WRITING NIGGLES, CONFERENCES AND A REVIEW OF THE FAIR

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I take a look back at the recent Hursley Park Book Fair for this week’s CFT post.

There are many things non-writer friends/family can do to support the writer in their life and one is to go to their events and show some moral support. Trust me, it is appreciated!

The biggest nightmare for all writers is being at an event where nobody turns up.

Helping to distribute flyers etc is also something that will go down well with your writer. (And plentiful supplies of tea/coffee/chocolate etc though in fairness those go down well with practically everyone!).

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Managed to get caught in some rain while walking the dog this evening. Came home to find it hadn’t rained here at all. Better half and I had only gone a couple of miles up the road to one of our favourite walks! Talk about localised weather… (it was also ironic that, for once, I had hoped for more rain).

On to writing niggles then….

How to Irritate a Writer Part 10001….. (I may be exaggerating)

1. Tell them you like books but much prefer films. (Grrrr….)

2. Tell them you think books are expensive. (Double Grrrr… – books are relatively cheap when you consider you can read them over and over. A really good book will make you want to have repeat reads. It’s exactly like revisiting an old friend).

3. Tell them you think the paperback is on its way out. (If by this time the writer has refrained from throwing something at you, count your blessings for you have done very well).

4. Ask the writer of How to Irritate a Writer Part 10001 where the other 10000 posts are on the topic!😉

5. Tell them you’ll wait until they hit bestseller status and then you might get a copy of their book. They want to know it is really popular first. The writer by this time is using every inch of self control they’ve got not to grab the nearest bit of 4 x 2 and hit you with it….

6. Tell them you can’t possibly leave a review for them, they’re not well known enough. It is almost certainly a waste of breath telling such like that everyone has to start somewhere and reviews help everybody, no matter where they are on their writing journey.

7. Tell them you think notebooks and pens are outdated. Surely everyone writes to screen these days. The writer by this time is already thinking of the perfect crime story where an irritating “friend” is done to death by an angry author and have already made plans for dumping the body. There may be wistful thoughts as to why they can’t do this for real….

My fellow writers, feel free to add your own thoughts here!

 

My CFT post this week will be a review of the Hursley Park Book Fair from a couple of weeks ago. Link to go up on Friday.

And to all my fellow authors taking part in festivals etc, hope they all go well.

Am looking forward to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in mid-August. Always good fun. Lovely to catch up with friends who for the rest of the year I’m in contact with via Facebook etc.

I remember being dreadfully nervous going to my first writing conference years ago (and set on the lovely Isle of Wight – and run by Felicity Fair Thompson.  It was great to catch up with her again at the recent Hursley Park Book Fair.). The nerves went when I realised networking was talking about something I absolutely love (writing and, associated with it, reading).

Also it is easy to get a conversation going with a writer – ask them what they’re writing! They in turn should ask you and before you know it, you are chatting away as if you’ve known each other all your lives. And that is how it should be.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do you like to see in a good flash fiction story? Some of my thoughts include:-

1. The story has to be the right length. Whether that’s 100, 250, or 500 words, it has got to be appropriate and right to that particular story. You want the reader to feel that nothing else could be added to the story, nor could there be anything taken away.

2. A strong lead character. Without that any flash fiction piece falls flat. The great thing is that strength can come in different forms – physical strength, mental strength etc. How your character shows their inner strength is up to you but it has to be there somewhere. Else why are they the lead?

3. There has to be a good ending (though not necessarily a happy one). The story has to “follow through”. Okay, sometimes that will be a twist ending, sometimes it can be a character coming to a conclusion about what they’ve just done or have been through. But the ending has to be right for all that has come before it.

The big challenge of flash is not so much the word count but having a complete story which has a proper beginning, middle and end in that word count limit. It is too easy to just write “truncated prose” but that does not come across as a proper story and rightly so. It can leave your reader feeling cheated.

At the end of a flash piece, your reader must not be left wondering where the rest of the story is! You want them thinking the story could not have ended any other way. I see flash as short, sharp looks into a character’s life. Look, write down what you see, and stop there.

What do I look for in flash fiction, whether I’m reading or writing it?

I look for a strong character and an ending I don’t see coming but which is entirely appropriate for the story.

I do enjoy playing “guess the ending”, sometimes I’m right, more often I’m not, and I always like that.

This is where I find writing the ending first can be helpful. If I’ve got something that makes a powerful impact which is what I want my readers to finish with, then I’ll work backwards from that point to see how the story could start. I find it a useful technique.

When I brainstorm ideas for new flash fiction, I’ll sometimes come up with something that will make the perfect ending, so leave it at that. I will be looking for what “threads” could come from what I’ve written and if it seems to be linear, then I’ll write the story in the traditional way from start to end.

But it doesn’t always work like that. The threads can sometimes lead away from what I’ve written back to a start point and that’s generally when I know I’ve got something that will make a wonderful ending to the story. I know enough now to NOT force something to be a start when it really isn’t suitable for that.

I also think it a good thing to mix up how I write here. It helps keep things “fresh” for me as a writer, and that will hopefully show through in the stories.

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Themes

If you’re looking for themes for your stories, analyse some fairytales and ideas will leap out at you!

After all, what is the theme of Cinderella?  Never giving up?  Justice will “out” in the end?  Whatever you think the theme is, you can use that for your stories.

Themes such as anti-bullying emerge from stories like The Ugly Duckling.  (Also beauty is only skin deep and transformation is always possible!  Lots of themes from this one).

The lovely thing is that the themes from fairytales are timeless.  It is one major reason we still love these old stories.  They still resonate.  I think they always will.  They reflect on our nature.  There will always be jealousy (Snow White), a need for sensible building materials (The Three Little Pigs!), and  greed (Goldilocks – I always have sympathised with the three bears here). That is to name just a few examples.

And there’s nothing to stop you combining themes either.  After all your lead character may have the virtues of, say, Puss in Boots and the villain the qualities of The Big Bad Wolf.  Set up the conflict and away you go!

