Acrostics and Focusing

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshot of part of my latest story video was taken by me.

It has been a hot few days here but Lady, my collie cross, prefers to keep it cool. Image of Lady and me taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

A bit cooler today. Lady and I weren’t sorry about that.

I’m going to have two blog posts to share on Friday. My Chandler’s Ford Today one is on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. This is so important for writers given we all have to do at least some marketing. So therefore it pays to think what brand we want to put “out there” that readers associate with us and will like.

I’ll also have a post out on Authors Electric, which is called Reading Into Writing Will Go. Those of you of a certain age will recognise the words “will go” from the way division used to be taught in Maths. So what has that got to do with writing or reading? I look forward to sharing the link on Friday when you can find out!

So look out for two Facebook posts from me on Friday with two links.

Meanwhile back in Hot Hampshire I am so glad I live in a property that faces north. It means more heating in the winter but it comes into its own right now – it is cool here! (It is quite nice that something is cool here because I do know I’m not!).


Baking day – outside that is! Lady had a reduced exercise session before it got too hot. Although she is usually as daft as a brush, she is sensible in warm weather, knows all the shady spots to head to, and is the first of my three collies who willingly drinks water! I rarely go out without water for her and, in these conditions, it is one of the first things I get ready to take with us.

I have a good spot on our patio area where I can do a pavement test (back of hand held down on said area for at least 15 seconds. Let’s just say if I can’t keep my hand there for the required time, Lady doesn’t go out. One issue with going out later in the day is the ground has had time to bake, literally, so please if you’re a dog owner, always carry water with you, and do the pavement test before you go. If in doubt, don’t go). (Lady has happily curled up in the shade for the rest of the day and has been enjoying snoozing and woofing at my shopping delivery man so she has had a great day!).

Writing wise, a huge thanks for all the fabulous comments on my New In Town on #FridayFlashFiction. Feedback always appreciated.

Do you find it harder to write in hot weather rather than cold? Makes no difference to me as I make sure I’m comfortable enough at the old desk but I can understand if concentration levels dip somewhat. (I swear there are times my laptop is cooler than I am!). I don’t use weather in my fiction at all partly because I don’t want to fall into the “dark and stormy night” cliche trap but also I can think of several more important things for a reader to need to know than what weather my character is experiencing. I can only see relevance here if you’re sending your character on a quest (and generally you need longer than a flash fiction piece to do that well!).

Looking forward to sharing my next Authors Electric piece later on in the week too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Another warm and sunny day in Hot Hampshire (and a sympathetic salute goes to all hayfever sufferers!).
Stories come in all shapes and sizes but this goes for non-fiction too funnily enough. Especially when I interview someone for Chandler’s Ford Today, I want that person’s story and love to get behind what led them to write the books or stories they have. I suppose this is because (a) I’m nosey and (b) I know no two writing journeys are the same and I find it fascinating and instructive to learn from others here.

For fiction taking a bit of time out to think about what makes your characters the way they are leads to better characterisation (you really have got a handle on your person here) and stronger plot lines. So looking for the story behind the story then is always a good idea. We’re encouraged to dig deeper and not just go for the obvious ideas for stories. Looking into what makes your characters tick in more depth is a great way to achieve that.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glorious weather here. Lady enjoying it – sensibly. Currently curled up behind me in a nice cool study.

Coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today in the next month or so will be a fascinating interview with someone I first met a few years back at the Hursley Park Book Fair, which I wrote about for CFT at the time. Very much small world syndrome here but a delightful one and the interview is a smashing one. I’ll also be sharing how I met this author again as it is a great advert for networking in person where you can and online anyway. Looking forward to sharing more on all of that in due course.

Coming up this Friday for CFT will be a piece called Brand Recognition and Why It Matters – so I combine writing with some marketing for that one! (I also share thoughts and tips here and look forward to sharing this later in the week).

