Writing Challenge, Advice, Story Video and Interview News

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. It has been a busy few days but fun!

Picture below gives you an idea of what is coming up (and I am glad to report my recording for the international writing summit last week went very well. Am looking forward to sharing more on that as soon as I can).

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Facebook – General

I had an interesting writing challenge today. Some of you may know I’m the Membership Secretary of The Association of Christian Writers and on our Facebook page today, I was “thrown the gauntlet” by #WendyHJones to come up with a flash fiction piece involving certain words. Those words were “gentle, throat, print, chairs, church”. Now I often use all kinds of random generators to come up with story idea triggers (e.g. random words, numbers, questions even).

So did I meet Wendy’s challenge? But of course… here is the result.

A gentle clear of the throat was all I needed as I looked at my work. The print run was done. The service sheets were on all of the chairs. I checked that three times. I can’t wait until I resume my old task and welcome people back to church.
Allison Symes – 23rd February 2021 – approximately 9.30 am!

I don’t often get to write a piece of flash fiction before I get to take the dog out for her big playtime/walk! Lovely creative and fun start to a Tuesday. Many thanks, Wendy.

Hope your Monday has gone okay. A huge thanks for the great response to my new Book Brush adverts yesterday (see images in next post down). I was pleased with how they turned out.

Finally nailed down a longer flash piece I’d been working on for a while, polished it, and submitted it. Sometimes it goes like that. I know I needed to tighten the piece up but didn’t see immediately how to do it. Time away from the piece worked wonders (so I do take my own advice, at least some of the time!).

Am looking forward to sending my first author newsletter on 1st March. I’ve gone for the 1st as it’s an easy date to remember. It would not surprise me at all if 99.9% of all authors with a newsletter have also gone for the 1st for their chosen date! If you want to know more do check out my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – you go straight to the sign-up page here. (I’ve changed my original home page to this one as it makes more sense).

If you want to know more about my flash collections, do go to my website and then on to my Books page where you will find my trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will repeat below too.

The plan with the newsletter is to share writing tips, news, and flash stories before they are published anywhere else. Hope to see you aboard (and many thanks to those who have signed up so far).

Newsletter advert

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again creating a couple of adverts for my website and books. See below! I love this kind of thing but have to make sure I “play” like this once and only once I’ve got my writing done for the day. It’s too easy to lose lots of time with this kind of marketing as it is so much fun.

Seriously though, given every writer has to market their books, you do need to find ways that you can enjoy (and therefore keep going for the long term). I haven’t engaged with Instagram or Pinterest at all but am loving creating the videos for my Youtube channel. So that gives me a visual medium to enjoy working with (and when I add free to use music tracks it’s an audio one too).

You also need to decide what you’re going to try marketing/social media wise, what works for you and what doesn’t, but I must admit I find the hardest thing to get right is apportioning time to writing new material/revising draft material and marketing. It’s not an easy balancing act and every writer I know faces this dilemma.

When you have a new or relatively new book out, you know you’ve got to concentrate on the marketing for some time to give that book its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world. What’s tricky is working out when to stop and back pedal a bit so you can get on and produce new writing that will make it into another book for marketing later on.

I try to make sure some of my writing sessions during the week are for purely writing (though this post counts as both writing and marketing!). Others are for purely marketing or developing materials to use for marketing, If I can look back over the week and see I have managed a good amount on both, I’m happy. I can’t claim any scientific method to this, far from it, but it works for me. I’ve also accepted nobody ever gets this totally right. It is working out what is right for you.

Delighted to share another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks #MaggieFarran.

Reviews help authors more than non-writers, I think, might always realise. If you wonder whether it is worth doing, basically the answer to that is yes, it is! And Maggie’s great example shows a review does not have to be long (or take long).

In other news, I spent Friday night recording my presentation for the international writing summit I mentioned earlier this week. All went well. I loved doing it. Many thanks for all the support and prayers from writing friends. I was calmer than I thought I would be and that helped a lot. And I can really worry when I put my mind to it, trust me on that.

The ironic thing here is you do need a certain amount of adrenaline going here. It helps fuel your creativity funnily enough but if you have too much of it, it tips over into anxiety etc and that definitely does not help you come across well.