Generating the writing ideas maybe - image via Pixabay

Generating the writing ideas. Image via Pixabay.

Lost in a good book - image via Pixabay

Lost in a good book. Image via Pixabay.

Books create their own sense of space - image via Pixabay

Books have their own sense of time and space. Image via Pixabay.

Books are wonderful whatever their format - image via Pixabay

Books are fabulous, whatever the format. Image via Pixabay.

CLARITY POST - Editing is vital to help you be as clear as possible - image via Pixabay - Copy

Editing – the crucial part to getting a story right. Image via Pixabay.

Books can be one major key to knowledge - image via Pixabay

Books are the keys to knowledge. Image via Pixabay

Printers would have fun trying to print this - image via Pixabay

Let the ideas flow and let journeys encourage that! Image via Pixabay

Use review questions to find out more about your characters, image via Pixabay

Use personal reviews to help you generate character and story outlines. Image via Pixabay.

Creation is good for us, image via Pixabay

Well, let’s do so by writing lots of stories! Image via Pixabay.

This World and Others – Character Virtues -v- Vices

I thought I’d list a few character virtues and vices to look at how these can be used in storytelling.

Patience/Impatience
Patience doesn’t always come across well in fiction. Much as I love Little Women, I did find the very patient Beth to be a little too much of a goody goody for my tastes.  I think patience translates better when it is shown as a character actively trying to seek a goal, is at a point where they need to wait for a very good reason before taking further action, and that they do so.  There is a point to the patience then.  It is also an “active patience”, an act of will.  I find I want to read to find out if they CAN see that patience out and have the reward for doing so.

Impatience, of course, can be shown as a character’s weak point, causing them more problems than they needed to have (which adds to the conflicts and drama of the story).  Sometimes impatience can be used more positively in that it can be the trigger for change.  Someone is impatient with the lack of education, say, in their village and actively seeks to change that.  Again, the impatience at the status quo here can be a good catalyst for the story.  There are bound to be those who want the status quo continued.  Is there a reason why they don’t want the villagers to be educated?

Calmness/Anger
Calmness I think is easier to show in a story as there are always characters who are needed to calm other characters down and make them see sense.  What effect would that have on the tale?  If they failed to calm the other one down, what would the consequences be?  Keeping calm can be a crucial need in a thriller where that virtue gives the character time to think, time to work out a way of escape etc.  (Less likely to think of this if the character is panicking, getting worked up etc).

Anger can be shown as a character’s downfall – their temper alienates anyone who might help them.  It can be used to show a character’s sense of justice.  (You’ve got to question why anyone wouldn’t be angry at abuse, violence etc).  It can also be shown as part of a character’s development.  At the start of the story they’re hotheaded, at the end they’ve learned to temper their temper, so to speak.

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HOT AND BOTHERED AND BLOGGING!

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Does the hot weather affect your writing? In my case, not directly. I’m at my desk, everything is as comfortable as possible, and off I go.

What I do dislike is the lethargy that can set in so I find it harder to stay up and write, write, write. So, accepting that is how it is is, I just squeeze more writing into the time I know I can work with before I simply HAVE to go to sleep. Must admit this is where I loved the weather in Scotland – generally good, but a few degrees cooler. Lady loved that too.

I’ll be looking at blogging in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and next. I’ll look at some of the joys of blogging and share some fantastic contributions from fellow writers and bloggers. Looking forward to that.

Hope to get some more flash fiction out to Cafelit before too long. Plus I hope to put more stories up on Scriggler, the US based site as well. I’ve got longer term plans for non-fiction writing, revamping my novel, as well as more flash fiction books so will be busy, busy, busy. All in a good way.

Must admit I am finding the heat a bit much (Lady is being pretty sensible about it to her credit for such a young dog). So the idea of sitting in the garden to write does not appeal. I’m definitely one for the shade!

What is the best thing about a story, regardless of genre? Is it the tale being written well enough to make you forget your cares for while?

Or is it that the characters are so well drawn you sympathise with them and can see why they are acting the way they are? The best stories contain elements of both, of course, but I don’t think it is something the writer can set out to do deliberately.

What we can do deliberately is give the most honest portrayal of our characters as we can and then it is up to the reader whether they identify with them or not. A really good story will leave you with no choice but to do so!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One thing I mentioned in my talk on flash fiction on Saturday at Hursley Park was the fact I love the way flash forces you to fill in the gaps. For example, if I give you a story about a time travelling alien, you fill in how/what it looks like as I get on with the important bit of showing you what happens to said alien in the story. There is no room for anything else.

The great thing here is your experience of time travelling aliens will be down to how much sci-fi you read or watch, whether you’re a fan of Doctor Who or not, and so on. You will fill in the gaps in description based on what YOU think a time travelling alien should look like. My interpretation will be different (even allowing for some overlaps). And that is where flash can be such fun.

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My favourite ending for a flash fiction story, whether I write them or read them, is easily the twist one.

This is partly because I like to guess ahead and then see if I guessed correctly (and all kudos where it is due to flash fiction writers who wrongfoot me!).

I also like to see a twist that really works well and makes me go back into the story to look for the clues I know the writer will have planted there. There is always lots to learn from reading other fiction, whether it is in your own genre or not. If you needed an excuse to read more, please use that one!

Flash fiction encourages readers to fill in the gaps, given there isn’t room for much in the way of world building. I love that, both as a reader and writer.

You can infer so much more with flash too, indeed inference is a major tool in the “kit” to write it. It is true that with any story, you have to give the reader what they need to know to make sense of it, but with flash, that is fine tuned to the nth degree.

Write what you need to write and then get out is a useful guiding principle. Another is to check each line and ask myself, well why do I need this? The answer has got to be strong enough to justify that line’s inclusion in the story. Any hesitation on your part and at best you need to rewrite that line, at worst cut it.

