Looking Ahead

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Images created via Book Brush such as the Special Note below use Pixabay).

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Picture of Lady helping me open my box of Tripping The Flash Fantastic taken by Adrian Symes. Can’t help but feel Lady looks very knowing here.

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot. Sometimes the calendar is a direct inspiration for what I write here (I’ve called the piece Looking Ahead!). Well, given we are almost at the end of 2020 (and what a year that has been!), looking ahead does seem to me to be the most juste of a topic to write about!

Further to my earlier post about my Looking Ahead piece for More Than Writers (the ACW blog spot), I should add that if you are usually not a planner for your writing, still jotting down a few notes about what you think you might like to do is helpful.

You are still more likely to achieve more in terms of getting writing done if you write down what you think you might like to do. It is too easy to forget promising ideas when they’ve not been written down. And once you’ve forgotten them, that’s it. Any possibility of doing anything with them has gone. So looking ahead a bit does pay off, even if you decide not to look ahead too far.

For my flash fiction writing, when I know who the character is, I sometimes have the situation where I could put them in two differing stories (often one will be funny, the other anything but). I put down a few notes as to how each story could go and then write up the one I think will suit the character best. I look to play to the character’s strengths here.

The notes I make for the specific story ideas I’ve had will bring out elements to the character not covered by my initial outline as for that I was focussing on who the character is, what their major traits are etc. For, say, a humorous story, I need to look a bit deeper and work out what could be funny about the character so they “play the script” as a good actor would do.

(Never ever underestimate the foil in comedies. They are the ones that bring the humour out and the same is true for a story. Oh and for the record the finest foil the UK has ever produced in my view? Why Ernie Wise of course… Morecambe and Wise simply would not have been the same without him. Eric was the best comic this country has ever produced but he needed the foil to play to – and so does your character, whether or not they realise they are the foil to the situation you’ve put them in).

Cold and wet in Hampshire today. A little snow but ground too wet for it to settle. Brrr….. Perfect night to stay in and write then! I will be back in business with Chandler’s Ford Today this week which, surprise surprise not, given the piece will appear on Friday 1st January will be about the New Year! Sometimes you do just have to go with the calendar for writing ideas…!

I’m also looking ahead a little to a piece I am currently drafting about writing exercises and why they’re beneficial. Will flag this up nearer the time. And I can’t wait to share new series with you called Launches in Lockdown but again more on that nearer the time.

I’ve been focusing on my non-fiction project so fiction work has taken a little bit of a back burner but I am hoping to get back to that shortly. I hope to finish the first draft on the non-fiction by the end of the year (so I’ve got until Thursday basically!), I will then rest it for a while, and then resume working on my third flash fiction book. So plenty to do, all of which will be fun, but that’s the way I like things!

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)I prefer the second one inIndeed - says it all, Happy 2021 everyone

I hope you had as safe and happy a Christmas as possible. Very pleased with my new writing diary (though it has taken me ages to copy across what I need to copy across). This diary is also packed full of useful information for writers and I will be meandering my way through that in due course. Am also enjoying one of Joanna Penn’s non-fiction books which I am sure is going to be of assistance to me in the next year or so. More on that as and when I can!

Slowly getting back into the old writing tasks again though I loved writing a letter this afternoon in reply to one from a friend over Christmas. We’ve been pals (and penpals) for more years than either of us care to remember but it was lovely writing a letter instead of belting out an email or ringing her up on the phone. Can’t recall the last time I did that (though I have written flash fiction as a letter format – see my Punish the Innocent in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Not sure that counts as proper letter writing though!).

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NO POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS DAY OR BOXING DAY (can’t imagine why!)

24th December – Christmas Eve
Have a safe and as happy a Christmas as possible. Enjoy stories whether in books or on audio or via film or any combination of those! The lovely thing with stories? No calories in them whatsoever so indulge as much as you like! Nobody has ever had to diet because they read too many stories… that isn’t going to change!

