Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Thanks as ever to Pixabay for the images here.

Facebook – General

Good evening so far. Submitted a flash piece, pitched a couple of non-fiction ideas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Also sorted out my bedside cabinet and organised my reading piles (one for books, one for magazines before you ask!). Feel both productive AND virtuous and, trust me, that doesn’t happen often!

Hope the weather isn’t causing too much havoc where you are. Mainly tree debris where I am. Always sad to see trees down (though Lady will end up having more sticks to play with than she ever thought possible so there is that to it).

The other thing to be said about the weather is if you needed encouragement to stay cosy and warm and get on with writing at your desk, you’ve got it. Well, you’re not going to want to go out now, are you?

It WAS a dark and stormy night – and writers everywhere took one glimpse at the horrible weather, got on with their latest epics, only too glad to do so!😀😀

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

I’m looking forward to sharing two separate items of publication news later on in the week. It has been a good few days. I wish they were always like that but there you go!

Am almost there on a standard length short story I want to submit for a competition. I hope to get that submitted by the end of this week. And I’ve picked out the next competition I want to have a crack at so need to start thinking out some ideas for that.

I’m also going to be working on the edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, so have plenty in the pipeline.

But that’s how I like it – a nice mix of non-fiction writing (CFT particularly), sending stories out to hopefully good homes (!), and editing.

Reading wise, I’ve recently started London: The Biography. It’s an interesting concept for a historical book – a biography of a city – and I anticipate an enjoyable read. I love history – fiction and non-fiction. I won’t be sorry if story ideas spark from reading this book. (I’d be disappointed if I don’t get something. Non-fiction can be a great source of sparks for stories).

Hope the weather rapidly improves where you are. It is calmer here in Hampshire though there is some flooding. Lady gets a bit skittish in high winds (a bit like some young children can do) so it’ll be fun walking her tomorrow when said high winds are back. Still, at least it’s going to be dry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do you love writing the most? I love getting inside my characters’ heads and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes said thoughts surprise me and I think where did that come from but it’s a wonderful feeling when that happens. It confirms to me the character has backbone, is taking on a life of their own, and is going to resonate with readers. All good things to aim for!

But the danger here is to only focus on the things you like writing most. I do enjoy writing narrative but I’ve come across too many books in the past where the narrative has gone on for too long and is keeping me away from the character whose story I want to follow.

For narrative writing, I’ve learned to focus only on what a reader needs to know for the character and/or story to make sense and there are absolutely no massive descriptions of setting etc. That I feel belonged to a bygone era.

I got into conversation with someone (and I apologise now because I’ve forgotten the name) who felt that the long descriptions of setting particularly in classic novels were necessary then – no TV or film back then. I think that’s a valid point. Now, of course, books are just one form of entertainment amongst many. Everyone knows the kind of setting that would be in, say, an ancestral home thanks to things like Downton Abbey, TV adaptations of stories such as Pride and Prejudice, etc., so do you now need to write every aspect of that down? I think not. You just want enough to conjure up the appropriate images in a reader’s mind and leave it there. Less is more and all that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

PUBLICATION NEWS

Delighted to share not 1, or 2, but 3 of my linked flash fiction stories called Story by Number published on Cafelit. Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her excellent prompt idea in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. My stories here are directly inspired by that.

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The titles all reflect the number of words in each story. Hope you enjoy.

Will I write more of this kind of story again? I hope so. It is great for the old imagination muscle to mix up how you write a story. It keeps things fresh for you and will do for a reader too.

(The image I’ve added to the link below comes from a recent Chandler’s Ford Today post of mine called Numbers into Writing Will Go. It seemed appropriate! Link to article below.).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Firstly, a big thank you to Val Penny for her lovely comment on the book on Twitter earlier today (18th February). Much appreciated, Val!

 https://twitter.com/valeriepenny/status/1229794879544479745

If you’re a reader and know some writers, I bet they’ll have asked for reviews of their books etc in the usual places. (My friends know I’ve asked them!).

If you think well hmm… I wouldn’t know where to start etc., I’ll just add that reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc., don’t have to be lengthy write-ups. A line or two would do and whatever your tastes in reading, the author will appreciate those reviews. They’ve got to be honest ones though!

(Oh and a good place to start is what YOU liked about the book and yes what you disliked too. Reviews have to be honest to have any meaning and writers will learn a lot from feedback they receive this way).

Making writing friends online is great but meeting them in person is even better

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use character traits to help me “get going” with creating a new person to either write about or to be my narrator for my next flash fiction story.

I also talked about this in my interview with #WendyHJones which went out on Wednesday this week. Naturally that gives me a golden opportunity to share the link again! (Shameless plug and all that….! 😊❤️).

Episode 4 – How To Write Flash Fiction

Feature Image - Local Author News - Allison Symes - Podcast by Wendy H Jones

It was lovely being able to write a bonus CFT post for this. Image by Pixabay

But going on from there, one question could be “could you run out of character traits?”. Surely there are only so many.

Well that’s true but I like to combine them with something else.

For example if I have a character who is feisty, I’ll give them a vice such as greed. There could be a crime story there. There could be a comic story too if their greed dropped them right in it. The reactions from a reader here could range from horror and disgust at my character to laughter as my character makes a complete fool of themselves.

The trick will be making readers care enough to read about a character like that. There will be a certain amount of wanting to see if that character either gets their comeuppance (I love stories like that!) or somehow redeems themselves. Either way there is going to be a significant change in that character or their situation by the end of the tale and I hope I can make a reader curious enough to find out what that is.

Another character who is feisty I may well make charitable but their big mouth lands them in it from time to time. So there I would hope a reader would want to find out if the character can carry on doing their good works and their loudmouth has not ruined things completely. Or perhaps the being outspoken ends up bringing in much needed changes and my character is a catalyst for positive change.

Yes, there’s that word again – change. The single most important thing about any story of any length. There has to be change. Your character has to be different in some way by the end of the story whether it’s 50 words long or 50,000. The challenge is to have a character your reader HAS to follow to find out what happens to them.

Image supplied by Wendy H. Jones

Will have flash fiction publication news to share later in the week so am looking forward to putting the relevant links up.

Will be starting work soon on the edits for Book 2 – Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Looking forward to that. I do enjoy editing. Sure there are some tasks associated with that which ARE less interesting (yet another misplaced comma to remove etc etc!) BUT I keep in mind the overall goal is to improve my work and to get it to the best I can make it. That helps a lot.

I’ll be talking about short and long form fiction in my CFT post later this week and will share more on that on Wednesday. No prizes for guessing which is my big love here!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How do you handle those times when you know your story hasn’t got anywhere with a market or competition?

My practice here is to look at my story again. If I spot anything that could do with strengthening, I do that but I then get the story back out again to another, suitable market or competition.