 

 

 

FAIR REPORT AND READING OUT LOUD

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Had a great time at the Hursley Park Book Fair today. Good number of visitors, chatted to people, sold some books, and my talk on flash fiction went well (albeit to a small audience). All positives to build on, I’m glad to say, and that’s also true for the Book Fair itself. I very much hope it becomes a regular event in the calendar.

It was lovely catching up with some writer friends too. I’ll be writing a fuller review for Chandler’s Ford Today later. Pics are from the sports hall at the venue, and the theatre where people gave talks etc. Nice place.

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Many thanks to all who came and checked out the Hursley Park Book Fair. It was great fun and it was lovely to chat to people about the joys of flash fiction. It was also lovely to meet fellow authors.

I will be posting a review of the Fair up in a couple of weeks’ time on Chandler’s Ford Today but I want a little time to elapse before I do this. Exactly as I do with writing a story in fact – write it, leave it for a bit, edit it looking at the piece with a fresh pair of eyes and post/submit it!

Favourite moment from the Fair? To the lovely lady who bought a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again and then came back to me later in the afternoon. She wanted to show me one of my 100-worders that had made her laugh out loud (and yes it was meant to!). Now that IS a review!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Introduced a few people to the delights of flash fiction at the Hursley Park Book Fair today. What was lovely was when one person came back to me, having had time to dip into From Light to Dark and Back Again, and wanting to tell me she’d laughed out loud at one particular story! Now isn’t that the kind of feedback most of us writers want?!

One of the nice things about giving a talk on flash fiction, as I did yesterday at the Hursley Park Book Fair, is that reading some is often the best way to show what it is. And you get to choose what to read out! The 100-worders tend to work best.

One question I was asked was about the different forms of flash and whether the crafting was the same. Yes, it is, whether you write a 50-word or 500-word flash fiction story.

While you have more room for manoeuvre in the latter obviously, you still have to make every word count. Every word must serve a purpose in being in the story. (One of my guiding principles is write what I need to write and then get out! Anything you can cut without losing the story should be cut as it clearly isn’t necessary).

And yes you can have flash fiction written as a poem, I’ve written some of these myself, but you still need to put in the time on the editing. I find I tend to write my stories quickly, which is great, but it is the editing and the looking at how I can phrase things better to have a more powerful impact on the reader is where the time really gets eaten up.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Reading Out Loud

Do you ever read stories out loud when you are on your own? (I accept if you do this on the Tube, the bus, or what have you, you WILL get some funny looks, so probably best not go there! If you’re driving, stick to audio books for your sake and everyone else’s!).

I’m thinking of those times when you’re curled up at home with a cup or glass of something nice and have got a lovely book on the go.

I’m also not talking about reading to children (though this is one of the best things you can ever do as a parent. I cherish my love of books and stories, thanks to my mother doing this for me when I was a child. It was a great joy to share the joy of this with my son as he was growing up. Guess what, he loves books, though in totally different areas to me, which is fab.).

I sometimes read my own work out loud, record it, and play it back on something like Audacity to hear how my dialogue sounds. Does it sound natural? Am I tripping over something etc?

But why not read out loud with books you are reading for pleasure when you’re on your own? Why? I think you pick up nuances as you hear how the prose sounds. I think it can give you a deeper appreciation of how well the words have been put together. And there is something about reading out loud that calls to mind where we get our storytelling from – the oral tradition – so very much a case of revisiting our roots here.

Chandler’s Ford Today – Graham MacLean Art Series

I acted as series editor on this.  Am glad to share the links to all three parts of the series now.  If you would like to know a bit more about art, the media used, and some of the most well known artists, do have a look at these.  Graham’s own artwork is used throughout the series and is stunning.  See what you think.

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-1-why-i-love-art/

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-2-media-used-in-painting/

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-3-my-favourite-artists/

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting.

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting. Just one of Graham MacLean’s fantastic artworks. Look at that light! Image kindly supplied by Graham MacLean

The Thames at Mortlake

Pi Toi O Fishing Village NT Hong Kong – image and original painting by Graham MacLean

The wild Croatian coastline outside Dubrovnik. The brilliant blue of the Adriatic Sea contrasted with the rocks and dark green foliage

The wild Croatian coastline outside Dubrovnik. Painting and image by Graham MacLean

These are just some of my favourite paintings by Graham.  There are many more fabulous pictures in the three part series.

 

WRITING, EDITING, AND WORLD BUILDING ISSUES

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Looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair over the weekend (though sadly I can only be there on the Saturday). I hope I can get to listen to a couple of the other talks during the day too.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I plan to read a few of my stories as part of my talk on flash fiction at the Hursley Park Book Fair tomorrow, 23rd June. (The event is on 24th as well but sadly I can’t make it for both days). Good opportunity to spread the word about what flash fiction is all about.

As with my longer fiction, I draft a flash piece first, give it an initial edit, and then leave it for a while before looking at it again. In the meantime, of course, I am writing more flash fiction and non-fiction posts. This generally means I always have something to write or to edit.

When I use Evernote, I tend to just write and have fun being creative. I tend to edit this work once I’m back at my desk again. I’ve found this method works best for me but the most important thing, I think, is to see the creative writing and editing of same as two separate tasks. I never try to write and edit at the same time, else I hamper myself. I need a bit of gap to be able to judge objectively if something is working or not.

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Fairytales with Bite – What Classifies a Fairytale as a Fairytale?

This is not a definitive list but what I think classifies a fairytale to be called a fairytale.  Comments welcome!

1.  Magic is involved.  This can be at a high level (Cinderella’s transformation – clothes, coach etc) to low level (a little magic is used to help a character succeed at something.  This is taken to its logical conclusion in Fantasia though there the character also needed to know how to stop but that’s another story!).

2.  There has to be a transformation of fortune.  Usually from being downtrodden to the happy ever after, but sometimes, such as in The Little Mermaid, the transformation can be seen not to have been what the character really wanted.  Or it failed to achieve what it is was meant to achieve.  However, the transformation of fortune has still happened.

