Storylines, Dialogue, and Publication News

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Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Am pleased to share one of my humorous fairytales with bite, Rotten Day, which is now up on Cafelit.

See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you enjoy!

This kind of story is always great fun to write!

This story came about as a result of an idea suggested in the Prompts book by Gill James. I am slowly working my way through the ideas in here, some of which I contributed.

Is it odd I’m writing a story to my own initial prompt? A bit but still good fun. And I didn’t make my opening lines, my favourite form of prompt, too easy either! There’s no fun in that. You have to rise to the challenge of the prompt but that means it does have to be challenging!

Oh and before you ask I deliberately sent the prompts in without having written the stories for them first. I wanted to come to these prompts “fresh” and tackle them as if they had been written by someone else.

Now that’s not a bad idea for those odd times when you’ve got a few minutes. Jot down ideas. Put them away for a while. Come back to them later and then see what you can do with them. Above all, have fun!

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Hope you’ve had a good weekend. Blustery here, most unseasonable, but Lady’s had plenty of exercise and is now napping on the sofa. I know… ahhh….

I was watching one of my favourite films earlier – The Ladykillers with Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers in it. (Possibly his first movie too as this came out in 1955). It is a masterclass in tight storywriting and seamless editing. The storyline is excellent and there is a lovely twist at the end. All of my favourite ingredients in a story basically.

Important point: not a word out of place. No scene felt unnecessary either. And that I can apply to whatever writing I do too.

So I’m not going to call it taking time out to watch a film. I’m going to call it visual research into storytelling techniques – and that IS my story and I’m sticking to it!😆😆

(I took the image of Lady, of course, the rest are from Pixabay).

 

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Lady played with her best pal, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, this morning so both of them got their Mondays off to a great start! Why is it when dogs play together they feel the absolute need to run into their owners when they’ve got all the space of the park around them? Answers on a postcard…

You do develop quick reflexes to dart out of the way though!

Writing wise, I’m working on material I will need for later on but can’t say any more than that at the moment.

I’m looking forward to sharing a new CFT series later in the month which will, I hope, prove particularly useful to writers, especially those starting out on their writing journey. More details later in the month though I will say a big thank you now to those authors who’ve already sent wonderful contributions for this. I’m looking forward to putting this together in due course.

I try to write a couple of series a year for CFT where I invite guest contributions, alongside author interviews etc. I find there is always something to learn from these.

One of the great aspects of writing that I love is, no matter where you are in your journey, that learning process is ongoing. You don’t want to stop developing as a writer. There is never a point where you can feel “well, that’s it now”. What you aim for is to be the best you can be in what you do and seek to refine and hone your skills in those areas.

What do you like about writing dialogue the most?

I love it when I’ve got two characters talking and it is apparent to me that, other than the odd he said/she said tag every now and then, it is clear who is speaking and what their attitude is!

To me this shows this is a “live” dialogue and, while it will need editing later (everything does!), it will have the benefit of not being clunky or awkward to read out loud.

When you know how your characters would speak, what kind of words they would use, which phrases they would never use and so on, that’s great. It means you know your characters well and I’ve found when I’ve outlined mine properly, when they are in “conversation”, it almost feels as if I’m taking dictation from them.

Moments like that are lovely because it nearly always means I can’t get the words down quickly enough and my characters and I are on a roll!

I occasionally give a character a pet phrase though I prefer to get them to use a particular word and repeat that every so often. It flags up to the reader when there are no tags this must be Character A speaking because they’ve used the word carbuncle again or what have you! Not that I’ve used carbuncle in a story yet…

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A new flash fiction story, Rotten Day, is now up on Cafelit. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you pop over and enjoy the tale. Let’s just say I think many of us may identify with the way my lead character feels in the closing line! I know I’ve felt this way especially when particularly busy.

Now the problem with any kind of humorous writing is it has to be subjective. People’s sense of humour varies of course. So I am more than happy if a tale like Rotten Day makes one person laugh and another one smile broadly. Absolutely fine with me, that!

What I do when writing these is ensure that the humour arises naturally out of the situation I’ve dumped my character in. That is far more likely to make people smile. It also won’t come across as forced humour, which I loathe.

If someone tells me I have to laugh at this, well often I don’t. I decide what I find funny, thanks very much!

But a situation where I can see the predicament the character is in and empathise with them, then I am much more likely to cry, laugh, scream, or whatever the appropriate response to the story is and which the author intended to be the reaction.

Nothing forced about that at all and that is exactly how I like it in stories whether I read them or write them.

Stamping on an adverb until it is dead is not the problem it once was for me. Turning to flash fiction writing cured me of any addiction to these. If it can be cut out, I cut it. Just as well I didn’t go into medicine I think!😊

Wanting to achieve the maximum impact on a reader has also helped me with editing my own work. It IS a question of cutting to the chase here. Ironically I was going to put in the word “really” in that last sentence but cut it as it wasn’t going to add any extra to what I was trying to say.

And that’s the whole point. I’ve learned over time to not add words which don’t serve a purpose and/or to cut them when editing. Nobody writes the perfect first draft but adverbs are amongst the first things I look for when I’m brandishing my red pen.

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Some of the tips I’ve found most useful for writing flash fiction include:-

  1. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy. I use the Compact Oxford which covers both nicely. You will want alternative words and to check on meanings, especially if you’re writing humorous tales, which are often dependent on double meanings to work.
  2. Learn what words can be hyphenated. They count as one word for flash fiction! I’m sure you can make good use of that!
  3. Always think about impact on your reader. You want them to respond to your story, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream, or what have you. When you read your story through after a break away from it, ask yourself what impact the tale has on you? Is it what you intended?

I love flash fiction collections, not just because I write them (honest!), but I’ve always been a big fan of books where I can dip into stories as and when I want to. I can read those stories individually, as well as read the whole collection reasonably quickly. Just love having that flexibility.

I also like reading short forms in between reading novels. I like to think of this as the equivalent of having an appetiser before enjoying the main course! There is much to be said for appetisers like that. They can make a meal. Sometimes they can be the best bit of it!

So what do I want my flash fiction appetisers to do then?

I’d say whet a reader’s appetite so they look forward to the next collection but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?! But it is a good thing to aim for. Always leave your audience wanting more and then they’ll be pleased to see you again!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reactions to Stories

How do you react to stories? I know, I know, what kind of question is that? So much depends on the story you’re reading, right?

Yes, fair comment and all that, but what I am getting at here is do you react to a story in the way the author intended?

Now I must admit if someone tells me “oh, Allison, you’ve got to laugh at this”, a lot of the time I won’t! I want to decide what I find funny, thanks!

But it is true that in whatever story I read, if the situation and the characters come across as natural to me, I am much more likely to react in the way the author wants.

Puppet on a string here? Perhaps. But I want the author to put in the work to set up a situation and character so I will want to react the appropriate way. I see that as part of the “deal”.

The author has set up a funny situation (though it often isn’t to the character, which makes a situation even more funny a lot of the time) and I will react to it. What I don’t want is something coming across as forced.

Even in the most fantastical worlds and situations, there has to be something that I as a reader can empathise with and react to – as the author would want, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interviews and Good Stories

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Well, okay, I grant you, the weather HAS cooled down a lot since my last post but it has been a bit of an odd day here. Squally rain and blustery winds. What season are we in again?! It is June! Having said that, I am grateful for the temperature drop, as is Lady.

If you ask a writer to name their favourite book or story, they’ll usually reel you off a considerable list. (I am also guilty of this).

