Goodbye to A Great Lady

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
I spent a lot of Monday, 19th September 2022, along with so many others, watching the funeral of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. I share some thoughts on that below but there was no way I could call this post anything else. She truly was a great lady. Goodbye for now, Ma’am. We will meet again.

 

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20th September 2022
Most moving moments for me watching the Queen’s funeral yesterday were the corgis, the pony, and the tolling of Big Ben. Have never heard that. (Last time it would definitely have been done would have been for the funeral of the Queen’s father, King George VI. I don’t know if was done for the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill).

Writing wise, don’t forget to use the senses when you can do so in your fiction. We get our characters seeing things, sometimes hearing them, but don’t neglect the senses of touch, taste, and smell. These should figure “naturally” in your story. If your character is in a cafe, we’d expect them to smell food, drink coffee etc.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Times Past, my story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link here if you missed it – and do let me know what you think of Granny Mary.


Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

 

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

The late Queen’s funeral was a moving and beautiful tribute to her. I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon was wonderful and the music and processions were just stunning. The flowers were so lovely.

I salute all those who worked so hard behind the scenes on this.

My thoughts and prayers go out to King Charles and the Royal Family,

Long live the King.

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18th September – bonus post – Authors Electric
Apologies folks – I almost forgot to share my latest post on Authors Electric. I talk about Creative Non-Fiction, which is one of the courses I went to during my week away at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August. Hope you find it useful.


Screenshot 2022-09-18 at 20-36-49 Creative Non-Fiction by Allison Symes

18th September 2022
Am glad the weather is keeping okay for The Queue. Not surprised they’re shutting it later on – I hope everyone gets to go through okay. It is kind of bizarre to think of shutting a queue though! Only in Britain I suspect… I did watch a little of the live streaming from Westminster Hall yesterday and found watching it very moving.

I’ll be looking at Looking Back for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. I usually do write an autumnal reflection piece at some point in September or October for CFT and it seemed apt do to this now.

I look back at my decades on this planet with some of the major events from the late Queen’s time and discuss why momentous moments should make us take time out to reflect. We need that time before we can move on. More on Friday.

How do you get your characters to show emotion? I tend to use their dialogue – there are certain things you would say when upset, angry etc that you would not say at other times. I also use gestures.

I can sometimes get other characters to bluntly ask Character A something along the lines of “what the hell is wrong with you?” etc. The important point though is I am showing and not telling here and you can mix up how you do this to keep things fresh and interesting for a reader.

17th September 2022
It is touching seeing The Queue – am glad the weather is keeping okay – at least it is dry! I was told that the Salvation Army are out there issuing out 1000 cups of tea an hour. That has to be a record, hasn’t it? It’s an apt one that’s for sure!

My late mother always used to say if tea was alcoholic, she’d never be sober but I don’t think even she could’ve brewed, yet alone drunk, so much tea in that kind of time scale!

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Times Past, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link given further up. This story is in letter format. I use this every now and again. It’s a great form for a “two-handed” story with two characters only (and one of them can be “off stage”). It is effectively an all dialogue kind of tale so you need to ensure your lead here has a strong voice. Here, I think you’ll visualise Granny Mary well from what she says in her letter.

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20th September 2022
A day later this week for obvious reasons. Hope you enjoy my latest story on YouTube – Precious.

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

Whenever there are big occasions, there are stand out moments. These will be the things you treasure. The Queen’s funeral had so many of these moments though seeing the corgis and Her Late Majesty’s pony was an emotional moment.

The beauty of Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor were amazing.

And I had to smile a little as the state hearse left London via Chiswick (the A4) and the flyover there. When we used to visit my late father’s family in London, we would often come into the capital that way. Lost count of the number of times we passed by Fuller’s Brewery.

It was lovely to see the flowers on the road and on the hearse too.

God bless the late Queen.

Long live the King.

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18th September 2022

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting held online which will be next week. Always good fun and it has been lovely seeing some of those taking part having stories out there – more power to your pens and laptops, folks!

The great thing with flash is what with the competitions and online and other magazines out there taking this material, we do have more opportunities to build up a track record in being published. That is likely to come in handy I would’ve thought!

And, of course, you can build up a collection of stories too – the indie press is very much your friend here. I must admit this is where I find having a subscription to a writing magazine is useful – I can spot the competitions and markets that might be of interest to me more easily and it proves to be a most enjoyable read while I’m having my lunch so win-win there!

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17th September 2022
Flash is great for humorous tales. It is equally great for twist ones and those stories which manage to make you catch your breath (the “punch in the gut” ones as I like to think of them). So as well as writing different genres, you can mix up the moods of your tales too. This is a huge advantage to having a form of fiction which has to be character led. The mood for the story is led by them and the situation you put them in.

I also feel where I’m writing a story with emotional depth to it such as my Judgement Day in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, then keeping the story short helps with that impact enormously. I’m not diluting it. Also who says you need thousands of words to get a serious point across? It is not necessarily so!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Stand Out Moments

What are your favourite stand out moments in fiction?

In Pride and Prejudice for me it is where Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy again at Pemberley. You just know at that point somehow things are going to be sorted out between them. It is a question of finding out how.

For The Lord of the Rings it is when Sam Gamgee eavesdrops Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo, is hauled in, and is determined to go with his boss, no matter what. You just know at that point Frodo is going to be glad of Sam accompanying him – and so it proves.

Sometimes the pivot point in the book is the stand out moment for me. But in both Pride and Prejudice and The Lord of the Rings, there are several stand out moments. You can’t beat seeing the Ring of Power going into Mount Doom after all but that can’t happen without the earlier stand out moment.

Can there be stand out moments in non-fiction? I think so. It is usually that point where something is shown to you that you’d not realised before and you learn something new or have a theory you had confirmed or challenged (either work. The moment that makes you change your view or have it confirmed is what you remember).

The ultimate stand out moment though is the one that made you glad to have read the book!

Screenshot 2022-09-17 at 20-25-54 Stand Out Moments

 

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Emotions, Solace, and Books With Meaning


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. As you can imagine it has been a strange and sombre week here in the UK following the death of Her Majesty the Queen. Some of my posts below reflect that.

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13th September 2022
The scenes around Buckingham Palace tonight are moving. Especially when you consider the last time there were crowds like that it was for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. You are and will be much missed, Ma’am.

Portraying emotion in fiction can be tricky. I like to let my characters show you how they’re feeling by what they say (and you will also pick up how they’re saying it from context). Sometimes I use gestures to back that up. I can show you a character pacing up and down for example, muttering to themselves. I can also show them biting their nails. I don’t need to tell you they’re worried. You’d have seen that from what I’ve shown you through them.

I like to build up a character picture with small touches like that. For me that is more realistic. I don’t want”over the top” emotion here because it can spill too easily over into melodrama and that for me is a huge switch off. Why? For me it simply doesn’t feel real. And I have to be convinced by my characters. If I’m not, nobody else will be.

We need to care about the characters we read

12th September 2022
I thought the ceremonies from Scotland today for the late Queen were wonderful and most moving. The Honours of Scotland are beautiful (as is the country. Am not on holiday there this year but did enjoy my visit as part of the Scottish Association of Writers Conference earlier this year).

Many thanks for the comments coming in on On That Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. If you missed the story, you can find it here.

I’ll also be discussing Hooks for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

11th September 2022
I liked the line up of tractors as a farming salute to the late Queen on Her Majesty’s final journey. I thought that was nicely done – and also the line up of horse riders further down.

Gestures have so much meaning and they are something that can be used in fiction too. Does your lead character have a gesture they use? It doesn’t even have to be a conscious one. A character twiddling with their hair may not be aware they’re doing it but it is an immediate signal that character is nervous about something.

