Writers’ Days

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. Images from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School were taken by me, Allison Symes,  in August 2021 (and it was wonderful being back there again).
Hope the week has been okay for you. Had a good run of nice autumn weather, due to change to rain next week. And my book order of Tripping the Flash Fantastic arrived. It is always lovely to receive books in the post, especially when you’ve written them! Below is image taken by Adrian Symes (always tricky to do your own author posing with books photo) when Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived a few weeks back. Glad to hold up my two flash fiction collections too, which was apt since my topic in the CM book was flash fiction!

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is about Writers’ Days. I share hints and tips on making the most of events like this, whether they’re the in-person kind or on Zoom. This post naturally was inspired by my having gone to the Association of Christian Writers event held last Saturday in London, our first in-person event since You Know What struck. It was just so lovely to see people again and to have a wonderful creative buzz being generated by being with so many wonderfully creative writers.

You do get a buzz from a Zoom session incidentally but I think it is not quite in the same way. It is more subtle with online writing events in that I find a buzz after the event and I look back and think yes, that was fab. I think for an in-person event you pick up on that buzz immediately. Of course that may just be me!

Anyway, I hope you find the post useful and hope you have a wonderful time at whatever writing/reading/general literature events may be coming your way. (Oh and my books arrived safe and sound so it has been a good day here – see below for my posts on waiting for my book order to come in. I do feel like a kid waiting for Christmas when I’ve got a book order in somewhere!).

Writers’ Days

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The book order I mentioned yesterday (for Tripping the Flash Fantastic) will be with me tomorrow between 10.51 am and 2.51 pm. Bless the Royal Mail for their precision! (I’d have been quite happy with a between 11 and 3 category but there you go!).

Later this month, I am due to go and see the Chameleon Theatre Group perform Murder with Ghosts, which sounds hilarious. And my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today will be there too. I haven’t seen her for ages so it will be nice to catch up with her too. Review will follow in due course though it will be delayed by a week or so as I am heading north to Scotland once more for a much needed break with my better half and the dog right at the end of the month.

Talking of CFT, my post tomorrow is called Writers’ Days and I will be sharing tips as to how to make the most of these as my image (created in Book Brush indicates). Link up tomorrow.  See above.

Tips will help you make the most of a writing day
Always pleased to receive an email saying my book order is on its way to me. Am expecting further copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic in any moment.

I’ll be talking about Writers’ Days for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Really looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I will also be sharing some tips as to how to make the most of these and events held on that wonderful app, Zoom. Hope this will prove useful. And if you think this is an odd coincidence after my going to the Association of Christian Writers’ day last Saturday, well it isn’t! Inspiration for blog posts can come from a variety of sources (as with fiction) after all!

I remember going to my first events as a delegate and being a bundle of nerves. Sometimes thinking about the tips I would have loved to have known back then gives me ideas for posts for CFT. Little is wasted in writing. It is sometimes finding the right use for material you have. It is sometimes a case of looking back at what I’ve learned over the years and writing it down. You do pick up more tips and useful advice than you often realise. I’ve also learned over time to spot the potential for a story or blog post and then flesh it out further to see if there is any “mileage” in that initial idea. If there is I go with it.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Development is the latest tale involving my hapless magical being, Sarah, as she tries to fit in well with her human neighbour, Tina. How does she do this time?

Screenshot 2021-10-15 at 18-35-06 Development, by Allison Symes

Delivering on the promise of an interesting title and hook is vital of course. You don’t want to let readers down. Always think of those you’re writing “to” as they’re the ones you’re seeking to entertain. This is another reason why I will use spider diagrams and/or flowcharts to work out different ways I can take a promising idea. I then go the one I like the most and it almost always is the one I think will have the most impact on a reader, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream or what have you. If the story produces that effect in me, whichever one I’ve chosen, it will do so for others.

I know how I feel when I read a story I love. I’m gripped by the premise, the characters etc., and I always want to reproduce those effects in my own fiction. And if you’re not sure about who you’re writing “to” invent your own Ideal Reader. Who would you like to enjoy your flash or other stories?

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On my reading list at the moment is Root, Branch, Tree, an anthology of flash fiction produced as a result of the National Flash Fiction Day in 2020. Whatever genre you write, you should read in your field, as well as out of it.

The latter helps you expand your imagination, the former helps you see what else is out there in your area. You can study the book to work out the publisher’s style and then decide whether or not your style of writing would fit in with theirs. Studying the market is vital and I would say every writer has to do it. How else will you know where to submit your work? You can’t do it blindly but at least studying the market is fun – you get to read and can legitimately call it research!

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Fairytales with Bite – Required Reading

What books or stories are required reading for your characters, whether they’re at school or not? Who writes these? Is anything specially banned and, if so, why? Would, say, a book on logic go down particularly well in your magical setting? And are our interpretations of the classical fairytales the same as those held on the world you’re creating for your story?

Is there any class of character in your setting who cannot read or is forbidden to do so (and do they seek knowledge and books another way)? Do your characters accept the stories they’re told to read or do they ever question them?

Who lays down the rules for what is read? Why did they choose this particular material? Are adaptations allowed?

What do your characters “make” of reading? If everyone is, say, expected to read and re-read classic books regularly, do your people do that or do they get sick of it and get put off the books they’re supposed to love?

For characters capable of producing magic, what text books, instruction manuals etc do they have? Is there such a thing as an editor in your world? (Someone should make sure the spells are written out correctly after all).

Thinking about questions like these can help you flesh out your creation. Attitudes to literature (and by default to the arts in general as well) will show much about your world and how it is run. A world that takes reading seriously is more likely to be a civilised place in which to live than one which despises knowledge, never wants to learn etc.

I must admit I can’t imagine a life without reading. Nor do I wish to imagine it!

This World and Others – Literacy Matters

Literacy matters a great deal to me as I am sure it does to most of us. As mentioned in Fairytales with Bite, I can’t imagine my life without books in it. Not being able to read fills me with horror – imagine missing out on so much. Occasionally I go to medieval weekends and the like and I always come away from these, having had a great day out and learning a lot, with a profound sense of gratitude I live int he age I do, despite its problems. I just know back then I would have been an illiterate medieval peasant who would probably have died in childbirth long before the age I am now.

So on your fictional world, how seriously is literacy and education taken? Do your characters get an education and, if so, what form does that take? How does it impact on them later in life? Does their education (or lack of) help them in the story you’re putting them in or cause them problems because they know too much or don’t know enough?

Can your characters easily access books? Is fiction valued or does your world only treasure cold, hard facts? Are there specific school/age related books as we know them or do your characters have to get to grips with archaic language from an early age?

And if you have a divide between the educated and those who are not, how did this come about? What clashes happens between the two groups? Is there anyone with a vision to get education to all and do they accomplish this or do other forces get in their way? (It is always easier to control those who don’t ask questions or who perhaps don’t know they should ask questions).

Food for thought there, I think, and I know I will always appreciate my books!

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Told you I loved books!

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Learning, Back at an ACW Event, and North Manchester FM

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and most created via Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Lovely autumnal weather here in the UK right now – just the kind the dog and I like most.

Facebook – General

Enjoying the lovely autumnal weather at the moment – dry, sunny, crisp – my kind of weather at this time of year.

Writers are often advised (and I’ve done it too) to read widely as sparks for story and article ideas will often crop up from what you enjoy reading. But I was at a fascinating Zoom talk last night about Cistercian Abbeys. Not something I write about. Nor am I likely to do so but the talk was interesting and revealed plenty I did not know especially about life in a community.

Now I can see I might get something from that for a story or two later on. Fabulous if I do. Still improving my knowledge even if not. Win-win basically. So why not try a Zoom or other kind of talk on a topic that might be a little outside of your own box but where you have some underlying interest? (In my case, I love history).

