wise, I’m working on material I will need for later on but can’t say any more than that at the moment.

I’m looking forward to sharing a new CFT series later in the month which will, I hope, prove particularly useful to writers, especially those starting out on their writing journey. More details later in the month though I will say a big thank you now to those authors who’ve already sent wonderful contributions for this. I’m looking forward to putting this together in due course.

I try to write a couple of series a year for CFT where I invite guest contributions, alongside author interviews etc. I find there is always something to learn from these.

One of the great aspects of writing that I love is, no matter where you are in your journey, that learning process is ongoing. You don’t want to stop developing as a writer. There is never a point where you can feel “well, that’s it now”. What you aim for is to be the best you can be in what you do and seek to refine and hone your skills in those areas.

What do you like about writing dialogue the most?

I love it when I’ve got two characters talking and it is apparent to me that, other than the odd he said/she said tag every now and then, it is clear who is speaking and what their attitude is!

To me this shows this is a “live” dialogue and, while it will need editing later (everything does!), it will have the benefit of not being clunky or awkward to read out loud.

When you know how your characters would speak, what kind of words they would use, which phrases they would never use and so on, that’s great. It means you know your characters well and I’ve found when I’ve outlined mine properly, when they are in “conversation”, it almost feels as if I’m taking dictation from them.

Moments like that are lovely because it nearly always means I can’t get the words down quickly enough and my characters and I are on a roll!

I occasionally give a character a pet phrase though I prefer to get them to use a particular word and repeat that every so often. It flags up to the reader when there are no tags this must be Character A speaking because they’ve used the word carbuncle again or what have you! Not that I’ve used carbuncle in a story yet…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A new flash fiction story, Rotten Day, is now up on Cafelit. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you pop over and enjoy the tale. Let’s just say I think many of us may identify with the way my lead character feels in the closing line! I know I’ve felt this way especially when particularly busy.

Now the problem with any kind of humorous writing is it has to be subjective. People’s sense of humour varies of course. So I am more than happy if a tale like Rotten Day makes one person laugh and another one smile broadly. Absolutely fine with me, that!

What I do when writing these is ensure that the humour arises naturally out of the situation I’ve dumped my character in. That is far more likely to make people smile. It also won’t come across as forced humour, which I loathe.

If someone tells me I have to laugh at this, well often I don’t. I decide what I find funny, thanks very much!

But a situation where I can see the predicament the character is in and empathise with them, then I am much more likely to cry, laugh, scream, or whatever the appropriate response to the story is and which the author intended to be the reaction.

Nothing forced about that at all and that is exactly how I like it in stories whether I read them or write them.

Stamping on an adverb until it is dead is not the problem it once was for me. Turning to flash fiction writing cured me of any addiction to these. If it can be cut out, I cut it. Just as well I didn’t go into medicine I think!😊

Wanting to achieve the maximum impact on a reader has also helped me with editing my own work. It IS a question of cutting to the chase here. Ironically I was going to put in the word “really” in that last sentence but cut it as it wasn’t going to add any extra to what I was trying to say.

And that’s the whole point. I’ve learned over time to not add words which don’t serve a purpose and/or to cut them when editing. Nobody writes the perfect first draft but adverbs are amongst the first things I look for when I’m brandishing my red pen.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some of the tips I’ve found most useful for writing flash fiction include:-

  1. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy. I use the Compact Oxford which covers both nicely. You will want alternative words and to check on meanings, especially if you’re writing humorous tales, which are often dependent on double meanings to work.
  2. Learn what words can be hyphenated. They count as one word for flash fiction! I’m sure you can make good use of that!
  3. Always think about impact on your reader. You want them to respond to your story, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream, or what have you. When you read your story through after a break away from it, ask yourself what impact the tale has on you? Is it what you intended?

I love flash fiction collections, not just because I write them (honest!), but I’ve always been a big fan of books where I can dip into stories as and when I want to. I can read those stories individually, as well as read the whole collection reasonably quickly. Just love having that flexibility.

I also like reading short forms in between reading novels. I like to think of this as the equivalent of having an appetiser before enjoying the main course! There is much to be said for appetisers like that. They can make a meal. Sometimes they can be the best bit of it!

So what do I want my flash fiction appetisers to do then?

