Favourites

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. For my CFT post this week, one photo was also taken by me and another is a family heirloom shot. Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. Busy week on the blogging front and I’ve two stories to share here. Hope you enjoy.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It has been a busy week on the blogging front (and a huge thank you for the lovely comments coming in yesterday on my More than Writers piece – see below). Tonight though it is time for my weekly spot on Chandler’s Ford Today and this time I look at Favourites.

My piece last week on Looking Back was a reflective one following the Queen’s death but I thought it would be nice to have a kind of follow on post which was lighter in tone.

Favourites takes a cheery stroll down Memory Lane and I share some thoughts on favourite sweets, books, music etc. Do join in with your comments too. Hope you enjoy the post.

Favourites

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29th September – More than Writers

It’s my turn on the More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot. This time I talk about Season of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness – definitely apt for the time of year! – and apply it to the writing life. Hope you enjoy it and find it encouraging.

Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Busy, busy, busy this week as getting ready for a family do at the weekend. Lady loves these and will be spoiled rotten. That may have some connection as to why she loves family events…

Was sorry to hear of the death of Brother Andrew of Open Doors fame (an organisation which helps persecuted Christians. It is a sad truism if you have one group of persecuted people, there will be others being persecuted too. It saddens me a lot that we are still having the debate on religious freedom in this day and age – it should be a “given” and yes that includes the right not to believe. It should be a conscience issue).

Moving on to writing matters, I’ve set my monthly challenge for Mom’s Favourite Reads for the November issue and the October edition will be out very soon. I’ll also be sending out my author newsletter on Saturday. Am finishing the final touches for that one. I tend to add bits and pieces throughout the month. It helps!

May be an image of ‎text that says "‎When I've quizzed my characters enough, I write their stories up. An outline is a necessity for me. 10 - اهاهاا‎"‎

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It’s Friday and that must mean it is time for another story on Friday Flash Fiction.

This one is called Going Home and was inspired by a picture prompt I used when setting exercises for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group last week. Hope you enjoy the tale and would you do what my character is here? Do check out the other fabulous stories on this site. It is a great read and lovely way to have a good “fix” of contemporary flash fiction.

Screenshot 2022-09-30 at 09-25-38 Coming Home by Allison Symes

Many thanks to the lovely people at Elgin Writers for making me so welcome at last night’s flash fiction workshop on Zoom. It was great to meet you and and glad you found the workshop useful.

Another aspect to flash fiction writing is many of the techniques used for it will help you with other forms of writing. For example, you learn to think laterally to make the most of your word count and to write “tightly”.

You can apply that across the board. No more wasted words. No more descriptions which add little of value to your story and the characters. Learning to write with your Ideal Reader in mind and thinking about the impact of your story from the first word. All good stuff here.

May be an image of text that says "WHAT'S YOUR The short form -standard or flash -is is excellent for improving writing skills."

Flash has done so much for me from being published to tightening up my writing (and I am sure that has led to the being published scenario!). It is fun, great for when you don’t have huge amounts of time to write (because it means you can write something).

It has done wonders for my appreciation of good characterisation too. It is my belief every writer can benefit from practicing flash writing and is something I often cover in my workshops.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Fairytales with Bite – Magical Rivals

Sparks should fly between magical rivals but how can they stop their magic from destroying themselves given they will face the problem of the other being capable of matching their “firepower”? It is why they’re rivals after all.

What do they use instead of magic to get the upper hand? How to those around them cope with the rivalry and what are the consequences of it for their followers and opponents?

How do those higher up from them deal with these rivals or do the latter take care to ensure they don’t trouble the authorities? The latter would be wise but actions have reactions and consequences which can often spread wider than intended. Could there be any circumstances where the rivals are forced to work together?

Story ideas can also come from exploring what led to the rivalry in the first place. Also whether any of them want the rivalry to end (for reasons of regret at the outcomes of it? Wanting friendship instead?). Even where the rivals themselves are happy to keep things going, are there others determined to put a stop to it and how do they do it?

You could also look at how things develop when rivals do become friends instead. Not everyone would welcome the change. (Who could be exploiting the rivalry to their own ends here and have vested interests in seeing it continue?).

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This World and Others – Growing Seasons

How does your fictional world produce its food and are the growing seasons like ours on Earth? If not, why are theirs different and what do they have in the way of light and water for their agriculture? Do your main species grow food or is that the work of robots etc?

Thinking more laterally, we all have seasons in life where we “grow”. We learn a lot, often through hardships etc. Can you explore that idea for your characters? What is it they have had to learn the hard way?

Naturally a growing season also indicates there has to be a dormant one so again look at your characters. What periods of their lives would they consider to be dormant and why? What brought them out of that?

Growth does indicate effort – how much effort do your characters like to contribute? (Not everyone is keen on huge efforts after all, especially if there is no obvious or quick reward for it!).).

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The Writing Life, Schedules, and Fact or Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. The autumnal weather has really set in here in the UK. I look ahead this time to a flash fiction workshop I’m running, discuss the writing life, including when work is turned down, and ask if you like fact or fiction or both.

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Facebook – General

Am looking forward to running a flash fiction workshop for Elgin Writers via Zoom tomorrow night.

As well as my Chandler’s Ford Today post coming up on Friday, I’ll also be blogging for More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. Link to that is due to go up on Thursday. I’ll be looking at Seasons of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness for that one and the impact of this on writers.

For the various blogs I write for, I work out a writing schedule so I draft my pieces in good time. Again, as with my fiction, I give myself enough time to edit properly before submitting the posts. It pays to do that. Often I have had useful additional ideas to strengthen a piece on having another look through my original draft.

You have to give your imagination time to work. And imagination still comes into play with non-fiction writing, even if it is a case of asking myself have I presented the information in the best way possible? Sometimes changing a bit of the running order can help something I’ve said stand out more so creativity I think comes into play there.

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Strange weather here today – sunny, blustery, windy, cold – a right old mix. Not that Lady cared. She got to see her Hungarian Vizler pal again today so she (and her pal) were happy.

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’m looking at the topic of Favourites. I wanted, after a rightly more thoughtful piece last week, to show that reflection can have its positive side too. I enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane for this week’s post and hope you do too as I look at favourite books, films, sweets etc. As ever comments are very welcome in the CFT box. Link up on Friday.

Heard today my flash story didn’t make it on to the listings for The Bridport Prize. At some point, I’ll take another look at my entry, see what I can do to improve it, and submit it somewhere else. I’ve mentioned before I have gone on to have work published doing this.

Rejection doesn’t have to be the final word. It can be the chance to polish a piece of work up and try it out there in the big bad world once more. (Incidentally I’m sure I’ve heard later than usual for this – I hope that means something positive!).

I have found you get more used to this kind of thing and that helps. It is all part and parcel of the writing life. Having been on the other side of the judging rostrum, I know it isn’t easy for judges to make their selections. And that’s how it should be. The stories should be as good as possible.

And there is nothing to stop you submitting the piece elsewhere. Another judge may think differently about your work but do take the chance to review your story before sending it out again. I’ve found ways of strengthening a piece when I’ve done this and I’m sure that is what has led to the story then going on to be accepted elsewhere.

 

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Good For Something, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Feedback is very welcome and the support from the writing community on this website is great. Do check it out.

Every writer needs some sort of affirmation that their writing is hitting the right note with readers. We know we’re not going to please all of the people all of the time. Nobody does that. What we’re after is knowing we are pleasing someone! So it is a joy to receive feedback and I enjoy giving feedback too.

