A Good Writing Week

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Do you read or write (or both) outdoors? I don’t write outside. I much prefer being at a desk for that (and right now it is beautifully cool in the study so added reason to stay in! It also means I can turn up the volume when Beethoven’s 5th comes on and I avoid annoying the neighbours so win-win).

I read outdoors sometimes, there’s nothing to beat relaxing in a nice recliner with a book in hand unless it’s doing that, knowing you’ve got a long cold drink besides you too!

I cope with colder weather better than hot (as does Lady naturally). How do your characters react to their environment and weather conditions? Do they cope with anything that can be thrown at them weather wise or do they curl up at the sight of anything more than a fine drizzle?! If you’re writing fantasy or anything other worldly, what would be standard weather conditions in your setting? How does it impact on your characters?

Hopefully you’ll find some ways to deepen your characterisation answering questions like that.

A good writing week is when I can look back and see:-

1. CFT post written, images sourced, and appears on the Friday. (Only times it hasn’t appeared have been either because I’ve been away or ill and once there was a technical issue, which meant I had to post a day late).

2. Progress made on my projects, especially the novel.

3. I have either submitted work to competitions/markets or am drafting work to be sent in the near future.

4. My WordPress website round-ups have appeared on the Tuesday and Friday. I enjoy preparing these as they look like a mini magazine. I hope you enjoy them too!

It has been a good week! Do I get bored? No! Do I wish I had more writing time? Always.

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Asking questions is a great way to generate story ideas. The classic one is “What If?” of course, but Kipling’s honest serving men of What and Why and When and How and Where and Who are invaluable for outlining a story of any length.

For example:-

What are the stakes for your lead character?

Why have they got to go for the goal you’ve set?

When do they have to achieve their goal by? (The shorter the time frame the better as it means more pressure for your character).

How will they achieve their objective?

Where does your character live and what bearing does the setting have on their trying to achieve their goal?

Who opposes them and who helps?

You can adjust the above questions to suit your needs, of course, but answering these will give you an outline you can add to or change as you require.


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Thrilled to announce my humorous fairytale, What Goes Around, will be in the Bridge House anthology, Nativity, later this year. You can rely on me to share the link as and when I can!

Many congratulations to all of the 24 authors in the latest Bridge House book and a particular shout out to #AlysonRhodes, #PaulaRCReadman, #DawnKnox, #LindaFlynn, and #JamesBates.

I can’t wait to read all of your stories. They will be a wonderful ecletic mix!

Image below taken at a previous Bridge House event (and supplied by Paula Readman, who is on the right. Dawn Knox is in the middle).

It has been a busy few weeks with news of stories in The Best of Cafelit 8 and Transforming Being. I like weeks like this!

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and I celebrate where our stories have appeared! Many thanks to Paula Readman for the picture.!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am currently listening to the theme from The Incredibles on Classic FM (well I was at the time I wrote this on Facebook!). Loved the film and the music is so appropriate for it. A really good film score always stands out and hooks the watcher into the movie.

Favourite film theme? Hmm… Love The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, no surprises there. Favourite John Williams’ piece is Raiders March (though Schindler’s List is so moving). Very hard to pick out an outright favourite.

For flash fiction writing, it is the title that has to be our big hook in for readers. The title has to be appropriate and to serve the story well, just as film music must serve its movie well. So it is worth taking extra time to get it right but it’s absolutely fine to start off with something and replace it later. I often do that when a better idea occurs as I’m writing the story.


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Flash fiction, due to its word count restriction, works best with one character, possibly two (and there I would say that would work better with the longer forms of flash). You are looking for your character to have the strongest impact possible on the reader and having too many characters in such a short space dilutes the effect.

It’s another reason why I use first person a lot. I can get into the head of that character and they can reveal other characters for me/the reader. A good example of this is my Calling the Doctor where my character knows she is dying but it is not until the end she reveals who her doctor is. I don’t need to bring the doctor into the story at all. Do have a look at the book trailer as this is the story I chose to use on this and you’ll see why!