I’ve talked before about mixing up how you approach story writing to keep things (a) fresh and interesting for you and (b) to encourage lateral thinking and even more creativity. Why not use talks as another way into that mixing up your approach?

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Hope you had a good Monday. Not bad here. Nice autumnal day, plenty of sunshine, and Lady got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy and her Labradoodle pal. All is well in her world at least!

Coming back to earth after a wonderful ACW event on Saturday but I find I always do need a bit of a breathing space after an event like that to take stock and then get on with my writing again.

Many thanks for the lovely comments so far on my Leaving It Late, which is my most recent tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Am so loving writing the drabbles again – and this particular tale shows just how far one character can take stubbornness.

Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

It was lovely getting back to using Evernote properly on my train trips to/from London for the Association of Christian Writers day yesterday. I’ll be out and about on the train again next month when I go to the Brechin/Angus Book Fest and again in December because Bridge House Publishing are having their annual celebration event, hooray!

Mind you, some things don’t change over the years. I always used to become irritated when bad radio reception would hit right during the middle of my favourite song. These days my irritation is aimed at when the internet connection drops out just as I’m trying to post something (and you don’t always know when a tunnel is coming up!).

It was fantastic catching up with so many friends yesterday and I look forward to catching up with more over the next couple of months. I also managed to draft a flash piece yesterday which I’m going to use for my YouTube video this week. Hope to share the link for that tomorrow over on my book page at From Light to Dark and Back Again. See further down.

Oh and it has been lovely listening to Gill James being interviewed by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Plenty of plugs for Bridge House, Chapeltown, CafeLit etc (and a couple for me too – thank you, Gill and Hannah). Give it a listen and discover insights into how a small independent publisher works.

Gill James Interview Here
Screenshot 2021-10-12 at 20-56-33 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 9 October, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Am on way to my first in-person event for the Association of Christian Writers today. Event is being held in London. I am so looking forward to catching up with friends I’ve either not seen or only seen through Zoom for the past two years. Am drafting this via Evernote on train up. Will probably post on train home.

As well as what you learn from the speaker(s), you pick up loads of tips, sites to check out etc., when chatting with other writers over a cuppa or several. You also sense a creative buzz at the event which you can draw on to inspire you when you’re back home again.

So it will be a tiring, inspirational, and fantastic trip out. ACW are also celebrating the launch of Write Well! This will be launched during the latter half of today’s event. The book is written by various ACW members about aspects of writing and I am looking forward to reading it.

The lovely thing with writing is you don’t stop learning or developing what you do. This is so good for the old brain!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Giving your character an immediate problem they have to resolve is a great way to get into a story. Your reader has to read on to find out what happens, which is exactly what you want. But you can also add intrigue by hinting at an unusual setting for the problem.

I did this with my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. My opening line to this is “He could watch the world end or jump on the alien spacecraft that encouraged visitors.”.

Well, firstly, what would you do if you faced that? Whatever you decide, hopefully the hook is there for you to want to find out what my character did. Secondly, I’ve managed to give you the genre in four words – world end and alien spacecraft. This confirms the genre has to be sci-fi and this is an apocalyptic tale.

The setting is here on Earth – that is confirmed by my character’s name (Jeff). So little things like this give your readers plenty of information to take in and you don’t info-dump on them either. That was something I did use to do when I first started out. Great big blocks of description and/or “have to tell the reader this so I will give it to them all in one go right here and now”. Uhh… no!

Drip-feeding information is better by far, more interesting, and helps keep your word count down, invaluable for flash of course.

Pleased to share my latest YouTube story, The Package. Who do you feel the most for here? Comments welcome here on over on my channel page. Hope you enjoy the tale.

 

Nice to have a quieter day after a wonderful day in London yesterday with the Association of Christian Writers. Will be returning to the capital in December for a Bridge House Publishing celebration event – can’t wait for that. Have been in contact with people over Facebook and Zoom, of course, but it will be so nice to get together in person again.

I’ll be sharing tomorrow my latest YouTube video which was inspired by a snippet of conversation I overheard on the train yesterday! Good fun to write and I look forward to sharing the story. (I say overhear, it was more a case of not being able to miss the conversation, but it can all be useful material for sparking off story ideas!).

 

Am back on the train for an Association of Christian Writers event so am resuming using Evernote for jotting down blog posts and flash fiction pieces. It’s lovely getting to use the app again after a long gap. I used it for the first time since lockdown for my trip to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August but with today’s event, it feels like it’s going to be a regular thing again. And that’s nice.

I will often use train writing sessions to brainstorm ideas for titles and/or opening lines. Course it’s a great chance to people watch again! Have just heard someone saying they had to go to their old house to pick up a delivery they sent to their old place by mistake and the person now living there was a “really old lady”. I suspect they mean someone of my age – fifties!! But could I get a story from that?

Oh yes! Firstly, the old lady could be something not of this world and my character has no idea what to do when they discover this. Far from getting one over on an old lady, she is the one turning tables here. Secondly, I could do something with the delivery itself. What is it? Why does my character need it? What would happen if the old lady opens it as it came to her house?

So will be keeping ears and eyes open for this trip ready to jot down ideas!  See YouTube video above – I did do something with this!

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Goodreads Author Blog – New Books

One lovely thing about going to events, as I’ve done this week, is exploring the book stalls and bringing home a new book or several! (Naturally I hope to sell some of mine too!).

It is great being able to go to events again. I missed this so much in 2020. And I know I will be picking up a very good read indeed when I go to the book stalls.

I’ve yet to go back to bookshops again but that will only be a matter of time! I may get to do so as part of my travels as there is a Foyles bookshop at London Waterloo. I think a lot will depend on how much I spend at the book stalls first!

The downside is every time I pick up new books like this, it reminds me I should sort my bookshelves out! I guess into every reader’s and writer’s life a little rain must fall!

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Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Image of Lady and I examining a delivery of Tripping the Flash Fantastic was taken by Adrian Symes. A huge thanks to Fiona Park for taking the wonderful shot of me signing books at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Looking forward to getting out and about on the train again tomorrow for the Association of Christian Writers’ first Writers’ Day in well over a year in London. Will be so lovely to meet people I haven’t seen in person again for so long.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s time for my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post and this is on a topic I really should have written up a while ago. Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction is one of those themes with my name on it as I do use sayings a lot in my creative writing. I’ve used a number of well known sayings as story titles and even more as themes.

And many of the old sayings could be used for non-fiction work too. I share a few tips here on how to use sayings but so they don’t become cliches, which I hope proves useful. Sayings are well known for a reason but it pays to put your own spin on them so you can get something unique from them for your story or article. That is by far the best way to avoid falling into cliche territory.

And you can change a word in a saying to put your own spin on it. I did this for my Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Subverting a well known saying for your own purposes is not only fun, it intrigues the reader. After all, we usually talk about punishing the guilty so, in the example of my story, I would hope a reader would be curious enough to find out why it is innocent in this case.

Best of all, there are loads of well known sayings so they are useful just as a source of ideas to get you started, even if you don’t use them directly. Course you could do both – as I do!

Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction

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I don’t know where the predicted sunny spells ended up today but I do know they didn’t show up in my part of the world. Today has been a classic murky autumn day.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post with you tomorrow. This week I’m talking about Sayings – Their Uses in Fiction and Non-Fiction. I talk about how I use these in my writing and share tips about avoiding these becoming cliches. I also take a look at character sayings. These can be an effective device – many of our well-loved characters have a pet phrase – though I think the secret is not to overuse them.

What aspect of writing do you find the most fun? For me, it is the editing. Yes, really. I know I’ve got a story down. I know what I’m going to do to it will improve it and help its chances “out there”. And when I do get to submit the piece, I know I’m sending in something far better than what I originally drafted – and that is how it should be.

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Hope you have had a good day. Writing wise, my post on Light and Dark in Flash Fiction is now out (via Mom’s Favorite Reads) and there are some cracking stories based on that theme too. Well done, everyone! (Link takes you directly to the relevant page – see https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2021/10/06/light-and-dark-in-flash-fiction/).