As for the summit itself, I hope to have links etc in early March and am looking forward to sharing those.

Next week, I’m due to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her North Manchester FM radio show so am busy getting ready for that. All great fun and I love to talk about writing, specifically flash fiction, so this will be huge fun to do. Will share links for that as and when I have them though it will be after the show goes out. The nice thing here is my publisher, Chapeltown Books, is Manchester based so a nice link there.

Screenshot_2021-02-20 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my A Bad Day for A Fairy Godmother story video yesterday. See below. The Youtube videos are proving to be a great way to share one and two line flash tales. Those one and two liners in turn make great vehicles for humorous/slightly off the wall/both kind of stories, which I adore writing.

And it’s a sad day indeed when there isn’t time for a short, sharp, funny flash tale.

Now it is thought that Cinders’ glass slipper was a mis-translation. It was meant to be a fur slipper (though these days I would hope it would be a fake fur slipper and that’s as “political” as I get, folks). Having said that, the idea of it being the fairy godmother’s spell going wrong was fun to run with so I did! (Oh and no glass or any other kind of slipper was needed for me to do that!).

Am looking forward to being interviewed tomorrow afternoon by #HannahKate for North Manchester FM. Will share links as and when I get them but it will be good to wave the flag for flash fiction.

If you want proof anyone can have a bad day, check our my latest Youtube flash fiction video (made using Book Brush, uploading to Youtube, and then adding a free to use audio clip from Youtube’s audio library. A big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for putting me on to that. I’ve had a lot of fun picking music tracks for my stories – and music is wonderful for setting mood).

I’ve found over time (a lot of time!) my natural flash fiction “home” is the 100 to 500 words mark.

For the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition though, I had to write to 1000 words and for all three of my winning entries (Progressing, The Professional, and Books and the Barbarians), I came in at about the 990 mark.

Unless a competition or market says it has to be so many words, nothing more, nothing less, I always take off about ten words from the final count to allow for any changes to title and so on. There is always something at the last minute before you submit work that you need to change and you must factor that into your overall word count restriction and give yourself enough time to make any changes. No last minute submissions for me then. I like to know I am well within the date set for entries to be in by too.

Also bear in mind for the majority of these things, the word count is the maximum you write to and, unless the rules state otherwise, it is okay to come in at under that count. I like to do so to make absolutely sure there is no way I’m going over the limit. (In most competitions, going over by even one word is enough to instantly dismiss your entry because it is not fair to do otherwise on those who have stuck to the word count rules so it is worth making sure you do have this right).

For this competition, I felt an appropriate count for me, to give me word count room for changes etc., would be at about the 990 mark. I try to pitch these things so I am not far off the limit but am still under it. And it works!

A tip I’ve found useful is when you’re not sure what to write next, get some drafts done. In my case I draft flash fiction and blogs of course. When you haven’t got a lot of time but could draft something, do so (and the great thing with flash is with its short word count, this can be done in a relatively short period of time. I’ve drafted a 100 worder in 10 minutes for example). Why mention this?

It’s just that you get periods when you are busy marketing in some way so having the time to create something new can be difficult. You do run out of time but by having drafts to hand, I can pull one of those, work on it, ensure I’m happy with it and then get it out somewhere quite quickly. It means even when my main work has to be those other things, some new flash fiction is being created, based on those drafts written a few weeks back. It is worth having a stock of drafts like this.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Sells a Book to You

What would you say sells a book to you once you have read it? You’ve loved the cover, the blurb, and you’ve enjoyed the story but what was the stand out element for you?

For me, it is always about the characters. They have to grip me so I want to follow their story through. They don’t necessarily have to be likeable. They do have to be memorable. I have to understand where they are coming from, even if I disagree with the route they’ve taken. And if a character makes me want to shout at them or what have you, then that’s a good sign. It means they’ve engaged me, even if they’ve annoyed me! I then look further at why they’ve annoyed me too.

What I really dislike are insipid characters because you think what is the point of their story. No writer wants that one!