Flash fiction may be short, sorry it IS short, but it still takes time to edit and ensure the words you’ve chosen are exactly the right ones to make the maximum impact on a reader.

I usually get a first draft down pretty quickly. What takes the time is re-reading (often several times) and realising this phrase here could be sharpened up if I change one word here. Equally I need to look for those phrases where if I were to cut, something of the flow of the story would be lost. I always judge whether something should stay in on its impact on me (and therefore hopefully readers) and never just on the word count alone.

I see the word count as a guide. If something works better at 200 words rather than 100, then fine, the tale stays at 200! I’ll submit it for a different competition or market. You CAN over-edit. Mixing up what you write in terms of word count is not a bad thing to do anyway and gives you plenty of practice at writing across the range flash fiction offers. Nothing to lose there then!

Good news on the story front as my humorous fairytale What Goes Around is due to be published in the Bridge House Nativity anthology later this year.

It is wonderful when acceptances come in but behind them is a lot of hard work, even more rejections to get stories up to standards where they are in real contention for publication etc.

Even when that is the case, you cannot know whether your Story A or someone else’s Story B will fit the theme of the chosen anthology better.

So if a story is turned down somewhere, look at it again. Is there another market/anthology it could fit? All story writing is useful experience. What you learn as you write a tale (even if it is never published) is what you build on for the next story etc. You do learn, over time, to judge that a story of yours would suit Market X over Market Y. You learn to tailor your submissions too. That increases your chances of acceptance. Note I said increases!

There are no guarantees in writing and I guess that IS guaranteed!


Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Legacies in Writing

Do you ever think about what your writing legacy is and, as importantly, should you?

I was recently at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and at the end of the Saturday courses, there was a lovely celebration held in the University of Winchester’s chapel for the late Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the event.

Not only was that a direct support to writers across all genres, she always found time to speak to writers of all levels, when she must have had a million and one things to do. She is remembered with much love, as you can imagine.

Easier said than done but encouraging others in their writing journey benefits them and you. Pixabay

None of us can ever know where our writing journey is going to take us when we first start. As with any road, there will be cul-de-sacs, the literary equivalent of potholes tripping us up, what we thought was a helpful road sign taking us in the wrong direction with our work and so on. (I’m not aware of any literary traffic wardens though!).

The writing journey is not always straightforward.  Pixabay

So we go into the writing life with our eyes wide open and seek to encourage other writers along the way as we ourselves receive encouragement from them.  We all know the heartaches of rejections after all, but we also know publication is possible. We also know writing for your own pleasure is as valid a thing to do but I also believe we can all leave a positive legacy behind. I think it is part of our calling as writers.

None of this can come all at once but are so worth striving for. Pixabay

The writing legacy we should leave then can be summed up as follows.

1.  Aim to write to the highest standard you can manage.

Improvement is always possible. It is always desirable too. Accept your first draft will not be great. My favourite quote on this comes from Terry Pratchett who saw first drafts as “you telling yourself the story”.

It’s then a question of extracting the gold from the dross – and there will be dross and more than you’d like. Shakespeare and Dickens faced the same. We will not be exempt!

Equally true for your writing but looking for continued improvement IS good to aim for.  Pixabay

2.  Be proud of your work. Ensure you enjoy it.

You are your first audience. Once published, you will want to keep on producing work to be “out there”. You must be able to enjoy what you write over and over again. Do mix up what you write.

I love writing short stories and blog posts as well as flash fiction, but whether you write one type of material or loads, you must enjoy it all.  That enjoyment comes through in what you write. Prose the writer has loved writing has an energy all of its own. I believe readers pick up on that instinctively.

It’s a pity we can’t award ourselves these every so often for our writing but look back and see how far you’ve come. Hopefully you will find encouragement there.  Pixabay.

3.  For you to be able to look back and see how your work has improved.

Working at the craft takes time. There are no shortcuts.