Screenshot 2021-10-06 at 20-01-30 Light and Dark in Flash FictionScreenshot 2021-10-05 at 16-34-08 Amazon co uk Mom's Favorite Reads October 2021

I tend to work on my next post for Mom’s Favorite Reads directly after I finish the last one. I find this a useful technique for everywhere I blog (Authors Electric, Chandler’s Ford Today, More than Writers etc). When I do get odd pockets of time, I will draft future blog posts and work out where to place them later. It is always a good feeling to know there is “material in the bank” good to go when I need it.

I’m also finding Friday Flash Fiction useful here given it encourages you to prepare a story for the next Friday’s magazine directly after the current one has gone live. It is helping me to produce 100-worders more regularly. For my YouTube videos, I set my own deadline and ensure I stick to it. Over the course of a week, I get a balance of fiction and non-fiction writing done.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Leaving It Late. Has my character done exactly that? Read the story and find out!Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details. Have also topped up my supply (which is always a nice thing to do).

Looking forward to seeing both of my collections on a book stall once again when I go to the Association of Christian Writers event on Saturday, 9th October. It will be so lovely seeing book stalls again! I love a good browse…

Every so often I will draft promising opening lines or twist endings for writing up into a story later. The great thing with this is when I come back to them if the ideas still grab me, they’re likely to grab a reader too.

It can be difficult sometimes working out if an idea really is as good as you thought it was when you first came up with it. Time away from it for a while will help you assess it properly. I also find if the idea still grabs me (most of the time this is the case), I am then fired up, keen to get that draft down, and away I go. You don’t lose your enthusiasm for a really good idea. Time away from it, if anything, increases your enthusiasm because you know deep down this will work.

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I like picking open themes for my blog posts (such as for Mom’s Favorite Reads) and flash fiction tales. I like having “manoeuvre room”. It is also more likely I will be able to come up with a twist that surprises the reader but is compatible with my story and character having an open theme. More interpretations (and therefore more twists) become possible with an open theme.

But I do need time then to work out which would be the best option to use and I use spider diagrams to help me here. I’ve found taking the time to work out the best options saves me so much time later. I find I come up with different ideas and the first couple I can instantly dismiss (too samey, seen it before etc).

I then find I have a couple of promising ideas and I then ask a series of “what if” questions. That usually shows me out of two possible ideas, which is the most likely to engage the reader. If I’m engaged with it, someone else will be.

I also look at why something has engaged me and as long as it is something to do with the character portrayal, I go with it. I say that because any story is depending on strongly portrayed characters who appeal to the reader in different ways. As long as there is the likelihood this character will appeal because… then I’m likely to write them and their story up. (The reason because can vary as different readers take different things from characters but as long as there is at least one good reason a reader would want to read this character’s story, then I go with it).

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Fairytales with Bite – Light and Dark

Now this is a popular theme for me given the title of my debut flash fiction collection (From Light to Dark and Back Again). The title came about as I realised my two preferences for stories inevitably contrasted with each other. I love humorous/light stories. I like a well crafted darker tale too. And, with few exceptions, most characters are a mixture of light and dark.

Most readers like to read about flawed characters because we know we too are flawed. Most readers are bored by the “goody two shoes” with no spirit to them. Most readers are horrified by those who are just pure evil with no prospect of redemption. (Redemption or the possibility of it is a wonderful theme for stories).

So how will you show light and dark in your characters? What dark aspects do your “good” characters have to show they are well rounded, so a reader can identify with them precisely because they’re not perfect? What lighter aspects do your villains have to show they are nor caricatures?

For your setting, how does light and dark work in a physical sense but also what would be these be politically? Is there such a thing as a good government in your world? What would your characters see as being light and dark and would that agree with what we would consider such things should be? Not every world has the same values after all.

 

This World and Others – Generation and Regeneration

Now I’m a Doctor Who fan of longstanding so the idea of regeneration is not new or one I’m fazed by. In your fictional settings, do you have characters who can regenerate? How does your world generate its food, power supplies, anything it needs for the world to function properly?

Generation and regeneration can be reflected in agriculture. How does your world grow food? How does it generate seeds? How can it ensure crops can keep being grown?

If your setting is an old one, has it had periods where it has to re-generate or re-invent itself or face obliteration? How did it rise to the challenge here?

What are relationships like between the differing generations? Do the great ideas only come from one section of your society? And where there is pollution how can your setting “start again” and build a world where there is onoing regeneration?

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Facebook, Flash Fiction, and Foreshadowing

Image Credit:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good few days. Managed to work in some alliteration for this post (but have no plans to work my way through the alphabet!).

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Facebook – General

4th and 5th October
Given Facebook was down for a lot of 4th October (UK), I thought I would just share one extended post today covering 4th and 5th. Am glad all is now back up and running properly though.

4th October
Hope you have had a good day. Lady got to play her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, today. Their other pal, Coco, a lovely Labradoodle, also turned up so it ended up being a real “puppy party”. A lovely time was had by all but you don’t want to get in the way when the dogs are running! It was nicely timed too as it poured down for most of the afternoon.

As I prepare this post, Facebook is down so I have no idea when I’ll be posting this. Hope everything is sorted out soon.

Also glad to say the October issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. I talk about light and dark for my flash fiction column this time and there are some wonderful stories in on the theme. Do check it out. (Also glad to see my two flash collections are in under the section of books by MFR Authors – and there’s a whole range here so if you’re looking for somewhere to start to check new books out, do try here!).

 

5th October
I guess outages such as the one that happened to Facebook etc yesterday remind us of how dependent we can be on these things. I do like the social aspect to social media. I don’t like the negative sides which turn up but where social media is at its best is where it can encourage, share good news stories, and yes help with writing tips and advice and that kind of thing. Anything which helps encourage creativity basically.

And I do like Facebook and Twitter as both can be useful for sharing flash fiction stories. Twitter is a great place for me to share my Youtube videos as I don’t tend to put much commentary with these. Far better to let the video speak for itself! But I suppose one thing to come from last night is it probably pays to have two social media platforms you are comfortable with using. Okay, there is nothing you can do when both are hit by an event but where, in a lot of cases, it is only one that has been “taken out”, you can at least still use the other.

 

Well, at least the weather was better today! We all seemed to spend most of last night drying out, dog included.

Looking forward to going to the Association of Christian Writers’ writing event on Saturday. So that will be two trips on the train within three months! (And I’ve already saved what I paid out on my railcard for the two trips had so far – the other one was for Swanwick of course).

I hope to write about the benefits of one day events for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course. Watch this space as they say. (This week’s post will be the use of sayings in creative writing. I’ve had several stories published which either use a well known saying as a title or a theme or sometimes both).

 

All of us were soaked to the skin at differing points today, including the dog, though she fluffs up beautifully when she dries out! Not a good day in Hampshire, that’s for sure.

Delighted to see lovely comments coming in for my Trying Hard on #FridayFlashFiction. Will Sarah finally make things up to her neighbour? Follow the link to find out. It is great fun writing these drabbles again. The 100-worders were how I discovered flash fiction thanks to CafeLit issuing their 100-word challenge.

Looking forward to sharing my next Chandler’s Ford Today post too. I’ll be looking at sayings and their use in creative writing. This is a topic I should’ve written about before really as I use sayings a fair bit for my flash fiction work. Link to come on Friday.

Screenshot 2021-10-01 at 18-59-48 Trying Hard, by Allison Symes

Using sayings can boost your creativity

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

4th and 5th October
Given the Facebook outage on 4th October (UK), I thought I’d share two posts in one here for 4th and 5th October respectively.

4th October
Facebook is out as I write this so will post as soon as I can. Am glad to share my latest YouTube short story video. Hope you enjoy this one – Satisfying. Does Miskrelda come out tops in the village magical championships or does the old witch still have plenty of tricks to play?