Another way of using a story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is to look at why you wrote it in the first place and analyse it as if it had been written by someone else.

If this story had been in a magazine, would it have appealed to you? If there were bits that didn’t seem to gel with you, ask yourself why?

This is a good editing technique and by putting your reader’s hat on, you might find something about the tale that could do with working on and which, once done, will give it more of a chance in the big, bad world out there.

The one thing I’ve found is you have to be totally honest about what you think works in the story and what doesn’t work so well. The trick of course is to improve those latter sections so there are no bits which don’t work so well!

And be persistent too. One market or competition may feel it is not right for them (they may have taken something similar to your story recently, you will never know), but it doesn’t mean others will feel the same way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just a quick reminder for Writing Magazine subscribers that you can advertise your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. Proof of the pudding? See this link!

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

I hope later in the year when Tripping the Flash Fantastic comes out to put that on here (probably with a link back to From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Meanwhile over on Cafelit, do check out my latest three flash fiction stories. Yes, three of them. They are linked though. Linked flash fiction is relatively new for me and this set was inspired by a prompt in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. (Thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her cracking idea which inspired me here).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author BlogReading Piles

How many reading piles do you have? Mine include:-

1. My book pile.
2. My magazine pile.
3. Everything on my Kindle!

It’s probably enough to be going on with though I suppose I could split my book pile into two categories: novels and short story/flash fiction collections.

Note I said probably just now. I’ve just seen a lovely post on Facebook where someone has come up with a new idea for an escape room – you have an hour to get out of a well stocked book shop!

I don’t know about you but that’s me well and truly stuck then. One hour would just about give me enough time to have a good look around and work out what was where. I might get to decide where I would be starting first if I was efficient with my time!

I’ve mentioned before I like to mix up my reading. There are some evenings where I just HAVE to read magazines, rather than books, and the other way round. I don’t really know why that is but I love reading both overall so that’s okay. So therefore it is absolutely necessary for me to have reading piles that suit all my reading moods.

How do you organise YOUR reading?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trailers, Tea (Peppermint), and Time

Facebook – General

Pleased to say the book trailer for The Best of Cafelit 8 has now been added to the trailers page on my website.

I’m also delighted to say a copy of the paperback is now on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury, along with a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again. Many thanks to Frith who runs the cafe there as there is now a selection of books by local authors in there. Naturally I hope to add a copy of Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course!

 

Books on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury

Books on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury. Image by Allison Symes

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

FromLightToDark_back_medium

perf5.500x8.500.indd

Image from Bridge House Publishing

SEASONS IN WRITING - hot chocolate

Favourite moments in time include:-

1. Getting to the end of reading a great book and knowing you’ll enjoy it all over again when you re-read it. (You just know you will).

2. Getting to the end of a first draft of a story and knowing you’ve got the basics down. It’s now down to fine tuning it and cutting what you don’t need.

3. Getting that fine tuning and cutting done!

4. Hearing you’re going to be published. (That one gives a buzz which never fades away).

5. Coming in to a wonderful warm house after a cold winter’s walk with the dog and knowing you don’t have to go out again that day! (This is even nicer when you’ve got caught in the rain and can come in for a towel dry and a cup of hot chocolate. Naturally the dog just gets the towel dry!).

6. Discovering an adaptation of a favourite story actually works and hasn’t ruined the tale for you.

7. Your favourite piece of classical music comes on the radio. (Holst – Jupiter from the Planet Suite – before you ask).

8. You close down for the night, knowing you’ve got a lot of productive writing done. (That gives a great buzz too).

9. Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – the entire week. Enough said.

10. Meeting up with writer friends and picking up conversation from where you last left off, no matter how long ago it was you last saw them. (See 9 above).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One problem series novelists can have is coming to loathe their creations. Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously did so with Poirot and Holmes.

Now as a flash fiction writer, I’m always creating new characters so surely this problem doesn’t exist for me then?

Not exactly. I’ve still got to really love the character I’ve invented to write their story with conviction. I’ve only had two occasions where I’ve abandoned a story and rightly never came back to it again. Both times the character just didn’t grip me and well if they didn’t work for me, they weren’t going to work for anyone else.

I hadn’t put enough thought into these particular characters. I’ve got to know what makes them tick and why. I don’t have to like them, many of my characters I’d never want to meet in life (!), but I do have to understand where they are coming from. If I haven’t got that, I haven’t got anyone to write about!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One good thing about the cold weather is it increases your pace when walking the dog. (Not that Lady minds).

For story writing I tend to increase pace (when I need to) by:-

1. Keeping my sentences short.
2. Keeping my paragraphs short. (This also avoids having big blocks of text which can be offputting to a reader).

When reviewing my story I look for continual movement. What is my character doing? Why? When they are thinking, are those thoughts conducive to their attaining their goal or reveal things the reader needs to know?

By checking for this, I am also looking at the pace throughout the story. It should be building up towards the resolution.

When there are apparent periods of calm in the story, it should be that the character is about to be dropped right in it again by their creator!

Periods of calm don’t last long in a story. They can’t. Nothing happens. Boring for a reader. Equally boring for the writer. But a brief period of calm is fine. It enables both the reader and writer to get their collective breaths back, ready for the next event.

The important thing is to ensure there are no boring bits. The periods of calm should be used to show the reader something useful that connects with what has gone before and with what is about to come.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share news that FLTDBA is now on display at The Framing Shop in Hiltingbury (along with a copy of The Best of Cafelit 8). It is great that venues like this are supporting local authors (and in this case encouraging all local artists of any kind to display work).

Many thanks to all who kindly commented on my CFT post on Numbers into Writing Will Go and it was great one comment flagged up the the annual children’s 500-word story competition run by Radio 2. I’m thrilled this competition is encouraging children to enjoy flash fiction writing. I hope it leads to more engagement with reading as well as writing. Good luck to all who take part in the competition.

Less is definitely more for flash fiction and I agree with the commentator who felt so much could be packed into few words. It is one of the things I love most about the form though my absolute favourite is because it has to be character led, I can set those characters in whatever genre and time period I like. (And I do!).

Five Favourite Thoughts on Flash Fiction:-

1. It really does have to be character led but the great thing is you can set those characters wherever and whenever you want.

2. If one word count limit size doesn’t suit you, there are plenty of others to try! I love the drabble (the 100-words story) but sometimes I feel a story of mine has more impact at 150 words and would lose out if I tried to force it to fit to a lower count so I don’t do so. I would submit that story to sub-250 words competition/market instead of a 100-words one.

3. I think it has great possibilities of encouraging the reluctant reader precisely because the format is not asking too much of said reluctant reader in one go. Once you can hook someone into reading, then the delights of longer stories and novels await (I hope!). I also find flash stories brilliant to read when I’ve finished reading a novel and am not sure which one to go for next from my TBR pile.