Ask us to name a book or story we don’t like and we might come up with a few but there won’t be so many. Part of that will be due to the stories in question being forgettable for us. We move on to what we hope will prove to be a more enjoyable read next time (and we do move on. Life is too short to do otherwise).

We want to remember good stories. We want our stories to be good stories people don’t forget.

Yet at the same time any negative reviews for our books and stories stick stubbornly in our heads like glue and those are the ones we SHOULD forget!

Funny old weather again today, though at least Lady and I didn’t get hot on our walk. Good to catch up with family in NZ on Zoom this morning (UK time). Then Zoom church which was lovely.

Also good to meet up with family yesterday for natter and nosh in the great outdoors. Lady had a wonderful time “hoovering” up. For someone who loathes the vacuum, she does do an excellent hoover impersonation. 😀😀

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit again soon and look forward to sharing the link to that in due course. I look at interviews in my spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog this month. Hope to share link on that tomorrow. I’m going to be setting some puzzles in my CFT post later this week too.

Drafting more flash fiction and am pleased with how the edit on my short story (1500 worder) worked out. Hope to give that story another read through and final polish before submitting later this week.

Have a good writing/reading/both week!😊

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and Association of Christian Writers –

More Than Writers – Interviews

It’s always a pleasure to write my monthly post for More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog. This time I talk about interviews.

I look at what I enjoy about them and how you can use them to outline your characters.

I also discuss using open questions for my Chandler’s Ford Today interviews and share some advice for those not yet published or who are just beginning their writing journey. Interviews are useful to think about NOW.

Hope you enjoy.

 

No chance of Lady and I being too hot today – rain for most of the day! Still, the park will look a lot nicer for it tomorrow. And my roses are blooming lovely. A friend gave me the ones I have at the front as the variety is called Allison. They smell nice too (and I do usually as well! 😀😀😆😆!).

Have got a few things coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today which I look forward to sharing when I can. Will be brimming with useful information. That’s about all I can say for now.

Plans for the week including prepping the above things for CFT, giving an edited short story the final read through and then submitting it for a competition, and continuing to work on my longer term projects.

Also plan to write more flash of course. The nice thing with that is when I’m really pushed for time and I know I’ve only got 10 minutes, that’s when I jot down a very rough draft of a flash tale, knowing I can finalise it later. Those 10 minute slots add up over the course of the week and you can get a fair bit done in them. So if you only have little slots of time, use them!

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What do I want my flash stories to do?

Chiefly to entertain of course. Books and stories are wonderful forms of escapism.

While I have nothing against “real life” writing, far from it, I do want stories to amuse, entertain, and/or inform me, but not depress me about the state of the world. I can get that from watching the news.

I do want to be able to identify with the character, whether or not I agree with what they’re doing and/or their attitudes. I want them to be able to make me react, whether it is to inspire pity, make me laugh, or what have you.

The difference with flash is all of that has to be done in a compressed word count but it does make you focus on what matters to your character. You should have no doubt that this story has to be told “by” this character and that what they have to reveal is vital to your readers.

Sometimes that vital element is to make your readers laugh! Both P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett did rather well out of that though neither were up for the Booker or anything like that. I am all for the laughter makers, always have been, always will be.

In between the laughter, that is when I will look for a story to move me in a different way so I come back to the lighter hearted forms of fiction, ready to enjoy that all over again.

But a story that doesn’t make me react in any form is not something I’m going to read again. Indeed it is highly likely I won’t get beyond the first paragraph.

And that serves as a useful pointer for me with my writing. What impact do I want my story to have on others? It is a good thought to keep in mind.

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I’ve just listened to the wonderful Pachelbel’s Canon in D on Classic FM and it made me think of repetition as its theme is repeated throughout.

Repetition can be a useful device in a story though for flash it has to be used sparingly. I don’t use it often because I want to use my restricted word counts in better ways but sometimes it IS the thing to do when the type of story or character needs/would come out with the kind of emphasis repetition gives you.

For this kind of story, I tend to repeat an odd word in close succession to build a “beat”. I used this technique in my story Why Stop Now by repeating the word “here” in the opening sentence (and more than once too!).

I did it for emphasis and it also shows something of the character who is doing the repeating. (Clue: this is one of my tales where it even gave me the creeps so I hope it does the same for you if you read it – it is meant to!).

I think it is true for any writing device that you need to think carefully about why you want to use it and why it is the best thing for your particular tale/character. If you can tick the boxes on those two thoughts, go ahead. It will be the right thing to do.

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I’ve been talking about interviews tonight as it was the topic of my ACW blog spot this month for More Than Writers. I’ve also interviewed my own characters from time to time.

I work out what it is I want to know and then ask a series of questions. Good questions to consider include the following but I’m sure you can think of loads. It really is up to you to work out what you need to know and frame the questions around that.

1. What do YOU think is your best quality? (You can use this one as a test as to whether your character is deceiving themselves or not).

2. What is your biggest weakness? (Again, you can use this to test how honest your character is).

3. What do YOU think others think of you? (You can also get an indicator of how much your character is likely to care about this depending on their response!).

4. What is your biggest fear? (Naturally as author you will make them face up to it too!).

Now for the shorter flash fiction stories, I tend to look at what my characters’ main traits are and how these are likely to land them right in it. (Such good fun that!). And for longer stories, you might want to ask more questions. But I have found, regardless of length of story, for that tale to work I’ve got to know my character inside out and questions like this help a lot with that.

 

I was watching one of the old Ealing comedies late last week (The Lavender Hill Mob starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway). Great story, fab acting, and all packed into about 75 minutes or so. (Flash film, anyone?!).

My overall favourite Ealing comedy is The Ladykillers which, if you’ve not seen it, is dark with its comedy and worth checking out. Again stars Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers. We probably wouldn’t think much of dark comedy being such a “thing” now but back when it came out, I think it may have been a different matter.

What these films have in common is a tightly controlled storyline. Not a thing is out of place. Not a thing could be taken out without the films losing something important. Good lessons for story writers there, regardless of what word count you work to!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Habits That Annoy!

Aside from the obvious one of people turning down corners of books (which is even more irritating when they’ve borrowed the book from you!), what annoying book habits “get” you?

1. Feeling yourself about to nod off when you’ve been looking forward to reading all day and you’ve managed to read about two minutes’ worth of glorious prose. Yet you know if you make yourself keep reading, you will wake yourself up and then not be able to sleep properly when the time does come for lights out.

2. Not being to make up your mind about reading from your Kindle or paperback bookshelf and by the time you’ve decided, guess what? It’s lights out time again.

3. Looking for THE one book you’re longing to read, knowing you’ve got it somewhere, but can you find it when you want it to hand? Surprise, surprise – no!

4. Managing to pick up that hardback you’ve been looking forward to reading and end up dropping it on your foot. Some of these big beasties hurt when they land on your toes!

5. Having two books come out at about the same time by your favourite authors and not being able to decide which one to read first.

Of course, all of the above COULD just be me but I don’t think so!

Over to you then. Can you add to the list?

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Learning from Stories and Characters

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Writing characters is good fun, especially when you can think of suitable flaws that you know you can use to drop said characters right in it. The important thing is for the flaws to be realistic and not over exaggerated.

I have never really liked larger than life characters in fiction (with the honourable exception of Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows! That’s partly because we know he is OTT from the start of the story!).

I want my characters’ flaws to be reasonable based on what I’ve found out about them. For example, if I know a character is kindly, then their major flaw is unlikely to be anything violent etc. The flaw has to fit with the character.

