Creosoting, Ideas, and Editing

How has my week gone? See the title of this post! (Oh and do look out for Part 3 of my CFT series The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – link up for Friday. The whole series has sparkled with great ideas and advice so don’t miss the last installment!).

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

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Many thanks, everyone, for the cracking response to Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my current CFT series. All very encouraging (and most writers, certainly all the ones I know, always welcome encouragement!). Looking forward to sharing the equally cracking finale next Friday.

Have got another fence panel creosoted. (If you needed proof the writing life isn’t necessarily glamorous, I’ve just provided it! Lady was not at all happy I kept her indoors while I was working but I couldn’t risk her going back inside a different colour to when she came out! YOU try telling a dog they can’t “help”!).😆

Am enjoying some wonderful books on Kindle at the moment, though I have a long TBR list on there. Still I shall enjoy working my way through. DON’T send help, I shall be fine, thanks! (Am so grateful electronic book shelves cannot collapse under the weight!).

Some pieces are coming together on one of my longer term projects so am pleased about that. I’ve learned over time that when you’re busy on something else, good ideas for other projects you’ve got in mind pop into your head.

I’ve also learned not to fight this. Grab a notebook, jot said ideas down, work on them when you get chance etc. Rome wasn’t built in a day etc…

I’ve yet to work out a way of having ideas occur to me in a more convenient fashion. I don’t think that will be happening any time soon!

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Hope the week ahead proves to be a good one for everyone. I’ll be working on an interview for CFT to appear on 14th August after my current series.

All I’ll say now is it about a very special project and my guest author is the ONLY UK writer taking part in it. They will know who they are from that description! I look forward to sharing more about that in due course.

There will be further interviews later in the month too. There has been a lot of change of direction in the air recently, which has been my underlying theme for CFT this summer! And it is a joy and privilege to share some of those change of direction stories via CFT.

One of the great aspects to the writing life is it isn’t in a straight line. You can go off on this track for a while, come back to what you mainly do, then explore other forms of writing and so on. Enjoyment of what you do writing wise is crucial, whatever you write. If you don’t enjoy it, why would anyone else?

Enjoyed re-watching one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes tonight. Vincent and the Doctor (with Matt Smith as our hero) is wonderfully done. There is a lot of depth to this story. Hallmarks of a great story? When it can bear repeated re-readings/re-watchings etc.

Good challenge for me as a writer too!

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Busy Monday as usual. Still one good thing about that was it meant I had no time to cresote our front fence today. I’ll be back on that tomorrow. I know – the giddy whirl and all that.

I’ve been reading a good old mixture of funny stories and dark fantasy recently. All have made me react. Sometimes in horror at the attitude of the characters – and that is the right reaction too. Other tales have made me laugh out loud. Still others make me wince but I can fathom where the character is coming from. And that is important.

For a reader to enjoy YOUR stories, they’ve got to be able to get behind your characters or at least understand that, in this character’s shoes, they might do the same. So the challenge then is to work out what you want your readers to feel about YOUR creations – and then write it!

 

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Another panel creosoted, one to go. And that’ll be my treat for Thursday! Talking of treats, which do you prefer that relate to words or writing in some way?

Mine are:-

1. Playing a Scrabble-like game on my phone (it’s one where the adverts are at the beginning and end of the game and do NOT interrupt the game. Would the makers of the “real” Scrabble please note that? Thank you!).

2. Dipping into a flash fiction or short story collection in between “day jobs” and just luxuriating in escaping the real world for ten minutes or so at a time. (I save my longer reads for my bedtime read and it is a lovely way to finish the day).

3. I used to like the alphabet sweets (not the jelly type, the harder sugar ones. Yes, I do have some teeth left!). Anyone remember them? These days I’d probably make anagrams out of them before scoffing them because I am just like that!😀😀I am partial to a good anagram and a good sweet!

4. I do like the occasional crossword/arrow word/wordsearch but much prefer Scrabble.

I don’t know if any of these sharpen the old brainbox but I do know they help me relax. I write better when feeling relaxed – and that will do!

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I’ve mentioned before that flash fiction is flexible when it comes to format within it. I’ve written acrostic flash tales, poetic flash stories etc., and recently have written some haiku ones. I also like the flexibility of word count within flash.

Unless I’m writing for #ParagraphPlanet (75 words all in!), or a competition which has set a specific word count, I will write to the story requirements. Sometimes a tale simply works better at 150 words rather than 100. That’s fine. I just find the right market or competition for it.

How do I judge what works best? I look at the impact of the story. If it can make the impact I want it to have at 100 words, fine. If it can’t, it stays at 150 or what have you.

Each piece of flash fiction needs to be a contained story with a proper beginning, middle, and end. Each needs to impact the reader because they’ve been gripped by what you’ve put your character(s) through.

But the single person story works well in flash, as does monologue. I’ve tended to use the first person a lot but have heard some wonderful monologues read out at events such as the Bridge House Publishing ones. So having a go at a flash fiction monologue is going to go on my list of things to do at some point.