4. Flash fiction is great for reading on screen so it can “catch” those who like to do their reading that way.

5. From a writer’s viewpoint, it is easy enough to share flash fiction on websites, posts like this one, to show what you do. The best way to “sell” flash fiction is to demonstrate what it is!

I’ve never really used colour in my stories (other than for a brief description of something). I tend to focus on the mood of the story in terms of whether it is a light piece, a dark one, or somewhere in between. (One huge advantage of that approach was it made finding a title for my first flash fiction collection that much easier!).

Where colour did come in was in deciding what worked best for the book cover. I went for the green but had pondered over a deep blue. I am looking forward to thinking again about that aspect of things for my next collection (though I am already thinking about this and what could be on the cover. It’s not a decision to rush! It IS one to savour though…!).

I’m not sure how you could define a “purple” story anyway but maybe it would be fun to find out…

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The one item I am most keen to get right in a flash fiction story is its ending. Why?

Well, nobody likes a story, of any length, that falls flat, for a start.

Also I love twist in the tale endings and these work particularly well for flash fiction. So I need to check the twist IS really a twist and that it is something which does develop out of the story. As someone once said, the clues are there…

I know if I can get the ending right and the beginning feels flat, I can change that beginning so it suits my super-duper finale.

Likewise, I’ve sometimes come up with a better idea for my title as a result of getting the ending right.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – 

Books and Their Accompaniments

Is it possible to have too many book shelves?

No! Okay so you can run out of room to put up said book shelves, which is another reason I think to have at least some reading material on a Kindle.

End of problem (until your “shelves” on there fill up and you realise you’re not going to be short of things to read much before 2050 but hey it’s a lovely problem to have!).

The other book accompaniment I love is the good old book mark. Some of them are lovely and I enjoy collecting those issued by writer friends. Yes, I do put the book marks to good use too. You won’t find turned down book pages in THIS household (shudders at the thought…!).

I was delighted to find out thanks to a writer friend that a picture framing shop in our area, which has been around for years, is now displaying books by local authors. Naturally I popped along to put a copy of mine (From Light to Dark and Back Again) in there and a copy of The Best of Cafelit 8 where I have two flash fiction pieces.

The cafe area where this display is situated is lovely and the people behind this are keen to bring together local writers, artists etc. The idea of art as an accompaniment to books is one I love. After all, book covers are often works of art in their own right, are they not?

Oh and finally I do love pens with a book logo on. I hope to get some more done when my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, comes out.

But the best accompaniment of all to a book is a comfy chair and a cup of whatever drink you fancy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Characters and Being a “Proper” Writer

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

Facebook – General

What I look for in a great character:-

1. I totally understand why they’re acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean I have to approve though!

2. You can see how they got into the situation they’ve got to overcome and are keen to see if/how they get out of it again. You believe the character has the potential to get out of it and it’s a case of seeing whether you were right about that or not.

3. I love characters who come out with great one-liners but only as long as they arise naturally out of the situation and the character. It must never feel forced.

4. They stay with you in your imagination long after you’ve finished reading the story!

Examples of great characters for me:-

1. Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy

2. Jeeves and Wooster

3. Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil Ramkin – Discworld

4. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee

5. Aslan – Narnia

6. Ebenezer Scrooge (though I prefer him AFTER the visitations! Am very fond of the Muppet Christmas Carol. Thought that was the best Muppet film too).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m delighted to share Part 3 of Peter Russell’s local history series on The Hutments for Chandler’s Ford Today. If you have any memories to share of a part of the community that has now gone, do comment via the comments box. I know Peter would be pleased to hear from you.

Feature Image - Hook Road Hutments and My Family

It has been a good writing week. There has been plenty of progress on the novel. I’m enjoying it ! (That HAS to be a good sign, right? 😊😉).

Short story and flash fiction submitted. Am fleshing out another standard length short story for a competition and have got another “resting” for me to have a look at again, hopefully later this week.

Almost done on next week’s CFT post too. Continuing to add to my website and working on a non-fiction project.

So, no, I’m never short of things to do but that’s how I like things to be!

I’ll be talking about progress and success and how to judge them in the CFT post for Friday.

Am really looking forward to the Bridge House celebration event. Not far away now. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends and to make new ones!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Word association can be a great way of triggering words to use in a story. You can play the standard way by setting a word and then finding others to link to it – e.g. play, toys, games etc.

Equally you can play the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue version where there should be no connection at all to the chosen start word – e.g. play, universe, green.

Whichever version you go for, I suggest setting a limit of how many words you are going to use – I find that helps me focus. But of course you can raise or lower that limit for future stories.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How do you know if you’re a “proper” writer?

1. You scorn the very idea you have too many notebooks.
2. You develop a thing for collecting nice pens too, some of which you will actually use.
3. You dread power cuts as they always seem to happen in the middle of a writing session.
4. You have the great joy of having a number of books written by friends on your shelves.
5. You are even more thrilled when your works are on the same shelves!
6. You can’t wait to tell everyone your latest publication news.
7. You open the latest copy of Writing Magazine and look for people you know in the letters page and the Subscribers’ sections in particular.
8. You feel a little miffed when you come across an issue when there isn’t someone you know in it. (It’s a kind of something’s not quite right with the world feeling).
9. Launches, especially online ones, are a regular part of your life and you love them all.
10. Your TBR and TBW piles never diminish but that’s the way you like them.
11. There is no such thing as having too many books. What you CAN have is not enough shelving.
12. You just feel SO at home in book shops and libraries.

Okay, guilty as charged on all those. How about you?

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I always consider impact to be the most important aspect to my flash fiction writing, but do you go about creating the impact you want to achieve?

Some of it is out of your hands. You may write a funny story but a reader doesn’t find it amusing – this is why humorous writing is so hard to do. It is subjective after all but what can you do to level the playing field a bit?

Having decided what the impact of my story is going to be, I look at what would make ME feel that impact. For example, if the tale is going to be a sad one, what would trigger that feeling of sadness in me?

Then it’s a question of picking the most appropriate trigger for your story. I prefer to go for understated emotional impact too. A story that tips overs into melodrama can put people off. I know it would do so for me. But sadness that is shown through the character without laying it on with a trowel will always make me want to read more if only to find out if the character “overcomes” the sadness or is beginning the process of adapting to the sitution by the end of the story.

For example if your story is about a fairy godmother rapidly approaching retirement and she really doesn’t want to retire, you could take that in a humorous or sad direction. So decide what you want it to be first.

If funny, what would make you laugh? Would setting your character into a ridiculous situation do it or are you better off having a wise cracking character who comes out with tremendous one liners?

Think about what you would like to read here as if the story was being written by someone else. I’ve found this to be really useful and hope you do too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have you tried writing a piece of flash fiction to, say, 25 words, and then separately, writing it out to, say, 250 words?