There is nobody like another writer who will understand the ups and downs of the writing life. Added reason to go to writing groups, courses etc and meet up with other writers. I’ve made many friends this way (bless you, all!) and I hope to continue making other writer pals along my own writing journey.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 08-55-01 Good For Something by Allison Symes

Today would have been the 62nd wedding anniversary of my parents. Do you use special dates in your fiction at all?

I’ve sometimes written stories involving a birthday. I ought to try and do more with anniversaries as that can cover all manner of things – weddings obviously but also the anniversary of when you met someone special, a historical event and so on.

Also your characters can give a date meaning so stories could be found from exploring that meaning and whether your character treasures it or dreads it but can’t avoid it.

You can also use a a date as a deadline for your characters and put time pressure on them. Okay not so dramatic as a countdown in minutes but you could give them less than 24 hours to achieve something.

You could also think about something that makes a date special for you but would have not meaning to anyone else and try the same kind of thing with your characters. The date can be their driving force to do something because…. Fill in the blanks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good day. Lady and I got a bit of a soaking (I say bit because it could have been worse!) earlier. Not that she worries – one good shake off her coat and she’s done (according to her anyway!).

Looking forward to giving my flash fiction workshop to Elgin Writers via Zoom tomorrow night. I often read a couple of my flash tales as part of things like this. The best way to show what flash is, and can be capable of doing in terms of impact on a reader, is to read some.

Often when I am at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, it take the opportunity of picking up flash collections there to add to my own reading list. Love reading them and I learn a lot from them myself.

You do need to read widely but I would also say you need to read in your genre as well as out of it. Best of all, it’s fun and I find doing this inspiriting. There is never a time when being inspired is ever a bad idea (at least not when it comes to reading books and stories!).

 

It’s Monday. It’s been a blustery day weather wise. It’s getting darker earlier. We haven’t even turned the clocks back yet here in the UK. Definitely time for a story and here is my latest on YouTube. Hope you enjoy Glad to Get Away. Members of the ACW Flash Fiction Group may recognize this as this tale is based on an exercise I set last week based on the closing line.

 

One of the joys of leading the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group is setting exercises. Usually I prepare my “answers” in advance to give an example of what can be done with the topic I’ve been talking about. I’ve found having examples has helped me a lot when someone has set a writing exercise for me. It gives you a kind of rough route map and I’ve always found that useful. I then get on with a draft knowing I am heading in the right kind of direction. I don’t want to be “way out” on this.

This time I did something different (and it will certainly be something I will do again). This time I set the exercises but didn’t prepare my answers. I wrote “live” when the others at the group did so we all had rough drafts to take with us and work up into something. So I have a few drafts to work on which will be fun to do.

Time away

Don’t forget I issue an author newsletter on the first of the month where I share tips (many of them as relevant to flash fiction as to standard length short stories), links to my flash stories, and so on. If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be glad to have you aboard!

Just occasionally when I set an opening line writing exercise or respond to one, I come up with a line which makes a story all by itself. Those are great for sharing on Twitter. Sometimes I go on to extend the story out but it is lovely to have the choice here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Fact or Fiction?

A good book is a good book regardless of whether it is factual or not. I was late to the party when it comes to reading non-fiction but I am glad I’ve discovered the form, I’m also fond of those stories which are based on truth – historical fiction is wonderful for this. I was sorry to hear of the death of Dame Hilary Mantel. I loved Wolf Hall.

The best non-fiction books often read as if they could be a novel (and this is where creative non-fiction is a genre I definitely want to read more of). The irony here though is that fiction can share truths which non-fiction cannot because those truths can’t be “scientifically” verified.

I love it when a character “rings true” and I can put myself in their stead and think yes I would’ve done that too. Of course you sometimes come across a character where you almost want to shout at them “don’t do that”. That’s the fun of fiction though! You can get behind the characters. You don’t necessarily need to agree with all they say and do.

The best non-fiction will show you aspects of a historical character you might not have considered before. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey is fiction but it is a rare example, for me, of doing just that for Richard III.

Screenshot 2022-09-27 at 21-08-13 Fact or Fiction

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Opening Lines, Dialogue, and Persistence


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. I use Book Brush for captioning etc. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of Lady.
Hope you had a good weekend. My part of the world is experiencing a heatwave at the moment. Lady and I don’t really “do” heat so won’t be sorry when it cools down again.

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What do I look for when reading a story by someone else and what can I learn from it for my own writing?

The main thing I look for is how the story made me feel. I then look at why it achieved that. I can then go back over the story (especially if it is a short story or piece of flash fiction) to look at how the author achieved this. It will inevitably be to do with how they portrayed the character.

I sometimes have fun trying to spot the turning point in a character. Sometimes the odd line will prove to be really important to the story later on and I like trying to guess what these might be. Sometimes I guess correctly.

A lot of the time I haven’t so I go back through the piece to see if I can work out whether I should’ve guessed correctly. You can learn a lot from doing things like this, including how to plant your own red herrings when the need arises!

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Wow! What a warm Monday! You’ll be glad to know Lady is fine, drinking plenty, and staying out of direct sunlight. It’s about the only time she is ever remotely sensible, not that I am sorry about this. She got to see her best mate, the Ridgeback, briefly this morning before it really heated up, which cheered both dogs up.

I suspect her buddie, like Lady, has spent the rest of the day curled up somewhere cool, pausing every now and then to get up and have a good drink. It truly is a dog’s life…

I mentioned last week I’d found a title for my “X” feature for this week’s In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Drum roll please… it is going to be (E)xcellence in Fiction – now before you all start shouting at me and saying I am cheating here, let me just say one thing.

You’re quite right!
Am I sorry? No!

I did consider other options such as X-Ray Vision and Other Special Gifts In Fiction. Now I could have written a post on that but obviously It would be heavily weighted in favour of sci-fi and fantasy writing so I thought a broader topic more people can get more out of would be the better idea. Link up on Friday.

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Writing Tip:

Keep it simple is a good maxim to go by for writing dialogue. I occasionally have a pompous character who won’t use contractions or will use complicated words and everyone else around them is wondering what on earth they’re going on about. Keeping the dialogue simple helps increase pace. Your characters can share information more quickly.

It is especially important in fiction for characters to get to the point – readers want to find out what happens after all. We all know those who “go around the houses” a bit in their speech – that’s fine for people we know. It’s not fine in stories. Readers will switch off. When you need a character like that, use the verbosity every so often. Readers will get the idea this character is like that but at the same time won’t be bored to ears by them either. They know to expect it.

I find the more verbose characters work best for humorous pieces (and ideally the story is on the relatively short side too. You don’t want to run the risk of the joke wearing thin long before the reader gets to The End).

Characters can bring each other up to date with story events via dialogue

Hope you have had a good Saturday. It was still well into the 20s temperature wise late last night. Thankfully Lady tends to crash out after a busy day and she loved her time down in the West Country yesterday.

The other half and I decided a day out would do us all the world of good and we had a fabulous time. Nice coastal breeze too. (We always carry water for Lady wherever and whenever we go out, including our local park, so she always has plenty to drink. She enjoyed some paddling yesterday – as indeed did I!).

Comments still coming in for Respect, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Many thanks, everyone. It seems people agree with my character’s attitude to nobody disrespecting her cat! See the link in case you missed the story – and beware the cat!

Do you have a particular kind of character you love to write about? I like the feisty underdog type of character. You know, the one most would overlook or dismiss as being unimportant yet who turns out to be the most important of all. I think this love comes from my love of fairytales and my faith too. (See Matthew 23: 12 – For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted).