3.  Generally, the good guys either win or fail heroically but leave the banner to someone else.  Always true.  I would describe a story where the villain won as a a nightmare, rather than  a fairytale.  Why?  Because with the villain winning, you can kiss goodbye to hope.  That villain will impose their will on their subjects say with nothing and nobody to stop them.  I fail to see the story in that.  Re the latter, remember in The Lord of the Rings, there had been a previous attempt to defeat Sauron once and for all.  That failed but it paved the way for the story to follow.

4.  Inanimate objects should be treated with caution.  This can include things like the Portals in the Harry Potter series, any shiny red apple, talking mirrors, and swords/rings etc that seem keen to be reunited with their former owners.  These always cause trouble but it is a major element of a fairytale.

5.  Expect the unexpected and/or what is unknown in our world to be known here.  This is especially true for the existence of magical creatures, universes far far away, and so on.

This World and Others – World Building Issues

Some issues relating to world building can include:-

1.  Not giving enough information for your reader to be able to picture the world in their own minds.  As with flash fiction, it is the telling detail that matters here.  Your story should ensure it has everything in it the reader will need to know.

2.  Not making the world attractive enough for the reader to care what happens to it.  The details you give them have to matter.  The readers need to see what is appealing about World X always doing this or that on their equivalent of a Tuesday, to name one example.  They also need to see why it matters.  In this case, would the world collapse if the tradition changed?

3.  Not having the right balance of character types.  You do need a decent villain.  You also need a hero/heroine with the right “can do it” attitude.  Yet if you just have the good guys, there is literally nothing for the good guys to fight.

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View from near where I was staying in Scotland. You wouldn't want to rush away from this. Image by Allison Symes

WHAT I’VE LEARNED SO FAR AS A WRITER

Facebook – General

Back to the A-Z of characters and I’m at L.

L = Love. Okay there’s the obvious romantic leads, and as long as they’re interesting characters, fine, but I love (aptly!) those characters who show love beyond that. For example, the love of someone caring for a parent or spouse with dementia etc. That kind of love, for me, is deeper and more meaningful. The stresses and tensions in that kind of character should make for a great story.

M = Mentors. Do you have any in your stories? If so, do they accept being a mentor or has that, like greatness, been thrust upon them? How do they manage?

N = Nobility. Again, as with love, you can have the obvious and direct noble characters. I prefer characters like Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings who are truly noble (and brave with it) in character. Are your characters truly noble like that? What brought this about?

All ideas worth exploring as you develop your characters.

 

If there is anything I have learned as a writer, it is to be open to (a) opportunities and (b) not to be afraid to try something different. That was how I discovered the joys of flash fiction after all. It is also how I got into blogging.

I’m currently preparing a post about Why I Blog for Chandler’s Ford Today with contributions from many writer friends. Blogging is really the modern equivalent of journal keeping – at least that is how I see it – but it is fun to do and I find it useful as a way into writing before I get on to further fiction work.

Looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair at the weekend. Am giving a talk on flash fiction at 10.55. Am nervous and excited about it all at the same time but I guess a lot of writers feel that way!

I will be posting a shorter reminder post on Friday night on CFT about it but it is a pleasure to (a) share news about a book event, especially one I’m taking part in and (b) share news about an event which is FREE and has FREE PARKING! How often can you say that these days?

One great thing is there are lots of authors taking part across a wide range of genres so there is bound to be something to suit you. Come along and see! We’d all be pleased to see you.

Reasons to go?

 

1. Wide range of books to choose from.
2. Plenty of author talks.
3. There’s a book quiz (who doesn’t like a good quiz?).
4. The event is free and has free parking.
5. There are competitions aimed at adults and children.
6. There are also workshops.
7. You can meet the authors.
8. There will be readings.
9. There is a restaurant and bar on site.
10. Plenty of opportunities to discover writers new to you.

(Oh and if you do want to escape a certain sporting event, that’s point 11!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Really looking forward to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Always learn a lot and come away inspired and reinvigorated. I find by the late summer, I need inspiring and reinvigorating!

Wrote several new flash fiction stories while travelling to and from Scotland last week. I really do bless Evernote and my smartphone. One lovely thing about being a writer is boredom is a thing of the past. There is always something to write – whether it is flash fiction, ideas for future blog and CFT posts etc. Know it will come in handy later.

Am planning to write a lot while travelling to Swanwick too! (Images below by Allison Symes). The tent image is from a Medieval Weekend I went to and is the scrivener’s tent. They used to have some of the best accommodation, something I’ll bear in mind the next time I check in anywhere!

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I like to experiment a little with flash fiction. I have written some in poem format and, in the book I’m currently putting together, have written a few stories, told from the viewpoints of members of the same family. This is a first for me but it has proved great fun to do.

Given flash fiction really does have to be character led as there’s not much room for world building, the more interesting the character, the better the story.

Am putting finishing touches to my talk on flash fiction which I will be giving at the weekend at the Hursley Park Book Fair. I’m “on” at 10.55 am on Saturday 23rd June. I prepared a draft a while ago, but as with my fiction writing, I like to come back and look at my text with fresh eyes. There is always something to pick up and tweak so it comes across better etc. You really do need a gap between first preparing something and then editing it.

A sign of a good story, from the writer’s viewpoint, is when you can’t wait to write it. You get this with flash fiction too, but of course you don’t have so long to wait until you get to “the end”! 😁

Here, the trick is to look forward to writing the next one, the one after that, and so on. Manage that and you know you are on to something!

books tunnel school endless

The ultimate book tunnel? Image via Pexels

read under a tree signage hanging on branch tree

Unless in a thunder storm or high winds, this is a good idea! Image via Pexels

woman wearing grey spaghetti strap top

See! It is a good idea, weather permitting! Image via Pexels

brown clay pot on black and blue laptop

A nice clear desk (not mine!). Image via Pexels

Let creativity spill out - image via Pixabay

Let the creative process flow! Image via Pixabay

Writing directly to screen

What are the changes your characters seek to make? Are you showing your characters doing this rather than telling us? Image via Pixabay.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – The Joy of Paperbacks

I’ve not long got back from a wonderful break in the Far North of Scotland and I caught up with a lot of reading on my Kindle during this.