It’s all perfectly legitimate but there will be different markets and competitions for the two stories.

I sometimes do this as a writing exercise (it’s a good way to get into a session of writing).

Not all stories or characters will be capable of being expanded. If the impact you are seeking to make on a reader is over and done with in 25 words then leave it at that. Never ever pad out a tale.

But if you CAN expand the story because the character is capable of so much more (and that’s the key way to judge whether a story IS capable of being expanded), explore what else you can do with that character and then you can either submit the two stories to two DIFFERENT places or pick the one you like the best and just submit that.

I like my titles to give a flavour of what is to come in the story without giving away too much. I like the title to lead people into wanting to read the rest. Of course, the challenge for me is to make sure I deliver on that promising title!

I occasionally use questions as story titles but prefer the statement, though I try to keep this as open as possible. Most of my titles could be taken in a humorous or serious direction.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to work to as I draft my story but I am more than happy to change it if something better comes along as I am writing. It does sometimes and it is best to go with the flow here. Again, as with the story itself, I am looking for the likely impact of the title on the reader. The stronger impact title always wins.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you ever think of music to suit your flash fiction stories?

The main time I have was coming up with ideas for the music for the book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I plumped for Saint-Saens Danse Macabre – quirky music to suit quirky fiction.

One of the things I love about music (and especially classical) is that, like flash fiction, there is something to suit every mood. I’m not going to be at any risk of running out of ideas for suitable musical themes any time soon either!

I’ve not yet used a piece of music to influence a story idea but may well give it a go and see what happens. The potential is there!

Goodreads Author Blog – Juggling the TBR Pile

I must admit I couldn’t physically juggle my TBR pile. There would be an almighty crash and some inventive language on my part, I think, if I tried that.

I love reading a mixture of fiction across many genres, non-fiction, short stories, novels, articles etc. I also like to mix up reading on the Kindle with reading “real” books but I also want to put magazine reading into the overall mixture too.

Over the course of a week, I try to cover most of those bases. I’m currently reading historical fiction, true crime, short stories, flash fiction, and my own novel (on Kindle. I’m reading it as a reader would. It has been illuminating!).

Over the course of a week, I have been thoroughly entertained too!

And yes I have a TBR pile on my Kindle too. One of the reasons I don’t put a Kindle app on my phone is so I don’t have a TBR pile on there as well.

It is true – too many books, too little time!

Still I’ll press on and have a fab time doing so.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love History

Image Credit:  

Unless otherwise stated, images are from the marvellous Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Just sometimes I write a CFT post where I have to stick to a very strict word count limit. I could go on at length about Why I Love History but that is precisely why I shouldn’t!

I’ve forgotten who it was who apologised to a friend for sending a long letter as they hadn’t the time to write a short one, but I know what they mean. (Whoever it was behind this comment would surely have made a great flash fiction writer – or at least had an appreciation for it!).

Captions over on the CFT site.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is one of those posts where I HAD to set a strict word count limit. Too easy to go on at length on Why I Love History. I take a look at how history gets everywhere, I discuss the importance of remembering, and how fiction writers use history. (Just to name one example, there will be the histories of our characters that we need to know to be able to write about them, though most of this will not end up in the stories themselves). I also look at the joy of local history. Hope you enjoy.

You found more in this amazing stained glass window the more you looked at it

The more you looked at this amazing stained glass window, the more you saw in it. Image by Allison Symes and taken at Tewkesbury.  History also gives you plenty of places to visit!

Why do you write? I write because I have to and that’s it. I aim to be published as often as possible yet know there will be plenty of rejections to cope with too. The former is a joy when it happens, the latter is a pain, but that is the writing lot, which is fine by me. Ups and downs are part of normal life, so they’re going to happen in the writing life too. It’s working out how you handle them that’s important.

I just cannot imagine (literally!) not writing. It is my way of playing with words. I was (and still am) useless at art but words are my way of being creative. I think everyone has some creative instinct in them somewhere. It’s a question of finding what is right for you.

I love the challenge of creating new posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, short stories, and flash fiction. Particularly for the latter, the challenge is to keep on coming up with interesting characters that will grip a reader (and said characters have got to start by gripping me first!).

Writing is a great way to keep the brain very active!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Glad to report Nativity is now showing on my Goodreads page. Many thanks to the folks there for sorting that out for me.

I have had the joy of being published in other Cafelit titles though some of those stories made it into From Light to Dark and Back Again and naturally I’m going to focus on publicising that which is why is has a prominent place here!

Glad that I’m finally getting a grip on things like my Goodreads and Amazon pages though. It is easy to overlook things like that. (Also nice to find I’ve now had work in 12 books, including FLTDBA though there is one book missing from my Amazon page. I had a piece in The Shamblelurkers Return, a charity book edited by #MaritMeredith, many moons ago, which does show up on Amazon but is unavailable. It was good fun to take part in though! Many thanks, Marit!).

Nativity by Bridge House Publishing is a great example of several authors working to the same theme but taking many different takes on it. If you needed confirmation all authors have their own unique voice, anthologies like this prove it. I concede though it can take a while to work out what your voice is! I know it took me some time to do so. I think you know you’ve found what your voice is when you write in a certain way and know that IS the way for you to do it. When you can only write the way you do…

That doesn’t let you off the hard graft of editing and polishing your stories and articles to give them the best chance “out there” though. Knowing what your voice is and using it is just the start! But a reader should be able to read several pieces of yours and hear your voice through the way you present your characters etc.

 

 

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t often use adverbs in flash fiction. They don’t give me enough of an impact to justify their inclusion. For example, what makes the most impact out of these two sentences?

1. She ran quickly.

2. She ran as if the hounds of hell were after her.

Sure, the first one is economical in terms of word count but to me it is meaningless. When you run, you usually do it as quickly as you can for a start!

The second one, while longer, is much more promising. It conjures up much stronger images and I would definitely use this one. If I needed to reduce a word count down to say 100 words and this phrase took me over it, I would be looking to make cuts elsewhere in the text OR submit the piece to a competition with a higher word count limit.

Impact on the reader is by far the most important consideration when working out what to leave IN a story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Top tips I’ve found useful for writing flash fiction include the following:-

1. Keep the pace taut. (Short sentences and paragraphs work wonders here).

2. Stick to one major character if your flash fiction story is sub-500 words. The idea of flash is to focus and limiting how many characters you have in your story helps enormously with that focus. The character themselves can refer to other characters – I use this technique a lot to show what my lead thinks of the others who are “off stage”. That in turn shows up what this character’s attitude is and as the story goes on, the reader should find out whether the character is justified or not in their stance.

3. Vary how you create your flash stories. I sometimes start with the closing line and work backwards to get to the start. Mixing up your methods here keeps things fresh and interesting for you and I believe some of that filters through to a reader.