23rd December
Will be winding down on the old writing front for a few days though am now relieved to have the present wrapping done and the food shopping in and away. (Lady was interested in the latter. There is no such thing as left over turkey ever again when you have a dog in the house. She has also decided she is very fond of pigs in blankets so will she help “supervise” as I cook Christmas dinner. Oh yes! Mind you, dear Gracie and Mabel took the same views here!).

Hope to be doing a lot of reading over the Christmas break. And it would never surprise me if book sales shoot up again after Christmas given so many of us are now in Tier 4. Increased book sales would at least be something positive!

A story I drafted as a response to a writing prompt has ended up being far longer than I intended so will be looking to cut it back. (Mind you, anything over 1000 words is lengthy to me!). Am starting to flesh out a few thoughts for a theme I need to write to in the New Year. And am getting ever nearer to finishing that first draft of my non-fiction book. So a good way to finish for Christmas I think.

Looking forward to catching up with favourite films etc over the festive period. I see those as another way of taking in stories and a very entertaining way at that!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So pleased at the latest review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks! (And don’t forget writers will always welcome post-Christmas “presents” of thoughtful reviews. What do I mean by thoughtful? Simply, it is clear the reviewer has understood the book they’ve reviewed and what it is meant to be , even if they still don’t like it!).

Delighted to have my lovely new writing diary and have already started scribbling entries into it. Looking forward to using my new Harry Potter notebook at some point too. No doubt I’ll end up jotting some ideas for stories in that in due course.

Ideas for stories do not always come at convenient times which is why the good old notebook and pen will always be useful!

Screenshot_2020-12-29 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

I had a quick look at the random question generator again and this came up. If you could go back in time 1,000 years, what year would you visit? Well, I think I can hazard a guess at one year nobody would choose to visit again – 2020!

The question is an interesting one though and has good possibilities for flash fiction writers. As well as answering the question directly, you could select the time for your character to visit and then tell their story. Equally you can pick the time first and then decide which would be the best character to write about for it. Here, you would be using the time period chosen as a setting, almost a character in its own right.

And another possibility is to have a character out of sync with the time they are in (whether this is due to their being ahead of their time, a time traveller etc, is something else to consider). What is important though is that you have fun writing the story!

Incidentally, you do not need a wealth of detail to conjure up the time period. Specific details are enough. For example, if you set a story during the reign of Elizabeth 1, showing a coin which commemorated the victory over the Armada confirms it is her reign and that it has to be after 1588. So look for specific details to show in the story. They will “punch their weight” here.

Looking forward to sharing my ACW More Than Writers’ blog post later this week. It will be about planning ahead. Sometimes, just sometimes, the calendar is a direct aid to article and story ideas!

Will be having a new CafeLit story up in January and look forward to sharing that in due course.

Just slowly getting myself back into the swing of things again writing wise and hope to be drafting flash stories later. They make for a great warm up writing exercise anyway but also a good way to get back into writing again after a break, which everyone needs sometimes. Hope you had as nice a Christmas as possible. Lady was very pleased that Santa Paws had included her on his nice list!

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

NO POSTS FOR CHRISTMAS DAY OR BOXING DAY (hope you had as safe and as happy a Christmas as possible).

24th December – Christmas Eve

Have as safe and happy a Christmas as possible. I hope you find plenty of book shaped presents waiting for you tomorrow. Happy reading!

23rd December

Do you think the star the three wise men followed to get to Bethlehem would count as the first example of “sat nav”? Just a thought!

There are moments in the Christmas stories which would translate well into flash fiction. For example, what did the innkeeper make of the strange visitors to his stable? It’s not every day that three wise men turn up after all.

And one of my recent CafeLit stories, Finding My Feet, looks at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the footman who had to travel the Kingdom to find the one girl whose foot would fit that glass slipper. What did he make of it all (and for my take on it do see the link!)?

Think of moments. So often they can be turned into stories. Not necessarily long stories but hey that is flash fiction’s strength is it not?!

Goodreads Author Blog Post – Books under the Christmas Tree

I hope there were plenty of books left for you under the Christmas tree this year. I’m happy with my selection, in particular a non-fiction one I’d had my eye on for a while, which I’m sure is going to help me with a major writing project I’m working on.