I’d say whet a reader’s appetite so they look forward to the next collection but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?! But it is a good thing to aim for. Always leave your audience wanting more and then they’ll be pleased to see you again!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Reactions to Stories

How do you react to stories? I know, I know, what kind of question is that? So much depends on the story you’re reading, right?

Yes, fair comment and all that, but what I am getting at here is do you react to a story in the way the author intended?

Now I must admit if someone tells me “oh, Allison, you’ve got to laugh at this”, a lot of the time I won’t! I want to decide what I find funny, thanks!

But it is true that in whatever story I read, if the situation and the characters come across as natural to me, I am much more likely to react in the way the author wants.

Puppet on a string here? Perhaps. But I want the author to put in the work to set up a situation and character so I will want to react the appropriate way. I see that as part of the “deal”.

The author has set up a funny situation (though it often isn’t to the character, which makes a situation even more funny a lot of the time) and I will react to it. What I don’t want is something coming across as forced.

Even in the most fantastical worlds and situations, there has to be something that I as a reader can empathise with and react to – as the author would want, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR SERVICES/ONLINE EVENT NEWS

Image Credit:  Pixabay or Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

NEWS

A lot has happened writing wise over the last few days.

Firstly, I now have an Author Services page on Allison Symes: Collected Works as I now work as an independent editor, as well as an author. More details below in the relevant post with the appropriate link.

Secondly, the launch of the ebook Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s Waterloo Arts Festival is this coming Friday, 12th June from 6.30 pm.  There will be videos, you can meet, via Zoom, the authors including me and more details follow in the post below. You will need a ticket but the event is free. Link is below. Hope to see you there!

Cyberlaunches are a good chance to promote you and your work but you need to engage with people rather than boom at themDo invite people to your launch - you do have to actively invite them and then hopefully entertain them with your launch too

Facebook – General – and Author Services News

There is often a lot of “behind the scenes” work with writing. I find it bubbles away nicely in the background for ages and then, oomph, it is all ready for sending out to a publisher or a competition or what have you.

Or you are preparing various things ready for taking your writing journey on to another stage and I am at that point now.

I have updated my website as I now have an Author Services page available.

Some of you, I know, will already know I carry out editing work. Details are on my Author Services page.

There are two sides to this page: one is my work as an author. I am happy to give talks and run workshops etc. The other is the editing side.

Full details of how to contact me are on the Author Services page.

And for other writers taking new steps on their writing journey, may I wish you the best of luck as I take new steps on mine!

And from FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN FACEBOOK PAGE

I don’t think there can ever be said to be THE perfect time to do something new! It’s a question, I think, of doing what prep work you can and then picking as good a time as possible as suits you.

Just to say I now have an Author Services page on my website (link below) and there are two sides to this. One is for my work as an editor. Full details of what I do and how to contact me are on the page.

The other is for my work as a published writer. I am very happy to give talks and run workshops on flash fiction. Do see my page for more details.

Allison Symes and published works LARGE VERSION

Facebook – General – and Waterloo Arts Festival News

This Friday night is Waterloo Arts Festival night – well the writing side of it is!

Of course, it has to be online but the event is free. You do need a ticket for the event but see the link.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers, including yours truly.

Hope to see you!😊

 

Now on to the rest of this round-up!

Facebook – General –

The Book Cover Challenge – Days 1 to 5

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

 

Image may contain: 1 person, text

A wonderful detective novel.

Day 2
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #RichardHardie who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Epic fantasy. And one of my favourite film adaptations too.

No photo description available.

Epic in every sense

Day 3
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #WendyHJones who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle. Great stories with the most intriguing detective ever, I think, and the forerunner for EVERY flawed one that has come since too.

No photo description available.

A timeless detective in many ways.

Day 4
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #JenWilson who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? A ChristmasCarol by Charles Dickens. My favourite ghost story (and I love the Muppet version of it too).

No photo description available.

Not many writers get to add to a tradition but Dickens did/has.

Day 5

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #SharonBradshaw who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A classic and brilliant example of irony in romantic fiction.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says "The Penguin English Library JANE AUSTEN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE"

This book introduced me to irony in fiction and is such a wonderful story.

Days 6 and 7 will feature in my next post.

