Getting Started and Genre Fiction

Image Credit

Unless otherwise stated all images are from the brilliant Pixabay.

Facebook – General

Regardless of what I write where, the hard part is getting started. Once I’m away, I’m away. But I have learned over time to trust the instinct that something will come which I can work up into a story or a blog post. The great thing is it’s going to be a first draft and the only person seeing that is me.

I never worry about getting the writing right first go. I know I won’t. What matters is getting started and putting something down on paper or on screen. You can only work with what you’ve put down to work with after all!

So ways to get started on a piece of writing then?

1. Look through any brainstorming notes and see if ideas jotted down there take your fancy now. If so, away you go.

2. Have another brainstorming session and write anything down that occurs to you. I’d do this for about five minutes. Then look through the ideas. Did one in particular stand out? If so, great, off you go. If not, what was the idea you like the best and why do you think that is? Then still write it up. There will be a reason why you like this particular idea so go with it.

I’ve found that once you start writing, the ideas continue to flow. It is a bit like turning on a creative tap. Stronger and better ideas come as you write too. Jot them down. Come back to them. But just get writing and have fun. Nobody has to see this work but you.

Out of what you jot down, there may come ideas to write up fully. Even if you seem to draw a blank, you are clearing away some creative clutter from your brain in getting these ideas down and out of your system. Just put them away for a bit. Come back to them later. You might see potential in them THEN.

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Am forging away with my CFT post for this coming Friday – and it will include a quiz too. No prizes – just bask in the glow of getting the questions right! More details later in the week.

Revamping a website always takes longer than you think. I’m adding pages to my work on Cafelit and Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books. I also hope to have a page on writing tips etc. Looking forward to sharing more details when all done. Do explore the rest of the site. There will be more goodies to come in due course. The site is now known as allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Next big event for me will probably be the Bridge House celebration event in December. Looking forward to that a lot. So good to meet up with fellow writers that, for the rest of the year, I meet courtesy of Facebook! Incidentally, I do think that is one of the nicest aspects of social media – writers being able to encourage one another even if they can’t meet in person.

More immediately, I’ve got short stories to draft and non-fiction ideas to work on too. Why is it that it can take ages to get started on a piece of work, you get into your stride with it and THEN the time whizzes by and you have to stop? Oh well. The one comfort there is I know I’m not alone on that one!

Allison Symes and published works

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Glad to say Staying In is my latest story on Cafelit. It ties in with my last story, Humourless. I’ve been working on some linked flash fiction this year and hope to write more of these.

Definitely on the darker side of my particular writing scale but I hope you enjoy them both.

 

Catching up with reading on the Kindle at the moment. I’m also re-reading my novel on there too (I do love the Send to Kindle function!) and am trying to read it as a reader would.

I tend to save using the Save to Kindle function for my big projects. I think I might try batching my short stories and flash fiction in one document so I can review them like this too.

When I put the Kindle on, I am straight into reader mode which is precisely what I want to achieve here. The inner editor has been told to go away somewhat forcefully and I can relax and read.

Ironically, I’ve found on the novel it has made me spot things I can improve but that is because I’m reading it in a relaxed way. I’m not at this stage trying specifically to do anything to it. I think state of mind as you read is key here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to write flash fiction in a variety of moods. My absolute favourite are the humorous kind but that’s because I’ve always had a very soft spot for funny writing. I also think it’s under-estimated. (Anything that looks easy to write, you can bet the writer has worked very hard for years to get to that point).

Humour, I think, is the most difficult to get right in any form because it is so subjective. You have to accept not everyone might “get” your sense of irony.

My dear late mum loved a wide range of books but just didn’t “get” funny writing at all. I suspect that’s one reason I DO love it. Well, I guess it is one way of rebelling… albeit very tamely. (She would have been delighted though about From Light to Dark and Back Again and my other published stories).

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I’ve mentioned using random word and phrase generators before as good triggers for story ideas. I thought I’d take a look at the random phrase generator and again and came up with:-

Two Down, One To Go
Down for the Count
On the Ropes

All of those would make great titles and/or themes for stories. May well have a crack at some of these myself. The nice thing is you can keep clicking until you come to a phrase you like the sound of and, also, how about combining phrases?

Two Down, One to Go could make a great title while On the Ropes could be the theme of that same story.

Happy writing!

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Are there themes that really resonate with you whether you’re writing the stories, reading them, or both? I think I’d list mine as:-

1. Seeing the tables turned on superiors by a character who has been underrated or rejected.

2. Injustice put right, especially if someone has been falsely accused. (This is why Azkaban remains my favourite Harry Potter story).