However, I also treated myself to three new paperbacks just before my break and I’m really enjoying those too, having deliberated “saved” them to start reading during my break. Why choose over an ebook or a “real” book? Be greedy, have both!

Am currently reading Peter Ackroyd’s Biography of London (fascinating way of showing a history of a city), Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap Seats (a collection of his non-fiction articles), and Ben Macintyres’ Double Cross. Good sized tomes all of them and a lovely read. Hope to review at a later date.

I like a good mix of things to read and am developing a real taste for well written non-fiction. Books can take you into other worlds. Sometimes the world they show you is this one but from an angle you’ve not considered before. For me, this is an acid test of a good read. A good read will enlighten you.

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PUBLICATION/EVENT NEWS AND ROUND UP

I was so pleased I managed to schedule Facebook, Chandler’s Ford Today posts etc, that I forgot to schedule something for here and also on my Goodreads blog!  Sorry, folks, but a round up of recent posts to follow.  Hope to put up a Goodreads blog in next day or so. Firstly, though:-

PUBLICATION AND EVENT NEWS

I am thrilled that my flash fiction story, Progressing, was one of the 16 winning entries to the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition.  The ebook, To Be…To Become, is now available (reviews would be very welcome!) and I must admit I love a title that also tells you the theme!  Many of my fellow winners took part in the Festival last week and read out from their winning entries.  I was only sorry to miss it being in the beautiful far North of Scotland at the time!  (The link takes you to the Amazon page for the ebook incidentally – no surprises there!).

My latest published story, Progressing, is in here.  A splendid mix of stories – do try them out!  Image via Bridge House Publishing (the sponsor of the writing competition).

 

View from near where I was staying in Scotland. You wouldn't want to rush away from this. Image by Allison Symes

View from near where I was staying in Scotland. You wouldn’t want to rush away from this. Image by Allison Symes

Event News – Hursley Park Book Fair – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I am delighted to be taking part in the above Fair this coming weekend.  The whole event is on 23rd and 24th June but I can only be there for the Saturday, unfortunately.  This is the inaugural Hursley Park Book Fair and everyone taking part (over 40 authors) is hoping this will become a regular event.

I am giving a talk on flash fiction at 10.55 am on the 23rd and am looking forward to that.  Hursley Park is situated between Winchester and Romsey.  The event is free, there is plenty of parking, and a wealth of genres will be represented at the Fair.  So do come along if you can.  If you want to know what inspires our stories, what flash fiction is about etc, I will be pleased to see you.  There are workshops and many other talks, a book quiz, competitions for adults and children, so plenty going on so do drop by.

My post on CFT is naturally about this but gives more details and I am pleased to share some of the other local writers’ pictures and books who will also be at the Fair.  I’ve interviewed them all at some point too!

Book fair Flyer

Hursley Park Book Fair flyer. Image kindly supplied by Glenn Salter.

Chandler’s Ford Today – Graham MacLean Art Series

I occasionally edit a series on CFT and have had the great pleasure of editing Graham MacLean’s series on Art.  I’m sharing Part 2 of the series here, which has some slideshows of his fantastic artwork.  Part 1 was last week and Part 3 will be this Thursday.  If you have any interest in art, I would recommend taking a look.  (My favourite is Part 2 due to the slideshows!).

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting.

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting. Just one of Graham MacLean’s fantastic artworks. Look at that light! Image kindly supplied by Graham MacLean

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I will just round up all of my most recent posts in one long one here and will do the same for my book page too.  Hope you find plenty of interest.

It always pays to check over work before submitting it anywhere but there is nothing to stop you mixing up the formats you use.

For example, you’ve read through and edited your work on paper. Now have a look at it on screen. Read the piece out loud. Record your reading. Play it back. Literally hear how easily (or otherwise!) it is to read your dialogue.

When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve found that what I thought looked okay on the paper did not necessarily read well so made the necessary adjustments. I don’t use this method all the time, but if you want to check dialogue especially, I’d recommend it.

Old school writing - image via Pixabay

Old school writing. Image via Pixabay.

Always room for different kinds and formats of writing - image via Pixabay

Online writing -v- on a line writing! Image via Pixabay

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What every writer needs. Image via Pexels.

Do you remember when you wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to “go for it”?

In my case I’d been writing for a while, was beginning to have acceptances, and took the attitude I would follow my dream here. Nothing ventured, nothing gained etc.

So what was the trigger point for you? Have you achieved what you initially set out to do? Has your writing journey taken a different direction from what you anticipated? I hadn’t heard of flash fiction when I began writing. Now I’m published in it. If there is a lesson here, it is to keep your options open!

 

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What is your favourite piece of writing by another author? Is it what they usually do or something different from the norm?

I sometimes read poetry as that is completely outside what I do and generally read but must admit I tend to stick to the tried and tested classics. (Always a good place to start, at least.).

Given the choice between poetry and limericks, I always go for the latter, partly because I enjoy a good laugh!

What do your characters read? Are the characters in your creations fully literate or are there gaps in education we don’t face? How could you use education/the ability to read etc as (a) part of your story and (b) to give enough details so your reader can get a very good idea of what your world is like?

Writing can teach you many things if you let it. The obvious one is the value of patience given how long it can take to be published and prior to that, you despair as to whether publication is ever going to happen so your “hope muscle” gets a really good workout or several!

Tenacity, perseverance, and determination develop as you learn to handle rejection and improve your work. You also learn to turn a deaf ear to advice that really isn’t helpful for you (and sometimes it really isn’t). Your skin toughens up too coping with the rejections that come in.