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Sunday already?
The week flies by, as always.
Shame housework doesn’t!

Allison Symes – 2nd August 2020

The only good thing to be said about housework is once it’s done, it’s done. Oh and the thought of getting to my desk to write is a wonderful spur!

I had hoped the drudgery of housework would free up my mind to come up with some wonderful ideas for flash fiction whilst doing the ruddy work! Not a thing!

All I think when doing said housework is something along the lines of “can’t wait for this to be done” interspersed with “what is Lady barking at now?”. (Answer: usually the postman, sometimes the vacuum cleaner).

There is a kind of writing housework too. Now I don’t mind that kind at all. This is mainly things like:-

1. keeping an eye on what stories I send where (to ensure I don’t unwittingly send something to the same place twice);

2. backing up files regularly as I know I WILL regret it if I don’t!

3. Planning what I’m going to write when and marketing work too. Having a plan is the only way I’ve found to ensure I get this done. It helps me keep a proper balance.

So whatever your writing housework is this week, I hope it goes well!😀

 

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Triggers for story ideas can come from all over the place which, I know, on the face of it doesn’t seem to be all that helpful, does it? How on earth do you filter these out to find out what would work for you because surely not every trigger would suit?

Correct! It IS a question of having an open mind to those triggers. When I’m brainstorming ideas, I write down several. I never go with the first couple. They will be the obvious ideas that will occur to most writers. But dig deeper and hey, you might find something you can bring your unique take and voice to.

Using competition themes (whether or not you enter them) can be useful. I don’t write love stories so I know any love themed competition isn’t going to be for me. But that’s okay. There are plenty of other stories, including relationship ones, to tell.

It is a question of working out what you like to read, what you would LIKE TO read, and what you like to write. In that happy triangle is your writing ground. Have fun with it (oh and keep the weeds out!).😊

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When do I know if a story is ready for submission somewhere?

Basically when I cannot think of anything else to change without it taking away something from the character and/or the plot.

On editing, I usually spot several things I could re-phrase in a better way for the added “oomph” factor (and often to reduce the word count too. Less is more is SO true in flash fiction!).

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Stories You Wish Would Never End

Have you any stories you love so much you wish they would never end?

I remember when I first finished reading The Lord of the Rings being just stunned by the sheer scope of it and wanting to dive back into that world immediately.

On a very different front, the same applied to The Wind in the Willows!

Of course, it is good the stories end. A lot of the time it IS the ending that makes the book stand out. An incomplete story is NOT a story. A story has to have an ending.

So I guess it is the entertainment and enjoyment we have had from these favourite stories that we really wish would not end,

The good news is they don’t have to – you simply pick up your favourite book and re-read it!

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Running Orders, Tech Issues, and One-Liners

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from Pixabay or Pexels.

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Have not long completed the first edit on my second collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic. It was good fun to do and eye opening too.

I had gone through my draft at least three times before submitting it and I still missed things! This is why it is important an outside eye does see your work. They will pick up on things you are too close to the work to be able to see.

Also if they come back with comments, it will help you to see if you really have got things across as clearly as you thought you had. (The answer to that one incidentally is sometimes no! And in those cases I rewrite. An editor’s eye can also help you realise what comes across as a bit clunky and therefore awkward for a reader to enjoy smoothly. So again rewrite time there),

There are no shortcuts but editing is what is going to make your work special so it is worth taking time over.

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It’s been a strange old week. I suspect next week will be stranger still. On the plus side, there is plenty of reading and writing to be cracking on with so I’ll focus on that. It is positive at least!

I’ve got a nice queue of items on my Kindle TBR list so will be trying to catch up on some of those.

Writing wise, I’m drafting a story for a competition which I need to finish. I also need to press on with my other major projects. And I do keep an eye out for interesting flash and short story competitions too. I like good writing competitions. They help me to “raise my game” which is never a bad thing.

Keep well, everyone.

 

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Apologies to anyone who is having trouble accessing the Chandler’s Ford Today sitetoday (16th March 2020). The technical side of things I leave to my lovely editor #JadeCloud and I have emailed her. Hopefully this will prove to be one of those irritating hiccups that can soon be sorted. I don’t know if it this is something at CFT’s end or whether it’s a browser issue. Will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I will look ahead to my post this week. I will be talking about Mixing Things Up as a writer and share a few thoughts as to how you can do that. I also look at the advantages (and otherwise!) of competitions with set and open themes. Post up Friday.

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What are your favourite one-liners? Mine have to be:-

‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.’
‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me.’
‘I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.’

(And if you want to play name the film, feel free!).

What do I like about one-liners in stories? Well, they pack a punch when well placed in a story. I sometimes use them to finish a flash fiction piece. They have emotional impact and a good story will have that, whether it makes you laugh or cry.

Great one-liners are memorable of course and it is always a pleasure to re-read them again when going back through favourite books. And you know those one-liners will have been through several edits as the author seeks to make every word carry its weight so what is left, well you know nothing could be added or taken out.