Facebook – General

I’m taking part in a Book Cover challenge on Facebook at the moment (see above) and it is making me think about what books I’ve chosen and why.

I’m also trying to marry up who I nominate to take part with books I’ve chosen I think they’ll also be fans of and not to make their life more difficult here, honest! Rather it will free them up to choose other huge favourites in their selections because we will all have the same dilemma. We can only choose HOW many?!

It is difficult limiting yourself to 7 books given the challenge lasts for 7 days but as a celebration of stories and books in general, this is great fun to take part in! Many thanks to #JaneBrocklehurst for nominating me.

I wrote a Chandler’s Ford Today post a while back about what books I would take to a desert island. Hope you enjoy. And do share which you would take with you and why.

 

Saddened but not surprised that Swanwick has been cancelled for this year. Will miss seeing everybody but am already looking forward to next year’s event. 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s unlikely to crop up as one of people’s all time favourite years, is it?!

Yet ironically good things are happening. Zoom has brought people together (and my social life has perked up a lot thanks to it though I guess that does say more about me!😆😆).

Talking of Zoom, I’m looking forward to the online Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition event on Friday night. Will report back in due course. (And do come if you can. Link to event to follow further down).

And I hope, after the event, to share the video I made for this after the event where I read an extract from my winning story. It was great fun to write and I look forward to sharing that.

It was good fun making the video too and it’s not something I would have thought to have done, had events gone on as they usually would have done.

Meanwhile I’m writing away and looking forward to answering interview questions I’ve been sent. In some ways lockdown hasn’t changed my routine at all. I sit at a desk and write! But it is the not seeing friends and going to book related events I’m missing the most.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

These things are all relevant to a cyberlaunches which are often used to launch a book at a discount rateImages like this help set an online party atmosphere

 

A good opening line either sets up an intriguing premise OR lays out a problem you know has got to be solved by the story’s end.

A good closlng line either delivers on that premise OR resolves the problem.

What is talked about less often are the lines in between! They matter too, obviously.

One thing I like about flash is it forces you to ensure every word, every sentence moves the story forward, so no saggy middles here! But there’s no reason why you can’t use that same technique of asking yourself DOES this line add anything useful to what ever kind of fiction you write. And that question I’ve found useful so many times. It helps me focus on what really matters after all.

My top tips for flash fiction writing would be:-

1. Limit the number of characters. Especially for those stories under 500 words, you may well get away with only one character.

2. Focus on what the situation is. There has to be a moment of change so what is the single most important thing we the reader have to know about your character and the situation they’re in? That is the story.

3. Your opening line needs to lure your reader in but don’t worry if you need several goes at this. Often I will draft a story and a better opening line comes to me when I’m editing.

4. Your closing line needs to deliver on the promise of your story so ensure it does. I love twist endings, punchline endings, etc., but deliberately mix up the type I write as I don’t want all of my stories to be finished using the same format each time. The ending has to be appropriate to the character and tone of the story too.

5. Read your story out loud if you can. Listen for the flow. Look out for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you do, a reader will.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Time spans for flash fiction, appropriately, are best kept short. I focus a lot on one character, THE important event in their story as that IS the story, and the action is usually wrapped up fairly quickly. The pace is quick too.

I do, however, sometimes write more reflective pieces where a character looks back at their life. My They Don’t Understand is a good example of that.

I also sometimes have characters filling in important information as they are doing something. Time for Tea starts like that and you get to see more of the character’s attitudes, thoughts, and plans as the story unfolds. It is clear those thoughts etc have been building up over a long time but it is NOW they are doing something. That, of course, is the hook for a reader – to find out what that something is and does the character achieve what they think they will?

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – 

The Right Time For a Good Book

I prefer to read in bed but the right time for a good book varies from reader to reader of course.

What is your preferred reading time?

Mind you, I am pretty good at sneaking in extra reading over lunch, though I usually read magazines then. Still it is all grist to the reading mill and I get more read so win-win!

Reading for me is principally a form of entertainment.

Secondly, it is a form of widening my experience of the world. When life is tough, I will always go for books that make me feel better, often tried and tested favourites.

When life is okay, I will want to stretch myself with my reading and that is when I will read books and authors new to me. The good thing is with life being so full of ups and downs for everyone, I get to “do” both kinds of reading over time. So that’s okay.