In this case I would probably make the flaw irritability. This makes sense as a kindly soul pushed too much would be irritable. There should always be a flaw to balance out the virtues.

I find goody two shoes characters difficult to read too and I think most readers would. We want realistic characters, people we can identify with, even if we don’t always agree with them or their actions.

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What have I learned from stories I’ve read over the years?

The big lesson, of course, is I’ve discovered what I love and equally what I don’t!

What is more useful still is in working out why I haven’t liked something. It is almost always that the characters didn’t come across well enough for me. I then look at that and think about how I might’ve portrayed those characters and why.

For stories I love, I study how the dialogue flows,how the chemistry between characters works (and you can always tell the author has put a lot of thought into how their people will be on the page), and what I thought worked well.

From all of this, negative and positive, you can learn a lot to apply to your own tales.

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I use the Scrivener template for outlining my characters though you can easily devise your own. Work out what you think you need to know about your characters and outline from there.

One of the Scrivener settings is for character name. Okay, okay, I hear you say, why the fuss about that? Course you’ve got to know the character name.

That’s true but dig a little deeper and look at why you’re naming the character as you have. Names can reveal much such as likely age of character (Gertrude has not been a fashionable name for a while now!) as well as likely class background and things like that.

The template also has a lovely section on personality and that’s where I get to outline major traits. By the time I’ve done that I know what the character’s personality is like.

I’ve also found outlining like this speeds up the process of writing the story. Outline in place and away I go as I already feel as if I know the lead character(s) in depth.

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you later this week. Crime writer, Val Penny, will be looking at her venture into non-fiction with her recently released Let’s Get Published. We’ll be discussing the challenges of writing non-fiction and the aspects of that you simply don’t face as a fiction writer.

Got the first draft of a story for a competition done earlier today so that is now resting, waiting ready for my eagle editor’s eye to attack it with the old red pen!

I now know (by not hearing) a couple of my earlier competition entries this year have not got anywhere in the places I submitted them to but this means I can look at these stories again. Sometimes I can find an alternative market for them and I have been published that way too. So it is always worth considering this as a possibility.

Work might find a different home from the one you originally intended for it but that’s okay.

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Flash characters have to lead from the front given there is not a lot of room to tell their story. This is one reason why I use first person a lot. There is an immediacy about that which helps increase the pace of the story but it also takes you right into the character too.

So when I’m planning a story, I outline my lead character. They’ve got to have a story worth sharing after all. So what makes a character worth writing about?

It has to be someone who intrigues a reader. Intrigue can come from setting up a situation the character has to resolve and a reader wants to find out how they do. It can come from a character being the type that lands themselves in it and a reader wants to see if (a) that stops or (b) what their latest adventure is.

 

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Hope the writing week proves to be a good one for you. Likewise the reading one! And if you count under both categories, have a fab time reading and writing!

I’m reading a couple of collections on my Kindle at the moment and thoroughly enjoying them. I’ve found reading collections to be a good way of getting out of my thankfully temporary reading drought.

I’ve long hoped that flash fiction might also be a good way to tempt reluctant readers in to reading at all as you’re not asking them to commit to too much in one go for a start.

Well here’s hoping!😊

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared some flash one-liners with you. Time to rectify that then. Hope you enjoy these.

1. The elephant was in the room and looked around with interest, wondering who would be the first to try and make him leave.

2. Of all the last words she’d heard in her time, she’d never expected to hear “I don’t suppose you’re a vegetarian dragon by any chance?”

3. The witch incinerated the speed camera after she went through it at 180 mph as she didn’t fancy facing Lucinda who had gone through the same spot the week before at over 200 mph.

Allison Symes – 22nd June 2020

 

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Hope you enjoyed the one-line stories. They’re great fun to do. I’d also recommend having a go at this as (a) an interesting challenge and (b) as a warm-up writing exercise ahead of whatever your main writing event is!

One aspect to flash fiction is that all those writing exercises you’ve had a go at over the years might be able to be turned into stories you can submit to a publisher and/or competition. Give it a go! You’ve nothing to lose here. But as with any fiction writing, ensure all is as polished as you can make it before you send your work anywhere to give yourself the best possible chance.

Good luck!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Outdoor or Indoor Reading

Allowing for the time of year, do you enjoy reading books outside?

The only time I get to do this is when I’m on holiday. At home I tend to think I should be getting on with some gardening rather than reading a book.

I know! Allison, why don’t you tell the inner critic to go away? That is sometimes easier said than done though!

That said, I do find it easier to grab a magazine and read that outside while enjoying a drink or a bite to eat. (It’s also easier to use as a fly/wasp swat should the need arise!).

So how about you? I do find it far easier to read indoors and ideally at bedtime when my inner critic has gone away for the night and I can read in peace.

I also know my treasured books aren’t at risk of being rained on etc so I guess that comes into it too,

What matters though is finding time to read and unwind. And reading is such a wonderful way to unwind. I can only live one life but through books and stories I can get to experience many at secondhand. That is one aspect to stories I simply adore.

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Waterloo Arts Festival Online and Story News

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels generally unless stated otherwise.

Plenty going on over the last few days… phew!

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Had a wonderful time at the online Waterloo Arts Festival launch for Transforming Communities last night (Friday, 12th June 2020). Great to see many friends there and the readings were fantastic. Well done, everyone.

I’ll be sharing a book trailer for Transforming Communities later in the week but meantime I thought I would share this…

Hope you enjoy. Video also below.

As well as my video being here (with a taster of my story, Books and The Barbarians), there is a great intro for #MaxineChurchman too.

There is a series of these Meet the Winners posts, each combining a video with a short text from two winners. These will give you a good flavour of the wonderful mix that has gone into this ebook. Do check it out.

 

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. This one has been really nice for me. I

Loved being part of the Waterloo Arts Festival online on Friday. It was good fun and it was great to see everyone. I always love hearing extracts from stories. What’s not to like about that?

For the first time since lockdown, my sister and her partner came over for tea and cakes in the garden and a lovely time was had by all. Amazing how the simple things can boost your morale the most at times.

And I’m reading some smashing short story collections on Kindle at the moment so my reading drought is over. Hope to review in due course.

I’m preparing interview material where I’m on the receiving end of the questions AND where I’m setting them. Watch this space as they say!

And the ebook of Transforming Communities is now on my Amazon Author Central page. It is lovely to see the number of books increasing here! I can’t wait to be able to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic up on here too!

Hope you have a fabulous week.

Facebook – General – Further Publication News!

Lovely start to the week. My story It Is Time will be published in Bridge House Publishing’s Mulling It Over anthology later this year. Always a pleasure to return a signed contract to a publisher! I could do with more Mondays like this…

Many congratulations to all of the other wonderful writers in the collection. Good to see some familiar names here and equally great to see names that are new to me in this anthology.

I am very much looking forward to reading the collection in due course. What can be guaranteed is a fantastic mix of stories in terms of style and mood.

 

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Many thanks for the good wishes and congratulations yesterday on my recent publication news. Very much appreciated!

My CFT post this week is going to be a look back at how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition Event worked as a purely online Zoom affair. It is the first time I’ve taken part in a festival in this way. All good experience! (And for the WAF running it too I should think!).

On to other issues and question of the day is what it is about stories you love the most?

For me, it is always about the characters. I’ve got to be intrigued enough by them to want to read what they get up to but how about you?

My big problem with books, though it is a lovely one to have, is having too many I want to read and not enough time. Doesn’t matter if they’re paperback or ebook, I have the same dilemma. Still I’m never short of a good read! How about you?