Have fun!

 

 

Quick bargain alert: From Light to Dark and Back Again is on offer at Amazon. Paperback and Kindle versions are at the same price. If you know someone who likes quirky fiction… 😊

One of the things I would love to become true, if it isn’t already, is that flash fiction helps reluctant readers overcome that reluctance to read. After all, none of us started off by reading War and Peace, did we? Oh… that was just me not doing so then…😀😉

Children are encouraged to read and with the wonderful world of children’s literature out there, they have such fantastic choices. “Grown ups” (the jury’s out on me!) also have fantastic selections but I’ve heard people say at book fairs etc that they “don’t read”. That strikes me as being incredibly sad. They are missing out on so much.

But what can we as authors do to encourage people NOT to stop reading much later on in life? To see reading as every bit a valid form of entertainment as TV, cinema etc? Thoughts welcome…

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

Allison Symes and published works

Image taken by Adrian Symes

SG PART 2 - Warning - poems, blogs, stories, novels, all writing alike benefits from good editing - image via Pixabay

Warning: Writer at Work. Pixabay

Ideas, the spark for writing competitions, image via Pixabay

Read widely to inspire these. Pixabay

FromLightToDark_back_medium

 

Fairytales with Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” Part 1

This is what I think fairytale rules might consist of – see what you think.

A = Always Believe. The lead character usually has to!

B = Be Humble.  Characters who are not tend to get their comeuppance.

C = Charity Welcomed. Think of the characters who have been kind to little old men/women who then turn out to be powerful wizard or fairy godmother in disguise.

D = Deserving. Characters who are considered to be deserving of assistance get it – Cinderella is the classic example of this for me.

E = Energy.  The best fairytales are full of energy and zip along. There is not one dull moment, something all writers need to aspire to with their own work.

F = Fairy Godmothers. These turn up when needed. They always turn up to characters who aren’t expecting them. There has to be a rulebook about this somewhere…

More next time…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Setting Your Sights

When coming up with your characters, how much of the world you’ve put them in are you going to show to your readers? How much do readers need to know? How much do you need to know that never makes it on to the page but which is crucial for you to create your characters and their setting with conviction?

You need to decide whether it is best to set your sights on a tight focus – i.e.  you show your characters living in one specific town, say. Or would your story be better served showing the complete world in which your characters live and the contrasts between areas in that world?

Only you can answer that one but it pays to set your sights as early on as possible and then focus on whichever route you’ve decided to go. If your story world has a major affect on how your characters act and react, then you probably do need to show the reader as much of that as possible so they understand why.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

What Writing Means To Me

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images come from Pixabay.

Facebook – General

What does writing mean to you? For me it’s:-

1. Escapism. (Always welcome that!).

2. Writing stretches and challenges me. I came up with blog posts or stories yesterday, can I do the same today? (The discipline of daily writing is very good for developing your imagination and stamina and is also brilliant for keeping the brain active).

3. Writing has given me a creative art form I can take part in and love. I’m useless at art (my kid sister was much better there – and still is) but I can use words. I believe most of us have a creative streak somewhere and it’s a question of finding the one that suits us best. Being creative does something positive for my soul/mental well being/self-esteem etc and that is a good thing for my sake obviously but also for those around me.

4. Writing has led me to doing things I would never have dreamt of doing (such as reading publicly from my own work).

5. Writing has given me wonderful friends who understand the joys and frustrations of writing and that wonderful buzz when your books arrive with your stories in them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So what does the coming writing week hold in store for you?

I’m currently preparing a review of the play My Husband’s Nuts performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today. Yes, it really is called that. Reviews can sometimes be tricky. How much do you reveal about the plot? My approach is to give enough of the “flavour” of the play without giving away spoilers. And yes, this one is a farce. Well with a title like that, it kind of had to be really.

I’ve just submitted work to a competition and I plan to work on my big projects throughout the week. Am making good progress on one in particular. I also want to get another flash fiction collection together at some point.

Delighted that the Best of Cafelit 8 with its lovely green cover goes beautifully with the cover of my From Light to Dark and Back Again. They’ll look good together on a book stall! The Cafelit series always has the same cover image, just the colour of the cover changes, and the Chapeltown flash fiction collections always have a frame around a differing central image. Branding, folks, branding – it does matter but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple ideas here can work wonders.

Publication News

Delighted to share my latest story on Cafelit called Humourless. Hope you enjoy. Definitely not something that could be applied to me, I’m glad to say.

Facebook – General

When something unexpected happens, how do you react? Okay, okay, I know. It depends on whether the unexpected happening is nice or not. (I was nominated for Miss Slinky in my Slimming World group tonight – very nice surprise and it brightened up my Tuesday considerably!).

Okay, next question. How would your characters react? Same response from you? Yes, and rightly so too. But it pays you to know how your characters are likely to react, no matter what turns up in their lives.

Also think about why they would react the way you think they will. If someone reacts badly to a balloon bursting, is that because their link that sound to a bad memory? There should be a reason for their reaction, especially if other characters seems to consider it an over-reaction. You can ask yourself if it IS your character over reacting and then think about why your character might do that. Trying to get sympathy perhaps?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I occasionally write a piece of flash fiction where the first letter of each line spells out a word. Let’s give that a go again now and appropriately I think I’ll go for Autumn. (Now this is where I could cheat and go for the American word of Fall here to make my life easier but I won’t!).

AUTUMN

A = Allison finished digging in the garden not a moment too soon as the rain started pelting down.
U = Urgent requirement for a hot cup of a tea and a Hi-fi bar made her put her spade away in record time.
T = Turning away from the garden shed, she ran indoors, put the kettle on, and grabbed her bar from the larder.
U = Unaware her actions had been witnessed.
M = Missy, next door’s dog, got through the gap in the fence and went to where Allison had been digging.
N = Never had a body been uncovered again so quickly; never had Allison shooed a dog off so quickly before as she rushed to cover up her work.

Allison Symes – 26th October 2019

Not based on a true story, honestly!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reasons to engage with other writers positively:-

1. It’s fun – best reason of all.

2. You will learn useful information – I’ve found out about competitions etc thanks to chatting with other writers. Some of it I’ve used, some of it I may use in the future, some I may never get to use at all.

3. When you can share useful information, see it as paying your dues. I know I’m grateful for the good advice from other writers that has helped me so pass it on.

4. Ultimately, we all want to write good material, whether it’s flash fiction, or an epic saga. There are things on our writing journeys that we will share in common. You don’t have to cope with these things on your own!