I like the Look Inside feature on Amazon when trying out new authors and most of the time I do end up buying, having liked what I’ve seen.

I tend to go through phases here too when I will be downloading a few things, none for a bit, and then downloading again. Just as well really that an electronic book shelf cannot give way!

When do you decide it’s time to widen your reading horizons? Is it just based on friends’ recommendations or do you have to be in the right frame of mind to “bite”?

Usually I will take a look at a book a friend recommends and if the blurb, the cover, and the Look Inside attract me, I download. But all of it has to appeal.

And that’s something I try to bear in mind with my author hat on. How can I get these details right for a potential reader of mine?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Changing Direction

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post this week looks at why changing direction in writing can be benefical and why it is inevitable at some point. After all when you start writing, you cannot know at that point for sure you will always write short stories, say. You may decide to write a novella or a play or what have you.

I share some thoughts about my own changes of direction and flag up a new one but see the post for more on that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Did you know what you wanted to write when you first began creative writing? Or was it a case of wanting to try different forms until you found the one you were most at home with?

It was those questions which led to my writing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post on Changing Direction.

Writers are often urged to not give up and rightly so. Persistence does pay (it has for me) but it should also be said that it is perfectly okay to change direction if you want to do so. It was a turn of direction that led me to discover flash fiction after all. I hadn’t anticipated this at all when I began writing.

And so often writers will start by writing short stories, say, go on to write a novel, and then come back to the short form again.

The writing journey is not a straight line by any means. What it should be though is fun (at least most of the time!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – Book Cover Challenge

I was nominated to take part in this on 5th June. I thought I would share my posts here (and again on my next post) as there are some wonderful books to share. If you haven’t read them already, do consider adding them to your TBR list. (I will repeat this post next time so all of the book covers are together). Oh and do check out the writing of the authors I nominate too!

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

Image may contain: 1 person, text

 

Facebook – General

It can sometimes be difficult stopping a story because you really love the characters and the setting and you want to keep writing but, of course, you can’t.

The story has to end at the right point for that tale. There has to be a point of change and we should see the results of that change. Literally end of story.

One advantage of writing flash for me is the fact I have to make myself move on to tackle the next 100-worder or what have you. The lower word counts with flash means I can’t have too long to fall in love with my characters and therefore face the temptation of extending the story out beyond where it should really go.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you have pet phrases you like to use in your stories? Or do you find yourself coming out with the same turn of phrase more than once in a story as if you are on “hit default phrase selection” mode?!

Writing flash does help against that given the need to keep inventing new characters and situations. What I DO have to watch are my infamous wasted words and ensuring I don’t start each story in the same way. (That is particularly easy to do if you use the first person. Every story starts “I, I, I” etc etc).

I think it is useful to be aware of things like this so you can look out for them in your editing.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

Do you work out your themes in advance of writing your story or does the theme arise naturally out of the tale you’re writing?

It has been a case of both for me. For example, I think I’d like to write a poetic justice story so I then plan out a character and a situation where that theme emerges.

The nice thing with that theme is sometimes poetic justice can have a humorous element to it (and I do enjoy writing and reading those kinds of stories).

There have been cases where I know who my character is and where they’re going plot wise and the theme then comes out of that.

Though in both cases I do like my heroes/heroines to have some fire in their belly. No time for wishy-washy characters here!😆]

I expect my characters to justify being created in that I WANT to write about them, there is no problem finding things for them to do or land themselves in or so on.

For my quieter characters, I want their trait of quiet determination to win through so it is clear to a reader that there is more to them than meets the eye. Any character like that intrigues me as I want to find out what that “more” is and I would hope a reader would feel the same for my people here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do I like in an opening line, especially for a flash fiction story? Some of the things I look for here include:-

1. An interesting situation or character that intrigues from the start.

2. Dialogue that sets the scene and, usually, indicates the problem the character has to overcome.

3. Internal thoughts of a character showing them in some sort of turmoil. My story, Rewards, has as its opening line: ‘”She must go,” Becky thought.’

I referred to this story when I was on #WendyHJones‘ podcast The Writing and Marketing Show a little while back.

And the reason I went for this as an example of an opening line to hook the reader immediately is because I would hope you would want to find out who the “she” is and why Becky thinks she has to go. After that you would want, I hope, to find out if Becky did get rid of whoever “she” is and how.