Many stories revolve around a “turn around” in fortunes and so often with fairytales, the attitude of the main character will often dictate what happens to them. In Beauty and the Beast it was the arrogance of the prince that got him turned into a beast in the first place.

So what can you do with your characters that acts as a “had this coming” moment and can they redeem themselves or be redeemed someone else? Being redeemed I think for me gives a truly happy ending/happy new beginning.

20220708_122648Screenshot 2022-07-08 at 17-15-37 Respect by Allison Symes

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Am delighted to say I’ll be giving a flash fiction workshop online in September. Looking forward to doing that. I share news and tips on flash fiction writing via my author newsletter as well, which goes out on the first of the month. If interested, please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where you can sign up.

I used a random noun generator to help me write my latest YouTube story, Crumbs! Link to video below.The words which came up were cookies and road. I love using the random generators as they’re great ways to get prompts for stories you might not otherwise have thought to write. I also like to mix up which ones I use and all of them are helping me to increase my productivity so win-win there.

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It has been a very hot Monday on 11th July 2022, hasn’t cooled down much since. Time to relax a bit. Hope you enjoy Crumbs! which is my latest YouTube video.

How many stories had I written before getting into print for the first time in 2009? I don’t know to be honest. I wasn’t keeping count of all those rejections! However, it would not surprise me if it was a considerable number.

Where I could get feedback, some competitions offered it, I always took it. I learned a great deal from that, as well as from reading writing advice columns in magazines and reputable websites. Listening to/reading author interviews was also enlightening here.

I was, and still am, greatly encouraged by those stories of people taking a long time to get into print and then they do it. I then became one of those people!

So it pays to persist, it pays to read up on your craft, go to writing events etc. The one thing nobody can give you is the determination to do all you can to improve what you do which greatly enhances your chances of publication. (It is a question of chances.

Always be wary of anyone guaranteeing publication – vanity publishers thrive on this – they’re trying to sell you your dream – and boy do they charge!).

This is where the support of writing friends is invaluable and why again going to writing events, and any opportunity where you can get to meet other writers is such a good idea. What is nice now is there are more opportunities out there – online magazines are now a “thing” as is the independent press. Then there’s print on demand, reputable self publishing services, and places to go to for advice (the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors).

Good luck!

 

I first got into print back in 2009 with a re-telling of the Cinderella story in A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions published by Bridge House Publishing. That was a standard short story but I have re-told fairytales in flash fiction too.

Sometimes I’ve taken a character from a fairytale and shown something of what has happened to them before the “big event” related in the standard fairytale. My Living the Lie is an example of this (Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It looks at the beast in Beauty and the Beast before he goes on to meet her. This kind of story is great fun to do.

And there’s a wide range of fairytales to choose from where you could do this. If you ever wanted to know what happened to a minor character in a story, here’s your chance to do so – you write that story!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Opening Lines

When I have small pockets of time I jot down ideas for potential opening lines for future flash fiction/short stories of mine. It is a good use of time and the opening line is so important in hooking a reader in to reading your story and your books.

So it is worth jotting down ideas for me to work on at a later date. And it is opening lines which draw me into reading a book at all. Every writer knows they’ve got to polish these up and get them as good as possible.

It was a truth universally acknowledged – just that section of Jane Austen’s opening to Pride and Prejudice drew me in. Why?

Firstly, I wanted to know what that truth was.

Secondly, the word universally implies agreement but it also opens up the possibility someone somewhere won’t agree (and I wanted to find out if I might be that someone. I can only find out by reading on).

Thirdly, there is already a hint of irony here and in only six words. Now that is quality writing!

There has to be a sense you’ve got to find out what happens next. That’s how I know an opening line will work for me. If the opening line works, it is highly likely the first page, the first chapter will and so on and before I know I’ve read the book!

Screenshot 2022-07-12 at 08-32-42 Opening Lines

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Jubilees, Flash Fiction, and Publication News


Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and photos relating to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend taken by me, Allison Symes.
It has been a lovely few days. No Jubilees for ages and then two together – Her Majesty’s Platinum one (I loved the Paddington Bear sketch) and the ACW one.

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Facebook – General

Funny old day weather wise here. June is being far from flaming in my part of the world.

I’ll be looking at Travelling Workshops for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I’ll be taking a look back at two I’ve recently run and share what I think the benefit of these things are. Link up on Friday.

Managed to get a story drafted for Friday Flash Fiction on my train home on Sunday as I came back from the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. Polished that up on Monday and submitted it. Also drafted and then edited a story for my Youtube channel on the way home and I hope to share the results of that over on my book page shortly. Good old Evernote – a very handy app to have on my phone!

Screenshot 2022-06-07 at 20-52-43 From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook


Hectic day after a wonderful and busy weekend away. Lady went bonkers, the way she usually does, when she saw me again last night. She went even more bonkers with her best mate, the lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, in the park this morning! Back to normal here then!

Delighted to come back to another acceptance of a story of mine, which I hope to talk about more later on in the year. Separately have had the contract in for my story for the next Bridge House Publishing Anthology. All exciting stuff.

What is especially nice is for a long time you get stories out there and then things tend to happen at once (or seem to). You get used to those periods where nothing seems to be happening and then make the most of those times when it is clear things are definitely happening!

The writing life really is a roller coaster.

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Am on my way home from a fabulous Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Had a great time and it was wonderful to catch up with old friends and to make new ones.

I was especially pleased to meet up with #JennySanders because she often sends in stories for the flash fiction challenge I set monthly for Mom’s Favorite Reads. And talking of which I’m pleased to share the link for the June edition of MFR. Hope you enjoy.

Screenshot 2022-06-06 at 20-40-38 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2022


It was lovely to see so many at my flash fiction workshop at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Many thanks for coming along and I hope people use the writing exercises to draft flash stories. Would love to hear news of publication successes later on.

It has been a fantastic day of celebration and writing here. Have loved catching up with friends and chatting in person to those I’ve enrolled for ACW membership or whose email queries I’ve dealt with.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It may be a day later but we can still start the week with a story! Hope you enjoy my latest tale on YouTube – Ringing The Changes.

My post in this month’s Mom’s Favorite Reads is all about Numbers in Flash Fiction. I look at how I use these in various ways to create stories. Link to the magazine here – and do check out the excellent flash pieces that came in as a result. Hope you enjoy.
Screenshot 2022-06-06 at 20-40-13 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine June 2022

Had a wonderful time talking about flash at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. I hope people try writing it as well as enjoy reading it. It’s an interesting writing challenge and I’ve found it has sharpened up my writing considerably and not just for my fiction work.

So pleased to be having a standard length short story in the next Bridge House Publishing anthology. Looking forward to finding out what the cover will be – and for The Best of CafeLit 11 also due out later this year.

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It has been wonderful to share the joys of flash fiction at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. It was great to share stories and give feedback too. I’ve always found that element of things so useful at workshops.

Back home again tomorrow. Lady will wonder where I’ve been. As usual, Lady went a bit bonkers when I came back! Lots of cuddles and pleased to have ALL of her “pack” back!

Goodreads Author Blog – Sharing Stories

One great joy of stories is their share-ability. I’ve happily recommended books to friends and often taken up their recommendations to me.

When I run writing workshops, especially for flash fiction, I often share a couple of my tales and break down how I wrote them. I’ve learned a lot when other writers do this. We’re all keen to learn more about improving on what we do.

I base my recommendations to others on what I know of their book tastes but also if the characterisation is especially good. We all read to find out what happens to the characters after all.