Thrilled to bits my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, New in Town, has had a wonderful response to it. Acrostic stories are good fun to write though I have found you want something (a) short and (b) open to interpretation for this kind of thing. In case you missed it, here’s the link for it. Oh and it has been a great joy responding to the comments on the site itself on this one. Thanks, everyone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the response to my acrostic flash tale called Fiction yesterday. Good fun to write and create a video for. I have discovered the joy of animations on Book Brush and used a “pulse” one for Fiction. I use Book Brush a lot for my blog work as it is lovely putting captions into the pictures I use – and they look better I think. Only downside? It is too easy to lose a lot of time playing with Book Brush but there are worse writing problems to have!

But it is creative and part of the old marketing so that’s okay then! (And the videos are a simple way to share mini-flash tales – basically under 100 words or so).

Screenshot 2021-06-15 at 20-42-49 Allison Symes

For the rest of the story you’ll have to go to the link – see below.


Pleased to share my latest acrostic flash fiction story video with you. This one is called Fiction and many thanks for the comment that has come in on this already. Hope you enjoy. There is a time for dancing in the streets…and a time not to!


I’ve mentioned before that titles carry a lot of weight in flash fiction. They indicate mood/genre of the story, freeing up precious word count room for what matters – the story itself. But it pays to keep your title short to maximise the impact of it and to allow for the fact some markets and competitions count the title as part of their acceptable overall word count limit. Do watch out for that! Also shorter titles are more memorable and that’s important to your reader (and therefore potentially to you too). You want your readers to remember your titles and the books they appeared in!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Glad my story New In Town went down so well yesterday. Acrostic flash tales are good fun to do but work best, as I mentioned on my author page on FB earlier, when kept short and if the word or words chosen can be taken in more than one way. Double meanings, as well as hyphenated words, are great assets to the flash fiction writer!

Twice the meaning for only one “lot” of words and hyphenated words mean you get two words for the price of one. So glad to have discovered that one especially as I have made good use of it in my time. (No. You can’t just hyphenate any words – that would be cheating!).

Misjudging people can be a great theme for any story but I have used it in flash. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my character, Walter, makes up his mind about the new postman in my story Identity. Can’t say more than that. The story is about whether Walter was right or wrong. But what was interesting here was I didn’t need to give you the postman’s backstory. You just see things from Walter’s point of view and then the story goes on to show you whether he was right or wrong.

I’ve mentioned before that with flash focusing on one character and one important incident is the way to go. Here it was a case of focusing on Walter’s viewpoint and then following it through to a conclusion. I could have brought in something from the postman’s viewpoint to indicate whether Walter was right or not. In not doing that, I’ve made the story more focused and, I think, it has greater impact.

Goodreads Author Blog – Kindles for Kinds of Books?

I love reading. Okay no big news there. I love reading in all kinds of formats and listening to audio books. Again no great breaking news story there. But I wondered if you save your Kindle or other e-reader for certain types of book. I do.

I use ebooks to test out authors new to me and for a lot of non-fiction (especially where the print version would be too big and bulky to handle. I can think of a few tomes here that would break your toes if you dropped the book on your foot – the Encyclopedia Britannica anyone?!).

I also use ebooks for short story and flash collections as these are ideal for reading on a screen.

The Kindle is one of the first things I pack whenever I get to go away (and that still won’t be for a while yet given Covid) and its finest “moment” is saving every avid reader from ever having to worry again about how many books they can fit into their suitcase. I appreciate my Kindle for that alone!

So do you save certain kinds of book for your e-reader and, if so, which?

 

 

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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).

radio-4245029_640

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

An Electric Author and Podcast News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones, podcaster extraordinaire, kindly supplied by her.

Snowy garden image taken by me, Allison Symes, on the rare event of a decent amount of snowfall in Southern England.

And where will your writing and reading take you this week? Some possibilities below!