5th October
It does feel unnerving to be offline when you don’t want to be! Glad everything now up and running again on Facebook etc. I know there can be down sides to social media but there are up sides too, especially bringing people together and hopefully sharing a little entertainment too. Hope you enjoy my latest story video, Satisfying.

Flash fiction works well on social media given its limited word count, of course. And sharing stories like this I hope will draw people into my website (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com) to find out more what I do writing wise and where. Social media is meant to be sociable after all. And sharing stories and books and that kind of thing is one of the most lovely social activities there is. As well as being a writer I am of course a reader and love it when authors share extracts and a little about their writing process. I always learn from this – and it is fun to read.

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Can foreshadowing happen in a tight word count as is the requirement for flash fiction? Oh yes. I tend to plant “clues” in the opening line or two so that by the end of the story (often a paragraph or two later), a reader can see how that “clue” mattered. Sometimes foreshadowing can be done by a word or two.

In my Vegetables are Good For You, I use the words “garlic” and “Transylvanian” in the first line. If you’re wondering if vampires come into this somewhere, you’re going to have to read the story to find out (!) but I’ve definitely foreshadowed something here!

As is so often the case for the very short form of fiction, it is a question of picking out the right detail you need a reader to know. You can then work out how to foreshadow this. It is a case of setting things up nicely and ensures your readers don’t feel cheated.

(And it is even more fun when you can foreshadow but still put in a twist at the end, I love doing that. Readers might guess where you’re heading but can’t know until they read the story and you can still surprise them. But when they look back at the story again, they should then see the foreshadowing given does lead logically to the point where you’ve taken them at the end).

 

Characters learning from their mistakes and going on to do better makes a great theme for stories. I’ve used it for flash tales – Judgement Day and The Past – Ready or Not? from Tripping the Flash Fantastic to name a couple. I tend to show the mistake early on and the rest of the story shows how the character has moved on. And change is what all stories are about.

We read to find out what happens so something must happen! A character who doesn’t learn will only make the same mistakes (and worse) and these can be frustrating to read about. You want to scream at the character “come on, learn from this” so I try to ensure nobody can say that about the characters I come up with.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Books on Your Wish List

Do you have a Book Wish List? I have two a year – one for the period leading up to my birthday and the other leading up to Christmas. Family and friends of book lovers should appreciate us really. We are so easy to buy for. Just follow our list(s)!

I try to get a list together for Christmas in November. That’s early enough. I’ve got some thoughts already for books I’d like to be on that list – not that I am surprised by this. I tend to make a mental note throughout the year of “possibles”! (I also refuse to believe I’m the only one who does that). And I like an annual, yes even at my age. (The Friendship Book before you ask).

Ebooks I tend to buy as I want them (and I do use this format for trying out authors new to me). Audio books are something I tend to give as presents to others.

But however you like your books, I hope you have plenty of them on your Wish List. And, best of all, books are so easy to wrap. Okay, you can’t hide what they are (not unless you really go overboard with the wrapping) but seeing a book-shaped present under the Christmas tree is always a great joy for me and has been for more years than I care to recall.

Now, hands up time. I buy books for others. Who has a quick peek before wrapping said gifts up, ensuring that the recipient would never guess of course? Yes, me too, and it usually leads me to adding another book or several to my own Wish List!

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Pinch, Punch, The First of The Month and Trying Hard

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the fab photo of my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. New story out and a new More than Writers blog post which has attracted a fair few comments but then I did ask about people’s Writing Niggles. It seems to have hit a spot!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week’s one is called Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me, writing wise. I also look at the origin of the saying and ask why white rabbits are considered lucky. Any thoughts on that? If so pop a comment over on the CFT page. This post will tie in nicely with next week’s one where I’ll be taking a look at sayings and their uses in creative writing.

Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month

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A huge thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog spot yesterday. See further down. My post about Writing Niggles obviously hit a sore spot or several! Mind you, the one comfort here is we all have writing niggles. It is working out a way of (a) managing them and (b) limiting the irritation they can cause you that are the tricky bits to get right.

My post tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today is all about Pinch, Punch The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me now (author newsletter send out day!). I also look at the origin of this strange phase (which will also tie in with my post on the 8th October as I will be talking about sayings and their uses in fiction and non-fiction).

Oh and is it just me or have the light levels in the evening just plummeted into complete darkness so far this autumn? There has been no gradual fading of the light. It looks as if someone has gone in and taken the bulb out! Dark by 7.30 pm… I wasn’t expecting that until much later into October.

It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This month I talk about Writing Niggles and it is a rare writer indeed that doesn’t have at least one. I share some of mine (yes, some!) and solutions I have found that have helped me. A huge thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments on this subject which have come in already.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Will my hapless Sarah finally make things right with her neighbour in Trying Hard?

Screenshot 2021-10-01 at 18-59-48 Trying Hard, by Allison Symes

One of the biggest things flash fiction has done for me as a writer is to help me understand what “show, don’t tell” means in practice. It took me ages to get my head around that.

Because I have to write to a tight word count, I have no room for “extras” and showing a scene rather than telling it can take up a fair bit of said word count. I’ve found it helpful to focus on one thing I have to show a reader for a story that is 500 words or less. I’ll show two for 500 to 1000 words. So I have to work out what is the most important thing to show a reader and focus on that alone. That in turn does help me keep my word count down.

I’ve mentioned before my “she wears a red coat” and “she wears a moth-eaten red coat” as these are great examples of tight writing and how one word can change perspective. I don’t need to tell you my character is poor in the second example. I’ve shown you (and hyphenated words, since they count as one word for flash fiction, are the flash writer’s best friend). So think of ways in which you could show something.

Anger – character slamming something.

Sadness – character being asked by another character something along the lines of “what’s up with you?” and then getting the first character to sob.

Happiness – Showing your character walking jauntily, whistling a cheery tune etc.

So you can show a mood quickly. Setting can be done with the selective use of detail. A poor house can be shown as characters moaning about the roof leaking again etc. Think about what you want to show and then what words you can use to do that. Always pick the strongest. A roof leaking is far more powerful than characters moaning about how poor they are. Readers do pick things up on context (I love doing this). We just need to give them the right clues so they can.

BookBrushImage-2021-9-30-20-354Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See link for more.

Will also be sending out my author newsletter on 1st October. I share tips, prompts, flash stories here (and these are often exclusive to newsletter readers) as well as my news. Do head over to my website (the landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where the landing page takes you straight through to the sign-up. There is a giveaway too.

Fairytales with Bite – Seasonal Magic

Do your magical characters use their powers more at certain times of year or spread the use evenly throughout the twelve months? In your fictional setting, do certain seasons encourage the use of magic or, conversely, limit it? In the darker times of year, is magic more difficult? Is there any link to available light levels and when there is light, is it easier for a character to “produce the goods” when it comes to using their powers?

Do physical weaknesses limit magical use? After all, we are prone to colds, the flu etc more in the winter months and that affects how we “perform” so could your characters be affected by something similar?
Also, can your characters adapt their spells to match the time of year? For example, when it is dark and gloomy, are they on call for “lift me up” charms to help get people through these times? (For me a cup of hot chocolate, a cosy home, classical music, and a good book would do this for me nicely!).

Are your people expected to produce more magic at certain times of year? If magic can be equated to energy, are they on call to produce more of this at certain times of year to help keep their environment “going”? (Think Monsters Inc where the monsters need energy from children’s screams and then run into problems when they find youngsters aren’t so easily scared any more).

How do the seasons affect your people? In good ways or negatively and how could that change the outcome of your stories (or do your people “compensate” and, if so, how? What matters here is that you know how things work here even if you don’t need to share all of that with your readers.

You inevitably won’t share it all but you could have a character exploiting weaknesses here to their advantage. You would need to know what they are exploiting, how, and what would be the outcome? Also could the exploited hit back by using your natural world against whoever is trying to pull this trick off?).