Twitter Corner

 

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Voices, Radio Story, and Relaxing Books

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School were taken by Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn respectively (and in succeeding years at the school. We all hope to be back there in 2021).

Facebook – General

It is odd not writing about what my Chandler’s Ford Today post is going to be this week, but even I take a week off occasionally. A huge thanks to my lovely CFT editor for the surprise “Legends Box” parcel which reached me today. Lots of nice goodies inside with a flyer saying the sender thought I was a legend!

Better still, all proceeds from these parcels go to the Trussell Trust. Imaginative and positive gift ideas for next Christmas I think and such a lovely thing to do. So many thanks to my editor again and to the people behind the Legends Box idea. I like things like this. My church a few years back supported the Send-a-Cow charity and we managed to send two cows and a goat I believe.

I AM working on CFT behind the scenes however. I am working on what will be an informative mini-series which will hopefully go up in January plus another interesting feature with a writer/publisher. So plenty to look forward to then!

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Delighted to share the link to Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM. My story, Up to Scratch, was broadcast here on Saturday 19th December. My story comes in at about the 1 hour 28 minutes mark but the show makes for a wonderful celebration of festive flash fiction. Hope you enjoy. I loved taking part and hope to do so again at some point. A big thanks to #HannahKate and also to #ElizabethDucie for flagging this up to me.

Link:  https://www.mixcloud.com/Hannahs_Bookshelf/hannahs-bookshelf-pre-christmas-christmas-special-19122020/

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One of the highlights of Christmas for me is the Carols by Candlelight service. Of course, this year the way it is held is different. It was pre-recorded and then put on Youtube. It was lovely to be able to sing along. I gave one of the readings (I went down to the church to record it a couple of weeks back) but the whole service cheered me no end. Yes, sure, it is not the same as being there but it was the next best thing so a huge thanks to all who worked so hard on making this happen.

By this stage of the writing year, my poor old writers’ diary is looking more than a bit tired (as indeed is this writer!). But I do find this an invaluable aid to planning out what I am writing and for when. I know it seems old-fashioned to write with a pen in a paperback diary but it works for me! I didn’t use any of the writing prompts in the diary this year. I will try and make up for that in 2021.

Am almost at the end of the first draft for my non-fiction project so am pleased with that. I am on target to have this written by the end of the year (though possibly not this side of Christmas). There will be no Chandler’s Ford Today post from me this coming Friday (I wonder why!) but I will be posting on New Year’s Day. And I’ve got a good initial draft of a third flash fiction collection to work on while I’m resting my non-fiction for a while so I can resume work on that with a fresh eye in due course.

But I must admit I do hope we can get back to some sort of writing events where we can meet people. Here’s hoping!

Candlelight - Book Brush

Delighted to say it was my recording of my reading Up To Scratch that went out on Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM earlier this afternoon. Many thanks, #HannahKate for picking my story. I hope to share the link to the show in the next couple of days or so.  (Done, see further up!). Well, there is always time for a flash festive fable! (And I do hope to submit stories to Hannah’s Bookshelf in the future. Flash works well on audio given it is so short).

This story was one of those where I had the “voice” for my characters immediately and is a tale told entirely in dialogue. Good fun to do. I’ve always found dialogue tales work best when kept short so they’re a good choice for flash fiction writers.

How do I know when I’ve got the voice for my characters? It isn’t just a question of knowing how they sound funnily enough, It is a question of knowing yes this is the kind of thing they would say, the kind of vocabulary they would use because…. , and also knowing what wouldn’t suit them. For example the two characters in this story would not swear. Therefore, they didn’t!

Oh and to make sure I don’t forget to do this, please find below a little something created using Book Brush this afternoon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTenqfNs3k8

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I love about writing for Chapeltown Books has been helping to choose suitable images for the book covers. For From Light to Dark and Back Again I choose rippling circles with light playing on them. For Tripping The Flash Fantastic I chose a castle with lights shining in it with lightning seeming to strike one end of the castle. That image was not my first choice but it proved to be better than what I had chosen initially given there are historically based flash stories in this book. I also liked the idea of the lightning flash as being a kind of clue to the book genre.