Screenshot 2022-06-07 at 21-08-20 Shared Stories

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Settings and Simplicity in Fiction

 

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. Have enjoyed what I’ve seen of the Platinum Jubilee events (and plan to catch up on the rest next week. Why then? Because I’m off to a Golden Jubilee weekend for the Association of Christian Writers, where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. No Jubilees for ages and then two at once!).

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Settings and Simplicity in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at how settings can act like characters. I also wonder whether some authors came up with their settings first and then knew what characters had to be in them or if they came up with the characters first and then had to find the most appropriate setting for them.

I also look at how simple writing takes work and crafting but it is a joy to read and the reader has nothing clunky getting in their way. It makes a huge difference to the reading experience for them. I often wonder when I come across over-complicated prose, as I do sometimes, just what the writer was trying to hide or show off here. For me the joy of writing is about communicating with a reader and I want to be as direct as possible on that. I don’t see the point of doing anything else.

Settings and Simplicity in Fiction

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2nd June – Queen’s Coronation Day Anniversary

Loved watching Trooping the Colour and the flypast today. Fabulous weather. Great crowds too. I plan to catch up with the other events once I am back from the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. Am off on my travels for that tomorrow.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow is all about Settings and Simplicity In Fiction. I look at how settings can act like characters and why simple writing isn’t as easy as it (a) looks and (b) sounds. One benefit from flash fiction writing is it has taught me how to spot my wasted words, what doesn’t add anything to my story, so I know to ruthlessly cut all of that on my edit.

And I have publication news too – I am pleased to say my story has been accepted for the Bridge House Publishing anthology due out later this year. More news as and when – am delighted to be included again. Congratulations to everyone else who received this lovely news too!

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Two days to go to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend. So looking forward to seeing everyone.

Next trip after that will be to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Looking forward to that too! Am getting good use out of my railcard this year. This is nice because I was the woman who bought a railcard two weeks before the first lockdown started in 2020 when nobody was going anywhere. Oops! Making up for lost time now though.

I will be putting my posts up as normal over the weekend but they will be at different times. Will be pretty busy during the day and evening so expect the posts to go up late. I do hope to write up about the weekend (and my time with the lovely people at the London Jesuit Centre recently) for a CFT post before long as well.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy On The Doorstep. This was a joy to write and I was rooting for my character, Mabel, all the way through. This is good. The first person to care about a character should be their creator!

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/on-the-doorstep-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-06-02 at 20-42-56 Friday Flash Fiction

One reason I outline before writing a story is to avoid the old saggy middle problem. Yes, it can happen in flash fiction too. I’ve found knowing my start and end points is a good way of avoiding that issue. I know where I’m heading so off I go!

How much to outline is up to each writer. I don’t fill in each and every detail as I want to give my imagination manoeuvre room, as I’ve mentioned before, but I do need the “pillars” of the story in place so I know from the start the structure is going to be okay. (Maybe without a good structure in place, that encourages the saggy middle to happen – just a thought).

I think it is a question of working out what you need to know before writing a story and that will differ from writer to writer as well.

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Looking forward to sharing the joys of flash fiction at the ACW Golden Jubilee at the weekend. Talking about talking…! One good thing about flash is when you do use dialogue, you’ve got to keep it focused. I must admit I do enjoy getting characters chatting but conversational ping-pong is not the idea!

What I look for dialogue to do (including internal dialogue) is for it to move the story on in some way. If it does, fab; it stays in. If not, out comes the old editing pen. It has helped to be aware though that I do like conversational ping-pong. I love to hear my characters speak because to me that proves they are “real”.

But the overriding concern has to be does it help the story develop? That is my guiding light as to whether something stays in a tale or not, regardless ot the story length.

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Fairytales with Bite – Clothes in a Magical World

When the thought for this topic came to me. I thought of two stories immediately. The obvious one was Cinderella – the rags being turned into that wonderful dress.

I also thought of the fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker – I do count shoes as clothes (well, if you’re going out somewhere, you need something on your feet!, but also because of how this story ends with the shoemaker’s wife sewing clothes for the elves in return for their kindness to her husband and herself. I also like this story because you get to see the elves being cobblers (and not just using magic to make the shoes etc) and you also see the wife sewing.

I could have thought of The Emperor’s New Clothes too but that is really a story about a pair of successful con artists when all is said and done!

So in your created world, what do your characters wear? What are the differences between species and/or classes here? How are the items made? Is there a manufacturing industry as such or does everyone make their own? Or are skills bartered? What equipment is used? I’ll take spinning wheels as a given!

In your stories, you almost certainly won’t need to go into a lot of detail here but the odd line here or there about who wears what, where they get clothes etc from will help your world seem more real to a reader. Having a character go to a shop (or your world’s equivalent) would be enough to show a reader how this works. I love little details in stories. They help me picture things and I won’t be the only reader who thinks that.

This World and Others – Material Matters

Tying in with Fairytales with Bite , where does your fictional world get its materials from, whether for clothing, shoe making or anything else? Can it produce its own or does it have to import some or all of what it needs? Where would it import from and have there ever been trade wars etc or have two societies been able to trade successfully?

When it comes to producing its own, what can it produce? Are crops (such as cotton) grown? What kind of people in your society would do things like that? Are they looked down on for doing manual work or held in high esteem? Attitudes to others have repercussions!

What does your fictional world value? We obviously value things like gold and silver but do they? In a world where that is common place, it might be treated with contempt. You don’t tend to notice the “every day” stuff.

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Twitter Corner

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Pleased to share latest CFT post. I look at settings acting like characters and why simple writing isn’t easy writing. It is vital for good prose though!<a href=”https://t.co/llXyQpHphi“>https://t.co/llXyQpHphi</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1532659454084251648?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw“>June 3, 2022</a></blockquote> http://a%20href=

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Hope you enjoy my latest drabble on Friday Flash Fiction. I was rooting for my character, Mabel. Hope you do too.<a href=”https://t.co/Q7WjxPCo5T“>https://t.co/Q7WjxPCo5T</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1532659994797154304?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw“>June 3, 2022</a></blockquote> http://a%20href=

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Zooming Around and Being Kind to Yourself


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you’ve had a good few days. Weather changeable here. Hope it brightens up for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee (mind you, we are used to changeable weather here so prepare for it). I plan to raise a glass or two while I’m away at the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee this weekend. I know – no jubilees for ages and then two at once!

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Facebook – General

Hope you’ve had a good day. You know I said Lady and I received a bit of a soaking yesterday? Well, today we “copped the lot” in a cloudburst that drenched us in minutes. It was a relief to get home and change. Lady is pretty good at being towelled down – she sees it as a chance for a cuddle.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, prompts news etc here and if you would like to sign up, just head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Looking forward to my trip to Derbyshire at the weekend. So nice being able to do in person events again. Mind you, I’ve taken to Zoom well too. It has been lovely to be able to make the most of both worlds here. Long may that continue!

Is there a particular day of the week when writing just seems tougher to do than usual? I hope it is some comfort to know every writer has those days. On those days, I focus on writing short things or accept I will write something towards a longer piece (say one of my blog posts). Writing is writing, whether you manage 50 words in a day or 5000. It accumulates.

And on those tough days, you will still have got something written. I find that cheers me up knowing I’ve got something to develop later. On those days when I can’t write at all, I try to ensure I “up” my reading as that helps with my writing too.

Writing is hard work but most of the time it should be a joy too.

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Changeable weather here in Hampshire – Lady and I did get a bit of a soaking. (Have known worse, mind you).