It's amazing what worlds can be created on paper - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Thoroughly enjoyed being quizzed by Wendy H Jones this afternoon for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. We were chatting about writing regular columns, as I do for Chandler’s Ford Today. Plan to share the link tomorrow when the podcast goes out.

Lady was pretty good throughout though she did let out one bark towards the end – our postman was later than normal! And you can’t expect a dog not to woof at a postie… especially one she knows!

Good to see a quick report earlier to say book sales have reached an eight year high. Not too surprised. Books are a wonderful form of escapism, regardless of what format you pick. Hope the upward turn continues. Though I must admit I would love to be able to browse in a bookshop again… it’s funny the things you miss.

My Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today continues with contributions from authors from the Association of Christian Writers this week. More details later in the week and link up on Friday.

IMG_WendyHJonesFB

Wendy H Jones, author and podcaster

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Plenty going on so far this week (yes, I know it’s only Monday!).

Firstly, I now have an About the Author spot on the Authors Electric website. Many thanks to #DebbieBennett for ensuring this ended up in the right place. I use Blogger for a few things I write but I’m not an admin on it so am just used to posting on the posts “bit”.

Having said that, I am looking forward to sharing my first post here on 18th February. It’s also great to see some familiar faces on this site and I am relishing reading more of the posts. (Tip: to make sure you don’t miss any, subscribe to the blog itself. I know it sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to do this. Let’s just say it’s not a mistake I make now! Incidentally because I do blog, I like to keep up to date with what is out there in my field and while it is impossible to keep up with everything, I do follow as well as contribute to blogs. I see both the reading and writing of blogs as vital research).

Secondly, I am being interviewed by Wendy H Jones tomorrow afternoon for her podcast due “out” on Wednesday. I have two sides to my writing life (I know – as if one wasn’t enough but in fairness it often isn’t for writers!), and last time I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show I talked about flash fiction. This time I’ll be talking about my blogging work and generating ideas for a weekly column.

I’ve written a weekly column for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, for some time now and one great thing about doing this is it keeps me on my toes. I have to write something every week and to a deadline. I’m looking forward to talking more about this with Wendy and to sharing the link on Wednesday.

And if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page in a moment, I have further news! Phew… I think it is going to be one of those fun but mightily busy weeks!  (See below for this!).

The snow did turn up! The view below is taken by yours truly from my back window and, before you ask, Lady does love the snow. It’s only the second time she has been able to play in some. On the plus side it did mean I didn’t have to take her water bottle out with me today – I knew she’d eat the snow. Is there any dog that doesn’t do that? (I will pretend I am not hearing all of my cat owning friends laughing at this point, given this is an issue they’re unlikely to face!).

News: I’ve been invited to take part in a monthly blog for Authors Electric. Excited about this and looking forward to sharing my first post on the 18th. Brief: blog has to be book/story/writing related in some way. Yes, I tick the boxes there well enough!

I prepare my blogs in advance (trust me, it pays!) and when I can I draft “spares” and save them for those times when I’m away or struck down with the dreaded lurgy (not that one, to date at least, thankfully) so I can just schedule these and that’s all done.

I love scheduling. Aside from Scrivener, it is probably one of the most useful things I’ve finally worked out how to do properly! I sometimes use it for Twitter too and I need to make more use of that. You may have noticed I often put a Twitter Corner spot in my twice weekly blog spot for my website. This is to encourage me to make more use of Twitter and the use of graphics with my tweets makes a nice addition to my blog round-up as well. I like a good balance of text and graphics and it seems to go down well with my followers here (thank you, everyone).

Snow View as at 24th January 2021

Brrr…. a cold one today. No snow where I am in Hampshire though some is forecast tomorrow. We’ll see. (I did – see above! Murphy’s Law is working well – had I not said anything, would there have been the teeniest, weeniest snowflake? Course not!).

At least I’m not going anywhere other than by foot (which in turn is powered by sturdy walking boot with a decent grip!)!