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The Waterloo Arts Festival ebook launch for Transforming Communities went very well last night. Great mixture of styles and stories. Was lovely to hear the extracts and I enjoyed reading mine too.

If you want to check the stories out in full, see the link above or my Amazon Author Central page (link further up this blog post)!

Transforming Communities Full

 

I was having some fun with the random word generator tonight and selected choosing four words at a time. The ones that came up were:-

Experience, Elect, Rebellion, and Uranium.

Now there’s an explosive mix for you!!

So how could you use these in a story?

1. You could try getting all four words into your story in any order.

2. If you want to make your life a bit more difficult, get them into the story in the order in which they were generated.

3. Pick one of them as your theme and/or title but get the others into the story itself.

4. Ensure your first paragraph contains the four words.

5. Or finish your story with your last paragraph containing the four words.

The nice thing with the generator is you can choose the number of words you go for. So play around with things like this and see them as a generator for story ideas. The fact you don’t know what will come up forces you to think creatively around what DOES emerge.

Have fun!

 

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Great start to the week with my It Is Time being accepted for the annual BHP anthology. That will be called Mulling It Over and will be released later this year.

One joy of writing both flash fiction and short stories is while nobody should underestimate the time taken to produce these and edit them etc., because you are writing so many more of them, publication news can come in much more frequently than if say you were writing a novel a year.

That is one aspect to writing in the short form I like a lot! And I highly recommend it!

One thing I learned years ago was that if writing appears to read easily, regardless of whether that work is a novel, a play, a 100-word story or what have you, the guarantee is that the author worked hard for years to get to that point. And continues to work hard!

On that particular piece of work they will have edited, put aside for while, edited again and again.

I do find deadlines useful here. It can be easy to put off submitting something because you’re not quite happy with your story. Having a deadline (even if it is one you impose on yourself) is a great way of making yourself submit work.

I can’t recommend enough getting into the habit of regularly submitting work. It makes you produce more stories. The more you write, the more you will learn, the more chances you have of one of your pieces or more being “out there” and therefore in with a chance of being acepted.

I found it helped a lot when I recognised rejections were nothing personal, that every writer has them and keeps getting them, but you learn from what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!

Many thanks for all the support after yesterday’s publication news. It has been a good couple of weeks! 😆😆

Of course the reality is I wrote those stories a while ago. You can’t know if your work is going to be accepted or not. And stories I’m writing now or have done in the last few weeks… well it is likely to be at least a couple of months before I know anything about those.

I do know a couple of competition entries haven’t been placed (no hear basically!) so I will be looking at those again at some point and seeing what else can be done. There is always room for improvement in these things!

But taking the long view, having work nearly always out there or on the point of being about to be out there, ARE good things and I’ve found both very useful. No time to mope over no hears or rejections for a start! On to the next story. Allow a little time to go by. Look at the old story and see if it can be revamped or whether it is worth trying a different competition with it.

Always things to be working on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Ebook -v- Paperback

Now I must declare an interest in this topic. I’ve been published in both formats and so, naturally, I love both. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

My trusty old Kindle goes with me whenever I’m away at events or holiday (not that this is happening right now!). But when I want some comfort reading, I will nearly always turn to a trusty paperback.

Flash fiction and short story collections I nearly always have on the Kindle. Most of the novels I read are in paperback.

I have a nice mixture of ebook and paperback for non-fiction books. (And yes I do take advantage of special offers on ebooks. It can and does make the difference as to whether I buy a book at all at times and this is another reason why I have no problems with book format. I also don’t mind at all if my book and the anthologies my work has appeared in sell well in either format! Naturally, ideally I’d like them to do well in both!).

So however you read, enjoy.

Whatever you read, enjoy!

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AUTHOR SERVICES/ONLINE EVENT NEWS

Image Credit:  Pixabay or Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

NEWS

A lot has happened writing wise over the last few days.

Firstly, I now have an Author Services page on Allison Symes: Collected Works as I now work as an independent editor, as well as an author. More details below in the relevant post with the appropriate link.

Secondly, the launch of the ebook Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s Waterloo Arts Festival is this coming Friday, 12th June from 6.30 pm.  There will be videos, you can meet, via Zoom, the authors including me and more details follow in the post below. You will need a ticket but the event is free. Link is below. Hope to see you there!

Cyberlaunches are a good chance to promote you and your work but you need to engage with people rather than boom at themDo invite people to your launch - you do have to actively invite them and then hopefully entertain them with your launch too

Facebook – General – and Author Services News

There is often a lot of “behind the scenes” work with writing. I find it bubbles away nicely in the background for ages and then, oomph, it is all ready for sending out to a publisher or a competition or what have you.

Or you are preparing various things ready for taking your writing journey on to another stage and I am at that point now.

I have updated my website as I now have an Author Services page available.

Some of you, I know, will already know I carry out editing work. Details are on my Author Services page.

There are two sides to this page: one is my work as an author. I am happy to give talks and run workshops etc. The other is the editing side.

Full details of how to contact me are on the Author Services page.

And for other writers taking new steps on their writing journey, may I wish you the best of luck as I take new steps on mine!

And from FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN FACEBOOK PAGE

I don’t think there can ever be said to be THE perfect time to do something new! It’s a question, I think, of doing what prep work you can and then picking as good a time as possible as suits you.

Just to say I now have an Author Services page on my website (link below) and there are two sides to this. One is for my work as an editor. Full details of what I do and how to contact me are on the page.

The other is for my work as a published writer. I am very happy to give talks and run workshops on flash fiction. Do see my page for more details.

Allison Symes and published works LARGE VERSION

Facebook – General – and Waterloo Arts Festival News

This Friday night is Waterloo Arts Festival night – well the writing side of it is!

Of course, it has to be online but the event is free. You do need a ticket for the event but see the link.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers, including yours truly.

Hope to see you!😊

 

Now on to the rest of this round-up!

Facebook – General –

The Book Cover Challenge – Days 1 to 5

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

 

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A wonderful detective novel.

Day 2
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #RichardHardie who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Epic fantasy. And one of my favourite film adaptations too.

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Epic in every sense

Day 3
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #WendyHJones who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle. Great stories with the most intriguing detective ever, I think, and the forerunner for EVERY flawed one that has come since too.

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A timeless detective in many ways.

Day 4
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #JenWilson who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? A ChristmasCarol by Charles Dickens. My favourite ghost story (and I love the Muppet version of it too).

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Not many writers get to add to a tradition but Dickens did/has.

Day 5

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #SharonBradshaw who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A classic and brilliant example of irony in romantic fiction.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says "The Penguin English Library JANE AUSTEN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE"

This book introduced me to irony in fiction and is such a wonderful story.

Days 6 and 7 will feature in my next post.

Facebook – General

I’m taking part in a Book Cover challenge on Facebook at the moment (see above) and it is making me think about what books I’ve chosen and why.

I’m also trying to marry up who I nominate to take part with books I’ve chosen I think they’ll also be fans of and not to make their life more difficult here, honest! Rather it will free them up to choose other huge favourites in their selections because we will all have the same dilemma. We can only choose HOW many?!

It is difficult limiting yourself to 7 books given the challenge lasts for 7 days but as a celebration of stories and books in general, this is great fun to take part in! Many thanks to #JaneBrocklehurst for nominating me.

I wrote a Chandler’s Ford Today post a while back about what books I would take to a desert island. Hope you enjoy. And do share which you would take with you and why.

 

Saddened but not surprised that Swanwick has been cancelled for this year. Will miss seeing everybody but am already looking forward to next year’s event. 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s unlikely to crop up as one of people’s all time favourite years, is it?!