ALSO:-
Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for flagging up an access issue to Chandler’s Ford Today yesterday. Am glad to report the issue should now be resolved.

The auto renewal of the site’s SSL certificate did not happen. Goodness knows why. A big thanks to our technical guy for sorting that out and putting measures in place to hopefully prevent it happening again.

Meanwhile, I’m sharing the post Dawn Kentish Knox had wanted to comment on – the Local Author News spot I put up on behalf of #RichardHardie and #FrancescaTyer. Hopefully all well now!

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Don’t make the mistake of thinking because flash fiction is short, the editing of it won’t take long! Ahem…

Well, obviously it will take less time than editing a novel but you still need to apply care and precision, especially since the placing of a word in a flash fiction piece can turn the story round just on that alone.

My Calling the Doctor has the mood of the story changed by the last word (see trailer).

It’s also not just about editing for word count. You want to make sure your story works without all the bits you’ve put the red pen through. The story mustn’t feel as if there is anything missing.

The aim is for a reader to feel as if another word couldn’t be added to the story while, at the same time, being unable to think of anything that could’ve come out from the tale they’ve just read. Not an easy balance to get right but so worthwhile when you do!

 

One of my favourite stories in FLTDBA is Circle of Life because it is a poetic justice tale. I’ve always been fond of those.

It’s a theme I can turn to time and again as you never run out of dodgy characters who you can dole out suitable retribution to! You are just limited by your own imagination and if ever there was a challenge to keep stretching said imagination, that’s it, I think.

I’m also fond of funny poetic justice stories. You don’t necessarily have to kill off the miscreant though I suspect my crime writing colleagues would beg to differ!😆😆😆

One of the joys of fiction, of course, is you as the writer can always ensure justice is done to those deserving it. So go on, have some fun!

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If it hasn’t happened already, there will be loads of virus tales across all story formats soon! I won’t be writing any though. The market gets saturated very quickly.

It is far better to write what you would like to write to the best standards possible and find a suitable competition/market for it than to try to write to a trend. Trends are often gone by the time you get your story out anyway.

The only thing I hope might come out of our current crisis is that people, if stuck at home, rediscover the joy of reading but I would really rather they did that without this horrid or any other virus contributing in any way. Books are fabulous and should be treasured and loved and read and re-read anyway!

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Getting the running order in a flash or short story collection isn’t always as straightforward as it might appear. I look for impact on a reader here as well as from the individual stories themselves.

I like to group themes together (I think there is a stronger overall impact) but, as with chilli powder, you CAN have too much of a good thing here. (I once made a chilli with too much powder in it. I could’ve sworn there wasn’t much in it. I was wrong! Oh I was SO wrong…😆😆). So I tend to group 2 or 3 stories with a similar theme together but no more than that.

I write a reasonable number of poetic justice tales, to name one example. I’d group a couple of those together, then have a couple of say funny fairytales together, then some historical ones, then back to the poetic justice ones again. (I do like to think of my collections as “mixed assortments”. I’ve always loved those!).

It does pay to give plenty of time and thought to think about how you want your running orders to be. It will make the impact of your book that bit stronger and that is always a good thing.

Goodreads Author Blog –

Are Books The Best Invention Ever?

Daft question time, I can hear you say in response to this blog title! And you’d be right. Of course books are the best invention ever but… well, without literacy and encouraging people to read, those wonderful books we all love are left literally on the shelf, aren’t they?

How do we get people to read who don’t currently do so? I wish I knew the answer to that. All you can do as a writer is put your works out there, spread the word about them (and this is where supportive writing friends are brilliant), and hope people will take a look between your covers (ooh…err…. Missus), whether they’re electronic covers or the lovely paperback variety.

I have wondered whether people have lost confidence in reading. You know they finish reading at school and then that’s it. They’re not reading another thing. They’ll get their stories via film, TV, audio even, but not from the printed page. This is why I think supporting children’s authors is so important. They play a vital role in developing a future reading audience and keeping that love of books going. (And I still like reading YA, even though it has been a long time indeed since I qualified!).

I loved the James Garner Support Your Local Sheriff type films. We need at least three more. Support Your Local Children’s Author. Support Your Local Writers. Support Your Local Libraries.

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Getting Started and Genre Fiction

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Unless otherwise stated all images are from the brilliant Pixabay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allison Symes and published works

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy writing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Blog – Genre Fiction

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

My favourite genres include:-

1. Fantasy
2. Crime
3. Historical

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

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A Welcome Break and Winter Traditions

Hello again! 

It’s good to be back after a Christmas and New Year break.  I hope you had a lovely time over the festivities.

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My CFT post this week looks at winter traditions. I share some of mine and look at good reasons for having any at all.

Is winter the toughest part of the year to get through? I think so (though I can appreciate why some might argue summer is – all that light and you are supposed to be cheerful all the time because of it can be hard to handle). The early dark nights are the most depressing part of winter for me. The weather comes next!