Gestures can be a great way to show and not tell given most gestures are immediately understandable and we can picture the character giving these out.

You can also think about what you would like your character to signal. If it is respect, do they bow their head? Doff their hat? Just say still for a moment when they don’t strictly have to do that? Readers will pick things up from context here too.

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10th September 2022
Music and books are two things that bring great solace to me – the other one is chocolate but that’s not such a healthy option, I admit.

I’ve found bringing my characters to life so I can visualise what their tastes would be and things like that means I write about them with more conviction. So working out things like what would bring them cheer, their minor vices (like chocolate!), and so on can make them seem more real to you. I think something of that does get through to readers as they read your tales.

Using your own tastes can help you work out what your characters might like. I love classical music, my characters might like hard rock, but my taste in music has given me a way in to working out what I need to know about my character. It is the way into a story that matters, I think. Once I’ve got that way in, off I go happily with my first draft.

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Flash captures a moment in a character’s life – the single most important one. This is why it is such a great tool to help you focus on what really matters to your character and to figure out just what story it is they have to share.

I always like to think of these things as my characters’ stories. I don’t want my author voice getting in the way. By taking this view, I am getting into my characters’ heads more effectively and I hope end up writing their stories with more conviction.

I also focus on getting the story down and then working out how I can improve it. I don’t worry about the word count at all until I know I’ve got everything in place and then I can figure out what word count would suit the story best. Often it isn’t what I had in the back of my mind initially but that’s okay. There’s plenty of different markets and competitions for different word counts out there.

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life

It’s Monday so time for a story again. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – this one is called Memories.

I like using flash fiction to show moments in a character’s life which are complete stories in and of themselves. They’re just smaller than the ones you see in the magazines. But that’s fine. Sometimes something is best said in 100 words or so than it would be in 1000. (You can dilute the impact for one thing).

I also think slice of life stories probably work better when kept short. You get an interesting insight into a character and enough time to develop empathy for what they’re showing you but not enough time to be bored or to think they’re whining!

It’s also why monologues/first person narration work so well in flash. Enough but not too much. The Bridport Prize describes flash as “the art of just enough” which is one of the finest descriptions of the form I’ve come across.

Flash Fiction Impact


Flash is brilliant for those ties when you might not feel/be able to write much – life does get in the way. How you feel can feed into this too but flash does mean you can write something that will be a complete piece of work. There are markets and competitions for it too so there are opportunities out there for you to do something with your work.

Even when you’re on a roll with your writing, you can still use flash an excellent warm up exercise for your “main event”. I like the flexibility of flash with regards to genre and the different word count brackets. I don’t write drabbles (100-worders) all the time. I like to mix things up.

Above all, it is lovely to write something for fun and then see what you can do with it. Flash does give more opportunities here simply because by its nature it is quicker to produce than a novel. If you can get your work out there, you get the payback of publication quicker too. And it can make a great way to build up a track record to tell a publisher about when you are sending longer works somewhere.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Books With Meaning to You

All books have meaning. For me, I have a few categories here. There are the books written by and signed for me by author friends. I love seeing those books on my shelves, Then there are the books left to me by my late mother. Then there are books I saved up to buy when I was much younger and which I still have.

Then there are books such as The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which opened up my eyes to the idea there is a whole story behind Richard III that needs further investigating. Do not take Shakespeare as gospel!

Then there are the books which make me gasp as I take in their full scale and scope – The Lord of the Rings is the obvious one.

Then there are my childhood fairytale books – The Reader’s Digest books here were my first introduction to the wonderful (and often scary) world of the fairytale. They remain a great influence on me as a writer too.

Then there are the shelves with my collections of books by P.G.Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett – the laughter shelves if you like.

So which books have special meaning to you and why?

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Regular Writing and What Makes a Good Read

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you had a good weekend. Starting to get rain, thunder etc here. Lady okay with it but does not like being woken up by it. Can’t say I blame her.

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Hope you have had a good day. Not bad here and I managed to get some swimming in as well so that’s good. Managed to duck most of the showers as well – definitely a good day. Lady and I have had plenty of soakings in our time so any time we miss out on that, we feel we have won!

Just to flag up there’s an offer on the paperback on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Writing Tip 9002.5 or thereabouts: Regular writing is important. So is life. If life does get in the way, don’t feel bad about what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.

If it means you need to have another writing session some when else, then fine, so be it. The writing journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Pacing yourself helps a lot.

I must admit I know there are some nights of the week I know I’m not going to get a lot done so I focus on blogging (just adding a few paragraphs sometimes) or I draft a flash story. It gives me something to work on when I do have more time.

 

Am grateful Lady isn’t fazed by thunder and lightning as we had some in my part of the world at about 11 last night. Her policy here is the same as mine – the sensible one of sleeping through it and letting the weather carry on without you. It’s not as if it needs our help!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Good Interviews. I’ll be looking at what writers can do to help themselves prepare for these as well as looking at interviewing your characters to find out more about them ahead of writing their stories up. Link up on Friday. (And I’m interviewing two great writers for CFT before long – more news nearer the time – so I plan to be practicing what I preach here!).

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Comments welcome for CFT


Changeable weather today with rain forecast this week. Won’t be that sorry, though it will mean Lady and I will probably get a bit wet. The trees here are shedding leaves early to conserve water so the rain is needed. And Lady and I are used to being “drips” anyway so that’s okay!

Many thanks for the comments in on Fitting In, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

Now this story is loosely based on fact. I did have a dog called Gracie and I did fall for her immediately. Inspiration for story ideas can and does come from incidents in life but also from what I read and sometimes an overheard bit of conversation which intrigues me. (Train journeys are great for that by the way).

It’s being open to the possibility you might get a story from something that is important I think. The more you read, the more you are open to being inspired too.Screenshot 2022-09-02 at 09-11-55 The Arrangement by Allison Symes

Hope you have a happy weekend.

Any autumn plans you’re looking forward to? Any books you’re planning on reading this season? I mentioned the other day I’m currently reading Churchill’s Wizards on Kindle (having just finished the excellent Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson).

It’s a lovely contrast in reading material – non-fiction -v- contemporary fiction (historical crossed with ghost). But I love to mix up my reading and ideas for stories come from both sides of my reading diet. I’ll read something and the cogs get whirring and I jot down ideas for another flash story or blog post. Reading feeds the imagination and it pays all writers to keep theirs topped up.

Best of all, it is fun to do!

And talking of reading, why not check out the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads? It is free to download, has a wealth of articles, photos, stories and, of course, my flash fiction column.

This time I’m talking about Questions and Answers in Flash Fiction. I love questions as they give you a great story structure from the word go. Your story has to answer the question set. Your question draws the reader in – they know there will have to be an answer by the end of the story. Do also check out the flash fiction pieces that came in as a result of my challenge – there are wonderful stories here.

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-32-31 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine September 2022

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Don’t forget I often post flash fiction videos to my YouTube channel. New subscribers are always welcome (and the current ones treasured!). You can find my channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2022-09-06 at 20-23-13 Allison Symes

 

It’s Monday. It’s time for a story I think. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTubeThe Right Number. No prizes for guessing which random generator I used to trigger the idea for this one!

 

Does geography come into your fiction at all? It sometimes ventures into mine. For example in A Day Out from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I refer to Earth Mark Two. I didn’t have the room in this story to say more than that but you immediately know you’re in an alien environment loosely based on what we know here.

More importantly, I didn’t need to say more than that. As ever it is the telling detail which matters here. You can bring the senses in here too.