Many thanks for the great response to Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I learn so much from chatting to other authors and it always a pleasure to interview them here. Hopefully the series will prove to be encouraging to those who are wondering what they should do with their launches this year, given this will still be an issue for some time. Even when normality does return, it is highly unlikely to be “all at once” (and it wouldn’t be a good idea I think even if that did somehow prove possible).

Now on to another favourite topic. Story time! Did you have such a thing at school? I did at primary school (roughly aged 5 to 7 years). It was for about the last 15 or 20 minutes before going home and I found it then a great way to unwind and relax. I still do though my own story time these days tends to be at bedtime!

I much preferred school story time to the free milk we used to get in the third-of-a-pint bottles. I love milk, don’t get me wrong, but the bottles were either left by the radiators and I just can’t stand warm/hot milk or, especially at this time of year, the milk in the bottles had frozen and nobody was going to risk breaking their teeth trying to drink it! Oh and you can imagine what it was like during a hot summer… Funnily enough, I do love yogurt now!

At junior school level (roughly ages 8 to 11), we used to have something called SRA cards where there was a story on one side and questions about the story on the others. These were colour coded and you worked your way through the system. Adored that. (Often used when the English teacher wanted to catch up with marking. Excellent idea all around I think!).

At secondary school level (ages about 11 to 16), if you wanted to read a book, you did it on your own, unless in English Literature, but the school library was a good one so I spent a lot of time in there.

Encouraging people of all ages to read though remains a very good thing indeed. And great storytelling which draws people in is a great way to achieve that. No pressure then! Back off to the writing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One form of flash writing is to base it on the Twitter character count. Gill James has done with this with her 140 x 140 flash fiction collection. I suspect my one-line stories, the type I often use for my videos, would probably count for this though I ought to give it a go “officially” at some point and put these on my Twitter feed. That’s a good thing to put on my To Do List and another way of writing and advertising flash fiction! (Ernest Hemingway with his famous For Sale: One Pair of Baby Shoes would be well under the character count here!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One ongoing thing for most writers with books out is to try and get reviews (and please do review, it helps more than you know. Also a one or two line review is absolutely fine – five minutes and you’re done). Anyway, while I was working on this, I discovered something I had not known. It is possible to put videos on your Goodreads Author Profile page.

Now I expect I’m late to the party here (I can hear you going “yeah, yeah, yeah, knew that ages ago”) but I was pleased to discover it. Naturally I’ve added the book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic to my page. See the link. Worth doing I think if you’ve not done this already.

Screenshot_2021-01-26 Allison Symes

 

Delighted to share another story video with you. Dress Sense shows Red Riding Hood’s attitude to life and the big bad wolf beautifully I think! Fans of quirky tales will like this one. Hope you enjoy.

Dress Sense Video Link

There is no such thing as the perfect character so it is a question of getting the character “perfect” from your, the writer’s, viewpoint. If you need your character to be a pain in the neck, then have you created the perfect example? Do all aspects of that character fit in to create that type?

The “perfect” character then has to be fit for the purpose you’ve created them for. Are they portrayed strongly enough to carry out what you want them to do? The reader has to believe the character is at least capable of behaving the way you’ve set them out to do without there being any “jarring notes” that would make that open to question.

The way the character speaks, even the way they dress, their minor traits etc should all add up to create a composite picture and it should be the one you want to show. Have your characters ever surprised you with what they’ve come up with? Mine have!

It’s a good thing – it shows there is life to them but it can also show you needed to get to know them better before writing for/about them! This is why I now I do spend some time outlining a character as well as their story so I can be sure I know my person really well. It saves time later on in the editing too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Reading/Writing Guides

Do you find reading and/or writing guides helpful? For reading, I still like the BBC’s Big Read Book of Books compilation of books that made it into their top 100. They produced a series of programmes to discuss the books chosen too and if I remember correctly there was a celebrity who would champion a particular book or author. (Some authors have more than one entry here. I’m not giving away anything major by saying Dickens was amongst these!).