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This World and Others – Seasons

I love the seasons. See some of the above pics for proof! The last one with the summer house is from my garden earlier this year. There is beauty to be found in each, even in winter (and there I also have the delicious compensations of hot chocolate, a cosy home etc to enjoy). Okay, so we have the four, but what does your created world have? More or less? Same as ours or totally different?

How do the seasons work in your created world? Especially if you have magical characters, is there anything they can do to influence how the seasons work and, if so, how? What would they gain from this?

Seasons tie in with celebrations too so what seasonal events would your world hold? Why are these things special to them?

As for the climate, can it compare with ours or is yours worse or better? How do your characters manage the ups and downs of the seasons and the climate?

There are seasons in life too. How do your stories reflect this in your characters, especially as they age? Have they learned anything useful from their younger years (especially what not to do) that benefits them now? Do they appreciate the season of “maturity” or do they resent not being young any more?

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Triggers and Descriptions

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Image of me signing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School was kindly taken by Fiona Park while the photo of Lady and I examining my books was taken by Adrian Symes. I took the photo of my two flash collections for sale at Swanwick in August 2021.
Hope you have had a good few days. Writing going well. Weather less so right now!

Facebook – General

I swear it was almost time to call Noah out again given the amount of rain that has fallen in my part of Hampshire today! Hope it is not too bad where you are.

Have booked my train tickets for the Brechin/Angus Book Festival in November. I always get tickets posted so hopefully these will be with me in a few days.

Have got my train tickets for the first Association of Christian Writers in-person to be held since before lockdown – that will be on 9th October. Looking forward to that and seeing everyone again. I will make use of my railcard this year! (And it will be nice to hopefully sell a few books in person again too!).

My lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today and I are planning to be at the next production by The Chameleon Theatre Group in October (which will be Murder With Ghosts – sounds fun!). Definitely time for another CFT “works outing” I feel. Not the same when I go on my own!

Hope you have had a good Monday. Was pleased to get a significant amount of editing done over the weekend on what I hope will end up being my third flash fiction collection. And I managed to draft some future blogs so those will come in handy in due course.

Am enjoying the new series of Just a Minute. It is odd not having Nicholas Parsons in the chair but Sue Perkins is doing a grand job. One of the reasons I love this show is there is some wonderful word play and I always have a lot of time for that! It also shows how difficult it is not to repeat. Every word has to count – and I guess that would always prove popular with a flash fiction writer.

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Many thanks for the comments coming in on An Undesirable Property, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Much appreciated. Am currently working on another story for this week’s submission and hope to get that polished and sent off later this evening.

I’ll be looking at Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month as my topic for Chandler’s Ford Today this week given Friday will be 1st October. I’ll also look at how we can use sayings in our fiction and non-fiction. I’ve used several sayings as titles and/or themes for my flash fiction stories, for example. So don’t throw out your books of proverbs and well known sayings. Mine them for ideas!

Talking of the first of the month, my author newsletter will go out on Friday as well. I share tips, news, writing prompts, and stories here. If you’d like to sign up head over to my website (landing page).

 

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice to catch up with friends and family today. Lady loved seeing everyone. She loves people (and the food they drop of course). Autumn evenings drawing in – getting dark here before 8 pm.

I don’t use a lot of description, mainly because in flash room for this is limited. What I look for is the telling detail, something that will show a reader setting, character age/class (often done via the name I give them – names can date people – mine does as I mentioned the other day), or story mood.

It is a case of working out what a reader has to know and what can be left for them to pick up on inference/context. I ask myself when editing a story, does the tale make sense without it? Does the tale lose anything if I take this out?

I am more interested in character than description anyway. I want to know what a character is like. Finding out where they live is, for me, something I will pick up as I keep reading. What I don’t want is to be switched off by long descriptions.

I want the dialogue, the character’s thoughts etc and description slipped in every now and then. I will “assimilate” that. I don’t want a great big block of description (and I am wary that kind of thing is likely to switch a lot of readers off. They want to know what is happening as opposed to what something looks like).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Triggers for story ideas can come from anywhere – and at unexpected times. (Not always convenient times either). I’ve never used the keep a notebook and pen by your bed so if you wake up with a great idea you can jot it down quickly. Why? Because when I’m asleep, that is it.

I don’t tend to dream story ideas. They come to me as I’m getting on with other things, which is fine if I can pause to jot things down, but that is not always possible. I have had odd ideas come to me when in the shower, when I’ve just parked, when on the loo etc. What I will do here is grab my phone and use Evernote to jot things down as quickly as I can after the idea has occurred. Best endeavours and all that).

But I worry less now about “missing an idea” because I know now in a way I didn’t when starting out that ideas will crop up. It’s not as if you have one “go” at getting ideas, far from it.

The best trigger I know and often make use of is to ask the old “what if” question? For Being Yourself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I knew my character was going to be accused by a love rival of being cold. So I asked myself what if my character could become cold? What would that make her capable of and how could she use this against her rival?

And random generators can be a good way of triggering words to put into a story. I’ve done this recently and I came up with promising words and then asked the what if question. That showed me how to use this words well and two of my more recent videos on my YouTube channel came about because I did this.

 


Delighted to share my latest YouTube video called Housework. Even dragons tidy up when they have a strong enough motivation to do so. Hope you enjoy.

F = Fun to Write – and you can write across genres too.
L = Less is More – what are the telling details your reader must know?
A = Always axe anything that does not move your story along in some way.
S = Story, story, story. What happens? How does your character change? What is the important thing we need to know about your character in this tale?
H = Has an upper limit of 1000 words but you can write across the spectrum. There are different categories including the dribble (50 words) and drabble (100 words – and my favourite). You can pack a lot into a tiny tale whether or not you go to the upper word limit.

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I was talking over on my author page about not wanting a lot of description. There isn’t room for it in flash anyway. I chatted about telling details and working out what a reader has to know. Some examples from my published stories include:-

Making the Grade – one word, “magical” ahead of the word “exams” shows my reader the character is not in any ordinary school and they have talents we do not.

Pen Portrait – “brushed her hair once a day” shows you my character, whatever else she is, isn’t vain.

It Has to be Me – the words “you break customs at your peril” shows you my character lives in a repressive world.

There is an indication of setting in two of these as well.

Also, given we live in a TV and film era, the days of long descriptions are behind us, I think. Someone like Dickens had to spell out what London looked like for readers who would probably never go there. We, on the other hand, can take shortcuts here as we can set a story in London and most people will have their own ideas as to what that looks like.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shopping

Book shopping is an absolute pleasure, of course, and I like to mix up how I do this. I do shop online but mix up the retailers I use (and I like to also support those who support independent bookshops. I have used You Know Who and I have found them helpful with out of print books in the past. I also believe in not putting all my eggs in one basket here but that goes for You Know Who as well as the other retailers here).

I also love going into a “proper” bookshop and browsing. Have not done the latter yet since the pandemic restrictions were lifted but hope it will be something I get back to before too long.
And the nice thing here is that book shopping is easy enough for family and friends to do for you for Christmas etc. Just give them a list of the books you want and send them to Waterstones!

I also like to mix up asking for paperbacks and ebooks (though usually I’ll sort out the latter myself). And I like to have non-fiction as well as fiction on my Wish List. The downside of all of this?

I know I need to sort out my book shelves. Adding more books is not going to help! But it is a nice problem to have!

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Twitter Corner

 

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Anniversaries, Questions, and Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Wonderful autumn weather in the UK this week. Lady and I have loved it.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Anniversaries. I look at why these are important, I share some of my favourite writing ones, and how it matters to take time out to recall where you were and where you are now. Sometimes it is only by looking back, you realise you have made progress.

And, of course, it is important to remember so many vital people and events in our lives, past and present. I also discuss bucket lists. Hope you enjoy the post.