For example, if you say Character X was standing by the blood red waterfall, you can deduce they must be on a foreign planet even if you don’t give the name of it.

Also think about how geography might impact your story (the quest tale is the obvious one here but it can be done for the smaller flash stories). If your character is on a mission to deliver cakes, (quite possibly to Grandma’s house), how could the geography get in their way and what do they do to bypass that? There’s the story. Readers will want to know if those cakes did get delivered. There’s your structure.

The geography is what causes conflict and challenge for your character and they will have to resolve it as best as they can to be able to do what they are meant to do. Usually failure is not an option (and you can increase the hazards for your character here by making it clear what will happen if they do fail).

May be an image of ‎tree and ‎text that says "‎Just give your readers what they need to know to picture your world. Everything else they will هll in from what they have read/seen on film.‎"‎‎

I often refer to some of my stories as “fairytales with bite” because they often have a twist and they’re not aimed at children. They often see characters getting their comeuppance. I also like to look at stories from the viewpoint of alternative characters to the well known ones.

Indeed my first story in print was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. My story looked at an aspect of the Cinderella story from the youngest step-sister’s viewpoint. Great fun to do.

The original fairytales are anything but twee as I’ve mentioned before. They can work so well as in flash fiction format, especially if you want a succinct story focusing on one incident in a character’s life.

My The Poison Pen from From Light to Dark and Back Again looks at the Snow White story from the viewpoint of the crone before the King marries Snow White’s mother and shows early indications of what the crone is like.

This kind of tale can add to the world of the well known fairytales I think. But you need to think about what character you’re going to use for this and work out what you can do with them. In this story’s case, I am showing the crone was like this years prior to the original Snow White story. In other words, she’s got form!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes You Read?

Leading question, hmm? What makes me read is curiosity first and foremost. I have to find out what happens to the characters in the story. Or I have to find out what an expert is imparting to me via their non-fiction work. I read to escape worries and cares for while. I read because I love stories and finding out things. I read because it is a privilege and pleasure to be able to do so.

Reading fuels the imagination and that is why I think all writers should read widely and regularly, inside and outside of their chosen genre. I’ve had story ideas come to me from reading non-fiction. Occasionally a blog idea will occur to me from reading something in a story. I also see reading as supporting the industry I am part of – makes great sense to me.

Besides, as we go into autumn in my part of the world, what is better than curling up with a hot chocolate and a good book or something fascinating on your Kindle?

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-47-58 What Makes You Read

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Getting Together With Other Writers and Book Shelf Joys

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were most of the pictures from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. A big thanks to Jennifer C Wilson for sharing the picture of the triumphant Prosecco Queens!
Hope you have had a good start to your week. In my part of the world there has been a bank holiday so I will probably spend the rest of the week reminding myself just what day is it?! It is a common phenomenon! 

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. I know I’ll be a day “out” for most of the week, given we’ve had a bank holiday in my part of the world. Scary thought is the next one isn’t until Christmas!

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers yesterday. My topic of Getting Together with Other Writers clearly hit a chord or several! Link below.

Will be sending my next author newsletter out on Thursday. To sign up just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

There is also an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic over on Amazon at the moment – do see the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Screenshot 2022-08-30 at 20-01-13 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

More Than Writers

It’s my turn on the More than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers blog spot). This time I talk about Getting Together with Other Writers and the benefits of this. If you are thinking this can’t be a coincidence given Allison has recently got back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, you’d be spot on! Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

Screenshot 2022-08-29 at 08-21-46 Getting Together With Other Writers by Allison Symes

I’ll be looking at Author Newsletters for Chandler’s Ford Today next week. Apt since my next one is due out next week too! I’ll be looking at why authors have them and what I do with my one. Link up on Friday.

I’m also busy preparing some interview questions for two great writers for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope to be able to tell you more about these next month.

Am also going to be setting my next flash fiction challenge soon for Mom’s Favorite Reads, the October edition. I have to work a month in advance here but if you want to find out more about MFR, you can do so here. (You can also check out the latest magazine for free here too – go on, have a great read, you know you want to!).Screenshot 2022-08-28 at 16-57-51 Mom's Favorite ReadsHope you have had a good Saturday. Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Facebook re my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today which I shared yesterday. It was a fabulous week.

Also thanks for the comments coming in on Fitting In on Friday Flash Fiction. If you missed the story, you can find it at the link here.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready. Hard to believe we’re almost in September. If you would like to sign up for tips, stories and more please do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am rediscovering the joys of seeing what is on my Kindle. Am currently reading Churchill’s Wizards, which is proving a fascinating read so far. It is about the art of subterfuge etc carried out during the war. I’m a fairly late convert to the joys of non-fiction reading (and this one I would say comes into the creative non-fiction category given the way it is told). Definitely a case of better late than never though!

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I see Writing Magazine are having their Grand Flash Fiction prize competition again. I entered last year, didn’t get anywhere, but reworked my story and I hope it will form part of my third flash fiction collection in due course. I will probably have a go at the competition again this year.

It is a good thing to enter competitions as they help you get used to writing to a deadline and in actually sending a piece of work off somewhere. Too easy to sit on a piece of work for too long.

I don’t enter every single flash fiction competition. I’m glad to say there are far too many of them for that to be possible but at least it does mean there is plenty to choose from out there! Always check the competition rules thoroughly. Check out the credentials of those running the competition as well.

Also the prize on offer should reflect fairly the charge you’re being asked to pay. With a novel competition, for example, I would expect to pay a fair amount (usually circa the £25 mark) because a judge will be reading your book and to an extent your fee is paying something towards their time, which is only fair.

Good luck with any competitions you’re entering. Give yourself plenty of time to draft, rest a story, edit it thoroughly etc. And have fun writing the tale – it should be fun.

Plenty of competitions for the short form

If you’ve had a bank holiday today (as I have), I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Having said that, it is still a Monday and it’s definitely time for a story! Hope you enjoy The Guest.


I love setting the flash fiction challenge for Mom’s Favorite Reads (look out for the next issue due next week by the way) and part of my column gives my own response to the challenge I’ve set. A great way to keep me on my toes, I can say! I also get more flash written so win-win there.

I do like mixing up how I approach writing flash and this is yet another reason to use the random generators. They make me think outside my usual box and that encourages further creativity in me. It can do the same for you, honest, give them a go.

You can also combine results from random generators to create more stories. I did this recently for the Lift Up Your Pens session I took at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I hope to do more of that too.

About to run a workshop on editing at Swanwick


I love mixing up writing in the first and third person over the span of a flash fiction collection. The immediacy of the first person makes it an ideal match for flash writing but I also love the third person where a named character shows you their story. I like being able to set my characters wherever and when I want. I can dip a toe into my favourite genres here. So despite the word count restriction, flash is remarkably flexible.

It’s also easy to share and perfect for Open Mic Nights. I don’t know if Radio 2 still have their schools competition for a 500 words story. I hope they do. It’s a great way into creative writing.

It is one of those ironies in fiction that limits fuel creativity rather than stifle it because you are made to work with what you have got. You learn to think about better ways of phrasing sentences so you make the most of your word count. And you’re never afraid of editing again which is a good thing. I happily stamp all over my darlings when I must (see what I did there!).

Have lost all fear of editing

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shelf Joys

One of the great pleasures of being a writer as well as a reader is getting to buy books brought out by your writing friends and having them sign them for you.

I have plenty of those on a special shelf and it gives me great joy whenever I walk past it. I look at the books on there and happy memories come flooding back, (for instance of times spent with said writing friends at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School).