I think the ultimate “rule” here is that an opening line which makes me HAVE to find out what happens next means that opening line has done its job!

Now just to deliver on the rest of the story!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – Character Motivation

Character motivations can cover a wide spectrum. There are the “obvious” ones of love, revenge, seeking justice etc but motivations can be more subtle than that – for example the wish to prove someone wrong.

What matters is whatever the motivation is, it is the be all and end all to your character, even if it seems to everyone else they’re making a fuss about very little.

A motivated character will do whatever it takes to get what they want and the important thing is to ensure your people are driven enough.

It’s not enough for a character to just want to stay out of trouble. But if your character goes to extraordinary lengths to stay out of trouble then a great deal of humour or tragedy can result from that.

What could be behind that? Maybe they’ve got a bet on with a friend to stay out of trouble for six days, say, and the friend has always been right in the past but this time our hero wants to prove them wrong and is determined to do so. They’re fed up with their friend being right all the time and finally want something to go their way.

There, the motivation is powerful enough and understandable. Your readers have to get behind your character to carry on reading their adventures after all. Naturally your character’s friend will know or be able to guess at their friend’s motivation here and will do all they can to scupper any chances of success.

Voila! Instant clashes and tension as you work out how your hero does or does not prove the friend wrong.

This World and Others – 

Top Tips For When Writing Isn’t Working As You Would Like

It happens. You go through phases where writing is either difficult or simply isn’t working out as you’d hoped. Lots of submissions. Lots of rejections. Few acceptances. Do you wonder if you should keep going? Some tips I’ve found useful to keep me going during difficult times include:-

1. Read More. Feed your own imagination. Remind yourself of why you love stories and why you wanted to write any.

2. Remove the Pressure. Deliberately write just for your own pleasure. Make up complete nonsense. Have fun. (Later, if you can do anything with the writing, even if it is just the odd line or two makes it into a story, say, then fab. Even if not, you’re taking time out to play with words and again remind yourself why you wanted to write).

3. Look at Where You’ve Come From Writing Wise. How much have you written over the years? Can you list publication credits (online and in print)? If not at that stage, have you had shortlistings? Are you simply submitting more stories for competitions than ever before?

Remember you define what success in writing is. Yes, publication is the obvious goal but it isn’t the only one. Saying you’ll write 3 or 4 stories and then try and get them published later is a fine goal too. Look at what you’ve learned as you have written more. Have you learned how to improve your editing skills? Have you picked up tips on the way that are helping you write better now (I would be surprised if you hadn’t)? All of these are good and worthy things.

4. Find supportive writing buddies via online groups or in creative writing classes. We all need to be reminded we’re not alone. Others do understand our compulsion to write. Others understand the frustrations of trying to get published. You need that support. It can make all the difference during low times, creatively speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experimenting with Words and Form

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is Experimenting with Words and Form. I also look at favourite new words. If you have any, do share in the comments box.

I look at why playing with words (and I include things like playing Scrabble here) is a great thing for writers to do. As for experimenting with the form your writing takes, it can open your eyes to new forms of storytelling. What is there not to like about that?

Hope you enjoy.

 

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I suppose most people start their reading “careers” off by loving the fairytales/nursery rhymes etc read to them in childhood. Where do you go from there?

For me it was the Famous Five by Enid Blyton, the Little Women series by Louisa May Alcott, Heidi, Black Beauty – pretty much staple fare, or should that be stable fare?! 🤩.

Then later came Agatha Christie, Tolkein, CS Lewis, Wodehouse, Pratchett. Now I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, especially on the KIndle. I like to use that to try out books by non-fiction authors who are new to me.

It’s a pretty even split between books and magazine reading overall, though I find one week I’m in “book mode”, other weeks I’m not.

But what matters is I’m reading (and writing, naturally).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m looking at experimenting with words and form in my CFT post later this week. Word games from Scrabble to crosswords to Boggle I think are great things for writers to indulge in.

Why? Because at some point you are bound to reach for the dictionary to check if a word really is a word or not! (It’s amazing what can get through in Scrabble for a start!). Link up on Friday. (I also share favourite new words).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I talk about experimenting with form as part of my CFT post this week. Flash fiction is particularly versatile here.