Many thanks to everyone for the lovely comments in on my Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop post for More Than Writers yesterday.  Link further down.

I’ll be looking at Settings and Simplicity In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday, just ahead of my heading off to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend in lovely Derbyshire. I hope to write about that event and my recent workshop for the London Jesuit Centre in a CFT post after that. And I’ll be setting another flash challenge for Mom’s Favorite Reads soon too – so it’s all go in a good way.

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

 

Writing Tip 10008 or thereabouts: Be kind to yourself.
What has that got to do with writing, I hear you ask. A lot! I find I write more (and enjoy what I do more) when I am relaxed. So having classical music on in the background helps me a lot there but so do things like ensuring I get enough sleep, make time for reading, etc.

I’ve learned over time to realize on those days when the writing is slow or I am especially tired to just write what I can and have done. (Mondays for me is often a day like that). I’ve found being kind to myself, especially in not beating myself up over what I haven’t got done, helps me on those days when I do have more time to write. Away I go again and it’s fine.

I also look at my writing over the course of a week so I never judge my progress (or lack of it) by what I managed to do (or couldn’t do) as a result of one good or bad day. I’ve found that helps a lot. I think my productivity has increased due to this too – it certainly feels like I get more done now than I used to do.

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It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers blog spot). I’m talking this time about Getting The Most from a Writing Workshop. I share some thoughts and tips which I have found useful over the years when going to these. Hope you find it helpful).

Looking forward to running my flash fiction workshop at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend from 3rd to 5th June too.

Oh and the most important tip (well it is to me, anyway)?

Go – and have fun!

Screenshot 2022-05-29 at 14-31-29 Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop by Allison Symes

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on my The Heights of Equals, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. All much appreciated.

I’m back on the ACW blog tomorrow with my post about Getting the Most Out of a Writing Workshop. Timely since I’ve recently run one and am about to do so so again. Link up tomorrow on that. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, news, prompts, writing advice etc and if this sounds of interest please do sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am enjoying using the various random generators to trigger ideas for stories and hope to resume more work on those tomorrow. I’m finding I am producing more stories as a result so I like that aspect too.

Screenshot 2022-05-27 at 09-24-38 The Heights of Equals by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I do a dry run of my workshop material and record myself on Zoom. As well as listening to see how it sounds (and therefore how the material is likely to come across to someone else), I can get a sense of the timing of my workshop and adjust things as I need to.

I do love that facility within Zoom to automatically convert your files to mp4 for you. So useful.

I like to leave enough time for questions too. Knowing the timing means it is easy to do that. At workshops I’ve attended, I love the question section. Interesting topics come up and I inevitably learn something useful from that.

I often read a story or two of mine and break down how I wrote them. (I’ve found this useful when other writers do it). So I get to practice that too.

It helps (I find just knowing I have had a read through helps with nerves. I can remind myself I have read the stories, it was fine etc., now all I need to do is do it again – and that’s fine). With flash, the huge advantage is the readings don’t take long (leaving plenty of time for question time later!)

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How come it is almost the end of May already? I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know it’s Monday and time for a story. Hope you like my latest YouTube story, Surprise.

I’m running my flash fiction workshop as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend (3rd to 5th June – yes, we’ll raise a glass or two to the Queen while there !). Very much looking forward to it as it is always a pleasure to spread the word about the joys of writing flash fiction.

I look at how it can benefit all forms of writing and share a couple of stories and break down how I wrote them amongst many other tips and advice and yes I set writing exercises too. All good fun. Did I imagine I would ever do something like this when I started out as a writer? Absolutely not! It’s another reason to be grateful for the flash fiction though!

 

I often read my stories aloud, as you know, sometimes for things like Open Prose Mic Nights. I also do this as I prepare workshop material so I can hear that my chosen tales do fit in as well as I thought. I also do this when I get a collection together. I see that as part of my editing.

Reading work out loud does confirm if the story flows as well as you think or not. If you stumble over reading the story, a reader will do but you can adjust that before the story sees the light of day. I’ve done this several times. It can be strange sometimes when you see dialogue written down, say, it looks fine. Reading it out loud shows otherwise!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Other Worlds in Books

All books take us to other worlds. Yes, even non-fiction, given that can enlighten us to aspects of life in this world and increase our knowledge, making us see this world in new lights.

But for fantasy and sci-fi especially, what is it about their settings which convinces you to “suspend disbelief” while reading the story? For The Lord of the Rings (though this applies to many other stories too) it was the portrayal of the characters which made me believe in the settings.

Hobbits are small so it makes sense for them to live in something like hobbit holes. I was also convinced by the peaceful tranquil setting of The Shire especially when contrasted with the dark world of Mordor. To have both of these elements in the book made sense to me. One represents good, the other evil. No world is perfect, even in fiction. Contrasts work for me.

And we can all understand the wish to defend one’s home, even more so with world events right now. So again I get the setting and the wish to defend that. I don’t need to know every little thing about the setting but I do need to know enough to understand why the characters love it.

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Workshop News and Questions


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you had a good weekend. Tonight’s post looks at questions and aspects of flash fiction writing. I also share some exciting workshop news.

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Facebook – General

Hope Tuesday has been a good day. Lady loved being with her buddy, a smashing Hungarian Vizler, today. Still a bit chilly for April, mind you.

There are offers on both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the links (and the screenshot) for more.

My train tickets for my trip to London to run a workshop for the London Jesuit Centre arrived today. News on the workshop further down.

I was impressed with that. I only booked the tickets over the weekend – and these were sent out by second class post too. I nearly always book tickets like this online. It means I’ve got them and, as ever, when I go on trips like this, I hope to get a certain amount of writing done thanks to Evernote enroute. I vary what I draft here – from potential blog posts to flash stories, to my To Do list – it all proves useful!

Screenshot 2022-04-26 at 20-06-33 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Loved listening to the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM just now. It always gets my vote in their annual Hall of Fame. Music can conjure up images and with this one it is an image of time travel all the way back to Elizabethan England. Absolutely adore that (and I think it is far better than The Lark Ascending so there!). I listen to classical music as I write and find it helps me unwind. A relaxed me writes more!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be on Originality in Fiction. Link up on Friday.

Am off to a (postponed) panto on Thursday (it was due to be on in January). Am off to see The Dragon of Wantley as performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group, my local amateur dramatic company (and very good they are too).

Looking forward to meeting up and having a good chat with Janet Williams, my lovely editor at CFT, who is also going. Review to follow in due course. And I know what will be particularly nice about this show will be the laughs – panto is wonderful for that and I can’t help but feel that will be a much needed tonic for many right now.


Sunny and blustery today. Weather still a bit odd. The wind is almost gale strength at times.

Booked my train tickets for the workshop I’m running at the London Jesuit Centre in May. (Again see further down). Looking forward to that.

Am also getting my May newsletter ready. To sign up for that, just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

A huge thanks for the wonderful comments in on my Where Am I?, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. The feedback on this site is fantastic and I’ve found it so useful. It is also nice to know you’re not on your own – there is a supportive writing community out there. Thank you, all!

 

Hope Saturday has been okay for you. Busy out in the garden mowing the lawn and kicking Lady’s ball for her at the same time. Yes, it is do-able! Makes for an interesting if somewhat unusual workout! Used to do this for Gracie and Mabel too.

Workshop News

I’m running a workshop called Finding Your Voice – Writing Fiction – How to Get Started for the London Jesuit Centre in May. Looking forward to this very much. See the link for more information.