I share some of my favourite “traditional” TV watching, my views on when the words to carols are changed, and recall the alternative versions of certain carols which were always sung with gusto at home when I was growing up.

Oh and Lady gets a mention and a pic too!

So what winter traditions do you have? Do you find they help you get through the coldest and darkest time of the year?

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My CFT post this week will be a look at winter traditions. Which are yours and why?

I share a few of mine and why I think it is good to have something of this nature to relish at this time of year.

Spring, summer and autumn have their own attractions but is winter the “ugly sister” of the seasons? It’s cold, gets dark early etc etc. I suppose a lot depends on the weather but so far it has been reasonable and I guess you have to learn to make the most of that.

More tomorrow when the link goes up. (Also included are fond memories of singing the alternative versions of well known carols as this is also a tradition! I suspect you can think of a few of those!).

Apologies – can’t seem to upload photos at the moment. Normal service tomorrow, I hope!  (Problem resolved itself I’m glad to say but still at a loss as to why it happened at all!).

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Technology is wonderful when it works properly!  Pixabay image.

What story genres have you got on your Kindle? I’ve a good old mix on there:-

Historical fiction
Non-fiction (particularly history)
Crime
Historical crime/non-fiction look at crime (A Very English Murder by Lucy Worsley – very good).
Fantasy
Classic fairytales
Classics (Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare).
Humour
Wodehouse
Flash fiction (of course)
Pratchett
Theology (but in an easy to read format. I like ALL my books like that!).
Poetry (Shakespeare, bless him, comes into this category too though I would like and must remember to download more poetry on to the Kindle. Like flash fiction, poetry is, I find, a joy to read on the small screen).

I’m sure there are others on there but I like to keep a good mix going on my bookshelves as well as on the small screen. It all helps inspire my writing. Spread the net wide when it comes to looking for inspiration for your own stories! If nothing else, you will have a wonderful time reading!

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Is it easier to write funny stories or sad ones? Hard to say. A lot depends on your own mood of course but, that aside, I would say the biggest way of determining this is it is all down to your main characters. How do you see them? Are they funny or capable of coming out with one-liners? What is their dominant mood?

How you portray them is crucial here. What do you want them to DO/BE in your story? What is your character’s voice? Another crucial thing to remember is that for the majority of the time, your characters may well not think they’re funny at all. It is the readers’ job to pick up on the humour and “run with it”.

You set your characters in situations and of course a lot of humour comes out of contrasts. A snobby character ends up falling head first in the local duck pond. Not at all funny for them but hilarious for the reader (especially if said snobby character “had it coming”).

It is also crucial you enjoy writing your funny characters/lines. It shows through in the story and will come across as natural humour. Forced humour never works. Have fun here! I love writing funny one-liners for my characters when it is appropriate to them and the situation I’ve put them in. Relish the humour yourself. If you don’t, why should anyone else?

Uses for flash fiction:-

1. Makes a very good writing exercise to kick off your main creative activity.

2. Teaches you a lot about editing and what your wasted words are. We all have them. With time, you get better at spotting them in your script and eliminating them.

3. You learn to make an impact with your words in as few words as possible. No purple prose here!

4. The stories are a good length to share on, say, a Facebook post as an “advert” for what you write and your style of writing.

5. You can use it to test out which genres you would like to write. Flash fiction is character led and you can set those characters anywhere and at any time. Have fun with that. Do you discover a love of historical fiction or sci-fi coming out of this, say? Fine, explore that genre further and see what you can do.

6. It is an excellent writing form in its own right, of course.

I love using the first person for my flash fiction because:-

1. It is immediate.
2. You get right into the character’s head.
3. You get to show how they see the world, revealing much about their attitudes.
4. It helps drive a good pace.
5. You can only show what the character would think, say, do, feel etc. It helps keep you to the point!
6. You show what your character thinks of other characters. You could have lots of fun here! (I do!).
7. You can show the character justifying their actions to themselves. That tells you the reader much about them – CAN they justify their actions, how they do so, if they have to “twist” things to be able to do so etc.
8. Depending on the mood you give your character, your story can be poignant, funny, grim etc, and all driven by that mood.
9. You literally see the world of the story through that character’s eyes. I find that helps me to identify with the character and want to keep writing about them. Hopefully, that element is picked up on by readers who will want to keep reading about them.
10. If you are writing a story which has “nods” to other stories, a great way in is via a minor character you make your own. For example, in my Learning the Trade, the story is a nod to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. In my story, I use the first person viewpoint of that apprentice.

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Fairytales with Bite A Welcome Break

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and wish you a Happy New Year.  I enjoyed the break but am glad to be back writing again.

In your stories, what would count as welcome breaks for the general populace?  Do they have holidays and how are they celebrated?  Are visitors welcome to join in or are they kept out?  I look at Winter Traditions in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week – what would these be in the world you’re creating?  Is there such a thing as winter?  (I suspect we often wish there wasn’t but it is necessary, honestly!).