The compilation book is beautifully illustrated, gives you a precis of what each book is about, and details about the author. Lovely book and a good way to fill in gaps in your knowledge and add to your TBR list of course! The latter of course was the whole idea behind the Big Read.

Maybe it is time for an update? I would welcome one. Would much change? We’d still have the classics in there (and rightly so, they’re classics for a reason) but the contemporary novels would change and it would be interesting to compare what would come in now as opposed to when this programme and book first came out in the early 2000s.

For writing guides, I like those which are down to earth and full of practical advice. My favourite here is On Writing by Stephen King but I am also fond of books such as Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. Lots of practical tips and I love the layout too. (You also can’t beat a good index for books like this so let’s hear it for the indexers!).

Naturally I like The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and the Mslexia Indie Press Guide. Information all in one place – let’s hear it for the well thought out book! And the good news? There will always be plenty of room on the bookshelves for books like this.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Twitter Corner

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

The Writer’s Journey: Introducing Paula Readman

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay supplied the pictures unless otherwise stated. A big thank you also to Paula Readman for supplying some pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today interview of her this week.

Every writer’s journey is unique. For a story of grit, determination and perserverance, check out Paula Readman’s story in my CFT post this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a real pleasure to interview Paula Readman for my CFT post this week. While Paula and I have publishers in common, it is also true every writer has a unique writing journey. Discover Paula’s fascinating writing journey in this interview and why grit, determination, and striving to be the best you can be as a writer is SO important to any writer, published or not.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is always a joy interviewing writers for CFT but it is also great fun interviewing your own characters. I’ve used this technique for my longer short stories but even with my flash fiction, I’ve outlined what I need to know about a character and why it is I need to know that.

To do the latter, I have to quiz my potential character as to why they’d be, for example, greedy. What has triggered that? There usually is a reason behind it even if it is not a nice or honourable one. From all of that I begin to hear my character’s voice and away I go. I have to hear their voice before I can write about them at all.

Think about what you need to know before you write a character. Some writers need to know what their characters look like. I have to know my character’s voice and what drives them above anything else and I find physical description follows from that.

Sounds a bit odd I know but it works for me. I know my character is well spoken and is driven to prove themselves, for example. I quiz them as to why. Possible answer would be to prove all those who said they’d be a failure wrong. Their voice is to cover up the fact they come from a poor background – sounding upmarket is a kind of armour for them.

I’m then thinking of what my character might look like. They’d want to look smart for one thing so how that would manifest itself? Can I give them a real fad for fancy shoes, say, and make that a quirky trait that comes up in the story?

No two authors go about this process of discovery in quite the same way (which is another reason why it is such fun to interview them!). It is a case of working out what works for you.

I’ve often read of writers keeping magazine pictures of people to inspire how they would describe their characters’ physical appearance. I’ve taken that idea and modified it because I know I’ve got to hear the character’s voice ahead of anything else. Then, like a good actor, I need to know the character’s motivation. And then off I go!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My CFT post this week will be a fab interview with #PaulaReadman, author of The Funeral Birds (and with more to come later in the year). She shares with me what books (reading and writing them) means to her. Her writing journey is a powerful one and inspirational. Link up tomorrow.

Interviewing other authors is great fun to do. None of us come into writing in exactly the same way. None of us are inspired by exactly the same things. All of us have a unique voice. And we all love books. What’s not to love?!

Many thanks to Paula for supplying her author shot below. And if you’re wondering what the owls have to do with anything, look up the link when I put it up tomorrow! Update:  Hopefully by now you will have seen the CFT post and know exactly what the owls are about though there is a good clue below!

 

Am making good progress on my edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I always feel a certain amount of relief when I get to ANY editing stage on a book, a short story, or a piece of flash fiction. It means I’ve got something I can work with! And, yes, I have cut my wasted words – very and actually especially! Those went before I submitted the book at all!