What I do know is you have to be happy with your book covers and a good one will convey something of what the contents are likely to be. You then hope someone picks up the book, looks at the blurb, and looks inside to find out more (before going on to buy it of course). But it is easier for the writer to do the necessary marketing work if they themselves love the cover, the blurb, and the book itself. One of my favourite Wodehouse quotes is “God may forgive Herbert Jenkins Limited for the cover of……… but I never shall”!

Glad to say that has not been a problem for me!

TTFF squareBookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for books


Taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights was not something I anticipated doing when I started writing flash fiction seriously but it is a very good vehicle for developing your writing skills, funnily enough. It pays to read your story out loud to yourself a few times before you do an event like this. You’re looking for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you find anything (and you inevitably do), it’s time for a rewrite. The aim is for a smooth read for you and a smooth listening experience for your audience. Recording a story and playing it back to yourself helps too. All of this helps you hone your editing skills further too so win-win!

The Open Mic for Prose night

Many thanks to Geoff Parkes for this image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night.

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Quick plug alert! Amazon say that the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic can be with you for 22nd December if ordered today. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more.

If anyone would like a signed copy directly from me, just send me a Direct Message and we’ll take things from there. I would really need to get books off in the post by Tuesday, 22nd December at the latest to have any chance of getting this to you in time for Christmas. If you’re not in a hurry, then just message me anyway and we can sort things out after Christmas and Boxing Days.

And do remember if you are on the receiving end of book presents this Christmas (you are, aren’t you?!), please do review the book in the usual places. Reviews don’t have to be long but they do help the author.

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Horrendous weather off and on in Hampshire today. Mud levels in the local park are quite something now too. Not that Lady minds! I am blessing my dear old mum for leaving me a shed load of old towels. They do for Lady nicely!

Delighted my story Up to Scratch was on the radio this afternoon. Will share a link when I have it. This story was an all dialogue on between two characters only (though others are referred to in the tale).

I like the challenge of writing all dialogue stories from time to time but I think they are best used sparingly. The advantage of “standard” prose stories is I can take you into the heads of the characters and show you their thoughts. I can’t do that if I’ve got them talking to you!!

But that is where the challenge lies. What could a character be reasonably expected to know to be able to say to another character? It’s also got to sound like natural conversation (though without the ums and ahs we all come up with).

This kind of story makes for a good writing exercise too. Try it some time and see what you come up with. I’ve found this kind of story is best kept short (and I keep mine to about the 100-`150 word count length). It keeps the tale tight and to the point and you really don’t want characters wittering on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Perfect Books To Relax With

What kind of book do you like to relax with? My favourites are fantasy (especially the humorous kind such as Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld stories) and crime (though I am more at the cosy end of the market).

Though right now I am loving Peter Ackroyd’s London, which is a biography of the city. An interesting way of writing up a history and full of fascinating tales. It’s a fairly big paperback but is an engrossing read so very happy to recommend it.

If a writer’s style draws me in, as it does here, it doesn’t matter how big the book is! They’ve got this reader to the end (which is a challenge for all of us writers to ensure we try and do that with our own writing).

I can’t read in the bath. I’d be worried about dropping a book or Kindle in the water. Neither would come out well. This is why my main reading is just before I go to sleep. I am so relaxed then. It’s not the time to read a gripping vampire novel though. Mind you, I wasn’t planning on doing this so that’s okay.

For me books have to be entertaining and help me relax. If I want a challenging read, I will carve out time during the day when my brain is better able to cope with said challenging read!

I hope you have plenty of excellent new reads for Christmas and I hope you have a safe and as good a celebration as possible. If ever there was a year, we all needed books to help us escape, it is in 2020.


Twitter Corner

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LAST BUT NOT LEAST

My next round-up will be on Tuesday 29th December. I’m having a couple of days off over Christmas though I still plan to write my weekly Goodreads Author Blog post. I am likely to move this to Sunday 27th December.

In the meantime, I wish you all as safe and happy a Christmas as possible in what has been such a strange year and I look forward to seeing you back here next week!

Many thanks for your ongoing support. It is much appreciated!

merry christmas sign

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com