Yet ironically good things are happening. Zoom has brought people together (and my social life has perked up a lot thanks to it though I guess that does say more about me!😆😆).

Talking of Zoom, I’m looking forward to the online Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition event on Friday night. Will report back in due course. (And do come if you can. Link to event to follow further down).

And I hope, after the event, to share the video I made for this after the event where I read an extract from my winning story. It was great fun to write and I look forward to sharing that.

It was good fun making the video too and it’s not something I would have thought to have done, had events gone on as they usually would have done.

Meanwhile I’m writing away and looking forward to answering interview questions I’ve been sent. In some ways lockdown hasn’t changed my routine at all. I sit at a desk and write! But it is the not seeing friends and going to book related events I’m missing the most.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

These things are all relevant to a cyberlaunches which are often used to launch a book at a discount rateImages like this help set an online party atmosphere

 

A good opening line either sets up an intriguing premise OR lays out a problem you know has got to be solved by the story’s end.

A good closlng line either delivers on that premise OR resolves the problem.

What is talked about less often are the lines in between! They matter too, obviously.

One thing I like about flash is it forces you to ensure every word, every sentence moves the story forward, so no saggy middles here! But there’s no reason why you can’t use that same technique of asking yourself DOES this line add anything useful to what ever kind of fiction you write. And that question I’ve found useful so many times. It helps me focus on what really matters after all.

My top tips for flash fiction writing would be:-

1. Limit the number of characters. Especially for those stories under 500 words, you may well get away with only one character.

2. Focus on what the situation is. There has to be a moment of change so what is the single most important thing we the reader have to know about your character and the situation they’re in? That is the story.

3. Your opening line needs to lure your reader in but don’t worry if you need several goes at this. Often I will draft a story and a better opening line comes to me when I’m editing.

4. Your closing line needs to deliver on the promise of your story so ensure it does. I love twist endings, punchline endings, etc., but deliberately mix up the type I write as I don’t want all of my stories to be finished using the same format each time. The ending has to be appropriate to the character and tone of the story too.

5. Read your story out loud if you can. Listen for the flow. Look out for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you do, a reader will.

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Time spans for flash fiction, appropriately, are best kept short. I focus a lot on one character, THE important event in their story as that IS the story, and the action is usually wrapped up fairly quickly. The pace is quick too.

I do, however, sometimes write more reflective pieces where a character looks back at their life. My They Don’t Understand is a good example of that.

I also sometimes have characters filling in important information as they are doing something. Time for Tea starts like that and you get to see more of the character’s attitudes, thoughts, and plans as the story unfolds. It is clear those thoughts etc have been building up over a long time but it is NOW they are doing something. That, of course, is the hook for a reader – to find out what that something is and does the character achieve what they think they will?

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – 

The Right Time For a Good Book

I prefer to read in bed but the right time for a good book varies from reader to reader of course.

What is your preferred reading time?

Mind you, I am pretty good at sneaking in extra reading over lunch, though I usually read magazines then. Still it is all grist to the reading mill and I get more read so win-win!

Reading for me is principally a form of entertainment.

Secondly, it is a form of widening my experience of the world. When life is tough, I will always go for books that make me feel better, often tried and tested favourites.

When life is okay, I will want to stretch myself with my reading and that is when I will read books and authors new to me. The good thing is with life being so full of ups and downs for everyone, I get to “do” both kinds of reading over time. So that’s okay.

I like the Look Inside feature on Amazon when trying out new authors and most of the time I do end up buying, having liked what I’ve seen.

I tend to go through phases here too when I will be downloading a few things, none for a bit, and then downloading again. Just as well really that an electronic book shelf cannot give way!

When do you decide it’s time to widen your reading horizons? Is it just based on friends’ recommendations or do you have to be in the right frame of mind to “bite”?

Usually I will take a look at a book a friend recommends and if the blurb, the cover, and the Look Inside attract me, I download. But all of it has to appeal.

And that’s something I try to bear in mind with my author hat on. How can I get these details right for a potential reader of mine?

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Ups and Downs

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay or Pexels supplied the images unless stated otherwise.

Facebook – General

I love the buzz when I’m outlining a story idea and can’t wait to write it out properly. Always a good sign that. I find the same when preparing blog posts. I take the view if I like or dislike a piece, readers will have the same attitude so I make sure I darned well like the thing myself!😊

Am glad I tend to write in the evenings when it is cooler. That is really helping as I don’t cope with the heat well (I know, does anyone?). Lady is doing fine but she prefers the cooler temperatures. (And she is currently snoozing on the sofa – it’s a tough life and all that!).

 

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It has been a good weekend. I’ve sent back what should be my final edit on Tripping the Flash Fantastic and I now have the fun task of thinking of material for the back cover etc.

I also want to start thinking ahead for a cyberlaunch much later on in the year. If there is one thing I have learned from the one held for From Light to Dark and Back Again, it is that it is never too soon to write and prepare good material for use on such things!

I’m starting to plan out my next short story competition entry and it is one of those where I know I need to have the ending right and then work backwards to the start. This technique works really well for twist ending stories (which this one will be in due course) and it ensures that your twist is reasonable and well thought out. All good fun to do.

I’ll also be looking at Changing Direction as my CFT topic for Friday. I’ll share a bit more about that during the week.

Have a fab writing week and a fun one (I intend to!)! Time flies etc etc.

 

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Halfway point of the year already. Not that 2020 I think is going to be remembered with any great fondness once it is over. Still pressing on…

What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?

For me, it’s getting started but once I’m up and going, it’s no holds barred until the finish. This is why I outline my character(s) as well as the story plot line. I’ve found that overcomes the hesitation in getting started scenario. So naturally I’m going to stick with doing this.

What has been the most useful writing tip for you?

For me, it is to always edit on paper rather than on screen. You miss things on screen. Your mind fills in missing words in a way that doesn’t happen with paper.The gaps there are glaringly obvious and hit you between the eyes. Well they do for me anyway!

What is the most enjoyable aspect of writing for you?

For me, it’s having finished a piece of work and sent it off for a market or competition, knowing it is the best I can make it and, therefore, knowing it is in with a good chance.

Hope you’ve had a good start to your writing week.

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The writing life is full of ups and downs, of course. I’ve taken a lot of comfort from the fact that every writer experiences this. It is good to know it isn’t just you. It isn’t just me.

But I don’t know about you but every so often, a good “dollop” of encouragement is called for, so what have I found most helpful here?

This is not a definitive list and please add to it in the comments! What I hope is some of what follows is of use. I know it has been to me over the years.

1. EVERY WRITER FACES REJECTIONS

How you handle them though is up to you! My first reaction on getting them is to grimace and mutter a few naughty words. Later, if I’ve been lucky enough to have feedback, I study that for what I can learn from it.

If there is no feedback and it is a case I simply haven’t heard back from a competition or market (so know the piece is going nowhere fast), I look at the story again. Is there anything I can improve? Are there alternative competitions or markets where it might be worth trying the piece again?

I’ve done this a number of times over the years and have often, though not always, had a story accepted by one market where it had been rejected by another one. So this is always worth bearing in mind and I know I’m not the only writer who has found this.

2. CHECK OUT OTHER WRITERS’ TALES OF OVERCOMING REJECTIONS

You will find something to encourage you. And if you want somewhere to start here, I am going to recommend my Chandler’s Ford Today page at http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/ as I’ve had the great privilege of interviewing a number of writers and all of the have fascinating and encouraging insights.

Many of them talk about their road to publication and it can be a rocky one at times.