Over the course of an average week, I’ll have writing slots where I’ll create new stories for competitions, another book etc.

I’ll then have others where I’m writing non-fiction (covering my CFT posts, ACW blog spots, draft articles I hope to pitch in due course etc. A recent edition to this is preparing various posts I can use either here on on Goodreads for those times when I’m pushed for time. I hope this is going to make me more productive as I would like to schedule more posts in advance).

Then there will be those slots where I’m editing. That can feel as if I’m not doing much but I am, of course. The writing really is in the rewriting. The chances of me writing a perfect first draft is remote. The work is in getting rid of the dross from what I hope will prove to be gold!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Some of my narrators in my flash tales are impartial observers and it is something I hope to use more of as a technique in my stories.

The advantages are that I can get straight into the head of this character, they come to the situation in the tale with no preconceptions (as there is no way they could have any), and what might seem obvious to us could appear alien to them.

That in turn can make us think about how something WOULD look to someone who has never come across it before and therefore doesn’t know what to expect.

So how can you make your observer truly impartial?

By ensuring they are not part of the main set up in the story. They’ve been invited in by someone who IS in that main set up. (Exploring the reasons for that can also make for interesting stories).

For example if your set up is the Court of Queen Elizabeth Tudor, your outsider could be someone who is the servant of one of the ambassadors to that Court. They would never be asked for their opinion by anyone in the English Court or by their boss but they would have some thoughts on what they get to see. Nobody is immune to having thoughts even if you do have to keep them to yourself.

Your impartial observer can share those thoughts in your story though! (And maybe the battle to keep said thoughts quiet knowing they won’t go down well with the boss or the English Court, say).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you know, I sometimes use a random word generator to kick start story ideas. This works especially well for flash fiction.

Some of the generators allow you to set your own parameters. For example, you can see how many letters or syllables you want in your selections etc. You can even set the first letter and the last one.

When I use the parameters, I focus on word length and maybe the starting letter but leave it at that. I don’t want to be too prescriptive. If the first word generated doesn’t seem to suit, I trigger another three or so. I’ve usually got an idea I can work on within three or four goes on these things. And they’re great fun. (Bear in mind too you could combine ALL of what you trigger for an idea as well).

It could be useful to have a “stock” of these in ready to submit to competitions and markets as and when you come across suitable ones. (And yes I have a stock of stories in! Every so often I have a big writing session where I write a lot of flash. I know I’m not going to be submitting them anywhere for a while but it does mean when I have market or competition information that interests me, I can go through said stock and find something useful to submit).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Reading in and out of your genre inspires your own writing. You also take in subsconsciously how stories are laid out. I’ve never understood the attitude I’ve sometimes come across where, when people find you’re a writer, they seem surprised when you reveal you’re a reader as well!

It was the love of books and stories that I read which sparked my wish to be a writer at all. It is the books and stories I still read that fires my imagination and helps me to “up my game”.

So read away, folks, it’s good for you!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

The first indication I had that fairytales did not necessarily have to have a happily ever after ending was when I read Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for the first time. That was an eye opener to me as a child. Likewise how dark The Snow Queen is – the image of the ice piercing Kay’s heart still makes me shudder.

The crucial thing for any story, fairytale or not, is that the ending is appropriate. Also the author should deliver on the promise made by the opening of the story. There has to be a proper resolution, whether it’s a happily ever after or not!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others –

How To Drop Your Characters Right In The Mire

This is not the be all and end all list. I’m sure you can think of others to add to it.