I’ve got three months now to compile a book request list for my birthday! I think I’ll manage it though!!

Unsurprisingly, Christmas is the biggest market for publishers and writers. With my reader’s hat on, it is perfect given the weather outside (in the UK) is often ghastly, what better thing to do than curl up with a book and a mug or glass of something nice to drink? And finishing the day with a good read has always struck me as an excellent thing to do.

So what made you decide to go for the books on your Christmas list? Was it a case of getting the latest by a favourite author or was there a title that caught your eye? Or both, of course?

Whatever you chose, I hope you have a fabulous time reading (and I know it is post-Christmas now but I think there is still time for the following story!).

Fairytales with Bite – Top Tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale? Top tips include:-

1. Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2. You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3. Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story). (Oh and never tell them who is really the boss!).

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This World and Others – Can Cliches Ever Be Useful?

The answer to the above question should be “like the plague” really! But to be serious can cliches have a place in fiction?

Yes, they can but in different ways.

1. Above all else, they should be used sparingly. Too many of them spoils any good effect you might want to use them for and will just switch readers off. Also, don’t use them in every story you write either. Every now and again but more on this in 2 below.

2. A cliche can be a useful shortcut but choose the right one and aim for it to have a positive impact on your readers. You want them to be able to see why you used it and for there to be no stronger alternative. Most of the time there will be as you come up with your own expressions and these should be the ones you always go for first.

3. You can subvert a cliche. I’ve used “take the Garibaldi” as a subversion of “take the biscuit”. This approach can also help you convey something of character too. Someone who takes the Garibaldi is going to be of a different social standing to someone who “takes the Lidl Rich Tea” for one thing and you can then play on that for effect.

And for flash fiction, where every word has to punch its weight to justify being included, subverting cliches can be a useful tool indeed.

BookBrushImage-2020-12-29-20-2722FLASH - I would hope there would be some flash fiction collections amongst this lot - PixabayFLASH - You can set your characters anywhere in flash fiction - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction soon teaches you how to cut unnecessary words - PixabayFLASH - Ideas will spark others, something else I love flash fiction for - PixabayFLASH - Always time for this - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction can only show so much but that is the point - it is all on the focus - PixabayFLASH - Flash fiction, like lightning, is fast and to the point - Pixabay

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Numbers Into Writing Will Go

Image Credit:  As ever all images, unless otherwise stated, are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at the links between numbers and creative writing this week for CFT. There are more links than you might think. I’m not just talking about word counts either (though naturally that is a priority for my flash fiction writing).

The inspiration for the title comes from when I was taught to do division at school many, many moons ago. Three will go into six (twice), three will go into seven (twice with one left over) etc.

I also look at how numbers come into my online writing and I share some tips for managing word counts.

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My CFT post this week is Numbers into Writing Will Go, a title inspired by how I was taught division many moons (and then some!) ago. (That is 2 will go into 4 twice, 2 will go into 5 with 1 left over – anyone else remember that style of teaching?).

There are many links between numbers and creative writing funnily enough and my post will be looking at some of these. Link up on Friday.

Talking of numbers, it has been lovely to see more followers recently for my website. Welcome to you and thank you to those who have been following the site for some time.

I hope to continue to add to this site throughout the year and will post latest pages etc. One of my most recent additions was the Book Trailers page where all the book trailers for anthologies I’ve had work in, as well as the one From Light to Dark and Back Again, are included. (A big thank you to Chapeltown Books – they make some great trailers. Yes, I know, I’d be bound to say that, wouldn’t I, but go on. Check the page out!).

It was a relief NOT to get a soaking while out with the dog today. Plenty of tree debris around but at least things are calming down here a bit. Mind you, our local park will continue to be a mud pit for some time to come!

Back to unhelpful writing advice that I was talking about in my last round-up on Tuesday.

1. Of course you can edit on screen… ahem. You do miss things this way. Print your work out and edit on paper. (It can help to change the font or the character size to make your work seem different when looking at it on screen BUT I still recommend printing it out. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve picked something up this way that I missed on screen).