Another shelf bringing me joy holds the books I inherited from my late mother (hardback copies of Dickens amongst many others). As for the shelves that give me a distinct case of the giggles, well those hold the works of P.G, Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett. Then there is the shelf containing hardback works by Agatha Christie, the first set of books I collected as an adult.

Books have meaning well beyond the stories they contain – and I love that too.

Having said that, the ebook very much has its place here. I’m rediscovering the joys of finding out just what is on my Kindle and am currently reading Churchill’s Wizards, a fascinating non-fiction book.
So which book shelves have special meaning for you? It is the meaning that makes the shelf special.

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Zoom, Flash Fiction, and What Does a Book Give You?

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Full report on my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School coming up in my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Meanwhile, I celebrate flash fiction and share some ways in which Zoom has been so useful to me. Plus I ask a leading question for my Goodreads post this time!

BookBrushImage-2022-8-23-20-2120Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Came back from my Slimming World group to discover only a teensy weensy gain from my week at Swanwick last week. Given what I had, I thought this was a brilliant result and am feeling chuffed and nicely surprised! Lady is not at all sorry the weather has cooled down somewhat. Neither am I.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom tomorrow. Zoom has made genre groups possible for us, given so many of our members live hundreds of miles apart and could never get to an in person meeting. Zoom is one of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic.

It is also useful as an editing tool. How? Well, you can record a meeting with yourself where you read out your short story or flash piece, end the meeting, and Zoom will turn the file into an mp4 for you to play back later.

I’ve picked up clunky dialogue this way. What looks good written down doesn’t always read out well. I also use Zoom to practice my Zoom talks and help me get my timings right. (And for those of us of a certain age, Zoom was also a great ice lolly! – at least here in the UK it was!).

Use Zoom to record your stories and then play them back to hear them as a reader would take them in


Nice to see some rain here in Hampshire today – drizzle rather than heavy rain for most of the day. Less likely to cause flooding and will still freshen things up a bit.

Back to the real world after a fantastic week at Swanwick. It’s going to be a long week…! Having said that it was lovely taking Lady back to the park today (there are some green bits on it now – not many but there are some!).

I’ll be sharing my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I loved picking the pictures out for that one. I always take loads when at The Hayes.

My next event is likely to be the Bridge House Publishing one later in the year and it will be lovely to catch up with people there too.

What is nice though is this is where social media can come into its own – there are ways to stay in contact with writing friends throughout the year – and social media is at its best for this kind of thing.

Networking encourages your zest for writing


Hope you have had/are still having a lovely Sunday. Back to the writing desk and coming up later this week will be my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up on Friday.

Looking forward to the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

A big hello and welcome to the new subscribers to my author newsletter. The next one goes out on 1st September. Hard to believe we’re nearly three-quarters of the way through the year already. I share tips, story links, and news in my newsletter, especially relating to flash fiction. If you’d like to sign up, do head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Do I sign up to newsletters myself? Oh yes. They’re a great way of hearing the latest from your favourite authors, which is why I love reading the ones I’ve signed up for.

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Have caught up on some much needed sleep after a hectic and joyous and wonderful week at Swanwick.
Glad to share a link to the last flash fiction challenge I set for Mom’s Favorite Reads – and to one of the entries that came in as a result. Hope you enjoy.

Don’t forget MFR is free to download and there are wonderful articles and stories in there. Do check it out. (Glad to say a fellow Swanwicker, Maggie Cobbett, is in there too).

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 20-03-59 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Trust you have had a good day. Looking forward to chatting about all things flash fiction related with the ACW Flash Fiction Group on Zoom tomorrow. And it was great to spread the word about it at Swanwick too.

Don’t forget Mom’s Favorite Reads has a flash fiction column every month, written by yours truly, and I also set a challenge here. Do check it out for FREE.

I was glad to pick up another anthology from the National Flash Fiction Day from the Swanwick Book Room last week. It is important to read in your genre as well as outside of it. You get a feel about what is out there in your field and I find it encourages the love of this form of writing even more. Win-win there.


It’s Monday. I’m back to the day to day tasks after a fabulous week at Swanwick. It’s definitely time for a story. Hope you enjoy my latest on my YouTube channel – Send a Secret.

 

The lovely thing about flash fiction is you can mix up the mood of your stories in a collection. I like to write a mixture of lighthearted tales and those on the darker side, encompassing everything from historical flash to crime ones to twist in the tale to ghost stories.

The word count for flash is limited but you don’t have to be with your characters and settings. I love that aspect. When it comes to putting a collection together, I try to group my tales so you literally do go From Light to Dark and Back Again, I do like to finish on a lightish note.

I usually focus on my character for my stories and then ask myself where would this character best be placed. Sometimes I know I want to write a historical flash immediately so it is then a question of who can I use to serve my tale.

But the character has to suit which is why I ensure I know them well enough by asking myself some pointed questions. It is about working out what you need to know or so I’ve found and then I can get on and draft my tale.

How do characters see themselves

The weekend after Swanwick is useful as it gives me a chance to catch up on sleep and time to start processing ideas etc which came from the courses and workshops. I was glad to spread the word about flash fiction too. I sometimes run a workshop on why flash fiction is useful for all writers, regardless of what else people do.

I hope to resume writing stories for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from this week. Sunday is often when I draft those and it means I get two new flash pieces written a week. Does writing more encourage further ideas? I find it does – and the random generators are a great blessing here too. I know where to go to trigger other ideas I would not have thought of alone. They are so useful for that.

AE - Jan 2022 - Random question generators

Goodreads Author Blog – What Does a Book Give You?

This is a leading question is it not? Where to start! Well what does a book give me?

Books give me escapism, entertainment, educate me, and show me things I had not realised I needed to know. Books can and do encourage empathy with characters. I can see where characters come from and why even if I still disagree with the actions they’ve chosen to do. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is something you get to do all the time when reading fiction, regardless of story length.

Books take me away from my problems for a while – and sometimes that break is all which is needed for me to work out solutions to whatever I’m facing. Even when that’s impossible, just having the break away does my mental health the world of good. And I get to discover worlds and situations I would never face for real but that in turn leads me to wonder what I would do in those situations and why.

Books do act like a kind of portal then. And it was the classic fairytales that showed me girls could be heroes too (see The Snow Queen by Hans Christen Andersen for this).

Above all books and stories encourage you to keep on reading. That in turn fuelled in me the desire to write stories and books myself. I see it as a kind of giving back to the wonderful world of books.

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 08-34-12 What Does a Book Give You

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Swanwick Part 1

Image Credits-:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Many created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and Val Penny were taken by me, Allison Symes.  A huge thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for taking the photo of me at my Lift Up Your Pens session at Swanwick. Having a ball at Swanwick as usual. Hope to write a more detailed post for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course but meantime please see these as the edited highlights!

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Facebook – General – Swanwick Week Part 1

It was easy to choose which course I was going to today – it was the one I led! I talked about Editing – Both Side of the Fence. Many thanks, everyone, for the support. Much appreciated.

I was torn about which workshop to go to after that – there were two specifically I wanted to do but in the end I went to Hit Submit! This was led by Ingrid Jendrzejewksi and was great fun. Managed to draft a story and jot down other ideas to work up later. (I managed to do this in the Lift Up Your Pens session I led on Sunday. I deliberately did not do the exercises I set until on the day itself. I love live writing like that).

Tuesday is a quieter day at Swanwick. You generally need it too so I walked around the lovely grounds and then came back to work on two of my long term projects before the evening dinner and speaker.

 

I led the Lift Up Your Hearts session today. This is a short devotional time just before breakfast and I talked about favourite words of mine from the Bible. I also had a hymn to share one of my favourite lines. I love these quieter times ahead of a full day of workshops and courses. I know they do me good mentally, spiritually and physically.