Anniversaries


Pleased to share a link to the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads which takes you to my last article here which was about frames in flash fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

It is one of the ironies of flash that limiting things (the word count) encourages creativity. You learn to make the most of what you do have to work with and this encourages lateral thinking. That comes in useful for whatever you write. And you learn to write with precision and to ask yourself do I really need this in the story? If in doubt, the answer to that is no and out the section comes!

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Another gorgeous day out in the park with Lady. She got to play with two of her pals yesterday and played with one of them again today. What was nice was the two dogs were resting side by side for a bit and I just got my phone out to take a nice snap and, yes sure enough, Lady’s pal decided that was the right time to get up and move away!

Am leading an online flash fiction group tonight. Looking forward to that. It’s always good fun.
Will be later than usual with posts at the weekend due to family events but those should be good fun too! (And Lady adores said events. Let’s just say I don’t have to clear up anything from the ground).

My CFT post this week will be on Anniversaries. Do you note any of your writing ones? I have noted a few of mine and it is important I think to remind yourself this was where you were and this is where you are now because it is easy to think you’re getting nowhere when actually you’ve achieved more than you think. Anyway post up on Friday.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Story time at the end of a working week – what’s not to like about that? Hope you enjoy my An Undesirable Property, now up on #FridayFlashFiction.
Screenshot 2021-09-24 at 19-17-23 An Undesirable Property by Allison SymesI’ll be looking at Anniversaries in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (link up tomorrow) (See further up for link) and naturally I include some writing ones. Two that had to go in were when From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic came out.

Wonderful moments and not something I anticipated when I started submitting work for publication. (My eyes had been and still are on the short story market – flash fiction was not something I had heard of but I’ve made up for that in the intervening years, I think!).

It was a delight to have such a wonderfully interactive flash fiction writing group session last night (on Zoom naturally) with fellow members of the Association of Christian Writers. We talked prompts and picture ones in particular. It may seem odd to use pictures to help you produce something that is text-based but they can make for useful ways “into” writing a story. And I like to mix up how I approach writing a story because that encourages me to think differently and to develop lateral thinking.

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I like titles to encourage readers to ask questions. For example, my Time for Some Peace in Tripping the Flash Fantastic -well the questions there would be “who wants the peace?” and “do they get the peace they crave?”. As long as the title provokes interest and curiosity in the reader, it is doing its job.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to start with but my end story doesn’t always retain the title I came up with initially. Often a better idea for a title will crop up while I’m drafting or editing and fine, I’ll go with that instead. Place holders are absolutely fine (and I find them invaluable). Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone after all!

It’s a question of working out, I think, what you need in the way of “scaffolding” to help you get on and write that story. I need a title and to know who my character is and why I want to write them up. I don’t need to know everything but just enough to get me started. Then once started on my draft the creativity can really kick in. And it does.

Fairytales with Bite – Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

Good question, yes? It is worth thinking about because if your characters can use magic to solve any and every problem they face, where is the drama in that? Where is the conflict with other characters (or even where is the inner conflict they would face in trying to work out how to deal with a problem?).

So it pays to have limits then. Does magic physically and/or mentally tired a character so they have to limit their use of it? What would happen if a magical character became ill? Would they still be able to do what they usually would with their magic? Or does it backfire?

If your created world is a magical one, is there any room for what we would see as science? How would your world react to logical solutions to issues rather than just using the old magic wand to deal with problems? Would magic automatically exclude science or could the two co-exist? Could science mean that characters would use magic to deal with those issues science could not?

And I think there would have to be some situations magic could not change. For example, your characters would not want to live in a world where the geography and/or some other physical aspect to nature could be changed by magic. It would lead to an unstable environment to say the least. Talking of the laws of nature…

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This World and Others – Laws of Nature

What laws of nature apply to your created world? Is your world subject to gravity, say? How do the species survive in terms of food, reproduction etc?

Could anything disrupt or destroy the usual laws of nature or rewrite them even? Who would have that capacity and what reasons would they have for doing it? (There are easier ways to get power, say, than trying to rewrite how your world works as a physical entity!).

Is the natural world in your fiction anything like what we have here? What is better? What is worse?

A lot of the information you jot down as you answer questions like that may well not make it into the story but it is important you know enough about your world to be able to write about it convincingly. So figure out what you think you need to know to make this work. (It will pay off. This kind of planning out can save a lot of rewriting later on).

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Twitter icon
I sometimes tweet on the Association of Christian Writers Twitter feed, usually on topics helpful to writers. I was on duty this week and I am glad to share those tweets here.

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A Day in the Life of an Author and Being an Indie Author Part 2 with Maressa Mortimer

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Author images and book covers kindly provided by Maressa Mortimer for the CFT interview.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. It’s been a busy but interesting one on Zoom for me this time.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s a pleasure to welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today #MaressaMortimer, who balances a busy writing life with an even busier homeschooling life for her family. So you know I’ve said before it is important to make time to write even if that time is only ten minutes or so but you can still achieve a great deal as long as you’re consistent, well Maressa is living proof that is true! Those pockets of time do mount up. Perseverance does count – and makes a great deal of difference.

I know Maressa via the Association of Christian Writers (indeed it was my privilege to enrol her given I’m the Membership Secretary). We both took part in the Share Your Story Writing summit earlier this year and, in November, we will meet up in person again at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival.

Meanwhile, Maressa chats with me about how she feels her writing has developed and shares what she would like to try writing wise in the future amongst other topics.

Mind you, we do disagree about what constitutes flash fiction. It definitely isn’t 3000 words, Maressa, though I appreciate that is on the short side for a novelist!

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Looking forward to sharing the link for Part 2 of my interview with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up tomorrow. See above. This week Maressa shares with me her views on marketing, Facebook Live, book tours, and outlining amongst other topics. Plenty of useful insights here.

And that is the great thing with author interviews. There is always something useful to pick up from them. Even if you can’t use a nugget of information now, it may well prove to be useful to you later on. I’ve lost count of how many times that has happened to me. When the need for the information arises, your subconscious will remind you “hang on, I found out something about that” and you will go and look it up. I always check out author interviews regularly, even when I don’t host them, as they are entertaining and precisely to pick up those nuggets of information I know I may well find handy at some point.

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Day in the life of a writer Part 108. Email in from The Bridport Prize. No joy with my story this time but I will at some point have another look at it, polish it up further if I can, and re-submit it somewhere else.

Email in from CafeLit telling me my story with them will be on the website next week! More details and a link on that nearer the time.

When I was first starting writing seriously, any rejection etc would hit me hard. Now it doesn’t so much. Yes, obviously, I’d like every piece of mine accepted but I am realistic enough to know that rarely happens to anyone. Also it is an opportunity to look at the story again, correct any flaws, and get it out somewhere else. I’ve gone on to have work accepted somewhere else, having done that. So I like to see rejections as a “not here but could go somewhere else” kind of thing. It is a more positive approach to take – and it can kind of work like a self-fulfilling prophecy too.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good week. Am thrilled that my Making Amends is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. I continue the (mis)adventures of my hapless magical being, Sarah. Can she make things up to her neighbour, Tina, after unwittingly letting loose a box of frogs in the latter’s house last time? Or will Sarah unleash something worse?
Screenshot 2021-09-17 at 19-12-46 Making Amends, by Allison SymesAs well as having a story accepted yesterday, I had another turned down. That is the way of things! So at some point I will dig out that story again and see if I can improve it and somewhere else. I’ve had work accepted elsewhere doing exactly that.

Sometimes I’ve edited the rejected piece further, sometimes I can’t honestly see what else to edit but pick a market where I think it is in with a reasonable chance. And you do get better with time and plenty of practice in submitting work in working out which markets are most likely to suit you and your writing style.

The important thing is not to give up (though changing direction is fine. I did that with flash fiction and look where that has led!).