  1. Use the elements of your created world against your character – unstable terrain, dreadful weather, and so on.
  2. Put them up against a tight deadline.
  3.  Put their loved ones at risk if they don’t complete the task you’ve set them whether this is to actually rescue their loved ones or to do something for an overlord to ensure their loved ones are not menaced at all.
  4. Put them in any other situation where failure is not an option though emotional ties are very good to exploit here. (I know, I know. Authors don’t have to be nice to their creations, okay?!).
  5.  Put them in danger directly.
  6.  Or put them at risk of losing that coveted promotion etc. What will they do to ensure they get what they want?
  7.  Get your character having to defend their reputation etc. Putting them up against a blackmailer here is good. Again what will your character do here?
  8.  Make them The Chosen One for a quest. Get them not to be able to get out of it either.
  9.  Going on the adventure is the only way to salvage a bad situation at home or, if that’s not possible, to escape the consequences of where they’ve mucked up here.
  10. Put them under pressure of society expectations. They can’t let the side down.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Honest” Writing and Historical Fiction

Fairytales with Bite – Dismissing Fairytales – Why?

I’ve never understood why some people dismiss fairytales.  I’ve often come across comments like “oh that is just a fairytale”, “you shouldn’t take that seriously, it is just a fairytale” etc etc.  For me there is no “just” to a fairytale.  There is a lot of truth behind many, if not most of them.

I strongly suspect Hans Christen Andersen had witnessed seeing poor girls selling matches on the street, leading him to write The Little Match Girl.  There is a truth behind that story which I think comes across powerfully.  Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince to me conveys what I think Wilde would have liked to have seen happen.  The statue Prince in the tale knew his gold leaf would only be of benefit to people if it was taken off and given to poor people to sell so they could make ends meet.

So fairytales should be taken seriously I think.  They’re not just for kids.  Indeed the original versions of so many of the tales are not suitable for the under-18s.  Disney could never have filmed The Little Mermaid as Hans Christen Andersen originally wrote it.  There is no happy ending in the original.  The classic fairytales are carefully crafted stories (and/or reworkings of even older tales) and should be appreciated as an art form in their own right.

 

castle-2115425_640

Fairytales are not just “pie in the sky”.  Image via Pixabay

 

This World and Others – Honest Writing

In my CFT post tonight, I interview Gill James about her historical fiction and the issue of truthful writing came up as part of our discussions.  Gill made the very good point that sometimes fiction can pull out truths that strict facts cannot and, for me, a great example of this is The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, which has made many people think again about what they think they know about Richard III.

Gill’s own book, The House on Schellberg Street, examines just what ordinary young German people may have known during Hitler’s rise to power and throughout World War Two.  (Many really did not want to be at war with Britain incidentally.  As well as having friends here, well we Brits are often known as Anglo-Saxons and of course the Saxons were from Saxony which is in Germany.  Our history goes back a very long way).

So what then is “honest” writing?  Is it just strict non-fiction based on verifiable fact?  I don’t think so.  It is writing which comes from the heart of the author and which conveys an important message (and without preaching.  To Kill a Mockingbird does this superbly. The horror of racism is conveyed brilliantly).   It is the author writing true to their characters regardless of how horrible or nice they are.  It can be the author sticking to their guns at times when it comes to how they want “their people” to be portrayed.

stones-244244_640

Honest Writing will create ripples.  Image via Pixabay

Facebook: General & From Light to Dark and Back Again & Chandler’s Ford Today –

Writing Historical Fiction

In Part 1 of my Chandler’s Ford Today interview with Gill James about her historical fiction (The House on Schellberg Street), we talk, amongst other things about why invent historical stories when history itself is full of real ones?  An interesting topic I think.  Comments very welcome here and on the Chandler’s Ford Today website.  Part 2 next week will share Gill’s excellent advice for writers new to the genre of historical fiction.  Gill’s book is based on factual letters written by (as round robins) young German girl friends living during Hitler’s rise to power and throughout World War Two.  I read the book and felt a palpable sense of menace especially for one of the characters given, of course, I read with the benefit of hindsight, something the characters could not have.

 

18frontcoverTHoSS

Gill’s book’s front cover.  Image kindly supplied by Gill.

 

 

Old letters - image via Pixabay

So much history is found in letters and postcards.  Image via Pixabay.