But when the writing is going well, your latest has been accepted etc, relish it, see it as the progress it is. I do know I wish I could bottle that positive feeling and unleash it on myself for those days when writing etc does not grow well.

A surprise ending shouldn’t come as a total shock to the reader. There should be clues earlier on in the story that means the surprise ending is justified.

I must admit one of the great pleasures of reading for me is reading a story, guessing at who the bad guy is, and then finding out if I’m right or not!

I usually then go back through the story, especially if I guessed wrongly, to look for things that might be clues (and often get a bit cross with myself for not having spotted them in the first place. They are there, as they should be!).

My CFT post this week tells you all about the Hursley Park Book Fair, which is taking place on 23rd and 24th June at Hursley Park, the home of IBM, between Winchester and Romsey. The event is free, there is plenty of parking, and a wide range of authors are taking part. I’m there on the 23rd and will be talking about flash fiction at 10.55 am. Hope to see you there!

Who has the best reasons to thwart your characters’ plans? Do bear in mind that sometimes a character doesn’t need an enemy as such. Sometimes circumstances can thwart them. How do your characters react to that? When there is an enemy, how did they get to be that way? Is there enemity going on that new characters could help resolve? How do your characters response to life’s odd moments?

An A to Z of characters can start with:-

A = Ambition. Are your characters ambitious? What will they do to gain power and keep it?
B = Books. Are your characters well read? What do they read?
C = Creativity. Are your characters creative and, if so, in which field? Can they use their skills here in the story you’ve put them in?
D = Drive. What drives your characters? What can zap that drive and can they get it back again?
E = Education. This is a good one to use to show the standards in your creation. Are they high? Is education universal? Do your characters relish their education or did they hate it all?
F = Family. What are your characters’ families like? Do they support your hero/heroine as they continue their quest (sacred oir otherwise).

So continuing with the A to Z of characters, we are now at G.

G = Generosity. Are your characters generous or do they begrudge giving anyone money?
H = Helpfulness. Well, are your characters helpful or not? Can other characters rely on them?
I = Imagination. Do your characters have any? How do they use any they do possess – in writing, the creative arts, or in criminal activities, say?
J = Justice. Justice can be an emotive topic. Is justice truly upheld in your fictional world? Do the nasty (but cheap) and the loud (but knowledgeable) people exist in your fiction? What impact do they have on others?
K – Kindness. I like to see kind characters who are NOT doormats. They choose to be kind. Their attitude makes a difference. They’ve perhaps been shown great kindness and they are now kind of passing it on.

More next time…  (well, actually in a couple of days!).

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I was reading something earlier about using character names to tell you something about back story, about the character themselves and so on. Good idea! And in flash fiction it would be another great way of keeping the word count down!

Ironically, having given this a bit more thought, I often don’t name my flash characters at all as I use first person a lot. It is immediate, takes you straight into the character’s head and thoughts, and is phenomenally useful.

My only problem with the above idea is I would end up revealing some spoilers as some of my flash fiction revolves around a crime. Murderess Mary rather does give the plot away about what said Mary got up to!!

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I like writing flash stories which tell you quite a bit about relationships the main character has with others while getting on with whatever it is that is happening to them as the story.

My Making the Grade is a good example of this as the character is clearly taking exams but you find out a lot about her family and their attitudes in this.

It is also an example of first person usage and I think of this as the character talking directly to “camera” as Eric Morecambe used to do so frequently in the Morecambe and Wise shows. (Wonderful shows, they bring back many happy memories).

Flash fiction is a celebration of the joys of being brief! I think of it as the polar opposite to the epic novel…

I find flash really useful for those scenes which are a story in and of themselves, but are too short to be sent out to standard competitions etc. Waste not, want not! And I’ve always loved books I can read from cover to cover or dip in and out of as I choose. Flash fiction is ideal for that too.

I suppose you could also describe flash fiction as “moment” stories given you haven’t the word count to show much more of a character’s life.

The front cover of FLTDBA shows ripples in a body of water and when I was looking for something suitable to use for my book, this one leapt out at me. (Only metaphorically speaking!).

I liked the idea of the ripples spreading outwards and that for something (a splash!) which initially wouldn’t have seemed so important still managed to make its presence felt! I want my stories to have that kind of impact. A good story stays with you and I hope that with a reduced word count, people will find it easier to remember good flash fiction pieces.

The reason for a good title is to grab
The reader’s attention and hope
They’ll find flash anything but drab
And suddenly learn to say “nope”
To those saying flash isn’t worth the read
Because it’s so short and to truly feed
Your imagination you need the big book.
Of course you do but you need short stories too.

Allison Symes – June 2018

I sometimes schedule posts if I’m away, likely to be really busy and so on and find it quite useful. However, I do find it odd to write a few posts all in one hit so to speak. I am going to try scheduling more often to free up more writing time for other projects I’d like to work on. (It’s also a useful habit to get into as it can cover you for family emergencies, at least for a while).

I’m off on my travels again before long and am mapping out what I’d like to write on Evernote on my phone whilst on my way. I need to use that more for non-fiction posts, including mini blogs like this one. Still I am pleased with progress on my next collection and plan to write more of that up too!

What inspires your fiction? I’ve been inspired by crime stories, fantasy tales and so on. So the more you read, the more you can be inspired by!

If you are in Hampshire over the weekend of 23/24 June, why not pop along to the Hursley Park Book Fair at Hursley Park, home of IBM until 2014? There will be a range of authors (over 40 of us) and I am representing flash fiction writers. I’ll also be talking about the form and why I love it. It is very addictive.

The event is free, there will be a book quiz (with 3 prizes of book bundles in all, a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again is part of one of the bundles), and car parking is free and plentiful. (Can’t often say that these days).

Children’s fiction will be represented more on the Sunday but why not go to both days and top up on books for all the family. Hope to see you there!