I also try to take time out to walk around the grounds here at Swanwick. The exercise is helpful (they do look after you very well indeed here!) and the grounds are lovely.

As well as continuing with my specialist course, I also went to Promoting Your Work by Val Penny (who I will have the pleasure of interviewing again for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post).

Promoting is something all writers need to know more about – there is always plenty to learn here (and things you need to be reminded to do!).

 

I ran the pre-breakfast Lift Up Your Pens today. These sessions are to get the creative wheels turning and I used ideas from random generators for my session here. People seemed to enjoy it and I hope they go on to write up their stories and get them out into the big bad world somewhere.

For my specialist course which is run over a few days, I’ve opted for the Creative Non-Fiction one led by Simon Whaley. For the two part short course today, I’ve opted for the How to Write a How-To Book run by Bettina von Cossel. Both were fabulous and I learned a great deal from them.

Finally for today, I went to Social Media for Writers, the excellent one hour workshop run by Jennifer C Wilson. All good useful stuff and it pays writers to think about their social media options. Which are you going to focus on and why? I must admit I find the support from other writers on social media invaluable.

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It is so good to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School at The Hayes in Derbyshire once again. A huge thank you and shout to to the lovely #JuneWebber and her equally lovely husband,Mike, for being my chauffeurs today as I had to cancel my train tickets due to the strike.

I missed the train journey, as I do love travelling by train, but am just relieved to be here. And it was wonderful having a good chat on the way up! I can’t do that on the train! An equally big shout out to my lovely other half, Adrian, for being my chauffeur on Friday.

And what is there not to like when you arrive, go and unpack, drop off your books in the Book Room and then enjoy afternoon tea? That ticks a lot of writing boxes right there!

A fairly new addition to the Swanwick programme is what they call Birds of a Feather where writers in a genre can get together and chat. I can cover flash fiction, short stories, and blogging as my initial bases. So I will probably head off to that after the evening speaker. The lovely thing with Swanwick is you are made so welcome and you join in as and when you want to do so.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Beginning to cool a bit here at Swanwick. Nobody is sorry about that! Happily spreading the word about flash fiction where I can. Lovely to catch up with Linda Payne, a fellow Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit author here.

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes write the ending first. This works well for twist tales and funny ones. Occasionally I have ideas for what would make a great middle section of a tale. So I write them down. I don’t worry about necessarily writing in order. I can sort that out when editing.

Just get those ideas down – the nice thing with this thought is it applies to a 100 word tale every bit as much as a 100,000 word novel!

Fizzing with ideas - just get them down and then sharpen them up

There is no such thing as the perfect first line. This is good news funnily enough. It means every writer has to work on their stories and it takes time to come out with the lines you want your readers to enjoy. This is another reason why I think it is better to write your story first, then worry about editing. I see these as two separate and different creative tasks.

I get my first line down and then look at ways to strengthen it later. Often ideas for this will come as I finish the rest of the draft (or a bit annoyingly if I am working on something else) bit I just keep a note of these and come back to them later. Taking the pressure off myself helps a lot here.

Telling details matter in any story but they take on a greater significance for flash fiction writers simply due to the lower word count we have to work with. So it pays to take time out to work out what the reader needs to know and what telling detail can stress that point.

In such a tight word count you are likely to be able to have one or two telling details but make them count! I always say about going for impact but sometimes that impact doesn’t have to be a dramatic one. A character changing their mind about what direction they go in because the name of a street has resonance for them can be a minor telling detail or it can change the whole course of the story – entirely up to you but there is a lot of fun to be had here!

Flash Fiction Impact

Lovely to see From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic back in the Book Room at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Always a pleasure to wave the flag for flash fiction (writing and reading it) at events.

One of the joys of flash for me is having to invent characters all the time. Characters drive a story, I think, regardless of its length, and it is always characters who interest me the most in any story. Who are they? What do they want? Who is trying to stop them getting that and what are their motivations for doing this?

Practicing inventing characters will stand you in good stead whatever your preferred form of fiction writing is as it will show you that you can do this repeatedly (always a good defence against the dreaded Imposter Syndrome which strikes most writers at some point and often repeatedly).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Writers and Books

When this post goes live I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once again for a glorious week in the company of fellow writers and where we celebrate all things relating to writing. Books a plenty are in the Book Room and I am sure I’ll go home with additions to be To Be Read pile. (No writer worth their salt ever has a Be Be Read list. It has to be a pile – a huge one too! Don’t even ask about the electronic version of that pile!).

What draws writers into writing at all? Simply It is their own love of books and wanting to produce their own. We’re inspired by those authors we’ve read over the years and ideas will kick start from what we have enjoyed reading. Books and writers are inseparable then. The two things most writes are advised to do is to write regularly and to read widely and well. All of that is a complete joy to do.

What every writer I know would appreciate (and this goes for me too) are reviews of our books on sites like Goodreads. It helps more than you know. It is useful affirmation of our ability to write (ignoring the one star reviewers who are clearly just trying to knock the author down rather than give constructive criticism which might be useful).

For stories to be produced for entertainment there has to be the writers producing them. I can’t imagine a life without books. Neither do I wish to!

Screenshot 2022-08-13 at 22-44-51 Writers and Books


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Swanwick Countdown, Networking, and Stories From A Petulant Goose

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good few days. I think I’ve surpassed myself with a title for a blog post here!

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Facebook – General

Cooling down nicely after a very warm afternoon. Lady happily napping.

I use Booklinker to create a universal link for my flash fiction collections. (It’s shorter as well than, say, the Amazon string). Booklinker have been revamping their website and I like the new look. Both of my books are available in various places so a landing page has been created on my Booklinker page for each of these – I like that too. For more information on them check out their FAQ page at https://booklinker.com/faq

Four days to Swanwick – there has to be a countdown! Getting together with other writers was one of the things I missed the most during the pandemic. Zoom helped a lot and still does of course) but if you can get together in person with other authors, there is just something special about that and you all get ideas and useful advice from each other too.

 

Hope you have had a good Monday. Lady got to see her two best girlfriends today so came home happy (and before it became too hot).

Am so touched comments are continuing to come in for Age Is Just a Number on Friday Flash Fiction. Many thanks, all.

Have started packing for Swanwick. Okay, so far, it is only my toiletries bag but it is a start! No. I tell a lie. I have packed my books to go in the Book Room there (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic). Getting my priorities sorted, don’t you know!

Am happily working on my third flash fiction collection. Am hoping to submit that during the autumn. I’m later on this than I intended but good things, as well as life, have got in the way a bit but I am now back on track. These things happen and I don’t beat myself up on this the way I once would have done. What does matter is getting on with the book when all is said and done.

Talking of books, I have a little something to share with you regarding The Best of CafeLit 11. I hope you enjoy it.

 

It’s getting hotter again in my part of the world and the week ahead looks to be going the same way. Hope you can keep as cool as possible. Lady and I intend to though I must admit this week for me will mainly be a countdown to Swanwick!

Looking ahead, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Short Form Writing. Well, they do say write about what you know! I’ll be looking at the advantages and disadvantages to the short form – yes, am being strictly fair here. There are advantages to novels the short form can’t hope to match. Mind you, the short form is not meant to do so. Its strengths are elsewhere. Link up on Friday.

After that I’ll be interviewing the lovely Val Penny, Scottish crime writer of the DI Hunter Wilson series. Looking forward to sharing that too. It’s nice getting back to interviewing again.