Not only can you select which word count you’re going for (and I mix them up, despite my overall preference being for the 100-worders), you can mix up the form too. I’ve written one-liners, acrostics, flash in the form of a rhyme and so on.

It’s important to have fun with what you write. Mixing things up can and does increase that sense of fun.

What are the joys of writing flash fiction?

1. Knowing you’ve come up with a story which makes a huge (usually emotional) impact because of its tight word count.

2. Knowing there isn’t a word out of place and that every one punches its weight and carries the story along.

3. Memorable characters you might want to do more with in other flash fiction or longer stories. Absolutely nothing to stop you developing ideas and characters further.

What are the woes of writing flash fiction?

1. Ensuring you DO make that emotional impact on your reader AND in the way you intend. If a story is meant to make them laugh, you want them to laugh as you intended and NOT at the story effort you’ve come up with!

2. The word count can work against you sometimes where a character really does deserve a longer “run” but you can still go to 1000 words. Even where that isn’t feasible, celebrate having a fabulous character to work with and accept this one is going to be a standard length short story, novella or what have you. Oh and good luck!

3. Making sure your story idea is strong enough to be a flash fiction piece. Flash is very intense due to its brevity. Is the idea up to that intense scrutiny?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For obvious reasons I’m pleased to see the short story anthologies and flash fiction collections have a ready market. Even if I wasn’t writing in either market, yet alone both (!), I’d still want these to do well. Why?

I think it’s healthy to have a wide range of fiction available and collections are a convenient way of “storing” shorter stories. They also make the perfect books to read/dip into when time is short or, having finished one novel, you’re not sure what you’re going to read next.

And, as with all writers of novels, writers of the shorter fiction do appreciate reviews in the usual places whether it’s a one line review or a paragraph!

Fairytales with Bite –

Experimenting with Words and Form

My CFT post this week looks at Experimenting with Words and Form and why this is good for writers.

Especially when starting out, experimenting with different kinds of writing is a great idea as it will help you find your niche.  Later, when you have discovered what that niche is, you can hone it and playing with form is a fantastic way of doing that honing.  Also, if you write flash fiction, as I do, there’s nothing to stop you having a go at the standard length short story (which I also do from time to time).

The watchword here is to have fun with your writing.  Sometimes give yourself a break from what you usually do and be creative in other writing fields.  At worst, it’ll act as a brief break and you’ll find you really do want to stick to what you usually do.  At best, you’ll find a whole new world of writing to enjoy.  This is what happened to me with flash fiction and I’ve ended up being published in it!  So be open!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others –

The A to Z of Story Essentials Part 4

A slightly shorter number of letters to cover this week so I can finish with some of the awkward ones next week i.e. U to Z with a stopover at V, X and Y on the way. It’ll be a good challenge.  Meanwhile…

P = Promise.  Does the story live up to the promise of its tagline/blurb?  If it does, great.  Okay this is subjective.  No two readers will ever agree on every book they’ve read.  Personal likes and dislikes have to come into it somewhere but the general principle here is “does the writer deliver”?  For me, a good story is where that promise is easily fulfilled, even if you don’t like how the writer does it!

Q = Queries.  A good story should wrap these up by its end.  Leaving a reader wondering how the characters get on after the story ends is fine (and is a great sign) but the problems set up in the story should’ve been resolved.  There should be no unresolved queries here.

R = Reading Flow. A good story for me is one where I’ll be anxious to get to the next page for the “what happens next” moment.  The flow of the story should be a good one.  You want nothing to drag the story down. The story should read easily too, though don’t mistake simplistic reading/writing for simple reading/writing.  It is generally true if someone has made something look easy, such as making their prose look easy to reproduce, you can guarantee that same someone has worked hard for years to develop that skill. Getting the reading flow right requires precision with words and an awful lot of editing.  When it is done well, no reader will ever notice!

S = Set-up. The story set-up has to be intriguing enough to entice me into reading it. Anything with a fairytale/fantasy world basis will pique my curiosity enough to have a good look at the book.  It’s then when the blurb and opening paragraph kick in.  If they intrigue me, I’ll go on to buy the book.  So the set-up has got to be strong enough to intrigue me at all. That set-up must include there being something special about the characters to draw me in.