Is everyone in your world celebrating a special holiday or is that the privilege of the ruling classes? What makes the holiday different from what we know here?  What are the similarities?  Does everyone enjoy the break?

Now there’s some story ideas there for you!  Happy writing!

This World and Others – Being Different

What counts as “normal” for the fictional world you’ve created? How are those that are different to the “norm” treated? How do your “being different” characters cope with that? What pressures are there on the from family, friends, government etc?

Those who are different – are they doing this deliberately to rebel against the norm or is it cultural expectations that make them different? What reaction is there to their differences from those around them?

Within your world setting, are there different cultures, faiths etc and if so how do these get along (well or not at all?!)? Explore the differences. Explore how they would affect how your characters act and react.

Hope you find some story ideas in answering those!

 

 

 

 

 

Swanwick, Scheduling and the Book Cover Challenge

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Am busily preparing CFT posts for the next couple of weeks. I’d like to get both of the following Fridays done because I know when I come back from Swanwick, I will be happy but shattered so doubt if I’ll be writing too much later that evening! So easier to write and schedule such posts now.

I need to get back to blocking out time for specific things I’d like to do (which is where Swanwick will be particularly helpful to me this year).

Once the CFT posts are done (which I hope to have up and scheduled by Wednesday). I can focus on some fiction. The great thing with flash is I can happily spend an evening writing that and have several stories by the end of it to work on further. Okay, they WILL need working on further but the joy of the first draft is worrying about editing much later on!

I love taking my Kindle away with me as it (a) saves a lot of packing and (b) saves a lot of heartache working out which books to take and which to leave behind. Also for some reason my case is always a lot lighter than it used to be! Biggest issue for me though is to remember to pack the charger!

Talking of recharging the old batteries, my CFT post this week takes a look at that and I will be sharing a few things I find really helpful for unwinding (and I don’t even mention wine, chocolate etc., so you have still those as options too!). Link up on Friday.

I’ve been enjoying taking part in a book cover challenge this week. Has made me really think about the novels I couldn’t be without. What are the ones that have influenced you in some way?

So far I’ve included The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, The Daughter of Time, Raising Steam, and Murder on the Orient Express. A nice mixed bag there! And all great in very different ways.

Am doing my packing for Swanwick tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if other writing friends have done theirs already but the Thursday before is soon enough for me and my books and notebooks go in first! (Did put my rail tickets in my railcard holder today – I suppose that counts!).

The case is packed ready for Swanwick. Just the usual odds and sods to add at the last minute. (Disaster for me will be forgetting my phone charger!). And yes I did pack my books, notepads, pens etc first. Got to have your priorities right!

Okay, I’m not sure where I’ll put books I buy from the Book Room but I’ll worry about that later in the week (and I refuse to believe I’m the only Swanwicker taking that view!). Happy, and safe, travelling to all who are going. May you get through the engineering works at Derby without your blood pressure soaring too high!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I do love writing some one line complete stories from time to time and it makes for a good exercise to get you into your writing session. For example:-

1. The day the clocks stopped the watchmakers were fired.

2. The dragon surveyed the empty street, which had been teeming with life a moment ago.

3. Try as he might, Arthur could not get that wretched sword out of the stone. (N.B. This also counts as a complete story wrecker!).

4. Turn left and he’d face obliteration, turn right he’d have to face the New Year sales – he went left.

5. The gull enjoyed the look of astonishment on the day tripper’s face, almost as much as the bird loved the stolen battered cod.

6. Dessert was sorted – the gull went back and pinched the same tourist’s mint choc chip icecream.

Allison Symes – 6th August 2018

Give this exercise a go! It’s fun and there’s nothing to stop you developing your ideas further. As for me, that’s some ideas drafted for my third flash fiction book!

My favourite forms of flash fiction are the ones I write in the first person. There is an immediacy about those I think and I love being able to get straight into the character’s head.

It is also great letting them “tell you” the story. There is no pretence at being unbiased or anything like that. The character will give you their thoughts with both barrels, so to speak.

Of course, when everything goes horribly wrong with said character, the reader should be able to see the seeds of that happening early on in the story. And often it is the character’s attitude that plays a major part in this. Great fun to bring about!

Looking forward to my train journey on Saturday to Swanwick despite the engineering works at Derby. Why? Aside from loving train travel (usually!), I hope to write quite a bit via Evernote and my phone for my flash fiction and non-fiction posts. Three hours? Can get a fair bit done in that time, thank you.

I’ve been on the train a fair bit this year so that almost certainly helps for my being further on with my third flash fiction collection than I thought I’d be! And I am getting better at using “dead” time more efficiently. The stories soon mount up (and if you’re a crime writer, the bodies do too! 😁).

The ABC etc of Flash Fiction… (will continue this over the next few posts though there may be some gaps in posting due to my being at Swanwick and probably having far too good a time to be posting!).