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Delighted to say I’ll have a story on CafeLit next week. Will be one of my longer flashes too. Well, I say longer. It’ll come in at just under the 600 words mark. Be fair, that is a long story by my standards compared with many I write!

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting next week. Great exchange of ideas and information and groups like this push (in a nice way) everyone along with their writing. Sometimes you need that kind of push. A good group will encourage and help you develop your writing and get you to try writing techniques you might not have thought of before, as well as helping you to polish up those with which you are familiar.

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Fairytales with Bite – Cause and Consequence

Fairytales are full of examples of cause and consequence. (It is one of the things I love most about them). Annoy a wizened old man or lady and you can bet you are going to be turned into something unpleasant until, usually, true love redeems you. You do just know there is going to be some sort of comeuppance for those less pleasant characters.

Maybe that is why fairytales so often appeal to much older readers than kids. We know life isn’t like that (and kids sense this too, I know I did) so we get some comfort from reading about justice being done in the stories we read.

And if we write stories as well, we can have a lot of fun ensuring causes do have consequences. The bad guys don’t get away with it etc.

But the consequence has to be in proportion to the cause. In the fairytales, there is always a chance of redemption (usually by the caring actions of another character, usually unseen at the start of the story). And that I think is the aspect I like best. I like the possibility of redemption even if a character in need of it turns it down or doesn’t realise they have this chance. You have to be open to the possibility and not every character will be.

So what consequences will your characters face in relation to their causes? Is their cause just in any way? How do they handle the consequences which result? The answer to that will also reveal a great deal of their personality too.

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This World and Others – The Basics

The basics of world building for me must mean looking at what characters need to be able to survive. How do they breathe? How is food grown? What do they drink?

Then it is a question of looking at how the societies here organise themselves. Who governs whom? Do your societies live in peace with each other and/or within themselves? Thinking about what we need here can help you visualise what your fictional world needs to make it seem real to a reader.

While it is true you will need more description to help a reader, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need pages and pages of it. What are the telling details people need to know? Characters chatting about the latest atrocities carried out by Lord XXX of YYY will show a reader your creations are living under a tyranny without you needing to spell out each and every detail of that tyranny.

The golden rule here is to include only that which is directly relevant to your story and will move it on in some way. Characters can reveal information but ensure they don’t talk about things that, logically, they should already know. That will come across as the info-dump that is it is and switch a reader off. Getting characters to talk about latest developments will show a reader what is going on and you would expect characters to talk about that kind of thing and how it is likely to affect them.

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Twitter Corner

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Being an Indie Author and Editorial News

Image Credit-:

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights were kindly taken by Penny Blackburn and Geoff Parkes.

Author picture, where the author writes images, and book cover images kindly supplied by Maressa Mortimer for my interview with her for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Images connected to Creativity Matters:  Find Your Passion for Writing were kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit held earlier this year were supplied by the summit’s organisers.

Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. It’s been an interesting one here – more below – but the picture below indicates what it is connected with.

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-13-33 Amazon com mom's favorite reads september 2021

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to welcome #MaressaMortimer to Chandler’s Ford Today for Part 1 of a two-part interview where she discusses life as an indie author. This week she also shares the wonderful story of how she came to publish a book by accident. She also talks about her love of stories and what led her into self publishing. Great insights here and some useful tips too.

Maressa has guested on other CFT posts but this is the first time she has had a post “to herself”! I am already looking forward to sharing Part 2 next week.

What I love about author interviews like this is that every writer’s journey is different and there is something useful to learn from all of them.

Introducing Maressa Mortimer – Being an Indie Author – Part 1

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady is currently resting on the sofa having had a good run around with a flat coated retriever on this evening’s “walk”. Great time had by both dogs though I think the retriever was a bit surprised at how fast Lady is – she has been known to outrun a whippet in her time. Is the only member of my household who can do that. For a start I don’t run. Secondly, even if I did, it would be slow. (I would expect to be overtaken by a tortoise with the wind behind it, put it that way).

Just going to flag up my debut flash collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, is currently on offer on Amazon (the paperback is on offer at under £4.00 – what a bargain). The link takes you to my Author Central page (and yes, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing is now on there too).

Looking forward to the next Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting later in the month.

And I’m chatting to the lovely #MaressaMortimer in the first part of a two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-24-49 Allison Symes

EDITORIAL NEWS

Am thrilled to announce I am now on the editorial team for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I am joining as their flash fiction and short story editor and look forward to further developments in this area for the magazine. And don’t forget you can read the magazine for free – see the link.

For this month’s issue, I am talking about using frames in flash fiction. I don’t use them all the time but I’ve used a diary format as a frame, for example. Also, in my What The Neighbours Think from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my opening line is a question. That question is then answered in the last two lines.

My favourite way of getting into a story is with an intriguing opening line but I sometimes know how the story has to end before I write it up thanks to that opening line. I like to think of that as having the top and bottom of my story picture there ready and I just have to fill in the middle.

If you like a good structure in place before you write, a frame is a useful technique to have. Bear in mind, you can also use time as a frame if you give your characters a certain amount of time only in which to resolve their problem. You have a frame right there – a kind of countdown.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say my story Almost Right is up on #FridayFlashFiction. What will Lizzie do when she realises something is not right about the lipstick on her bedside cabinet? Find out here!

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-06-14 Almost Right, by Allison Symes

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/almost-right-by-allison-symes

I’ve mentioned before one of the joys of flash fiction is it is a delight to read out at an Open Prose Mic Night. It’s not long enough to send your audience to sleep (!) and it is a great way to demonstrate the form and what it can do. (It also helps you get better at reading to an audience).

I find the 100-word stories work perfectly for this. Usually at these things you have a short time span in which to read, mainly to ensure everyone who wants to take part does get to do so, but that works well for this. In a few minutes I can read three stories out so I can decide whether I want contrasting story moods or stories that work to a theme etc.

Incidentally, it does pay to record yourself reading your work out loud as a practice run. I did this via Zoom for when I was preparing my talks earlier this year. Zoom converts your recording into a mp4 file for you when you end a recorded meeting (with yourself!). I discovered for my talks that I was speaking too fast and, of course, you are more likely to trip yourself up over words doing that. You have to learn to slow yourself down a bit.

So for reading flash out loud, I deliberately only choose three stories, which I know I can read in the time limit and not rush them out to the audience either. (And audiences never mind if you still come in at under the time. What they generally don’t want is people going over the allotted time span. It is also not popular with your fellow readers).

Many thanks to #Penny Blackburn and #Geoff Parkes for taking the images of me below reading at different Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights.

81c3b525454b4749288740f600b1f96a.0The Open Mic for Prose night

I mentioned this over on my author page but I’m delighted to say I am now the flash fiction and short story editor for Mom’s Favorite Reads. As you know, I am always keen to highlight the wonderful form that flash fiction is and how any and every writer can benefit from it so this is a logical step for me.

Later in the year I will be at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and will be running a workshop on flash, as well as giving a separate author talk. More details to come nearer the time. But am very excited about these developments as you can imagine.

Am going through the draft of what I hope will become my third flash fiction collection in due course. It needs a lot of editing but that’s fine. I like the process of that, “knocking” the book into shape, and ensuring each story not only works but is in the right place in the book, which in turn helps with reading “flow” and a better experience for a reader. It was that process which helped me come up with the title for my debut book as I realised my stories in that were taking me “from light to dark and back again”!

Fairytales with Bite – Crime and Punishment in the Magical World

How does the law work in your magical world? Is crime recognised as such and is it the same kind as we have here? When you think about it, Snow White is really a story about attempted murder, yet it will always be classed as “just a fairytale”. (That does make me grimace. There is so much depth to most fairytales and that shouldn’t be underrated).

What would happen if someone uses magic they’re not supposed to be able to access?

What kind of punishments are carried out? Often people are humiliated for their pride and arrogance by being transformed into something hideous until love redeems them (for example Beauty and the Beast). But in your setting, who defines what the crimes are and what the punishments should be? I can imagine a major punishment for infringement of magical law (well, you don’t want everyone doing it) but is there anything in your world we would not consider worthy of punishment but they do?