Because there isn’t room to world build in flash fiction, it is very easy to set your stories anywhere. You just put your character in a location, say London in Dickens’ time and for most readers that will instantly conjure up images (lots of fog especially!) that will add to the story for them without you having to spell it all out.

I love writing stories from the viewpoints of aliens as I can show you what they are like as characters. The details of their world in terms of how it is run, population types and sizes etc, are generally not relevant for my tales. (Though why they left can be…).

This can lead to a “mini series” if you really take to the character created. I love having fun with flash fiction and seeing what I can do with it. It all keeps the writing fresh.

I thought of my book’s title while I was away in the beautiful far North of Scotland last week. Only problem was I was reading by natural light up until about 11 pm most nights so by the time it did actually get dark, I was asleep! I am writing this now at just coming up to 11 pm in the South of England and it is pitch black out there. Oh what a difference latitude makes!

One image that I really wish I’d managed to photo was from a previous holiday where there were hills behind where we were staying. I watched the sun go down on one side and the moon rise on the other and it was a beautiful sight. A little bit other worldly too and I suspect, had I managed to snap the image, it would have made a very good picture prompt for a story on those grounds.

Managed to use the journey to and from Scotland to get more flash fiction written (and indeed some non-fiction too) so was very pleased with that.

And I am delighted to say another flash fiction piece of mine called Progressing is one of the 16 winning entries to the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition. The ebook, To Be…To Become (title AND theme!), is now available from the usual outlets, as they say. (See at top of post for link and image).

Fairytales With Bite – All The Fun of the Fair

Am looking forward to taking part in the Hursley Park Book Fair on 23rd June. About 40 authors are taking part in this and it will be the biggest book event I’ve taken part in to date. I’ll also be giving a talk about flash fiction during this and, of course, I hope to sell some books!

Fairs generally go back a very long way in the UK in terms of history and were the highlights of medieval life in particular. They acted as a kind of holiday from the usual backbreaking toil which was the lot of the peasants.

In your fictional world, does your society have this kind of community event? If so, what form does it take, who can take part in it, and how often does it run? Is there a history to it? In a magical world, how do their Fairs differ from non-magical ones?

If there isn’t a Fair or something like that, what kind of recreational activities do the ordinary people of your world enjoy? If there’s nothing at all, how do the people cope with work, work, nothing but work? I would expect people to get ground down and tired and in need of some sort of break so what would happen in your world if that break doesn’t happen? I would expect friction, at least, and probably more than that. Someone is bound to rebel against their lot. And that’s where your story may well be!

This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

Comparing and contrasting what is on our world with what may or may not be on your fictional one is a great place to start when it comes to world building.  The “what if” card comes into play here and you can also use alternative versions of our history to create your own world.

I didn’t watch The Man in the High Castle but I heard very good things about it.  People I know who did watch it were gripped by the drama showing an alternative world to ours where Germany won World War Two and Hitler was a very old man. I don’t want to say more than that – no spoilers here! – but you can see how you could create your own timeline based on the opposite of what happened for real and create a whole new world and set of stories.

Another good starting point would be to take character traits you admire or loathe and get your characters, in a setting or time of your choice, to have the exact opposite!

For example, if you loved medieval life, what would the consequences be for, say, a knight who is a coward? (Okay, you could argue that knight would not live long and how did he get to be a knight in the first place with an attitude like that anyway?  I suspect there would be stories to be had answering that question!  Also, so much depends on perspective here.  The knight might not be a coward at all – it is how he is seen by others who might have their own agendas here.  So you can see there are story possibilities there as well).

So compare and contrast and have fun!

KNOWING WHAT I DO NOW…

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Are there things connected with writing that you are glad you know now? This is definitely the case for me and my list would be:-

1. When offered a contract, get it checked out by the Society of Authors. I did and it stopped me entering into something that would’ve been a vanity publishing contract. I’ve never regretted not going for that (though at the time I wasn’t published elsewhere nor was there anything in the pipeline). Talking of which:-

2. Don’t be afraid to turn things down. You have got to be happy with what you are doing writing wise. And, as with so much in life, if it seems too good to be true, it is. There’s no shame in walking away from such a thing.

3. You really do need to edit on paper and not on screen. You WILL miss typos, grammatical errors etc on screen. I’m sure there must be a logical reason to this, probably based on how the brain interprets things on screen as opposed to paper. All I know for sure is when I edit on paper, I pick up far more that needs correcting (and so save myself a great deal of embarrassment in NOT submitting something with errors because I’ve not seen the wretched things and dealt with them!). It IS worth taking the time here.

What would you list here?

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New story from me coming up on Cafelit on Tuesday (5th June), will share the link then. If you like dragons, it will be for you!

Am sorry to be missing the Winchester Writers’ Festival this year. Hope all who go have a wonderful time. Likewise all going to the Waterloo Arts Festival and to all of the winning authors who will be reading their stories out here, have a great time and good luck!

Am looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair later in June and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Much later in the year will be the annual Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Books get-together in London.

Immediate writing plans are to get more stories out to Cafelit and press on with my third flash fiction book (though I am happy with how that is going). I would like to write more non-fiction and a long term goal is to do something more with that.

Am also pleased to say a new mini-series will be coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today shortly which is about art by Graham MacLean. I was the series editor on it and it was lovely to work on. Some wonderful pictures by Graham illustrate the three part series. These will be appearing on 7th, 14th and 21st June.

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Does the mood of your characters match your mood as you’re writing their stories?

Definitely not in my case and this is just as well given a lot of my flash fiction has themes of murder, revenge, poetic justice and so on! When I’m not writing on those topics, I often write about magical beings you would not want to meet, yet alone cross, or I’m writing about poignant situations.

So is all human life then in From Light to Dark and Back Again? Quite a bit of it is, yes – and a fair amount of non-human life too!