A = Atmosphere. The story may be short but its atmosphere must come through clearly. You literally have a few words to set the mood and then follow through. On the plus side, if you like writing “from inside the head of the character”, as I do, this really isn’t a problem.

B = Brutality. There is editing and there is editing. You really do have to murder your darlings with flash fiction. Only what is crucial to the story remains. And it can be hard sometimes to cut a really good line but if it really isn’t vital to the tale, it should go out. Save it though. Might be able to use it elsewhere.

C = Characters. Couldn’t really pick anything else for C. Flash fiction has to be all about the characters. They show you their world and their attitudes in a few words and, ta da, from that the story comes. Character attitudes lead to conflicts which in turn lead to stories.

More next time…

Goodreads Author Blog – Getting Away From It All

I shall be getting away from it all shortly at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once again but will be immersed in a world of stories and books (reading and writing them!). Bliss!

So what books go with you when you get away from it all?

I pack my Kindle and what I read depends on my mood, naturally, though I am currently enjoying Lucy Worsley’s A Very British Murder and hope to finish that by the end of the week. The book is great. It is usually a question of how long can I keep my eyes open at the end of the day! That is the trouble with bedtime reading…

There’s a couple of other crime novels I want to read as well while I’m away. And after that I may well turn back to humour again. I do find I like to read a few stories or books in a genre, then switch to another one and read a few in that for a bit. Still, it all mixes up the reading and then there is always the delight of the wondrous world of non-fiction too!

So whatever your holiday/summer reading is, enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

DRAFTS, TLAs AND FAVOURITE GENRE

Facebook – General

Managed to draft a few flash fiction stories on my train journeys yesterday. Great use of time, made even better with my headphones plugged in so I can enjoy classical music while I write. She will indeed have music wherever she goes… unless the train goes into a tunnel of course!

I sometimes draft blog posts on this kind of trip too. This has come in extremely useful. It means I always have ideas drafted down I can refer back to and then flesh out when ready to do so. I did take my Kindle with me yesterday meaning to read as well but ran out of time. Still, I made up for that later…

It did strike me though, as I looked around the carriages to see practically all of us plugged into our phones, what a bizarre sight this could seem for an outsider looking in. All of us in our little virtual worlds, all with a kind of invisible barrier up around us. Hmm… I strongly suspect there’s some story ideas to be had from that image! Good luck…

 

Facebook – General

TLAs turn up everywhere. And it’s fine if you know what the three letter acronym is for. You can feel a bit of a twit if you don’t. Apparently, HFN means Happy for Now and HEA is Happy Ever After, both used in romantic fiction. I can’t think of any TLAs for flash fiction writers (do share if you know any but keep them clean!).

You could use TLAs as part of an outlining process for your characters.

ABB = Awkward but Brave
SBK = Stupid but Kind
NBT = Not (to) Be Trusted
DBD = Daring but Dim

Hmm… some interesting character possibilities there I think What TLAs would you use for your own characters and why?

Facebook – General

What is your favourite genre (whether writing or reading it) and can you sum this up in one line? Name an example.

Mine is fantasy because, while taking you to other worlds, it can also shed light on this one. My example would be The Lord of The Rings. The traits of the main characters, for good or ill, can all be found on our own planet. The places such as The Shire or Mordor can be compared to places on earth (and this is made even easier thanks to the fantastic film version).

The battle between good and evil is something to be identified with too (though, from a fictional point of view, the very “best” villains don’t consider themselves villainous at all. They see themselves as having a just cause. They’re wrong and it’s up to the hero/heroine to prove them so). Can treachery be overcome (it so often isn’t in life)? Will justice be done (it so often isn’t in life!)? Fantasy then can be a vehicle for resolving injustices we know so often aren’t put right on our world.

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I enjoy a lot of flash fiction collections on my Kindle. It’s helped me widen my reading of contemporary fiction (which is no bad thing) and flash does read so easily on a screen.

It is a huge advantage to those who prefer technology to paper books. I hope it encourages those who wouldn’t pick up a paperback to discover reading electronically is absolutely fine and flash is such a great format for that.

I like downloading story magazines now too. I love magazines in any event but one problem is storage space for those ones you really do want to keep. No worries about that for e-magazines!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s difficult to say what I like best about writing flash. It is great when you have completed a piece, have edited it well, and after leaving it aside for a while, you come back to it and discover it is actually a good story! (One of the biggest enemies of all writers is the demon known as self doubt).

I like the process of writing the story out and then going back through it, removing what I realise I don’t need, and discovering it is a much stronger tale as a result. Of course, you don’t realise what is unnecessary material until you’ve completed the story, look again at what its theme is and then know what you have to take out, so the theme is not undermined.

What I do know for sure is there are no shortcuts and you have to persist, while learning from your mistakes too.

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Goodreads – Author Programme Blog

I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that my favourite place to read is in bed shortly before I head off to the land of Nod.