Will be running my flash fiction workshop for the Association of Christian Writers as part of their Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire over the weekend of 3rd to 5th June (and yes, we will raise a glass or two to Her Majesty as well!).

Looking forward to seeing everyone at both workshops!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As I mentioned on my author page, there are offers on both of my flash collections. See the links for more. Grab yourself a bargain!

Another thing flash has shown me is how important character is when I enjoy a story, whether I write it or read it. I’ve got to care about what happens to the character for a story to work for me. Genre is far less important. And to care for a character at all, I’ve got to understand what motivates them and what they are aiming for. I do need to see where they are coming from and yes that goes for the villains too. I just don’t have to agree with the latter!

I wasn’t expecting to write more in the first person when flash fiction entered my life but it happened and I sometimes write monologues as a result. These work well for flash as monologues are at their best when they don’t go on for too long.

The important thing is to ensure your character has a strong enough voice to carry a monologue. Why would the reader want to know what this person has to say? What keeps the reader reading? Because they’re intrigued enough to find out what your character has to say and in flash you know you don’t have to wait too long to find out. So flash and monologues can be a very good match up.

Monologues can also work well for my YouTube tales.

Talking of which, I hope you enjoy my latest one – Mirror, Mirror.

 

I talked about asking questions yesterday and, continuing with that theme, another advantage to doing this is that it gives you a basic story structure immediately. Why? Simply because the question set has to be answered in some way by the end of your story.

All stories have to have a point of change and here the answer to that question is the point of change. Also there has to be conflict and resolution in any story – the question is the conflict which has to be resolved and the answer is the resolution.

The character can answer the question directly. Equally you can show them “acting” the answer out. For example, if my question was something like does love change anything?

I can get the character to “show you” by getting them to reflect on whether they think this is true or not. They can narrate something of their life to show the answer. I do this in my They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again.

I can also get the character to “show” how their idea of love answers that question. If they are trying to obtain love and they succeed, then they are showing you that love does change something – it changes their life.

Questions are useful then. Even when I don’t use a question directly, I always ask questions of the characters I’m outlining and that triggers story ideas. The answers that come to me tell me what I am going to do with that character and away I go and write their story up.

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Asking questions is a great way of fleshing out ideas for a story. I’ve often used questions as the theme for a story too. Sometimes I’ve used them as a title. But I mainly use them to get to know my character better. What do I ask?

Things like what is your major trait? What kind of trouble could this lead you into? (A great story always has trouble in it!). Could your major trait, if generally seen as a virtuous one, ever be misconstrued? What is your attitude to others? What kind of things can’t you stand at any price?

Questions that reveal a character’s underlying attitude to life are excellent for getting to what they are really like. Once I know my character, I find I can write them up. I know what their journey is likely to be. They can still surprise me but those surprises will fit in with the traits I’ve uncovered. I usually get my surprises as I am asking those questions of my lead characters. That’s when I sit up and take notice and ask myself what can I do with this? I usually find something!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Must Read

Every so often lists come out showing books you must read (and sometimes by a certain age at that). I admit I take absolutely no notice of these lists (other than to note they are out again)! Why?

Because the books I must read are the books I must read. I am always happy to take recommendations from friends (including via Goodreads) but most of the time I pick the books I want to read and leave it there. Some of my picks are based on my genre (I read flash fiction and short stories as well as write them (and I love reading outside my genre too).

I think it is more important to have a good mixture in your reading “diet”. I like to read magazines, books, novellas. I like to read non-fiction as well as fiction. I like to read online as well as print books.
I’m not a huge fan of literary fiction. I do like genre fiction (and utterly dislike the snobbery against it in some quarters. I’ve never understood this. Good writing is good writing, whether it is in a literary form or in a genre book).

Life is too short to read books you’re “supposed” to read. I focus on reading books I know I’m likely to enjoy. My non-fiction reading is where I go outside of my comfort zone a bit because here I specifically want to learn something (but it can still be done in an entertaining way).

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Travels, Flash, and Feedback


Image Credit:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Am about to go off on my travels again. Am doing a LOT of talking about flash fiction this week but it’s great fun to do!

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Facebook – General

Busy packing ready for the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference. Plan to do lots of writing on the train journey. I just love Evernote for this. I still just use the free version of it but find it is enough for what I want to do.

I’ll be off again on my travels in June for the Association of Christian Writers’ Worth Our Weight In Gold Golden Jubilee weekend in June and I am due to run a flash fiction workshop there too. Won’t have to go so far for that one – it’s at my old haunt The Hayes, Swanwick, Derbyshire where I’ll be back again in August for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

I’m getting plenty of use out of my railcard this year at least!

And a huge thank you to the History Writers last night for the wonderful feedback on my talk about historical flash fiction. Feedback is always useful and it is something I especially appreciate from Friday Flash Fiction too.

Now writing wise, when I’ve got editing to do, I block out periods of time to do it as I know I will need to focus. Those odd pockets of time that crop up now and again – ten minutes here, fifteen there etc – are best used for drafting something new or adding notes to something you’ve got in the pipeline.

I’ve discovered this over time of course but I am now better at suiting writing jobs to the time I’ve got available and that matters. It means I end up getting more done overall. Any spare capacity in terms of writing such as trips on train I just write as much as I can. I will find a use for this later. There’s always space for a spare blog column or more flash fiction stories. Little is wasted in writing. You can either find a home for it or learn from it (and ideally you do both).

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Many thanks for the kind comments and likes in on my post yesterday about owing my love of reading to my late mother. I treasure the books I’ve inherited from her too! See below for earlier post.

Looking forward to talking to the History Writers group tonight about historical flash fiction and to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group on Wednesday about random generators.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be a timely one – Journeys In Fiction. So apt since I am travelling up for the Scottish Association of Writers Conference later this week! I plan to post on Friday as normal.

My posts over the weekend will be at differing times but I am looking forward to the conference very much and to reporting back on it in due course. Am also looking forward to catching up with writing friends and making new ones – that is the great joy of a writing event for me.

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Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday and it is thanks to her I have my love of reading. She taught me to read long before I started school and reading was just such a natural thing at home, it still seems odd to me that there are those who don’t “get” reading for pleasure.

Whether you read the classics, contemporary, the big blockbusters, the flash fiction collections (well, I was bound to mention them now, wasn’t I?!), or are a magazine “fiend,” what matters is reading. From that love of reading came a love of creative writing.

Many thanks, Mum.

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Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on Cherryade, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. I remember my kid sister and I going to the tobacconists at the end of our road, clutching our empty fizz bottles, ready to hand them in for money back. Ironically the fizz bottles came mainly from a wonderful firm called Corona – there are less positive associations with that word now! My favourite flavour was orangeade funnily enough.

The tobacconists also ran a sweet section – the old pick and mix types of sweet jar – so of course guess where my sister and I spent the refunds. Happy days – and I really enjoyed writing this story. Brought back great memories.

Screenshot 2022-03-11 at 09-56-02 Cherryade - What Not To Do by Allison SymesScreenshot 2022-03-10 at 20-01-14 Friday Flash Fiction

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to say the March 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now free to download on Amazon. I write a monthly column here on all aspects of flash fiction writing and I set a challenge too. I talk about random generators this time, something I’ll be talking about again via Zoom to the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group tomorrow. Plus there are a wide range of interesting articles, stunning photos, and much more more so do treat yourself to a FREE read.

Screenshot 2022-03-15 at 20-26-41 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

It’s Monday. Not a favourite day of the week for many including me so it is definitely time for a story! Hope you enjoy Alien Concept – am sure many of you will identify with this one.