Now I’ve mentioned before I have been known to interview my characters. I use a simple template for this and work out what it is I think I need to know about them. Usually I need to know their major trait, whether they generally get on well with others or not and so on.

I usually discover all sorts of other things as a result of asking questions like that and I get a fuller picture of said character. I find it well worth doing, but it does pay to work out what you think you need to know. I know I don’t necessarily need to work out what they look like. I can figure that out later. I do want to know what they’re capable of doing/saying, especially when pushed.

I like to know my character's major traits

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Lady got to see a pal over the park today which was a unexpected surprise. She and the Labradoodle had a fab time together. Always nice to see.

One week from today I shall be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Am looking forward to packing next week. This is my big annual treat and it will be lovely to catch up with many friends, make new ones, and enjoy the workshops. I’ll be posting as usual during that week but at different times. Hope to do a write-up for Chandler’s Ford Today on my return. In the meantime am busy scheduling posts for CFT and going over what I need to take with me for Swanwick.

Benefits of networking: it’s fun; you learn tips from other writers; other writers get what you do and your need to do it; you often pick up useful information from other writers and in turn are able to share information you know (which is lovely as it’s a great way to pay back).

Not to mention coming back from networking events feeling inspired and encouraged – that has helped me so many times. And don’t forget there are all manner of writing events – one day courses to week events, to online ones. There is bound to be something to suit. Worth looking out for.

Networking encourages your zest for writing

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views coming in on The Hiss Factor, my latest YouTube story. It was fun to write and I must thank #GillJames for encouraging me to turn my goose story into a story. See below for video.

(I only hope the fox that came into my garden a day after the goose turned up didn’t get to turn the goose into dinner but that’s a story I won’t know the ending of!).

Do you struggle to write in the heat? I find I am more likely to get off to a slower start but once I am into a piece of writing, away I go. It’s a question of doing what you can and staying hydrated, I think.

I’ll be talking about Short Form Writing for my Chandler’s Ford Today post up on Friday. Naturally flash gets a good mention!

 

You remember the story of the petulant goose I mentioned a few days ago? Well, in the end I had to get a story out of it. Hope you enjoy The Hiss Factor!

 

I’ve sometimes used a random picture generator to trigger ideas for my flash tales. I don’t describe the landscape in my story but I do give enough of its essence so people can work out where my story is set.

For example, just now I generated a picture of a remote Scottish castle on the beach with the tide out. Here I might get a character looking out of a window wondering if someone will be back in time ahead of the tide. I can use the character’s thoughts and worries here to help a reader to conjure up the right image.

When giving Zoom talks, I will use the pictures directly as illustrations, quite literally, of what can be done using these as a prompt. I find landscapes work better for me because I can then think of the type of character likely to live there, the problems they would face and so on. As ever, I just need a way into my story.

Random generators of all kinds are great for this.

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Write lots. Write more. You will find out how you prefer to put stories together and you can then build on that. KNOWLEDGE EXPERIENCE SKILS COMPETENC ABILITY TRAINING G-ROWTH"

Many thanks for the comments continuing to come in on Age Is Just a Number on Friday Flash Fiction. Much appreciated.

No writer can ever know for sure how a story will go down before sending it in, as even reports from beta readers etc will give a general guide of what they think and there will always be someone who loves what you do regardless. Sadly, there will always be someone who loathes what you do regardless.

You learn to accept you can’t please everyone all the time and you keep on writing to be true to yourself and your characters as you see them. You apply the writing advice that you know can genuinely help you improve. Not everything is appropriate or comes at the right time. When I was starting out flash fiction advice would not have been applicable to me as I didn’t write it. It is applicable now though!

Goodreads Author Blog – Soothing Reading

I read for all manner of reasons. I read for entertainment. I read to escape. (And with the news so grim everywhere you look, this is an important one!).

I read books by friends because I want to find out what they’ve come up with and to support them. Given they write outside of my genre of flash fiction, I expand my reading tastes doing this and ensure I get plenty of contemporary reading done too so win-win here. I read non-fiction to find out things in, hopefully, an entertaining way.

And I read comfort books when life is especially grim. My go-to here is humour. Who doesn’t need a laugh? Another advantage to networking with fellow writers is I also get useful ideas to add to my reading list. There is always plenty of room for more books on there.

I see nothing wrong in having reading materials specifically to sooth. There is plenty of room for the challenging books. I find you have to be in the right mindset to appreciate those. But soothing reading is always welcome. There is never a wrong time for that kind of reading.

Screenshot 2022-08-06 at 20-48-18 Soothing Reading

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Writing Time, Lines, and a Petulant Goose

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good few days. It’s got off to an odd start for me as the title above confirms.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Had a most enjoyable swim earlier. When I started swimming more often I thought I’d be using the time in the pool to work out story ideas, dream up further ideas and so on. Not a bit of it. My mind tends to go blank when swimming! Make of that what you will!

I’ll be looking at Quizzes and Word Games for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m fond of word games so this post was a particular pleasure to write. I suppose it makes sense that a writer unwinds by playing with words!

Many thanks for the continuing comments in on Moving On, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is so helpful.

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Glad to say the August edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. Treat yourself to a free read. Plenty of fascinating articles and stories here. I talk about Funny Flash Fiction this time and share useful tips here. As well as setting a flash fiction challenge in my column, I respond to it myself so you get a story from me here too – and do check out the wonderful tales that came in as a result of the challenge.

Screenshot 2022-08-01 at 19-26-15 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022

Is there ever enough writing time? Probably not but I suspect the answer to this dilemma is working out how to make the best use of the time you have got. In my smaller pockets of time, I’m jotting down blog ideas, story titles, possible opening lines etc. In my longer pockets of time. I’m writing those ideas up! I also plan my week around my Chandler’s Ford Today post. Generally I have that written and scheduled by Tuesday. I then start work on the one for the following week.

I plan my monthly blogs so I have them ready in good time. I like to have those scheduled at least a week before due date. Now life gets in the way sometimes but giving myself this leeway means I still have a few days to get something in and I like knowing that I have this safety net. I rarely have to use that safety net. It is a relief to have it when I do.

So yes I outline my writing time too and have found doing that pays off.

Also my next author newsletter goes out tomorrow. To sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Newsletter has gone out but new subscribers are always welcome.

BookBrushImage-2022-6-17-19-251

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Looking forward to catching up with some Swanwick friends on Zoom tonight ahead of seeing them in person again soon.

Many thanks for the comments in on Moving On, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Don’t forget comments are welcome over on my Chandler’s Ford Today blog post pages as well.

I do enjoy getting my monthly posts together for Mom’s Favorite Reads and am just putting the finishing touches to my piece for September. My piece in the August edition, which is due soon, will be about Funny Flash Fiction, which is is also a joy to write.

Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-28-29 Moving On by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Further to yesterday’s post and in breaking news, the goose came back!

Again I was hissed at. The dog turned tail and ran (back into the house). Yours truly scared the goose off into the wooded bit of the garden with the aid of a garden broom. Am not having my dog too scared to go out into her own garden. My herding skills were okay (I have clearly learned something from my collies over the years). Most annoying thing of all – I can’t write this up as a story. It’s a bit unbelievable, isn’t it?!

The goose is fine, Lady is fine, I’m fine, but I still don’t get why this bird isn’t flying – it isn’t injured and its attitude – well it would have that anyway. There is no sign of injury or anything like that. Have shut the garden gate on it so hopefully that will send it back to where it should be at the lakes about a mile away from where I live where there is a colony of geese and ducks.

They say you can’t make it up. Well, as a writer I would dispute that. It is a question of whether you can use the material at times!

In other news, am looking forward to getting my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11.