However, the Kindle has widened my choices of location when it comes to reading. I sometimes read from it on a train trip (unless I’m too busy writing something via my phone). I always read from it when I’m travelling up to Scotland for my annual holiday.

One of my favourite things about e-reading is I no longer have to worry about how many books I can take with me when I’m away. I can have loads! I do find I want to get back to paperbacks when I’ve “feasted” on the Kindle for a bit though. Not that this is a bad thing!

I must admit I do hope we get some good weather in the UK soon. It would be nice to be out in the garden again, with book or Kindle in hand, and a glass of something nice close by. I suspect I may have to wait to August for that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plans and Mini-Series

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Happily enjoying some of the latest Chapeltown publications on Kindle. That is the great thing with flash fiction – it is so easy to read on a screen (no matter the size of the screen!).

Am also drafting some challenging opening lines that I hope to create stories from soon. Sometimes this challenge leads to a longer story than expected (but that can always go to a short story – 1500 words+ – collection in due course).

I’d like to enter more competitions this year too as doing that is always good practice for writing to a deadline and if you are lucky enough to be shortlisted or win, then that does look so good on the old writing CV. You feel pretty good about it too!

One of the nicest things about writing is when you are well “into” it and enjoying what you are coming up with. You are your own first audience. If you don’t enjoy what you write, why should anyone else? Later, trusted readers who can tell you what does and doesn’t work are invaluable.

Happy writing!

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Facebook – General

One great thing about writing is it does give you a much deeper appreciation for the works of other writers, especially the classics. For a work to stand the test of time, it really does have to have something special about it, but it is highly unlikely the author concerned set out to achieve that. They would’ve wanted to write a good, entertaining story, for it to be published (and ideally sell in vast quantities too!).

I think you gain a deeper appreciation of the work that went into creating the story in question. I know I’ve learned that if someone makes something look easy (and that includes writing which is easy to read), I can bet that same someone has worked very hard for years to get to that point.

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Facebook – General

I’m starting a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Friday’s post will be part 1 of my 101 Things to Put in Room 101 so this new series will keep me out of mischief for a bit then…

Link to go up tomorrow. Had great fun writing Part 1 so am really looking forward to getting on with Part 2!

I don’t know how many writers manage to achieve the accolade of having parts of their best-known work turned into TV programmes but Orwell is one of the few. What he would have made of Room 101 I don’t know (it can be very funny, sometimes thought provoking) but I suspect there might have been some scathing comments about Big Brother! (And I could always add some of my own there!).

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How easy is it to find the right title for your book? Answer: not very!

I used the mood of the stories to get to the title for mine but the title for the one I’ve not long submitted was more difficult to reach. In the end, I picked the title from one of the stories that I liked best and went with that. Am I expecting changes to my MSS? You bet!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I know “luvvies” get their fair share of being mocked but the famous question attributed to them, “what is my motivation in this, darling?” is a great one for writers to ask of their characters.

Any character without a suitably strong motivation should be cut out. The good thing on that is their role might be a minor one but if it is pivotal to the outcome of a sub-plot, which in turn affects the way the main plot turns out, then that is good enough to justify that character and minor role remaining.

Motivations should be something the reader can understand, if not necessarily agree with. The main characters should, of course, have the most powerful motivations of all given they have the most to lose or gain.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I often use proverbs or well-known sayings and then see what I can do with them to create my stories. Flash fiction in itself is the very definition of “less is more” after all!

Sayings are a useful source of themes and can sometimes give you ideas for character motivation. (For example, revenge is sweet could lead you to work out why your characters would want to make that saying come true for them. You’d need to work out backstory here – who they want revenge against and why? How do they make revenge sweet? Does it work or backfire spectacularly?).

What sayings would you choose to use for a theme? (The great thing is you could base an entire collection around a well-chosen theme. We’re never going to run out of love stories in the grand scheme of things but there is always room for the well-written one that takes a different slant on it. Okay the problem after that is finding the right home for it but at least you know every writer faces that dilemma and it definitely isn’t anything personal).

Creative writing takes many forms, including blogging. Image via Pixabay.

Creative writing takes many forms, including blogging. Image via Pixabay.

What a library! Image via Pixabay.

What a library! Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here - the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here – the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.

The magical world of the imagination. Image via Pixabay

The magical world of the imagination. Image via Pixabay

A way into the magical realm, perhaps? Image via Pixabay.

The way to the magical realm perhaps? Image via Pixabay.

The perfect way to unwind. Image via Pixabay.

The perfect way to unwind. Image via Pixabay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FORMATS AND FAIRYTALE REVENGE

Facebook – General – Formats for Reading

Pleased to catch up on some magazine reading this week. I tend to have weeks where I get little chance to read much or am able to read loads. There seems to be no happy medium for me. Not sure why this is but do know it can be annoying!

I do read on my Kindle most evenings and I love the ‘”portable library” aspect of that. Really useful but only this week I’ve ordered a paperback, which has just arrived. Love books, love all the formats they come in is my motto!