Determination to keep going is important too. Stamina is needed.  Pixabay


This has always struck me as sensible advice but the writing journey will have its ups and downs. The ride is rarely a straightforward and smooth one but it does help to know that!  Pixabay.

Writing challenges and stretches me and is so much fun.  It is also hard work. The two go together. Wherever your writing journey takes you, enjoy the ride!

Goodreads Author Blog – Changing Books

Which books stay with you as firm favourites throughout and which only last for a specific period in your life?

I wouldn’t give you a thank you for the old Peter and Jane books again (!) but would probably still enjoy the Famous Five.

The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia, along with the classic fairytales, will always be favourites.

But the joy of reading is discovering new genres and authors. It has only been comparatively recently I’ve discovered the joys of non-fiction reading. It wasn’t as if I was particularly against it, I just hadn’t tried any.

Now it’s a regular part of my reading routine. (I like the Ben Macintyre books especially. Loved Agent Zigzag in particular). The best non-fiction uses great fictional storytelling techniques and should keep you as gripped as an epic novel.

Which books from your reading past would you change now? Which would you change them for?





Now there’s a combination you don’t often see in the same sentence!

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What are your favourite virtues in characters?

I would list courage, honesty, and reliability. Perhaps not the most exciting of virtues but certainly ones you can depend on.

I’ve always felt Sam Gamgee does not get nearly enough credit for the support he showed Frodo. To my mind, he is as much of a hero in The Lord of the Rings as Frodo is.

I suppose what I love most here is Sam doesn’t pretend to understand what it is all about or the pain and pressure Frodo feels. All Sam knows is he has got to support Frodo and that is what he gets on and does. I love characters (and indeed people) like that. They really are the ones you can depend on in a crisis

For villains, can you list favourite virtues? I think so. I want the villain to be a worthy opponent always (otherwise where is the real challenge for the hero/heroine?). So this means then an ability to plan and anticipate what the hero/heroine might do, their NOT underestimating the hero/heroine, and having a kind of charisma, where you can understand why other characters would support the villain.

Fan still going full tilt in the office. It’s more than what I am!

Writing wise, my plans for this coming week are to try to submit more work. I need to catch up a bit with competition entries etc. It’s not the writing of the stories funnily enough that is the problem here. It’s the selecting of the ones I HAVE written and deciding where to send them, then actually sitting down and getting them out there!

I can get into the state where I am writing loads of new stories but not testing the market with any of them, which is where I’m at again at the moment. So will try and work on that this week I think.

Must admit I hope it cools down a bit soon. I definitely work better overall when it’s not so hot. (The wildflower picture is one taken by me at a local park where part of it it set aside for a miniature meadow. This is literally just a tiny bit of it. The whole thing looks glorious and I hope to share more pics in my CFT post this week. And, yes, I do find getting out and about and enjoying the wonders of nature helps my creativity. It’s just the heat that doesn’t but then if you do feel as if you’re melting, that explains that!).

I love the colour combinations in the wildflower meadow

A close up of the wonderful wildflower meadow in my local park. Image by Allison Symes

Looking up towards the Hilt

Looking up the length of the park from behind the meadow. Image by Allison Symes

This is just a small section of some wonderfully coloured flowers

Another view of the wildflower meadow. Image by Allison Symes

Do you have a saggy middle? Hang on, let’s rephrase that.

Does your STORY have a saggy middle?

It is so easy to focus on coming up with that fantastic opening line. It is even easier, I find, to focus on a great ending, especially if it involves a twist.

But the bit in the middle? Well, unless it fulfils the promise of that opening line, that beginning is wasted. If it doesn’t lead to your great conclusion, then that’s wasted too.

Everything has to follow through from beginning to end, regardless of the length of the story. But let’s hear it for the sometimes neglected middle section. It is absolutely crucial to get that right otherwise the story falls down. (Never a pretty sight that!).