I love writing across the genres with my flash fiction stories. It continues to be a great joy to write crime flash, historical flash, humorous fantasy flash and so on. I love reading various anthologies (short stories and flash fiction ones) and I love coming across a good mix.

And this is where what I have loved (and continue to love) reading influences what I write. I have to read some crime to be able to write a crime flash piece for example. The wider you read (and do include non-fiction), the bigger the pool you have to fish from for influences and inspiration. If that’s not a good excuse to put your feet up with a good book and a cup of tea/coffee, I really don’t know what is!

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Am so looking forward to being part of the Scottish Association of Writers conference next week where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. Always keen to spread the word about this wonderful writing format! Have a busy few days coming up in the run-up to that as I’m talking about historical flash on Monday on Zoom and will be talking again about random generators for another Zoom talk on Wednesday. But I do know one thing – it will all be great fun! Flash should be fun too. The challenge of coming up with different characters and seeing what I can do with them is fabulous and keeps me out of mischief well enough!

Goodreads Author Blog – Drawing in The Readers

If there was a simple way to guarantee drawing in the readers, then someone somewhere would be a very wealthy person for selling the secret to that! Speaking with my reader hat on, I am drawn to a book by (a) its cover, (b) its blurb, and (c) if I have already read the author’s work. If it is someone whose work I know and love, then it is pretty much guaranteed I will go for their next one.

Out of the cover and the blurb, I have to say I think the latter is the most important. That has got to get me wanting to read more. Yes, sometimes, a good book cover will catch my eye and I will want to check it out but if the blurb isn’t up to scratch, I’m not biting!

Once I’ve got the book though I want the characters to keep me reading. I have got to want to find out what happens to them and to care about the outcome. I think you can only do that with realistically portrayed characters whose goal you can understand.

I also want my characters to be “worthy” of winning through in the end. I don’t want it just to fall into their lap, so to speak. I want them to contribute significantly to their success, even with the help of others. I think you should also be able to see why the others would help the lead character with their goal rather than just leave them to it.

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Starting and Finishing and Creativity


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend. Nice quiet one here but lots of exciting news to report this time plus I hope a useful blog I prepared for the Association of Christian Writers on Starting and Finishing.

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Facebook – General

You know how sometimes there is no news and then all of a sudden there is loads to share – well today is one of those days for me.

Delighted to say my new author newsletter is now out there (for more do see https://mailchi.mp/22ec1b09a6da/allison-symes-february-2022-newsletter).

Many thanks also for the comments in on Tears Before Lunch, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction story. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/tears-before-lunch-by-allison-symes for more.

And I’m delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads which is free. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ – the range of articles in here is amazing. Do check it out.

Has also been a good day for another reason – I’ve booked my place for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to go and there is plenty to look forward to before then.

I’ll be at the Scottish Association of Writers conference in March and running a workshop on flash fiction there. So looking forward to that – https://www.scottishassociationofwriters.com/workshops-speakers/

 

Hope Monday hasn’t been too trying. Newsletter out tomorrow, new story video out (will share link on my book page shortly), and pleased to have submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction. I’ll be discussing Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday.

I use more dialogue in my short stories (1500 words plus) than in flash though I am counting thoughts as internal dialogue and I do use that a lot in flash. It’s a great way of taking you straight into a character’s head and showing you their thoughts and attitudes. You see things as they see them and I think it a good way of developing character empathy. Okay you may not always agree with them but that’s another matter! You at least see where they are coming from.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Lovely to catch up with writing friends on Zoom last night. Always such a morale boost. Am getting my next author newsletter up together ready for sending out next week. If you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news, stories etc., head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

What would you say was your favourite kind of story? I suppose mine comes from my life long love of fairytales in that I love to see wrong being righted and the underdog to do well. Mind you, that does open up a lot of possibilities for reading material as well as for writing stories. Wrong being righted is a common theme to crime stories after all. And the underdog aka the hero nobody expects to be a hero is a common theme in fantasy.

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I talk about Starting and Finishing for More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers, this month.

I discuss how I often get into starting a story by using a random generator and share why spider diagrams are so helpful too. As for the other end of the story, I look at how for twist in the tale stories, it is a good idea to write that twist down first and then look at what could lead to that point.

I also look at whether planning your work out kills off spontaneity.

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out and you can download it for free. See the link at https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ for more.

In my column this month (see Page 42), I talk about Creativity. I look at some of the different ways I use to trigger story ideas and fuel my own creativity (and I discuss picture prompts and random generators amongst other things. I hope to talk more about random generators for a future column as these are so useful). My theme for people to write to this time was What Creativity Means to Me and the responses to that were wonderful but don’t just take my word for it – go and treat yourself to a good and free read!

 

Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story – No B Gratitude. This story was inspired by something that came up on a random question generator – the question was what was the most recent silly thing you’ve done?
So I got my character to show you! (There’s also a pun in the choice of music chosen for this one – I was so pleased to find it available to use from YouTube’s comprehensive audio library which is the audio equivalent of Pixabay for photos).

Just to flag up there is an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again at the moment over on Amazon.

What do I love most about reading flash fiction by other writers? Firstly I learn a lot from seeing what other people do with the format. Secondly, I love to see what writers do when writing to the same theme and word count.

The Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competitions held in the last few years were a great example of this – the fifteen winners for each year, including yours truly, all wrote to the same theme and word count yet the stories were so vastly different.

Last but not least, it encourages me to “up my game” and see what I can do better. Why is that a good thing? Because it fuels the old creativity “grey cells” and helps me produce (a) more work and (b) better work because I have tried to stretch myself a bit.

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Twist endings work beautifully in flash fiction precisely because you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I’ve always loved that aspect of things. And the nice thing here is you don’t have to limit twist endings to crime stories, though that is the obvious home for them.

Twist endings can also be punchlines so will work well for humorous tales. And a monologue can be enlivened by a surprise ending too. For this kind of tale, I always write the twist first and then work backwards to get to the start. It seems an odd way of doing things to begin with but you do get used to it. It also means you have a logical plot leading to that final twist. You don’t want your twist let down by a weak start or flabby middle.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books and Trains

Books and trains are a match made in heaven (especially publishing heaven!). As well as stories inspired by train (and my favourite here is Murder on the Orient Express – the ultimate train, yes?!), books are the best form of portable entertainment and a fabulous way of passing the time.

I must admit I wait to read until I know I am on the train I want otherwise there is the risk I will still be reading at the platform long after the train has gone! (It helps a lot if I know I’m going somewhere like London Waterloo which is the end of the line as I know I can’t miss my stop either!).

It is no coincidence that the major stations have bookshops on them. For me the perfect way to escape the cares of the world is to read, ideally while listening to classical music via my headphones. (If there’s a cup of tea or hot chocolate to hand, even better!) And if I’m not reading stories while travelling, I am writing my own so I love that too.

It probably helps that I write flash fiction which a dear friend described as a “bus stop read”. It works well on trains too!

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Book Lists, Writing Days, and Competition

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. I’m off for a short break from 30th October. I plan to keep posting but internet connections may get the better of me so I will see how things go! (Definitely back here on Tuesday, 9th November if I can’t post).

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Chandler’s Ford Today and Association of Christian Writers

29th October – CFT

Am writing on a topic close to my heart for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’m writing about Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on the ones I want to read for this one. Posts like this are a celebration of books in general and those are always a good thing to celebrate! Hope you enjoy the post.