3. CHANGING DIRECTION

Changing direction and experimenting with different forms of writing is huge fun, often beneficial, and led me into flash fiction.

I’ll be talking more about this in my CFT post on Friday. So don’t feel bad if a change of direction seems the right thing for you to do. There is no one size fits all here.

In the depths of the “down” stage, I’ve found it helpful to recall the up moments. Publication is the obvious one but before that it was things like entering more competitions than I ever had before, getting feedback (and seeing more positive comments) and so on. Don’t discount things like that. They mount up.

I’ve found it helps to know that the ups and downs are normal. Having wonderful supportive writing friends is also a huge encouragement so thank you all. You know who you are!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as the random question generator, I also use the random phrase type. These are useful for sparking ideas off for themes for stories. Sometimes they can be used as phrases to be planted somewhere in the story itself.

For example, one phrase that came up just now when I looked on this was “Let Her Rip”. Now what could be done with that?

Firstly, it could be used as a title.

Secondly, it could be a catchphrase your main character uses.

Thirdly, you can take the story two ways here. What would happen if your characters DOES “let her rip”? And again what would happen if they can’t? And what do they mean by the phrase anyway? (I’d also like to know why her and not him and yes you could get a story from exploring that idea).

Often it is the getting started on a story that can be problematic. You know you want to write but where to begin? Using the generators is a good way to overcome that. You should find something comes up that sparks your imagination and away you go! Good luck.

At the moment, I’m tending to have a session or two during the week specifically for flash fiction (and I’m often using the wonderful prompts in the Prompts book by Gill James as my story triggers). In the fullness of time, I hope I will get another book out of these.

The rest of the week is for my CFT post, any standard length short stories I’m preparing for competition entry, and my longer term projects. So never short of things to do then!

The lovely thing with flash though,and why I will always return to it regardless of what else I write, is that it is perfect for those writing sessions when I don’t have a lot of time.

For those 10 to 15 minute slots, I can draft a flash story or two (depending on word count length). Those time periods mount up over time and it is how I put From Light to Dark and Back Again together.

It was going back over how much I had written that I realised I had enough material to send to Chapeltown Books and, for me, the icing on the cake here was adding in some extra stories that I knew had not appeared anywhere else.

So never despair of not having enough writing time. Do any of us really ever feel we have enough time? But learning to write to the slots you do have available is a really useful thing to do and will help make you more productive.

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As flash is, if you like, “concentrated” fiction, the emotional impact of it can be huge. The emotional reactions generated cannot be diluted by extra prose because there simply isn’t the room to have that extra prose.

There should be no extra prose whatever fiction you write incidentally. All that goes into the story should be relevant to the tale but with flash, because of the restricted word count, you do have to be more selective when choosing what details HAVE to be included. You haven’t got the room for sub-plots etc.

So how to go about ensuring that emotional impact is as powerful as you’d like it to be?

The best way I know, and this applies to other fiction too, is:-

Your character desperately needs or wants something.

You, being the thoughtful author that you are, stop them from getting that something!

Your character, being well thought out, will strive to overcome those obstacles and has some success until…

You, as ever thoughtful author, put a bigger obstacle in their way OR the character HAS to meet their objective within a certain time span and the clock is ticking…

Feel that tension ratchet up!

And if you feel the tension ratchet up as you write your story, a reader will too on reading it!

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How do I judge when to write a flash fiction story from start to end or to begin with the finishing line and work backwards?

It all depends on the line I’ve come up with. Some are obvious endings to a story, especially the twist ones. Others I could place at either end of the story because they would make a cracking start or a fabulous finish (I hope!).

When I have lines like that, I work out a few ideas and I go for the one that I like best, almost certainly because it makes the most impact on me (and therefore would the most impact on a reader). That usually tells me where my first line should be placed.

I find spider diagrams useful here for helping me to jot out ideas and then work out what could come from those threads.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Recovering From a Reading Drought

Occasionally I have a reading drought and I am glad it is a rare occurrence. It nearly always happens when I’m over-tired or stressed etc and it just means I can’t face reading anything for a while. I’m just getting over one now (and by something that is definitely not a coincidence, it started a week or so into lockdown here in the UK).

Now this is not the usual me by any means. I DO read all the notices on the fish and chip shop walls (when we’re allowed to go back there) and yes I read the back of the cornflakes packet eons ago!

I’ve learned just to bear with this drought because I know it will pass and it is only temporary. How do I get out of it again?

I turn to humorous prose, which is one of my great loves anyway. It rarely fails to cheer me and, once I’ve started reading again, the lure of books keeps me hooked, which is what I want of course.

I’ve had no problem writing during this lockdown. I do wonder if it is my subsconcious telling me “you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two!”

Any thoughts on how to tell my subsconcious to shut up and leave me alone so I can carry on reading would be welcomed!

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Competitions, Reading, and Publication News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

Facebook – General

Every so often, I go through my list of potential competitions and whittle them down. I inevitably don’t get to enter all of them (time!) but I like to have a shortlist of contenders to pick from and I always go for the themes that appeal to me most. I do go in for open theme competitions too but actually prefer the set themes. I like to have a framework to work towards.

I wish I could say tidying the paperwork up immediately triggered inspiration for the Best Writing Idea Ever but I think I’d need the Writing Fairy to make a special appearance for that one to happen! 😆😆 I’ll let you know if she ever shows up….

 

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Have been slowly getting back into reading again via the Kindle.

I talked about how I’ve not read that much since the lockdown began in my CFT post last week so I am pleased the drought is beginning to clear.

I have had patches of not reading much before, mainly at times of great upset/stress etc., but also know that those patches pass so it is a relief to be slowly coming out of this one. (The last time was around the time I lost my dad, just over three years ago and I didn’t start reading properly again until a week after the funeral).

And yes I’m reading humour. It is always what I turn to first to kickstart my reading “diet” again.

And if you find you’re not writing or reading so much (or both), go easy on yourself. See this as a temporary stage only. It is!

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Managed to do a fair bit of editing over the weekend so am pleased with that. My CFT post this week will be looking at books on the radio and will feature YA author, Richard Hardie, as well as yours truly. More on that later in the week.

I must admit one advantage of writing mainly in the evenings is not having the heat browbeat me down! (I never work that well in very hot weather. Mind you, does anyone apart from the ice cream sellers?!😆).

I’ve long found creative writing to be therapeutic. I suppose it is because finding a form of artistic expression that suits me is so relaxing. I see writing as my wind-down time. I like to feel at the end of a session I used the time productively even if I “only” produced two flash fiction stories, say. I want to feel happy with what I’ve written even at first draft stage (because I know the work will only get better after that).

For longer term projects, I want to feel as I’ve made progress and I can see where I’ve got to go next.

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post tonight. My story Breaking Out is now on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy.

The opening line comes from a prompt I contributed to the Prompts book produced by Gill James (see picture below). Do check it out in the usual places. You won’t run out of writing prompts!

 

Prompts 2020 by [Gill James]

Facebook – General

As you know, when I’m planning out a character I focus on their major trait(s) and there usually is more than one. After all, someone isn’t just brave, say. They may well be honest, charitable, compassionate and so on as well. It is the combination of traits that sparks a character (and therefore the story).

A character who is generally honest but is forced to lie to protect people they love is going to be a character I want to read about. I will want to find out what happens as a result of that lie but also how the character deals with their internal conflict here. While they’ll be happy to protect loved ones, they won’t be happy to have had to lie so how do they handle that?

 

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Facebook –

From Light to Dark and Back Again – Story Time!