5. You can be warned about scams. No industry is exempt from these so why should publishing be?

6. Linking with 5, other writers can tell you where to go for good advice and what has helped them.

7. I was told about Cafelit and from there found out about flash fiction and I’ve been very grateful for finding out about those!!😀

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pleased to have another story up on Cafelit – Humourless. More to come too.

http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/10/humourless.html

For Cafelit, you need to assign a drink to your story and I try to match the mood of the tale with an appropriate beverage. I sometimes find that harder to do than write the story and I’ve often searched cafe menus for inspiration!

It is a great way to discreetly flag up the mood of the tale though. This, and finding pictures for my CFT posts, are probably the main ways where I’m “forced” to think laterally sometimes. But it is worth persisting with doing that. Other story ideas have come to me that way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I always feel a certain amount of relief when I’ve got the first draft of a story written. I never worry about making each line or paragraph “perfect” before moving on because I know if I took that approach, I would get very little written. Also, there’s no such thing as “perfect” writing anyway.

I like to get a first draft written, move on to another piece I’m editing or submitting somewhere, then come back to that draft to give myself enough distance from it to be able to judge it as objectively as I can.

There are two reactions made by a writer to something they’ve written.

1. This is genius. Not true, sadly.

2. This is awful. Whatever made me think I could write. Not true either and that’s better news!

It is inevitable as you read through a piece, ideas for better ways of phrasing things occur to you so go with that and don’t worry about it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – A Season For Everything

Do you find the seasons affect your writing? I can’t say they do with me. One good thing about the evenings drawing in earlier is the lure of a cosy room, my desk, hot drinks on the go, and an evening’s writing is even more appealing than it normally is!

I don’t write much about the seasons. Flash fiction with its word count limits means I have little room for description. If I want to show it’s cold, I’ll get my character to put on their big coat, having established they usually wear shorts or something daft like that.

Sorry to all shorts fans out there but I’ve never liked them. I’d also consign flip-flops to history’s dustbin. If I ever come up with a character I really can’t stand, I could make them wear shorts and flip-flops in freezing weather and make them suffer! I guess that could be fun…

Is there any writer who doesn’t get some enjoyment out of putting their characters through the mill, especially when those characters have it coming? I refuse to believe that is just me.

If I have seasons to writing, it is not in the quantity of what I do but in the tasks themselves. I will have weeks where I’m submitting work all over the place. (I finished drafting this after sending three stories off to Cafelit).

There will be other weeks where I’m editing work I’d deliberately put aside to look at again with fresh eyes prior to submission. It does pay to give yourself that time so you return to your story afresh. It’s the only way I know that works where you do come back and read your work as a reader would.

Without a time break, I’ve found you can be too close to your own work to be objective about it. This is why when there’s a competition deadline, I take off at least a week from the official end date and that will be the date I aim to submit the piece by. If life gets in the way as it does sometimes, I still have a few days in hand to still submit that piece.

I am so grateful for email submissions! I did start writing seriously when everything went in by snail mail (it was just after the last T Rex left this world). Some things have definitely got better. (I don’t miss typewriters, carbon paper or Tippex either. I did use to cut and paste literally).

I’ve found it pays to have periods when I’m creating new work. While I’m working on the second story, the first one is having its “time break” for me to edit effectively later.

There is always something on the go  writing wise and that’s how I like it. I have a very low boredom threshold and the lovely thing with creative writing is that threshold is never tested. There is always something to do.

Happy writing, editing etc etc!

Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do I Want Books To Do For Me?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As One Season Ends…

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

As part of my CFT post this week, As One Season Ends, I look at how getting older has helped me as a writer. I prefer to use the term mature, though I appreciate that may put you in mind of a fine wine or a good cheese! I am proud to say though my “wine/cheese” still has plenty of life in it and I’m well ahead of my Best Before Date.

One thing I love about writing is it is not the privilege of one age bracket only. Debut writers have had successes when young or old and I find that tremendously encouraging. I hope you do too.

Image Credit: As ever, the marvellous Pixabay. Captions on CFT post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What I love about character creation:-

1. You literally get to invent people. People with traits you’d like to have. People with traits you’re glad you DON’T have. It’s huge fun inventing a new person (I suspect Baron Frankenstein may have had similar thoughts but with much more questionable results in his case!).

2. You have great fun inventing dialogue for your characters and I love it when “they” come up with something that surprises me. I then look at this again and think, yes, that suits the traits I’ve given them. It’s proof to me this character is live, working, “their own” person and likely to be distinctive to the reader.

3. You have even more fun dropping said characters right in the mire and finding out how they get out of it (or not as the case may be. In the latter case, does someone else help them out? Why? What do they hope to gain? All sorts of story possibilities there).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, the weather was cooler today, much to the relief of both Lady and me. (The same can’t be said for the political atmosphere in the UK at the moment and that’s all I’m saying about that).

Writing wise, while I believe there is a lot of truth in there only being so many plots in the world, I also believe there are infinite possibilities with said plots. Why?

It’s all down to the characters. Character creation fascinates me as a tweak here or there can make a huge difference to how your character is going to respond to situations and therefore what conflicts ensure. If they’ve got any kind of spirit they will be the cause of problems AND be the type that resolves them (or those caused by others who are worse than they are!).

A meek and mild character is not generally going to be the hero/heroine (I never did like Miss Price in Austen’s Mansfield Park, far too wishy-washy for me) but they can be an irritant (however unintentionally) to your main character and be the cause of further problems for your lead to sort out. So even this kind of character can be useful.

Have fun with your people, people!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I was putting From Light to Dark and Back Again together, I didn’t have an overall theme in mind. The stories were a nice mixture of humorous and dark tales and that directly inspired the book’s title.

When writing individual flash fiction stories, I focus on who the character is going to be, what their major trait is, and whether the story is going to be a funny or dark one.

If I’m writing for a competition with a set theme, then I work out different ways of how that theme could be taken and then go with the one I like best. It is very rarely the first idea I came up with either.

It is true for me when brainstorming ideas I do have to get the dross out of my system before coming up with something that has real possibilities. The important bit is not to worry about the dross, after all you’ll be discarding that, but get to those deeper ideas and that’s where you will find promising story ideas and characters to work with.

Open theme competitions can sometimes be more difficult precisely because they’re open. I set my own theme for these and then work to that. I have to have some parameters and then away I go. All I can say is that it works for me.

Whatever you’re writing this weekend, have a fab time doing so!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My favourite kind of ending for flash fiction stories is the twist one. I like trying to guess at it and feel pleased when I’m right. I’m more pleased when I’m not as the author has kept me guessing and wrongfooted me (and I really don’t mind that at all!).

It’s a tough thing to get right though.This is where I think knowing what your twist ending will be and then working backwards to get to the start point would pay off. I’ve found this to be a technique that works for me and I’m in illustrous company too. Agatha Christie was known to do this and I can see why.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope you had writing fun with the random word, phrase, and number generators. The great thing with these is if you’re ever stuck for something to write about, use any of these and just go with what comes up. It doesn’t matter if what comes up is ridiculous. Have fun with it!