3. A quest carried out by someone who is assumed will never fulfil it but they do. Take a bow, Frodo Baggins!

4. Where someone technically inferior is clearly far superior to their boss (but their boss knows it and acknowledges it) – Jeeves and Wooster are the top men here.

For flash fiction, of course, you would need to show a “brief taste” of these themes but there is nothing to stop you fleshing our a short piece into something much longer if you wanted to do so later.

That is one aspect of flash fiction I love – you CAN have a second bite of the cherry here. It’s just that the second bite is going to go much deeper (and go on for longer) than the first one!

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Am having great fun revamping my website at the moment. Am planning to put on an All About Flash Fiction page with hints and tips. Will share once it’s ready. Plan is to update it regularly. I’ll also use it to compile some of the advice I’ve shared here and I hope to share thoughts on writing exercises too.

I love flash fiction for the way it shines a sharp light on one moment in a character’s life. There is something about the intensity of flash that really appeals to me. And I love getting to create so many different characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Genre Fiction

I’ve never understood snobbery around genre fiction. Genre fiction encourages people to read according to their tastes and isn’t the idea to get people into books in the first place?

My favourite genres include:-

1. Fantasy
2. Crime
3. Historical

(And yes you can combine those. Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes novels in his Discworld series combines 1 and 2 and I’m sure you can think of others that blend genres).

I suppose the only “properly literary” fiction I’ve read is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which I adored, but my go-to-for-a-good-read first is always something which is genre based.

Yes, I know what to expect from, say, a crime novel, but what is fascinating is seeing how different crime writers handle their material. (As a writer, I can pick up tips there myself so win-win!).

I’m always fascinated as well by character creation and different writers take varying approaches to this. So reading widely across genres opens my eyes to different ways that this can be done.

So reading books then is a good idea then? Well of course it is!

Now to decide which genre I’m going to go for next…

Happy reading!

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Competitions and Revamped Website

Image Credits:

1.  A huge thank you to Stuart Wineberg and The Chameleon Theatre Group for kind permission to use their photos for my CFT post. As ever, captions for the photos appear on the CFT post.

2.  Unless stated otherwise, the rest of the images come from the marvellous Pixabay as usual.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford production My Husband’s Nuts.

I discuss farce (well, with a title like that, this wasn’t going to be a serious documentary now, was it?!) and what it is meant to do.

I also research the background of plays etc that I review. Putting this title into a search engine produced some interesting results, including a link with candied almonds! See the post for more.

Also a big thanks to the Chameleons who seem to like the review!

Fantastic review of ‘My Husband’s Nuts’ by Allison Symes on Chandler’s Ford Today. Thank you, Allison! :

 

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Am revamping my Word Press website (this very one!). Enjoying doing so and looking forward to sharing the results once I’m done. (Mind you, I bet there’ll be something I’ll have forgotten to add and then remember later but hey, that is the way of things!).

My CFT post this week is a review of the latest play put on by the wonderful Chameleon Theatre Group – My Husband’s Nuts. I’ll refrain from further comment other than to say the link will go up on Friday. Fans of serious documentaries may wish to skip this one… titles DO give clues!

Many thanks to all who’ve given great feedback on my latest Cafelit story, Humourless. I will have more work up in November and look forward to sharing that. It’s hard to believe it WILL be November on Friday! I get a sense of how fast the year is going by every time I schedule a CFT post as I have to know the dates!

I do wonder what that blue tit is telling the other one in the first picture below (from Pixabay as ever). Any chance is it’s nagging the other one to get up earlier to give it the best chance of getting the worms, do you think?

Image may contain: bird

I hope it’s a good story the blue tit is relating here! Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Reviewing is not the easiest thing to get right. You want to give a flavour of whatever it is you’re reviewing without giving away all of the “best bits”. It was good fun going to see The Chameleons’ My Husband’s Nuts and reviewing it this week for Chandler’s Ford Today though.

This play’s title confirms the importance of getting your title right to reflect the mood of your play, story, book etc! You just know this play isn’t going to be a serious documentary.

So how do you decide which title is right for your latest flash fiction story, say? The methods I use include:-

1. I use my titles to reflect the mood of the story.

2. I use my titles to reflect something of the main character.

3. I often keep my titles open so they can be taken in a humorous or other mood (e.g. Time Waits For No Man can be a funny story, could be a very sad one but the title flags up to the reader that the mood of the tale could go either way so that’s fine).