2. It won’t matter if you get a competition entry in JUST after the deadline. Oh yes it will. It’s called being late and a judge would have to turn down late works as it is not fair on those who did get their entries in on time. My top tip here is to take a week to ten days off the official deadline and make that your OWN one. It gives you a few days in hand for final tweaks should you need it and you’ll then still submit the piece in good time.

3. If I send my work (especially if it’s a book) with fancy ribbon on it, it will make it stand out. Yes, it will but for all the wrong reasons. I’ve heard many agents and publishers at writing conferences say basically how irritating this kind of thing is – all you need to do is follow their guidelines to the letter and leave it at that.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I enjoy writing the most in a flash fiction tale?

When I come up with a “killer line” whether it is a punchline to end a humorous story or a twist to conclude the tale. I love that feeling you get when you know what you’ve come up with is absolutely right for that story. Gives me a very good buzz.

I also love that moment when writing the first draft and you know you have got the idea and characters spot on. It’s then a question of fine tuning the story and cutting out what doesn’t add to the tale but you know at this point that you’ve got something to work with and your editing will improve the story.

I almost always find I’m about halfway to two-thirds of the way through a first draft when I know yes this is going to work or it will work if I end the story this way instead. It’s a relief to get to that point too!

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I think it helps to have a fascination with what makes people tick when it comes to character creation. This is especially true for flash fiction writing where I’m coming up with so many different characters for my stories (though I am beginning to link a few stories. This is where I either use the same character in another story or Character A in Story 1 is referred to by Character B in Story 2. Good fun to do and this is something I hope to do more of in future).

I do find the Scrivener character templates enomously helpful for outlining “my people”. They make me think about why I’m creating the character the way that I am and that will add “oomph” to my story. When reading, a character gels with me far more if I sense there is depth to them, even if I don’t discover those depths for a while. With flash, I need to give hints as to how deep my characters can be and then show a reader what they need to know to make those connections to hidden depths for themselves.

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Themes I love in my stories include:-

1. Poetic justice. I do love giving a character who deserves it what they’ve got coming. It’s fun!

2. An underdog winning out in the end. (This is a huge theme in fairytales of course and I’ve always loved that idea).

3. Alternative character stories (my Getting It Right gives the wicked stepmother’s viewpoint on the Snow White tale).

4. Types of character I love – feisty ones (especially older female characters who can still show those far younger than them a thing or two about how to tackle problems); magical ones (especially those who’ve discovered the downside to magic and are fighting back against that).

5. Historical themes I love (and these will turn up in Tripping the Flash Fantastic too).

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Fairytales With Bite – Going Back in Time

Fairytales are some of the oldest stories in literature, of course. This is another reason why I don’t understand why some dismiss them as “twee tales for kids”. If they read the original stories, they’d know fairytales are anything but twee and their intended audiences were definitely not children!

I associate fairytales with many happy memories of enjoying The Reader’s Digest Complete Fairytales (two volumes, both beautifully illustrated), which was a childhood present. I still have those books though their spines are taped up to give them extra support. I read those books a lot when I was younger!

When I read I want to escape to another world for a while and fairytales for me have always been a great outlet for that. A really good story will make you feel as if you’ve escaped time for a while.

I’ve always found it fascinating that there are countless versions of our classic fairytales in different cultures (Cinderella especially). The themes are timeless and will remain so. Fairytales often do reflect on aspects of human nature and they don’t always present a pretty picture either.

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This World and Others – Your Historical World

Whatever your setting, it has to have a past. It may not play a major role in the story you’re telling but there should be inferences to it somewhere in your tale. Your characters’ actions and reactions are based on what? Being attacked by an enemy? Well who is the enemy and what is the personal history here?

How is your world governed? Who runs it? Is there any opposition? How does it get on with other worlds around it? What happened in its past to influence how it is run now? What kind of ceremonies and rituals does it have and does your lead character go along with these or rebel against them?

History is important to us. It helps shape us. It should do for your characters too, even if you imply what that history is. Information is best drip fed into a story in any case but readers do put two and two together. I love doing that in books I read. I get a complete picture of the fictional world doing that and it makes the story stronger for me, always.

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