Just free write, say for a set period of time, and have a look at your work later. Don’t expect it to be perfect. It won’t be. (I doubt if there is any such thing as a perfect piece of writing anyway).

What I hope you will find is in having something to work with, it will free up your imagination for other writing projects you have on the go.

I find it to be a fun thing to do and I often do use the generators for flash fiction in particular. (Oh and another great prompt can be pictures of course. See what you can do with the great images from Pixabay below!).

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

– Appreciating Writing

How often do you take time out to appreciate writing – your own, as well as the work of others? Not often enough, I suspect, but this begs the question should we appreciate writing more? Wouldn’t we be better off just writing? I’d argue appreciating writing will help you improve your own.

Inspiring, Entertaining, Informing – all good things to aim for with our writing. Pixabay

Every now and again, I recall what writing has done for me. I look at what the work of others has done for me too. One novel changed my attitude to a king. (The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey if you were wondering. The way it is written is good too).

Appreciating our writing, and that of others, should help us, and them, develop as writers. Pixabay

I believe in realising why you must write and its effects on you (in developing a creative streak, if nothing else), you will end up inspired to write better.

It is in writing my stories and blogs I discovered the hard work needed to (a) keep these going, (b) to continue to be entertaining and, hopefully, share useful information, and (c) how hard other writers must work on their material.

I’m also grateful for technology. I don’t miss carbon paper and typewriter erasers.  Pixabay

I appreciate a great turn of phrase so much more now and often wonder how long it took the writer to come up with the final selection of words that made it into print.

In appreciating the writing of others, you can also analyse what it is you love about it. What can you learn here to apply to your work? There will be something.

In going to conferences and Writers’ Days, you appreciate the breadth of the writing world and find encouragement within your own sphere. Writing has taken me to places I’d never dreamed of reaching. (If someone had told me a couple of years ago, I’d happily take part in Open Prose Mic Nights, I’d have told them not to be so silly).

I used a bigger Olympia. It weighed a ton! I really appreciate not having to lug that around any more! Pixabay

Writing should stretch you and that is good. There is no such thing as the perfect piece of writing but what we can do is the best we can at the time and go on to do better as we learn more about our craft and pick up tips from other writers.

It is also lovely when you can share tips with others. Writing is a lonely enough profession so support and encouragement go a long way. Well, they do for me.

Writing is something not to be taken for granted then. I don’t write to give a message. I write to entertain. I hope my stories and blog posts can lift people when they need that. I see it as giving back to the writing world which has given me so much.

This is always a good idea. Pixabay

There is every point for “message” writing. There is every point just to entertain. We cannot know what hard times readers are going through but to give them opportunities to take time out for a while  is worthwhile. So never be ashamed of just writing to entertain. I do sometimes wonder if entertainment is looked down on as a reason to write. I don’t think it should be.

Fairytales with Bite – As One Season Ends

My CFT post, As One Season Ends, looks at the topic from a personal and writing viewpoint, but here I want to look at how your characters handle the changes in the seasons in their lives.

We all have such seasons and our characters should be no different. After all, there have been times in life when we have been students and other times, say, when we’ve been employees. So what seasons in life do your characters go through?

If your setting is in fantasy or sci-fi, do your characters have education as we know it? What do their young people have to go through to be considered mature? How do your characters cope with expected changes in life (their society expects them to do this and then do that etc)? How do they handle the unexpected ones (the sudden loss of someone special etc)?

Does your created world have physical seasons as we understand them here? If so, what function does each season serve? I would expect there to be some sort of growing season (which logically must be followed by some kind of harvest).

How do your characters mature? Are there rituals they must follow and what happens to anyone who defies that?

Plenty of food for thought there I think.

Image Credit:  As ever, the photos are from the fantastic Pixabay. The ones I originally used on this on FWB are up above under my CFT link. Here are some other beautiful seasonal pictures. I always love an opportunity to use photos like these.

This World and Others –

What Every Good Story or Non-Fiction Piece Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

Image Credit:  The fantasic Pixabay.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Books, Books, Books!

Facebook – General

I suspect I’m preaching to the converted with the title for this post but never mind!

Books have been a vital part of my life since goodness knows when but I’ve only been writing since I turned 30…. X number of years ago!! Quite a considerable number of years in fact but not so many as when I first discovered the joys of reading and would spend many a happy hour in the local library.

Why did it take me so long to make the connection between “you really love books and stories” and “you really like writing your own stories” so you should become a writer? Goodness knows. Looking back on it, it is daft I didn’t start writing sooner but the main thing is I am writing now!

My advice to anyone pondering if they should write or not is to give it a go and have fun creating characters and stories. Whether you then try to get published is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with just writing for your own satisfaction. What matters is you’re writing and loving it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I loved watching the TV series of Black Beauty when I was a kid. That encouraged me to read the book by Anna Sewell. Southern TV, as it was back then, adapted some of the Enid Blyton Famous Five books and I loved those too. Pity they lost the franchise because that ended the series pronto!

So a good TV adaptation can encourage people to get back to the books, which is very much A Good Thing! This also happened with me with Oliver Twist. Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed were superb as Fagin and Bill Sykes. Had to read the book after watching the film.

With The Lord of the Rings, I had read the trilogy first. The magic of those films was bringing to life the images I had conjured up in my head of what Middle Earth looked like. (I still like the look of the hobbit holes. I’m about the right height to live in one too!).

I love it when creative media feeds off AND benefits other creativity like this.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So terribly sad to see the news about Notre Dame. I hope the damage is as limited as possible. Also that restoration can take place as soon as possible too.

On to other things…

The only time I specifically write to a theme is when entering competitions. I’ve usually got a character in mind when I’m thinking about a new flash fiction story and work out, from their main characteristics, what theme would best suit them. I can’t say whether this is the right or wrong way to do things but I do know it works for me.

My other use of themes is to trigger ideas for a new story and then I spend some time working out which kind of character would best suit it. If I can’t work out a suitable character I don’t write the story.

For me it is all about the characters, always.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I suppose my first introduction to short stories must have been the Reader’s Digest Collections of Fairytales, which I still have.

I was never conscious of this when reading these books (over and over and over and over again etc!) though I do recall being stunned at how long The Little Mermaid was and that it really didn’t have a happy ending. That was an eye opener for me. I didn’t know stories could be like that!

I also loved The Snow Queen with Gerda being the “action lead”. That was an eye opener too. Here was a girl off having all kinds of adventures to rescue her neighbour from said Snow Queen (and the splinter of the evil mirror in his heart). Loved that on first reading.