4. I sometimes use a pun as a title.

5. I’ll often use proverbs of famous sayings as titles, again because they can be open to interpretation. What I hope to do here is hook the reader’s curiosity so they want to find out which way the story goes.

If a better idea for a title occurs to me as I’m writing or editing the story, then I switch to that. You do get gut instincts that a title would be better if you went from Title A to Title B and I’ve learned to trust my gut instinct here. It’s rarely wrong.

 

 

Aside from writing flash, I, of course, read it, but I also like turning to longer works of fiction and non-fiction as something completely different.

It pays to mix up what you read to keep your reading life interesting AND ideas spark from all over the place so reading widely helps widen the areas where those sparks can originate from! And of course it is so much fun…

(One of my great joys is having books on my shelves at home written by friends. Always lovely to add to my collection there).

What do I look for when reading flash fiction by other authors?

1. I want to be hooked by the character(s).

2. I want to be surprised by the ending. (This does not mean it has to be a twist in the tale funnily enough, though I love those. I want to be able to foresee a good ending for the story and then discover the writer has come up with something better!).

3. I want to half wish I’d writen the story!

Why only half wish? Because I learned a long time ago I’m not in competition with other writers nor are they with me. Why? Because I write in my voice and they write in theirs. They are not the same.

You can take a dozen authors, give them the same word count and title and there will be a dozen different takes and styles.

The Waterloo Art Festival’s ebooks (produced by Bridge House Publishing) have proved that. My entries in To Be…To Become and, for this year, Transforming Being, are very different in style to the other tales. And that’s how it should be. Makes for a wonderful eclectic mix too.

Am revamping my Word Press website as I mentioned on my author page. I am hoping to have a specific flash fiction spot on this. Will share when it’s all ready. There is something creative in doing this though and I am enjoying it. I just feel that possibilities are opening up… (I do hope I’m right there!).

Flash fiction was known as postcard fiction and I can understand why. A story you can fit on the back of a postcard makes sense as a definition. Doesn’t really work for me. My handwriting’s tiny. I could get a three volume trilogy on there!😉😉😃

Flash has also been known as sudden fiction but I’m not keen on that definition. There can be some very poignant pieces written in flash and you’d hardly describe those as “sudden”.

The biggest challenge in flash fiction writing isn’t actually the word count – honestly. It’s coming up with different, interesting characters for each and every story you write. Mind, I love doing that. For me, it’s where the creative juices flow.

Fairytales With Bite – 

How to Tell If Your Fairy Godmother is Out of Warranty

  1.  Her wand keeps misfiring. You will get a lot of pumpkins but think of all the lovely recipes you can use those for!
  2.  Her spells will only last for so long and always expire at midnight. This may well prove not to be convenient but tough. There is nothing she, or you, can do about it.
  3. She proves to have a bit of a thing for changing animals into human characters – rats a speciality – despite knowing such a spell cannot last and it is going to really confuse the animals when they truly become themselves again. What memories will they have for a start?
  4. If she uses a sleeping spell on you, beware! Her alarm clock is stuck to 100 years, not a minute less. Again this may prove to be inconvenient. On the plus side, you’re never going to beat this for a lie-in!
  5. Your fairy godmother, if she is on the ball so to speak, will make herself known to you early in life so her arrival doesn’t come as a huge shock to you later on…  ah… I see you’ve only just met her… ooops.  Good luck. You’ll need it but you probably are in for an entertaining and unforgettable evening. Have fun!

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This World and Others – Foundations

What are the foundations for your stories and the worlds in which you set them? Mine are:-

  • I’ve got to know the characters really well, especially their major traits. I don’t necessarily need to like them but I do have to know how they are likely to react to events and why and whether anything could throw them.
  • I then visualise the setting in which these characters would fare best, work out why that is, and flesh out details of what the characters would face here. Not every detail will end up in the story but I will put in enough so readers can conjure up images of what the world is likely to be like.
  • I like to get a sense of how the world is governed (as that may well be the direct cause of conflict in my story. Even where it isn’t, I need to know what my characters could expect to face in terms of authorities, how they might interfere with what the characters are doing etc).

 

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What Writing Means To Me

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

Facebook – General

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

1. Escapism. (Always welcome that!).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publication News

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

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

AUTUMN

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

Allison Symes – 26th October 2019

Not based on a true story, honestly!

 

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Reasons to engage with other writers positively:-

1. It’s fun – best reason of all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. This is genius. Not true, sadly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing, editing etc etc!

Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do I Want Books To Do For Me?

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