Story time again. Random question generator time again. Hope you enjoy.

The question was what are the two things you would do if you woke up to find you were invisible? My answers? Panic and wonder whether I’d ever “come back”! But I thought it would be fun to write a story on this.

IN TIME

I knew something was up the moment the alarm woke me. Oh it was set for the usual time – 5.40 am – but when I realised I couldn’t see my hand as I went to switch the wretched thing off, I began to panic. I thought at first I’d lost my sight but then realised I was looking at where my hand should be and I could see my wardrobe in one corner of my room. Opposite was my chair.

I got up and went towards the full length mirror which was something I’d inherited from my gran. There was nothing in the mirror. Now I know I’m not a vampire and you’ll just have to take my word for it on that. This is when my panic settings went from mild to through the roof and up into the stratosphere territory. Well, you just would panic, wouldn’t you?

And then I remembered. I was rushing home from work and bumped into a scatter brained old lady who stepped in front of me in such a way I had no time to stop. I shouted at her to look where she was going, was she blind or something, and yes I know I was bloody rude and I am sorry about that. I’d had a horrendous day at work and I just wanted to get home. I know – no excuses but I want you to know I’m not normally rude.

Anyway she called out that she would teach me to look and I just laughed at that and thought nothing of it. I laughed even more when she got a big stick from her handbag and waved it in my direction. Who did she think she was – a fairy godmother or something?

I don’t know what to do. Will this wear off? She did call out I’d have to come and grovel to her soon. I laughed at that too.
Trouble is, it doesn’t seem so damned funny now.

I’ll be off. I’ll get my coat. If I’ve got to grovel, I’d rather get it over and done with.

Ends

Allison Symes – 23rd May 2020

 

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Hope you enjoyed my story, In Time, yesterday. This is the first time I’ve used the random question generator as the theme of the story, rather than as the title, opening or closing line. So yet another use for the generators then!

I’ve sometimes come across writing prompts that I would like to have a go at but I’m not happy with the ideas I come up with so I will bear using the prompt as a theme instead. I think that will give more flexibility.

What I would be inclined to do here is save such stories generated this way for open competitions where you set the theme anyway.

It means an idea could well produce something for you that you might otherwise have written off if you weren’t happy with something you’ve prepared with a specific theme-set competition in mind.

I’ve always found it best to submit the very best stories I can produce. Anything I’m not happy with for any reason doesn’t get binned. Neither does it get submitted. I save it and see if I can salvage something from it later and usually I can. Okay it can’t go in for that competition but that’s fine. If the author’s not happy with the story, the competition judge won’t be either!

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What would you say are your favourite kinds of stories and why?

I love:-

Humorous prose, especially fantasy, as I enjoy a good laugh.

Crime(though not the very violent type) as I enjoy the puzzle and seeing justice being done.

History – fiction and non-fiction. I learn from both. A well told historical fiction story does seem to transport me back to the era it is set in. (Music can do this too. I love Ralph Vaughan-Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for that reason). A good non-fiction book will show me aspects of a historical character I’d not considered before.

Fairytales –first love, storywise. Always enjoy seeing the deserving get what they deserve (and this is even more true for the villains!).

And what I love most about flash fiction is the form is open enough for you to write in those genres and many more. All you need worry about is the word count and even there you have flexibility from the very short to the right on the 1,000 words limit. There are competitions and markets to suit the entire range too.

 

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I mix up how I approach writing flash fiction in terms of word count. There are times I know I want to write to a specific count (usually 75 or 100 words) for a chosen market and/or competition.

At other times, having outlined my story and character(s), I write it and then work out what word count it works best at. I then keep that story one side until a suitable market/competitiion comes up.

If a story works best at 250 words, I keep it there and won’t try and edit it down to get to a sub-200 word competition.

And how do I judge where a story works best?

It’s always about the impact of the character for me. The next thing I ask myself is whether there is anything I could add to or take out of the story which would improve the tale and its impact. When the answer is no, I’m there!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events

One of the things I miss most as a writer at the moment is the ability to go to book events.

Much as I do deeply appreciate what is available online, and it is a lifeline, I miss going into libraries and bookshops.

I also miss going to author events and I look forward to being able to do all of these things again in due course.

The Waterloo Arts Festival is going to be online this year. I’ll be taking part in that as one of the winners of their writing competition and I made a video for this.

It was good fun to do but oh I shall miss meeting up in person with my fellow writers. (We will all miss the pub lunch beforehand too!).

But the good news is books can still be celebrated and they should be. Of all the times to need books for escapism, it is now, isn’t it?

Whatever you’re reading, I hope you have a wonderful time “between the covers” and, whoever it is you’re reading, do consider leaving a review in the usual places including here. It really does help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radio News and Preparation

Image Credit:  As ever, images are from Pixabay or Pexels if I’ve not said otherwise.

RADIO NEWS

RADIO NEWS: I’m thrilled to say I’ll be on Chat and Spin Radio tonight at about 9.35 pm TONIGHT (UK time) – 19th May 2020 – talking about my great writing love – flash fiction. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share!

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

I hope to share the link to the show in my next blog on Friday this week.

Image from Chat and Spin Radio

The above ties in with my next post too!

Facebook – General

Preparation is key for so much in writing. For my stories, as you know I outline my characters. It helps me work out whether the character I’ve planned really does suit the story I’ve got in the back of my head.

A feisty character needs the material to suit! A usually gentle character needs to show what she is made of when push comes to shove.

Preparation includes getting the story down and specifically allowing enough time away from it to be able to edit it properly. This is particularly relevant as I’ll shortly be working on final edits for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but the time away from it will help me take in and process my editor’s comments the way they need to be processed!

It also means allowing enough time for final polishing before still getting a story in ahead of a final deadline. I got into the habit of taking about a week off any official deadline for a competition and making MY date the day by which I’d get my tale off. This comes from the days of sending everything in by good old snail mail but it is still a good habit to develop now email submissions are the norm.

I’ve found it pays to plan ahead a bit. Knowing roughly what I’m doing when and why has helped me get more done.

Oh and the don’t give up advice below is something I’ve found useful though I do wish the picture came with an extra bit. It IS okay to change direction if you want to – after all that is how I discovered flash fiction!

 

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Always plenty of space to fill!  Pixabay

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Most of my dialogue writing is for my longer flash fiction tales (i.e. those over 750 words usually) and short stories (1500 to 1700 or thereabouts). I do enjoy writing dialogue. What I have to watch is not writing conversational “ping-pong” just because I can and I love doing it. It all has to be relevant to moving the story on. I always find editing dialogue the hardest to do but my golden rule is that it has to be so important the story can’t work without it.

I love the moment when I know I’ve got my characters right as it is then that I know instinctively the dialogue they’re coming out with is exactly what someone like them would say. It’s a good feeling. And when the words are really flowing it can feel a bit like taking dictation.

Now where’s my notepad?😆😆

 

 

Will have further publication news to share fairly soon so looking forward to that. Over the course of a week, I try to ensure I’ve got at least one story written, one resting, and I like to know what I’m going to be writing next too. I like to mix up the flash fiction and short story writing too.

My favourite part of writing? Difficult to say but I do love it when the characters come to life and the story just flows out. Mind you, I am always relieved to have a first draft done. It proves to me there WAS a story there. The editing refines and sharpens that story and I do like that element. I always overwrite but that’s okay. All unnecessary elements are ruthlessly struck out later.

But I learned a long time ago that, for me, I’ve got to write the story first and edit it later. I can’t edit as I go. I’ve got to know there is something there to edit first.