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One of the most difficult things about writing flash is ensuring that it is a “proper” story and not just a piece of prose cut abruptly short. The need for a beginning, middle and end applies to whatever length of fiction you’re writing, though I suppose it is more obvious for things like novels and short stories.

This is where twist endings help a lot as you can’t go beyond that without spoiling the effect. I’ve occasionally written a flash piece as a letter (Punish the Innocent is a good example of this) and the great thing with that as a device it it has GOT to end with the sign-off (or possibly a PS at most!).

I think of the middle of the story as the “pivot point”. It is where the problem in the tale has been set out, it has got to be resolved, and your reader can see that being done in at least two different ways. (You’ve got to keep them guessing!).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Holiday Reading

I’ve recently picked up three lovely paperbacks which will be part of my holiday reading. Many thanks to generous friends and family for the book shop gift cards. I’ve finally had a chance to go and use them on:-

1. Double Cross by Ben McIntyre
2. London by Peter Ackroyd
3. View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

I love history of all sorts (and am intrigued by the idea of having a biography of a city!). The Neil Gaiman book is a collection of his non-fiction pieces and I’m really looking forward to reading that.

As ever, my trusty Kindle will also be with me on my holidays this year. I love both ebooks and paperbacks and switching between the two formats is another joy to reading as far as I’m concerned.

Now all I need to do is catch up on my reviewing!

 

 

 

 

EVENTS, PUBLICATION NEWS AND ONLINE WRITING

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On my CFT post this week, I discuss online writing and ask whether it will finish print publication (eventually).

I also summarise what I think are the major changes in writing over the centuries (e.g. the methods used to write. The biro IS one of the world’s greatest inventions in terms of usefulness and the creativity it is used for!).

So is there a place for online writing and on A line writing (i.e. using the biro!)? See what you think and comments, as ever, are welcome in the CFT comments box.

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Glad to report the banners are now out at Hursley advertising the Hursley Park Book Fair taking place on 23rd and 24th June. They look great. I’m giving a talk on flash fiction on the 23rd. Parking is free, there are at least 40 authors taking part, and a wide range of genres are represented, so there is bound to be something to suit you! So do come if you can.

I’m talking about online writing and whether it will spell the end of traditional print publishing in my CFT post this week. Link to go up tomorrow.

Loved shopping for books in Winchester today. I really must do that kind of shopping much more often!

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I use titles in my flash fiction to indicate the mood of the story (They Don’t Understand is a poignant piece and the title I think reflects that). Sometimes I use titles as a play on words (Collector’s Piece tells you the story is going to be about an object. However, it is an odd one and only reading the story is going to tell you what it is, no spoilers here!).

I must admit I particularly enjoy those competitions or websites where the title is NOT included as part of the word count. It gives you a few more words to “play with” and the title can act literally as the opening scene. So it does pay to put a lot of thought into the title. It can do a lot of work for you – from setting the mood to setting an opening scene.

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I am delighted to say that my flash fiction story, Progressing, is one of those that will be in the Waterloo Arts Festival Anthology, along with the work of 15 other writers, including some good friends from Bridge House Publishing and Cafelit. Well done to all!

Am only sorry I can’t be at the event but I hope a great time is had by all. Incidentally while the Arts Festival has been ongoing for some time, it is the first year there has been a writing competition with it. I very much hope that proves to be ongoing too!

Fairytales With Bite – What Is So Special about your Favourite Characters?

This is a useful question to ask from a reader’s and writer’s viewpoint, as it will help you work out which books you want to read, and inspire you, I hope, in the stories you want to write!

So what makes you decide a character is your favourite?  What are the special qualities that attract you?  Can your own characters share at least some of these traits and what is it about your people that makes them unique as your creation?

I suppose some of the qualities I love to see in a character can be summarised as follows:-

1.  Stickability.  They don’t quit when the going gets tough. They may struggle, they may want to give up, it would be understandable if they did give up, but they don’t!
2.  Loyalty.  This can be to a cause or another quality but great characters are usually driven by something.  This can apply to villains too.  They may be loyal to a cause (so often it is their own!) but they will have really good reasons for this that you could identify with, maybe even sympathise with a little.
3.  Dependability.  They don’t betray.  They will do what they set out to do.  They are reliable. I can see the point of an unreliable narrator but have never been that fond of them.  I prefer characters who are what they appear to be, even if that isn’t nice!  (Be fair, you knew where you stood with Hannibal Lecter or Dracula or any of the “great” villains). I suppose it’s because there is honesty about the portrayal.  Also I worry a little in that as writers we are meant to come up with stories where readers willingly suspend disbelief and could an unreliable narrator break the trust we build up with those who read our work?  Hmm…

This World and Others – Technology in Created Worlds

In my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week, I talk about online writing and whether it would, eventually, kill of print publishing.  It made me wonder what impact technological change would have on the fictional worlds we creat as writers.

The one thing you can guarantee is nothing stands still forever so there would have to be developments of some sort, for good or ill. You can also guarantee changes would bring about different reactions in characters.  There are always some who welcome change and others who fear it (and may try to stop it by force).

So who are your inventors?  What changes have been welcome (possibly even cried out for!)?  What changes have been unwelcome?  What has been the impact of this on your characters and their setting?

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SPECIAL CHARACTERS AND HOW CHARACTERS SPEAK

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Why are your favourite characters in other writers’ stories your favourite? What is it about them that makes them stand out from the other characters in that story or book?

It pays to take time out now and again to think about these questions as the answers to them can inspire you as to how to make your own characters stand out in a way that is appropriate to them and your own story.

Another reason for reading widely and well (and including non-fiction) is you do learn from other writers and you can analyse what works well and what works less well. So the more you read, the more you can learn.

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Glad to say I’ll be taking part in the Hursley Park Book Fair in just under a month’s time. I’m there on the Saturday, 23rd June, and will also be giving a talk on flash fiction. The event is FREE, there is parking and a wide range of authors and genres will be represented. Hursley Park is the home of IBM and is between Rom