Is there an appeals procedure? Are there trials as we would know them? Or is guilt assumed?

No world can survive for long if crime is left unchecked. It would lead to chaos. So this applies to your magical world too. How do they rein in potential chaos especially if there are a number of magical species with different capacities for magic?

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This World and Others – Geography

Does your fictional world’s geography have any bearing on your story or is it just used as a backdrop? What do your readers need to know to be able to visualise it? What kind of problems can the physical landscape cause your characters as they set off on their adventures?

What kind of natural or other disaster can afflict your creation and what can your characters do to prevent or minimise the impact?

What would your world find odd about ours and also think about this the other way round? Think about what you need to have in your setting. Your characters will need food and drink of some kind so how is that produced? Is the land conducive to agriculture or does everything have to be imported in? What happens if that goes wrong?

Also, think about whether you would like to live in your setting or not and the reasons why. What is it about your setting that readers will identify with the most and how can your characters make the best of it?

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Twitter Corner

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Creative Matters: A New Direction and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones (as was her own author pic). Some images for Creativity Matters created in Book Brush by Wendy H Jones and Allison Symes. Image of yours truly proudly holding up one of her copies of Creativity Matters taken by Adrian Symes.

Other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos as usual. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

A busy week with Creativity Matters now being out and my latest article is also out in Mom’s Favorite Reads. 

Moms Favorite Reads - September 2021

Creativity Matters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to welcome back #WendyHJones to Chandler’s Ford Today to talk about Creative Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

Wendy shares with me what made her decide to go into publishing other authors and how she has found this aspect of her own writing journey. She also shares fabulous tips for writers on working with editors and publishers, as well as marketing tips.

All great information regardless of what stage you’re at in your own writing journey. I’ve found from experience that what might not be directly relevant to me now becomes so later on and I have been so grateful to have that information to fall back on when I needed it.

We also discuss the technical side of bringing books out and Wendy shares what skills she has had to learn to take on something that is brand new for her. She has written from the cradle to the grave, in terms of audience, but publishing others is a first. There are always learning curves but these are what keep us on our toes as writers and help us develop and achieve more than we might once have thought possible.

Wonderful information here and a big thanks to Wendy for sharing this.

Creativity Matters – Wendy H. Jones – A New Direction

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Pleased to say the September 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My topic this time is Frames in Fiction and I look at how I use a frame format for some of my flash fiction writing. See my article for more on why this is a useful thing to do and do check out the excellent stories that follow which are on the topic of framed. Loved reading those. Hopefully you will too! My story on the theme is part of my article.

What with Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing, it has been a busy week for celebrating and talking about flash fiction!


A huge thanks for all of the wonderful responses to my post about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing yesterday. It is always a joy to share author pics, proudly holding book etc! Especially since in the early years, I received outright rejections or simply didn’t hear back from publishers. (The latter is even more common now given time constraints for most publishers and agents).

Persistence and willingness to learn from mistakes are crucial attributes for any writer. You do get better the more you write. You learn what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

I recently judged a flash fiction competition for The Byre Writers. Great fun to do and many congratulations to the worthy winner, #SuzanneMilne with her Why Can’t You Hear Me? I often talk about impact in stories, especially flash fiction. You are looking for the “wow” factor. This one had that in spades.

When I enter competitions I try to come up with unforgettable characters who will move me. If they move me, make me laugh, cry, scream, or what have you, they’ll do that for someone else, including hopefully the competition judge!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Confession time: forgot to submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction this week but I was pleased to see more stories by more people I know on there. (Particular shout out to #HannahRuthRetallick, #VeronicaBright, and #ElaineLangford here).

Browsing the stories on here every week is a great joy and is a fabulous way to discover the wonderful world of flash fiction. Submission rules are easy to follow too so why not give it a go? (And yes I plan to get another story on there again soon).

Screenshot 2021-09-03 at 20-22-56 Friday Flash Fiction

Just a quick reminder that I’ll be talking with #WendyHJones about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing tomorrow in Chandler’s Ford Today. Link further up. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a joy to write. I’m always up for celebrating flash fiction and spreading the word about what a wonderful format it is… not that I’m biased… much!

I am also in the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads and discuss using frames in flash fiction writing. See link for more. And don’t forget Friday Flash Fiction if you are looking for somewhere to send your 100-word stories. The feedback I have had here has been incredible and so encouraging. This is nice because this doesn’t always happen online. Happy to share the link for MFR twice – it is a fab magazine with a wide range of articles and stories. It is a joy and pleasure to write for it.

 

One of the things with flash fiction is working out exactly where to end the story. I know, I know, that’s true for any story, I hear you cry. True but given you have less room in flash, it is even more important to get it right.

This is one reason why I will often “start” with a closing line (which is often a twist or a punchline) and then work backwards to get to a logical start. Let’s call it writing from B to A rather than A to B. (Mixing up how you approach is a story is good fun and keeps you on your toes. It also encourages you to think in different ways which encourages lateral thinking and greater creativity as a result).

I aim to leave a story where the tale is concluded but the reader senses the characters could go on to “live” in other stories not told by me at this time. That’s a good sign of characters coming to life for the reader and helps maximise character impact. I know when I read works by other writers, one of the things I love most is, having got to the end, I can still envisage those characters living lives outside of the novel or short story concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical History Lessons

In your fantasy setting, what role does history play? How much of your created world’s history is known by your characters? And do mistakes from the past come back to haunt your characters now?

When it comes to education, whose version of history is the “accepted” version taught in schools etc? Is there an alternative history that is suppressed because it is a threat to those in power?

When it comes to fairytale history, do stories such as Cinderella and Snow White form the basis of what is taught as in a magical setting, those could be “real life” tales and be treated as such? Are there fairytales that are considered unacceptable and so are not taught? Why are these “banned”? What would happen if word about them got out? Would it make your people re-examine what they’d always taken to be the truth?

Whatever your setting is, whoever your characters are, there has to be something “behind” them in terms of history. Characters have a past. The setting also does (and you could examine what changes have happened over time here too. Are they better? Is the environment damaged by the changes? Has it affected people’s magical abilities in the same way pollution here on Earth would and does choke our planet? All interesting story ideas to explore).

What matters is getting across to a reader what they need to know but to do it in an interesting way. You almost slip the information in so readers pick it up, almost without noticing. What you don’t want is “info dump” and characters should never tell each other what they ought to know. Readers will see right through that, correctly too, as a way for an author to get information across without “telling” you but it doesn’t really work. Dialogue has to be what you would reasonably expect characters to say and I know I don’t tell people I know what I know they already know! So our characters mustn’t either.

What you could do is get a character to ask another what they opinion is on a historical event in their world which is having impact on their world today. We say history goes around in cycles. There’s nothing to stop that being true in your fictional creations.

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This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

A good way to get started with creating a new setting is to compare what you think you want to write about with what we know exists here. For example:-

Planet Earth has 71% of its surface covered in water. That in turn means we have all sorts of creatures living in water or around it or who are dependent on food from it. So what if your fictional world didn’t have water? What would it have it instead? What creatures would live in that substance? Equally if there is a reason for your world not to have water, as we know it, what is that reason? Is it because your world is a gas giant say and what your characters depend on is being able to breathe using that gas?

Politically, you can take what we know here about democracies and dictatorships and apply them directly to your creation or come up with direct opposites. Equally you can have your world have something that is far superior or inferior to what we have here, depending on your preferences.

For characters, you can take what we know about human behaviour and apply that directly to your alien being. Or your alien being has a totally different nature to ours – e.g. it is not motivated by a desire to survive, it is motivated by a desire to befriend other species so all survive.

But comparing and contrasting is a great place to start. It can help you find a way in to your world and character building.

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