CafeLit11 Small

It’s Monday. It has been a long, hot day. It has been an odd Monday. I got hissed at by an irate lost Canada Goose in my own garden this afternoon. There are a group of them on nearby lakes and it clearly had got lost. I am betting it is male and didn’t want to ask for directions!

Why the barking of Lady didn’t persuade it here was not a good place to be I don’t know but it did wander off eventually. (Lady would happily have chased it off but one slightly bonkers dog and an annoyed goose did not seem like a good combo to me!).

So as I say it has been a long day. It’s Monday when all is said and done. Definitely time for a story. Hope you like Acting Your Age, my latest on YouTube.

 

PS. Will keep you posted if anything odd turns up here tomorrow. Am hoping not though I suppose I can always get a flash story out of it. See above – The Goose Came Back! Not a typical day or two in the life of a flash fiction writer, I can tell you!

Understanding what makes your characters tick
Wow, another month gone. It won’t be long before I’m writing my festive flash pieces!

Am not kidding. For the short story market, you have to work on these much earlier in the year than I need to on my festive selections. But it still pays to give yourself plenty of time to write and hone your festive flashes so around summer/early autumn is not a bad time to start on that.

I find having a rough schedule to write to means I produce more finished writing. I like that aspect.

While flash is shorter prose, it still takes time to edit and hone. I can get a draft down relatively fast but it is the editing that takes the time. And that is how it should be too, no matter what you write. The writing is in the re-writing.

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Opening lines have to intrigue the reader enough to make them want to read on. This is even more important in flash where you do have to hit the ground running. You don’t have the word count room to expand on things later. In my The Silence (Tripping the Flash Fantastic), I start with It was the perfect way to shut up Mr Know-it-all.

I imply questions here – hopefully the reader will want to find out what the perfect way is, did it work, and who is the character behind this. Sometimes I use questions directly as opening lines but implying them also works well. It is key to provoking reader curiosity, that have got to find out what happens here moment. And then the tricky bit – delivering on the promise to answer here!

This is a key reason why I outline. I set up the question. I want to know in advance what the possible answers could be. It means I know where I am heading as I draft the tale. And I always go for the answer that makes me go “wow” – If I do that, it is likely someone else will. Naturally my hope here is that someone else will be a publisher, editor, or a competition judge!

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Between the Lines

I write as well as read flash fiction and implying happens all the time here. You do get your readers reading between the lines all the time. You just give them what they have to know to be able to do that.

With my reading hat on, I love having to read between the lines. Crime writers do this constantly too – give us clues to work things out and you accept some of them will be red herrings. All great fun.

I don’t want tonnes of description. I just need enough to be able to picture the character and the setting. Specific details often work better anyway. A moth-eaten chair conjures up a stronger image than just saying an old chair. (Well, how old? Are we talking antique here or something that is only 30 years old?). ]

Specific details matter. Whenever a writer put them in, I am looking to see how important these things prove to be later on in the story. They usually are important. At the very least they have significant meaning for the lead character and that’s the important thing (if only because their opponent could use that against them).

I love reading between the lines then. The great stories encourage this I think.

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Publication News, Flash Fiction, and Impact

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Am thrilled to be in print again in new release, The Best of CafeLit 11. More details below. The thrill of being published does not dim!

 

Facebook – General

26th July 2022 – Publication News – The Best of CafeLit 11
Am thrilled to say The Best of CafeLit 11 is now out. I have a story in here, Flying Too High. I love collections like these, even when I’m not in them, as they’re a great way to try out authors new to you. You also get a real mix of stories and moods too.

I am also thrilled about this for another reason – I am on the front cover as one of the editors. Each editor had a month or two to work on but naturally did not edit our own work.

You never want to do that anyway. Why? Because you really do need another pair of eyes to assess what you have written. You are too close to your own work to be able to judge objectively. But it is lovely be on the front cover as an editor for the first time. It was a joy to work on this book and to be in it.

Many congratulations to the other writers in this new collection. It is always wonderful to know you have work in a book out! And it will be lovely to celebrate in person with you later in the year – I do hope you can get to the celebration event. Always good to meet up with old friends and make new ones here.

 

Hope you have had a good Monday. Not bad here. Lady got to see one of her best pals, the lovely Hungarian Vizler. Good time had by both, especially now the air is much cooler.

Will be sharing Zest In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I’ll also be talking about Advice to A New Writer for More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers again on Friday. Will put up separate posts with links. I know – no blogs for ages and then two come along at once.#

My current story on Friday Flash Fiction, called Tomorrow, is loosely based on real experience though I will say I haven’t done a sky jump. Nor do I intend to – the birds have enough to contend with in the skies without strange women jumping out at them – and I hope that has got you wondering. Story link here.


Screenshot 2022-07-22 at 09-05-01 Tomorrow by Allison Symes


Am enjoying writing with my French windows open now we’ve got a decent breeze to go with it. Most refreshing. I must admit I did find things pretty hard going on Tuesday when we had a record breaking high temperature in my part of the world.

I felt sluggish and it was hard to focus (except on thinking things like this is too hot, is the dog okay etc etc!). And yes Lady was fine but she is much happier now things have cooled down a bit. I do always drink plenty of water by the way which does help with concentration but on Tuesday I think it was a question you couldn’t drink enough of it to overcome the wave of heat that hit most of us here in the UK.

Will have two blogs out next week. My Chandler’s Ford Today weekly one will be out on Friday as usual. It will also be my turn on More Than Writers, the blog for the Association of Christian Writers, again on Friday. I write for them on the 29th of each month so this means I get every three Februaries off! So must remember to do a double Facebook post on Friday.

So looking forward to Swanwick next month and the Bridge House Publishing event in December. Had been looking forward to going to see our local theatre group’s summer production but they have had to cancel unfortunately. I hope to get along to their autumn show though (and before we know it, it will then be panto time again!).

Writing Tip: Every so often go through your old notebooks and look at exercises you took part in during conferences etc. Revise those stories and see if you can submit them. I’ve done this and had work published that way but I also know it is far too easy to forget what is in your notebooks.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday so far.

It’s hard to believe I’m almost at the end of my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Next week I’ll be looking at Zest In Fiction. Where did 26 weeks go?!

I sometimes use the random generators for ideas for topics for posts. The random question and theme ones are great for this.

For example, a random theme I generated a moment ago came up with the idea of sliver of hope. I can immediately think of some fiction ideas for that but for a blog, I could write a factual piece about where a sliver of hope changed the life of a famous historical character. Or even speculate where it might have done had it happened – two sides of the same coin there basically.

A random question I just generated came up with If you lost all of your possessions but one, what would you want it to be?

Interesting question and this could make a great article simply by my answering this myself.

So for non-fiction fans, the random generators can be useful for you too.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views coming in on my latest YouTube tale, Enough Is Enough. If you would like to subscribe to my channel, you can do so at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA – new subscribers are always welcome.

I usually post a new tale here once a week unless I’m away, ill etc. Good fun to do too. It is proving to be a great way of encouraging my flash fiction productivity and it is fun to think visually – to work out what videos would best suit my stories.

Screenshot 2022-07-26 at 20-40-16 Allison Symes

It’s Monday, It has been a long day. It is definitely story time. My latest tale on YouTube is called Enough Is Enough. Hope you enjoy it.

F = Focus – flash is a great way to sharpen your writing as you must concentrate on what matters to your character – no room for waffle!

L= Liberating, as despite the word count restriction, you can write across genres, in the first, third persons etc.

A = Acrostic flashes can be great to do – pick a relatively short word to use as these work best.