T = Tension.  There has to be lots of it and it should arise naturally from the characters.  If you have an awkward character, you know they’re going to clash with others in the story.  Fine.  What I also need to know is what makes that character awkward.  There is always a reason for it!

Final part next week…

 

 

DRAFTS, TLAs AND FAVOURITE GENRE

Facebook – General

Managed to draft a few flash fiction stories on my train journeys yesterday. Great use of time, made even better with my headphones plugged in so I can enjoy classical music while I write. She will indeed have music wherever she goes… unless the train goes into a tunnel of course!

I sometimes draft blog posts on this kind of trip too. This has come in extremely useful. It means I always have ideas drafted down I can refer back to and then flesh out when ready to do so. I did take my Kindle with me yesterday meaning to read as well but ran out of time. Still, I made up for that later…

It did strike me though, as I looked around the carriages to see practically all of us plugged into our phones, what a bizarre sight this could seem for an outsider looking in. All of us in our little virtual worlds, all with a kind of invisible barrier up around us. Hmm… I strongly suspect there’s some story ideas to be had from that image! Good luck…

 

Facebook – General

TLAs turn up everywhere. And it’s fine if you know what the three letter acronym is for. You can feel a bit of a twit if you don’t. Apparently, HFN means Happy for Now and HEA is Happy Ever After, both used in romantic fiction. I can’t think of any TLAs for flash fiction writers (do share if you know any but keep them clean!).

You could use TLAs as part of an outlining process for your characters.

ABB = Awkward but Brave
SBK = Stupid but Kind
NBT = Not (to) Be Trusted
DBD = Daring but Dim

Hmm… some interesting character possibilities there I think What TLAs would you use for your own characters and why?

Facebook – General

What is your favourite genre (whether writing or reading it) and can you sum this up in one line? Name an example.

Mine is fantasy because, while taking you to other worlds, it can also shed light on this one. My example would be The Lord of The Rings. The traits of the main characters, for good or ill, can all be found on our own planet. The places such as The Shire or Mordor can be compared to places on earth (and this is made even easier thanks to the fantastic film version).

The battle between good and evil is something to be identified with too (though, from a fictional point of view, the very “best” villains don’t consider themselves villainous at all. They see themselves as having a just cause. They’re wrong and it’s up to the hero/heroine to prove them so). Can treachery be overcome (it so often isn’t in life)? Will justice be done (it so often isn’t in life!)? Fantasy then can be a vehicle for resolving injustices we know so often aren’t put right on our world.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I enjoy a lot of flash fiction collections on my Kindle. It’s helped me widen my reading of contemporary fiction (which is no bad thing) and flash does read so easily on a screen.

It is a huge advantage to those who prefer technology to paper books. I hope it encourages those who wouldn’t pick up a paperback to discover reading electronically is absolutely fine and flash is such a great format for that.

I like downloading story magazines now too. I love magazines in any event but one problem is storage space for those ones you really do want to keep. No worries about that for e-magazines!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s difficult to say what I like best about writing flash. It is great when you have completed a piece, have edited it well, and after leaving it aside for a while, you come back to it and discover it is actually a good story! (One of the biggest enemies of all writers is the demon known as self doubt).

I like the process of writing the story out and then going back through it, removing what I realise I don’t need, and discovering it is a much stronger tale as a result. Of course, you don’t realise what is unnecessary material until you’ve completed the story, look again at what its theme is and then know what you have to take out, so the theme is not undermined.

What I do know for sure is there are no shortcuts and you have to persist, while learning from your mistakes too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads – Author Programme Blog

I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that my favourite place to read is in bed shortly before I head off to the land of Nod.

However, the Kindle has widened my choices of location when it comes to reading. I sometimes read from it on a train trip (unless I’m too busy writing something via my phone). I always read from it when I’m travelling up to Scotland for my annual holiday.

One of my favourite things about e-reading is I no longer have to worry about how many books I can take with me when I’m away. I can have loads! I do find I want to get back to paperbacks when I’ve “feasted” on the Kindle for a bit though. Not that this is a bad thing!

I must admit I do hope we get some good weather in the UK soon. It would be nice to be out in the garden again, with book or Kindle in hand, and a glass of something nice close by. I suspect I may have to wait to August for that!