 

HONOURABLE MENTION!

Many thanks to Lance Greenfield, a fellow Swanwicker, for his honourable mention of yours truly on his blog, Write to Inspire. To find out more, follow the link and his post for 18th May 2020! All images of Swanwick were taken by me last year.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be talking about flash fiction on Chat and Spin Radio later this evening. Will talk more about this later in the week when I have a link back to share. If you can tune in live, I’m on at about 9.35 pm. Links up above and I hope to share the link for the show itself in my next post here on Friday.

And yes I am always pleased to wave the flag for flash fiction as a writing form!

Oh and I am preparing this with just under an hour to go before I’m on. Nervous and looking forward to it all at the same time!

 

It was fun writing yesterday’s post about one-liners for well known characters (see below and see this as a bit of a tease!), but it is not a bad idea to be able to sum up your people succinctly.

When I’m planning characters for new flash fiction, I know what their major trait is and how that is going to help them or, even more often, land them right in the proverbial mire.

So I will think of something like rebellious fairy, has soft spot for kittens, and that soft spot is exploited by her boss in an attempt to get said rebellious fairy to do as she is told for once. So that makes for a good one line summary of the story.

Character summary? Rebellious fairy, soft spot for kittens.

And away I go.

 

 

 

Just for some fun, how about some one-liners for well known characters?

Cinderella – I could really do with a trip to the shoe shop.

Dracula – I have the devil’s own job getting an appointment at the dentists, can’t imagine why.

Snow White – I’ve gone right off apples for some reason.

Hansel and Gretel – well, yes, okay, maybe we should have got a sat nav.

I love using one-liners in flash fiction and often end a story with them. They’re great for humorous tales and are a fab way of ending a story on an upbeat “oomph” moment.

 

I don’t use a lot of dialogue in my flash fiction. That’s partly due to word count but mainly because I tend to focus a lot on telling you one character’s story. For that, I prefer to show you their thoughts and attitudes as “they” narrate the story.

I do use dialogue more in the short story competitions (1500 words or so) as there is more room and it is lovely being able to have more characters in the tale.

But I do love the pithy, precise nature of flash fiction writing. For me it is apt that my characters are direct to the reader in “their” commentary.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What I Look For In A Good Book

Regardless of genre, what I look for first in a good book is a gripping lead character. I don’t necessarily have to like them (!) but I do need to be intrigued by them enough to make me want to read their story.

This applies to non-fiction too if you accept the “narrative voice” of the text is a kind of character too. Does that voice grip me enough to keep on reading or does it send me to sleep? (Never a good sign that!).

Once I’ve finished the book, is it going to be one of those I enjoyed reading but won’t read again? Or will it reach the dizzy heights of being one of those absolute favourites I happily turn to time and again when I need them back in my life for a bit?

I don’t know about you but I do like light reading anyway and I especially like it now. I am not going to be reading the doom and gloom merchants (I can get that from watching the news).

I know the reality of what is out there but it doesn’t mean I have to read about it.

My reading is about entertainment and escapism and those things shouldn’t be despised.

So my criteria for what is a good book does boil down to its entertainment value and that is down to the character portrayal.

Oh and many thanks to #JimBates for a great conversation on this post! See the Goodreads link itself for that.

 

 

 

Reading Debts and Colours

Image Credit:  As ever all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

It’s colourful out in the garden at the moment with the laburnum in bloom and my favourite, the lilac, out too. I wouldn’t wear the combination of yellow and purple but for garden plants, they work beautifully!

Colours are a good way to work in a bit more detail into your fiction for few words. For example, instead of saying something was red, say it was crimson or scarlet. Be specific.

And if you want some inspiration do a search for colour charts. The paint companies have loads online and there are other lists of colours available including nail polish shades. So think pink (to quote the Pink Panther), think blush, think hot pink etc etc.

I love the telling detail in a story. I don’t need lots of description. Writing flash fiction also means I haven’t room for it anyway. But I can picture a crimson chaise longue better than if the colour isn’t in there.

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Submitted a short story for a competition today and have picked out the next one to have try at so am pleased with that.

I try to ensure I have a story “out there”, one I’m drafting, and a completed one I’m “resting” so I can come back and edit it later.

I need sufficient distance away from a story before I can edit it. I’ve found if I don’t do that, I have one of two responses to the story. One is it is total rubbish. The other it is the best thing I’ve ever written! Neither is true!

What IS true is there is a potential great story here but it needs the dross editing away from it, turns of phrase sharpened up etc. Nobody ever writes a perfect first draft and that’s fine.

I love Terry Pratchett’s quote that a first draft is “you telling yourself the story”. And that does sum it up brilliantly. It is then a question of making that story as good as you can make it before sending it out to the market/competitions. But you have to be able to realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of your first draft and time away from the story does help enormously with that.

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What proverbs could be adapted for writers?

1. If at first you don’t succeed…. rewrite.

2. Try, try, try again and don’t be afraid to change writing direction if you need to do so. If you find novel writing is not for you, go for short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction writing etc. Try the different forms out and have fun with them. It should become apparent which other forms take your fancy. Run with them!

3. Never say… no to a good edit. We all need them!

4. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Have this thought in mind when you editing. Look for the weak points in narrative or characterisation. Think about what a reader might consider weak. Put your work aside for a while so you can read it as a reader would. It can help to record a piece of work and play it back so you hear it as a reader would.

5. A little bird told me that networking with other writers will bring you friends who understand your compulsion to write. The writing community is generous with its advice and support and we all need that! And in time you will be able to share advice and support based on what you’ve learned. What goes around really does come around here but it is generally beneficial. I’ve had cause to be grateful for good writing advice which has come my way and I’ve no doubt I will be again!

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One event I was looking forward to going to was the Waterloo Arts Festival but that is now being held online and I will share more details about that a bit nearer the time. Meanwhile my social life on Zoom continues to blossom…!

Have submitted another story for a competition so am well pleased with that and have picked another one to try. The lovely thing about this is even if the stories don’t do anything in these competitions, I can always revamp the tales and try them again in other competitions later on.

Very little is wasted in writing. You may not get to use something immediately but that’s okay. You may find it useful later on. And you can always learn from what worked, what didn’t and so on. A number of times a story that didn’t work out in one environment found a home in one that suited it better.

Persistence, the willingness to relook at and rewrite stories, and stamina – all underrated qualities but oh so necessary!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was talking about colours in my author page spot earlier this evening and looked back at how often I have used colour in my flash tales. There is the odd mention in From Light to Dark and Back Again but I do have some linked flash tales which revolve around a colour coming up in my follow-up book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

Telling details that are useful for flash fiction precisely because they don’t take up a lot of room include:-

1. Colour

2. Noise/Sound (I don’t want to know something was noisy in a story. I want to know the kind of noise. For example, I would rather read Martina dropped the saucepan lid for the third time as opposed to Martina was being clumsy in the kitchen. The first version gives me more detail as to HOW Martina is being clumsy for a start and I can picture it. Being clumsy could mean almost anything here. I’ve found it has paid to have specific details which a reader can visualise, even if it means a few extra words, than something general that they can’t imagine).

3. State of decoration When a story calls for the action to take place in a “set”, a brief indication of the state of decoration of that set helps make a greater impact. For example, if I told you poor old Martina’s kitchen was dimly lit though you could still see the peeling paintwork, that will conjure up a stronger image than if I said Martina’s kitchen was shabby and dark. The peeling paintwork is a specific detail a reader can hone in on.

So think specifics. A reader literally doesn’t need chapter and verse here but well planted details do make a big impact.

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