Book Lists

 

 

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29th October – ACW

It’s a busy night on the blogging front for me today but I am delighted to share my blog on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about Writing Days and I share hints on how to make the most of these as well as how to re-create some of the buzz from events like these when you’re at home. Hope you find it useful (and a big thanks for the wonderful comments already in on this one).

https://morethanwriters.blogspot.com/2021/10/writing-days-by-allison-symes.html

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Am posting very early as this evening I’m off to the theatre again. I’m going to see Murder with Ghosts staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group and I hope to review this show in due course. I’m also meeting up with my lovely editor, Janet Williams, so it will be a Chandler’s Ford Today “works outing” in many ways. Haven’t had one of those since December 2019 when Janet and I were at the Chameleons last show before You Know What disrupted everything. I love a good spoof and the title of this play sounds very promising!

Talking of CFT, I will be sharing my post tomorrow about Book Lists. (You must have at least one on the go, yes?).

It will be a busy day on the blogging front as my post for the Association of Christian Writers is also up tomorrow. Plan to do two separate posts about these. See above.

I may need to share my author newsletter a couple of days early as I won’t be about on 1st November. You know how sometimes things pan out beautifully – one thing comes along, then another, then another and all is well. Well, sometimes you get everything happening at once and I’m at that point right now! Takes deep breath, will stay calm and carry on!

 

Lady had a fabulous time with her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler today. It was lovely seeing them run around. Lady has to have a good run once a day (the rest of her exercise is walking) and what is nice is I can always tell when she’s really enjoyed herself. How? On the way home, she will look up at me with bright shining eyes and her tail is going nineteen to the dozen as if to say “thanks, Mum, I needed that.”. Dogs are honest about how they feel. We, and our characters, aren’t necessarily!

If you have a character who has to hide their true feelings, they’ve got to have a decent reason for doing so. It is a common theme in romance of course but it can apply to other genres too. Ironically in crime stories, often you will know who the murderer is, it is case of finding out how the detective finds them out. That wonderful series Columbo was brilliant at that. As the story plays out , we find out how the murderer tried to cover up their tracks and of course they can give away no signs of guilt etc.

So how can we have our character do one thing but feel another? Internal thoughts can of course reveal how they are really feeling. But showing a character hesitating before taking a certain course of action can also show a character who has split feelings.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest #FridayFlashFiction story is called Competition and you find out what could happen when Humpty Dumpty talks with one of the bears from Goldilocks. Great fun to write and a huge thank you for the wonderful comments in on this so far. Feedback is always appreciated, writers learn a lot from it, and a pat on the pack is particularly nice at the end of a busy week! Also a quick shout-out to another friend of mine making her debut on Friday Flash Fiction – well done to #RosemaryJohnson.
Screenshot 2021-10-29 at 17-09-06 Competition, by Allison Symes


I’m looking forward to being at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest from 19th to 21st November where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop and giving an author talk. What is nice about the workshop is there are various ways “into” starting to write flash pieces and I will be sharing some of those for that. I hope these encourage people to give flash a try.

The nice thing with creative writing is there isn’t any competition as far as I’m concerned. We all have our own unique author voice and it can take a while to find what yours is, it took me ages to find mine, but once you have it, away you go.

As well as being published in the form, flash has brought other opportunities to my door, including Brechin, radio interviews, taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights and it has all been great fun. Long may this continue!


Most of my flash fiction tales come in at the 100-word mark (and even more do so now I’m submitting tales regularly to #FridayFlashFiction). It’s also apt as it was the good old drabble as the 100-word story is known which got me into flash fiction writing in the first place.

But I do like to write across the spectrum. It’s good practice. It means you have an even wider of competitions and markets to approach. Having said that, the vast majority of mine still come in at 500 words or under. I do think you eventually find what is your natural writing zone and that appears to be mine!

But I worry about the word count aspect only when I’ve got the story down. Putting it aside to rest for a while, I can come back to the story and read it as a reader would. That makes it easier to spot the flaws and there are always some of those! But I also get to see more clearly thanks to giving myself some distance from that first draft the “heart” of the tale and from that can work out what I need to keep and what needs to come out.

Sometimes it works out a story works better at 500 words rather than 250 and that’s fine. Usually it is a case I have details which add depth to my character(s) and the story would be poorer without those details in so I leave them in.

Fairytales with Bite – Setting Scenes

What aspects of your magical setting does a reader need to know? And how can you indicate this is a fantasy setting where magic will happen? How will your readers find out what your characters can’t do/are banned from doing? (The two aren’t the same and there will be many a story to be had from following the adventures of characters who decide to defy whatever the ban might be).

I’ve talked before about telling details and writing down possibles here can help clarify things for you. (I often use spider diagrams and the like to work out different story possibilities but you can use the same things for working out what scenes have to be in your story and also what needs to be in those scenes).

Fantasy settings can be indicated by things like:-

  • Colour of sky/ground/seas if different from Earth.
  • The kind of buildings that exist
  • Showing a character using magic as a matter of routine
  • What your characters look like. If they’re humanoid how do they differ from us? If they’re not humanoid at all, your readers will need to know what they are to be able to visualise them.

Examples of telling details could be:-

  • Colour of hair (or equivalent) especially if different from us
  • How characters speak, write etc again especially if different from us
  • How the world is governed (you won’t need everything here. What readers need to know is whether your characters live in a free society of under a dictatorship).
  • What would count as standard “powers”? What would be extraordinary? (And you can show that by contrasting two characters with different skill sets. One will be seen to be lower than the other in terms of how their skills are valued – this will also show something of the class structure in your world too).

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This World and Others – The Need to Know Question

Ah but who needs to know what in your created world, that is the question. Forget the to be or not to be question posed by Shakespeare. Information is power no matter what world your characters are in so how is information shared in your setting or is it only available to the privileged few? Is information manipulated before being “allowed out there” and what kind of technology does your world have to share it?

What would happen if your government really does need the populace to take in necessary information but they won’t do so, being cynical of any government pronouncement? How do the powers that be get around that one?

Also who decides who needs to know? Can they be bribed or threatened to make information available to others?

Who needs to know? Is there such a thing as whistleblowers in your creation? What happens to them?

Who creates the information in the first place? Do journalists, writers etc., have any say in what information they produce?

Think about what might happen if a long cherished nugget of information is exposed as a lie. What ramifications would that have?

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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Competition, by Allison Symes – Friday Flash Fiction <a href=”https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz”>https://t.co/XIwz3UQNlz</a&gt; Delighted to share the link to my latest drabble on Friday Flash Fiction. What happens when Humpty Dumpty has a chat with one of the bears from the Goldilocks story? Find out here! <a href=”https://t.co/n6bde4xJQa”>pic.twitter.com/n6bde4xJQa</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454118628777988101?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Book Lists <a href=”https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL”>https://t.co/Sqsf1Z3UwL</a&gt; My topic for CFT this week is close to my heart – Book Lists. Every writer has two – one for books they want to read and others they want to write! I’m focusing on ones to read. Posts like this celebrate books which is always worth doing!</p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454142514554888194?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>More than Writers: Writing Days by Allison Symes <a href=”https://t.co/494Qu84AS7″>https://t.co/494Qu84AS7</a&gt; My turn on the ACW blog again this month. I share hints and tips on making the most of a writing day and how to re-create the buzz from these when you're at home. Hope you find the post useful. <a href=”https://t.co/uxgfKfKFbH”>pic.twitter.com/uxgfKfKFbH</a></p>&mdash; Allison Symes (@AllisonSymes1) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AllisonSymes1/status/1454143450144706564?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>October 29, 2021</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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