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I’ve occasionally used the title of a flash fiction piece to act effectively as the first line of the story as well.

My Time Waits for No Man is an example of this. The next line reads “But time does slow to a crawl when driving in traffic”. (And boy is that true?!). I must try and use this technique more often. It can be a great way into a story.

I always find, whether writing fiction or my CFT posts, I need a good start and then I’m away. Yes, the polishing and editing comes later but I find once I’ve started the story, I’ve just got to keep going until I’ve got a first draft down.

So whatever techniques help you to get to a cracking start with your writing, keep going! I love the freedom of knowing the editing will come later, the story will improve drastically later, but right now is just the sheer joy of creating and I treasure that.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many congratulations to Lynden Wade, who won a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again as part of Elizabeth Hopkinson’s cyber launch for her Tiny Tales. Am looking forward to posting the book to you.

Many congratulations also to Elizabeth herself for a very enjoyable launch.

I loved my cyber launch (and many thanks to Gill James and Chapeltown Books for that), but I couldn’t believe how tired I felt afterwards! All that adrenaline I guess… or was it the virtual cake, wine. and other goodies?!

I love the way good flash fiction can capture a whole world in so few worlds. What the writer does tell you about a character should leave you being able to work out how that character relates to others, what effect they are likely to have on others, and often what their natural state of being is. Are they nervy? Are they calm etc?

My Time Waits For No Man on Page 40 doesn’t name my character but you know enough from what I have shared to see this is someone who has gone through hell. I haven’t needed to spell out all the details.

It is always the selection of what a reader needs to know to be able to identify with the character (whether it is sympathetically or not) that matters most.

I’ve talked a bit on my author page tonight about the sometimes neglected middle section of a story and I thought I’d continue the theme here.

We all focus on cracking opening lines and brilliant story endings but without the middle of the tale being equally excellent, the whole story falls flat.

I’ve forgotten who gave the advice “try not to write the bits people skip” but it is excellent advice. You want your readers to be so gripped by your story when they come to the middle of it, they will definitely want to see it through to the end. That middle section is where the set up is, regardless of whether the ending is going to be a sad or happy one. And it has got to “follow through”.

I use my middles to feed in those bits of information the reader needs to know so that the ending makes sense. Also I sometimes use the middle to expand a bit on what I’ve set out at the start. In my story, The Haunting, by the time I get to the middle, I have set out three times in three different ways that a particular object is irritating its owner.

So no saggy middles then!


The joy of the road traffic report
Is knowing, as if playing a sport,
You are not in the horrible queue
So the bad news means nothing to you.
But when it is the other way round
I can bet, from your car, comes the sound
Of a swear word or several dozen
Which irks your kin, except your cousin.

Allison Symes – 17th July 2018

Hope you enjoy. I love this sort of doggerel from time to time!


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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Helpful Book Reviews

What do you find most helpful in a book review?

Speaking as a writer and reader, I love to see the following in any review, regardless of its length.

1. A good description of the central idea of the book. (This tends to indicate genre and often age range too).

2. Whether the reviewer liked it or not and good reasons why. (Nobody likes a troll! I want to know what people liked about what I’ve written and what they feel I could do better. I’m not necessarily going to agree but if several are saying the same thing, then it’s time to look again. From the reader viewpoint, I want to see sensible reasons given. “Not to my taste” doesn’t really tell you enough).

3. The review is clearly an honest one. I need to be able to gauge whether someone’s book is likely to appeal to me. Several comments, offering differing views, is a very good help to me to work out, yes this is likely to appeal or conversely that it won’t!

I write reviews myself sometimes and do follow my own advice here. The great thing about being a writer yourself is it kind of makes it easy for you to come up with a good review. You write the kind of review you would love to see on your own book or, if you do really dislike what you’ve just read, to still pick out where you think the book might appeal, while honestly admitting it wasn’t for you. (I love the honesty behind that sort of review).

So happy reading and reviewing!