S = Story, story, story – it is all about the story – flash has to be a complete tale in and of itself.

H = Historical flash, humorous flash – have fun exploring genres here.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

I’ve talked before about the impact of flash fiction and that’s because it is one of the genre’s strengths. You haven’t got a lot of words to play with so you do have to make a great impact with the ones you have got!

This is why I think about the emotional response I want my story to have on a reader. I then think about what kind of character could fulfil that and the likely setting for them. Then I draft my tale.

When I know what my twist ending is (because I’ve drafted a few possibilities to use at a later date) I will know from what I drafted what the emotional impact is going to be already. I can hit the ground running here (which is another great reason to draft ideas for writing up later!).

Sometimes a story ends up being longer than I initially thought. That’s okay. If it works better at 300 words rather than 100 words, I leave it at the larger number and find a different market for it.

What matters is the story and its impact. You don’t want to dilute a powerful story for the sake of a word count. You equally don’t want a wordy story which could genuinely be cut and sharpened up. This is why I ask myself whether this is really necessary as I go through my draft. I’ve got to always be able to say yes to that.

AE - July 2021 - A well rounded character will show us something of ourselves

Goodreads Author Blog – Light Reading

Light reading is something I do all year round. When the world is being especially grim, as it is right now, then that’s the time to turn to books that help you escape. I was not surprised the sales of Wodehouse rocked up during the pandemic. People need an escape and lighter reading can be a great way to have that escape. (Especially if you really can’t go anywhere to get that escape another way!).

Light reading for me also includes reading short stories and flash collections, no matter what their theme. I just love short reads (and getting plenty of value for money by having lots of stories in one book!).
I do wish genre fiction wasn’t looked down on by some. It is snobbery. Genre fiction helps subsidize the more literary works and everyone has different tastes in books anyway.

Screenshot 2022-07-26 at 20-49-39 Light Reading

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Characters You Love and Loathe

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Very, very hot here in the UK right now. Lady and I keeping things as cool as possible. Take care, everyone.

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Facebook – General

Had a lovely swim earlier today. Came back to my car, parked beautifully in the shade and discovered the internal temperature was 38ºC! Am grateful for air con to cool things down quickly. Much quieter day for Lady today (and no car travel for her on days like this either). She has not been sorry about that. Am not a fan of excessive heat (due to the dog and being asthmatic myself).

Still it is relatively cool at my desk so I write on. Many thanks for the great comments which have come in on my Authors Electric post yesterday. It seems my dislike of a certain Jane Austen character has caused comments – good! See link below.

Do I dislike any of my own characters? Oh yes. There are a few I definitely wouldn’t want to meet for real. But that’s how it should be I think. I should be able to come up with unlikeable characters as well as the ones who I am obviously going to root for. Otherwise crime writers, for one example, would never to be to write up their villains would they?

AE - July 2022 - Working out what you dislike can be useful

For Authors Electric this month, I look at Characters You Love and Loathe. Many thanks for the great comments coming in on this one already. Let’s just say I make my dislike of one particular Austen character clear – what do you think about her?

I go on to look at why characters make or break a story and why I have to see where they are coming from. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with their actions though. But I do have to be gripped by a character to enjoy their story.

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Hope you’re enjoying a nice relaxed Sunday. Am looking forward to sharing my new Authors Electric post tomorrow. See above. Later on in the week will be my penultimate post in my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll be looking at Your Lead Character in Fiction for that. I’ll also be including a mini quiz in the post. And yes I have thought of something for the letter Z when it comes around soon. Phew!

Looking forward to being back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Will be lovely to catch up with friends and make new ones. I’ll be running a one hour workshop there on Editing – Both Sides of the Fence. Would like the weather to be nice but not so hot for all of that though.

And now on to some flash fiction writing – for me Sunday is story time. Hope to share the results later in the week.

Keeping as cool as possible here. Lady doing likewise. It’s about the only time Lady is sensible, bless her. I did go through the drought of 1976 and my abiding memory of that time is of the government appointing a Droughts Minister. Within the week, the heavens opened! Wonder if we’ll see that again.

A big thank you for the lovely comments in on Cookie Surprise, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. This is probably as close as I’ll get to writing anything connected to children’s literature. Am so enjoying using various random generators to trigger story ideas for FFF and my YouTube channel. The generators are great for making you think outside of your usual box and I highly recommend using them.

Screenshot 2022-07-15 at 16-53-16 Cookie Surprise by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Even hotter here today. Lady and I are definitely not keen on it. The impact of the hot weather is being felt everywhere and I do hope those fires are soon put out. Take care everyone.

A more positive impact is the impact of your flash pieces on your readers. What do you want to make your readers feel?

If you want to make them laugh (always a laudable aim), how will you do it? Is your chosen character up to the job? They don’t need to be out and out funny in themselves but capable of producing laughter in others. This is where pompous characters work so well. They kind of set themselves up for a fall almost and that is where we get the laughs.

Equally serious characters who come out with unfortunate turns of phrase where everyone around them laughs but they themselves don’t can also work well.

Funny characters come out of situations

Very hot in my part of the world today – Lady all okay but doesn’t like the heat much. Has spent a lot of the day chilling out.

I don’t tend to use the weather in my stories much. This is because I’m wary of imitating the old infamous beginning to a story “It was a dark and stormy night…”, which is NOT held up as an example of fine writing. Quite the opposite in fact! I really don’t want to go down that route for story telling.

I would also rather show you the weather by how my characters act. I would rather you saw my characters shivering or slapping on the old sunscreen. You can also use the other senses here – characters can be listening to the rainfall. They can taste snow on their tongues etc. They can feel the hail hitting them (and trust me I’ve done that a number of times when out with Lady, it can hurt).

There are ways to bring the weather into stories in ways which won’t switch your reader off or run the risk of you being put up for a bad writing award!

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One lovely thing about creative writing is it can encourage empathy. I do have to understand where my characters are coming from to be able to write their stories up. I have to be able to imagine how they would feel, act, and/or react in any given circumstances.

But the nice thing with empathy is it doesn’t have to be confined to writing stories. The world could always do with lots of it!

The creative arts as as whole can be therapeutic for the people doing them but it can spread wider than that. I hope fiction does help spread empathy.

I’ve only written a couple of characters where I have no sympathy for them at all (these tend to be my darker tales) but even there I understand why the characters are the way they are. I don’t have to approve though! And this is one very good reason why you should never judge the author by their work! (This is just as well for the horror writers I think!).

 

I occasionally use repetition in my flash tales. I know that sounds odd. A limited word count and you’re repeating a word or words you’ve already used, isn’t that a waste of your word count? Not really.

When I do this, I’m doing it for effect. I’m usually trying to get a rhythm going in my prose or the repetition is something important and I want the reader to pick up on that importance. I don’t use this technique a lot but sometimes it’s useful.

Whatever you write, you need to know why you are writing it in that way and does it suit the character and/or their situation? The answer should be yes, naturally.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

Goodreads Author Blog – First Audio Books

I love audio books – really useful for long journeys. The first ones I listened to, and which are still great favourites, were the Terry Pratchett Discworld ones, narrated by Sir Tony Robinson. These were great for another reason. I got my better half into these stories thanks to the audio books and it mean for several birthdays, wedding anniversaries etc., presents for him were sorted! Alas no more because we’ve got the lot!

What was the first audio book you enjoyed? What made you go for it? Had you already read the paperback? I had with the Discworld ones but my other half had not.

I’m never worried about book formats. People find different ways into stories. There will always be a need for the printed book but I do love it when those who are not great readers, such as my other half, discover and love stories another way. Audio books are a fabulous invention.

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