Here is where you meet ideas for future characters of your own – by reading widely and discovering them in other stories, then wondering what YOU could do with a character like that. You then wonder what setting YOU would put them in and what adventures/problems YOU set them. YOU wonder how your characters would sound and act and react and all of this comes together, creating a story that is uniquely yours. Writing and reading are truly wonderful things.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Book Depository UK has FLTDBA listed as available within 2-3 business days. Amazon currently has it available as one month plus! I don’t know why this happens but it does pay to check out online retailers for availability, whether it is in books or anything else!

And I will put in another word about reviews. They really do help authors. Amazon sit up and take notice if you have 50 reviews. If you’re not sure what to write, one line saying what you liked (or loathed) about the book is sufficient. It is a great irony that even a review where someone didn’t like s book still helps the author of that book when it comes to the “numbers game”.

My own policy for reviews, whether it is for groceries or books, is to have a good look through what people have said. Usually there is a consensus and I can then go with that or not as I see fit but I find reviews a useful guide when I’m on the other side of the fence. So please do review! Thanks!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I sometimes use alliteration in my flash fiction titles (Pen Portrait, Telling The Time etc) but I haven’t deliberately done this. In each case the title has been the right one for the story and the alliteration is a nice side effect!

I also think it is better to have things that way round rather than try to think of a clever title and try to make the story fit it. I can never see how that would work. Something would feel artificial about it.

I have to have a title to work to when writing a story (of any length) but I will change it if something better pops into my head as I’m working on the first draft. I use my titles to help me set the mood for a story. I sometimes use titles which can have a secondary meaning that the story makes clear.

The important thing is that the title suits the story.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once I’ve got a flash fiction collection written and edited, I spend some time working out what would be the best “running order” for the stories. This can take some time but it’s worth it.

From Light to Dark and Back Again lives up to its name (!) but the big plus with that was it helped me group stories beautifully!

The reason for all of this? I don’t just want my individual stories to make an impact on a reader. I want the book as a whole to do so too so taking a step back and planning what stories goes where helps enormously with that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What is the worst aspect of writing flash fiction?

For me, it’s coming up with a character with a strong enough voice. Once I’ve got that (after some outlining), I can set that character wherever I want and away they go!

It’s not enough for a character to be pushy or what have you. There has got be strong enough reason for them to be like that. Give them this and you will take the reader with you even though the reading journey for flash fiction is necessarily a short one!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Playing with Genre

With my flash fiction, I like to play with genre a lot. As flash fiction has to be character led due to the strict word count, I can have great fun putting that character wherever and whenever I want. I’ve written fantasy flash fiction, historical flash fiction, crime flash fiction etc as a result.

I’ve read excellent collections by other authors too. Some focus on one genre. The Great War by Dawn Kentish Knox is a great example of a themed historical flash fiction collection. Do check it out. The characterisation is very moving.

But it is not just in the flash and short story form that genre can be played with, far from it.

I love the crossover novel. It blends the best of the two (usually) genres it is mixing and gives something unique to the reader as a result. A good example to check out here is Jennifer C Wilson’s Kindred Spirits series which crosses ghost stories with historical fiction. Great mix!

I think readers are much more flexible over this than writers/publishers realise at times. I know what I like when I read it even if I can’t categorise it! And while categories ARE important, I don’t think they’re meant to be straitjackets either.

Have fun with your reading/writing and mix those genres!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a Story Has “Got You”

Facebook – General

Thinking about picture books with regard to my most recent CFT post, Picture Books and Other Hooks, made me also think about what my reading journey has been.

Every reader of fiction owes a huge debt to children’s writers as the vast majority of readers have grown up loving and reading books, moving from stage to stage and genre to genre as they grow. You get to experiment with the genres you love most (and ideally end up loving loads!).

Writing for children then underpins books overall, I think.

We almost all start with rhymes and fairytales (the latter is somewhat ironic given so many fairytales can be grim!). Picture books play a vital role bridging the gap between “baby” books and the first books we read for ourselves.

So let’s hear it for children’s fiction, especially as it is notoriously difficult to get right.

 

I’ve listed below books that have either made me change my opinion about something or I’ve had to re-read several times. (Usually the book concerned falls into both categories). They’re not in any particular order of importance.

1. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
5. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett.
6. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
7. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
8. Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
9. Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
10. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

For many of the authors, I could’ve listed more than one of their books. The lovely thing with books is discovering the joys of new ones and, when re-reading, catching up with “old friends”.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Book Offer News

Quick heads up! Amazon have currently got From Light to Dark and Back Again on offer at:-

£2.99 – Kindle edition
£4.04 – for the paperback.

Link takes you to the Kindle edition.

 

Facebook – General

When do you know a story has “got you”? When you are so gripped by the characters, you have to keep reading no matter what, and you get distinctly irritable when anything minor, like life, gets in the way of you reading! Confession time: have been distinctly irritable many a time due to this.

Of course the challenge for writers is to come up with a story that will make readers feel like that! Whoever said writing was easy has never actually done any. The great thing is nobody has to see your first draft, your sixth or what have you, until you are ready to let them see it! Nobody but nobody creates a perfect story first go. I do take a lot of comfort from that thought.

The great thing with writing is you have two interests in one here, the other being reading of course.

To feed your own writing “muscle”, you need to read widely in and out of your genre. I recommend reading widely in non-fiction too. Your creative spark will come from ideas that occur to you as you read other stories and non-fiction.

This author did this in this way. How would I do it? I’d have written this character this way because… etc etc. All sorts of great story ideas can come from asking yourself questions like that and then seeing what you do come up with.

Re non-fiction: I’ve found the creative spark ignites when I discover something interesting I hadn’t known and realise I can use it in a story setting.

It always pays to cast your imaginative net wide!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Far Flung Book News!

Many thanks to Raewyn Berry for supplying these pictures of From Light to Dark and Back Again in New Zealand!

My book in NZ 1

FLTDBA in NZ. Image kindly supplied by Raewyn Berry

My Book in NZ 2

Always good to see books about and it’s very special if one of them is yours! Many thanks to Raewyn Berry for the picture.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have drafted a piece from the viewpoint of a groundhog which is this week’s prompt in my writing diary. Good fun to do but needs work but then the great thing with a first draft is only you need ever see it. Also I never envisaged starting a FB post with that opening line!

I often use sayings as titles for my flash fiction and generally that sets the theme and mood too. But a good title is always capable of having a twist put to it, so work out what would suit your character best. They’ll be “carrying” the story so if they are of a quirky nature, the story should reflect that.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I do love poetic justice stories and flash fiction is a great vehicle for them. You have to set things up immediately and deliver on the pay-off quickly too! My A Kind of Hell and The Circle of Life are examples of this.

Poetic justice stories work well within a short time frame, which is why they suit flash fiction. I don’t like to spin poetic justice stories out for too long a time span. My worry is a reader could get bored waiting to find out if there is ever going to be a pay-off. No danger of that in 100 words or so!