Not all formats suit all people. I can think of family members who would never read a paperback (especially if it is of the length of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I adore, though to be fair if you drop THAT on your foot, you’ll know it!), but they do love audiobooks. I only listen to those when on lengthy car journeys but they are fabulous for that.

So what is your favourite format for a book? I think predictions of the death of the paperback are just plain wrong. I think the swing towards ebooks and then back again towards paper books will continue. (New Kindles come out, leads to boost in sales of ebooks etc).

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Facebook – General – Part 2 – Winchester Discovery Centre

Looking forward to taking part in the Winchester Discovery Centre’s 10th-anniversary celebrations next Saturday, 25th November.

A group of local writers, including yours truly, will be giving short talks and readings throughout the day. There will be a range of other activities going on throughout the day too.

There is a video clip on the link below. Hope to put up more details a little later on in the week but, if you can, do come along and enjoy the day at the Centre. Should be fun.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Part 1

Just sometimes I like to write something different for my blog posts!  This story will end up, I hope, in my second book.

I ran till I could run no more.
I dropped to the thick forest floor.
The sounds behind me had now gone
But I knew it was a big con.
They weren’t fooling me anymore.

I guess it would’ve helped if I had
Chosen not to go to the bad.
But when a girl’s luck is so down
And she can nick a pretty crown,
To not do so would just seem mad.

Who would miss that one little piece?
Not the king. Not even his niece
And she was the one who wore it!
No, I thought, I do need a bit
Of luck my way, the bad to cease.

I’d sell this lovely work of art.
I knew I must make myself part
With it so I could try to use
The money to feed my own muse.
Well, all writers need a good start!

Allison Symes – 18th November 2017

A poem or flash fiction or both? I occasionally write stories in verse though I do prefer the more obvious prose format. It is nice to throw something different into the mix now and again though!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Part 2 – Vengeful Fairies

If you were ever in any doubt that fairies could be downright nasty when it suited them, have a look at my “mini-series” on this theme in From Light to Dark and Back Again. Job Satisfaction and Collector’s Piece show fairies having a great capacity for revenge (and why it pays never to annoy the Tooth Fairy. And you thought going to the dentist was bad enough…).

I’ve always loved J.M. Barrie’s portrayal of Tinkerbell. Definitely not all cute and sweet. When children are told to clap if they believe in fairies and Tinkerbell wishes she could “get at” the ones who didn’t clap, well I think that one passage alone sums up the fairy folk attitude to life admirably! (Oh and fairies are definitely not twee in Shakespeare either so why fairytales can sometimes be seen that way and “just for kids” is beyond me).

 

READING FOR PLEASURE AND QUICK TIPS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Reading for Pleasure shares reasons why doing this is one of the most important things any writer can do to improve what they do.  (I think it is the most important thing).  Reading opens your mind to other worlds and so on.  What do your characters read for pleasure?  What books and stories would they choose?  Use that to explore more about them.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

I share three Quick Tips which I hope you find useful.  I discuss reading your work out loud (and why it matters).  I also discuss marketing and not panicking about it – if you have a book out, you will be marketing it in different ways (without driving everyone nuts!) not just in the short term but in the long term too.  I also discuss the need to find the right balance between marketing, getting on with your writing commitments and finding time to write new work.  This last one I am struggling with at the moment but I know I will find the right key eventually.  When I do I’ll stick with it!

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

I didn’t get time to blog much yesterday but my current article for Chandler’s Ford Today is a review of A Comedy Trio staged by the Chameleon Theatre Group.  This consisted of three short but very funny plays, all of which I found entertaining and were excellent character studies too.  I also enjoyed playing “spot the reference” in some of them.  One of the plays in particular had a distinct nod to the Rocky Horror Picture Show!  Another had me sympathising with not just a hostage victim but the hostage taker too and yet it was funny.  Really well done by the Chameleons and some excellent writing.

FACEBOOK PAGE – GENERAL

Yesterday, Friday 5th May it was about my Chandler’s Ford Today post.  Today I discuss the joys of the Kindle and why I always seem to forget to take it with me when travelling because I’m too busy enjoying reading from it the night before and consequently leave it behind!  Oh, the joys of human fallibility!

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FACEBOOK PAGE – PUBLICITY NEWS

I’m in Writing Magazine this month in the Members’ News Page plugging both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Baubles, the Bridge House Publishing anthology for 2016.  My short story, Helping Out, is in there. The piece looks good and thanks go to friend and fellow Swanwick devotee, Jennifer C. Wilson (author of the excellent Kindred Spirits historical ghost fiction – it’s a great mix, go and have a look!) for sharing the page all over FB!!

Always enjoy spotting a familiar face in Writing Magazine!

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FACEBOOK PAGE – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

Again I share news of the Writing Magazine spot and some images I thought appropriate to go with it (some of which appear in the book trailer).

In a separate post I discuss how I got into flash fiction in the first place.

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Flash fiction should make a positive impression, no matter how brief it is!  Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Kindle. Has expanded my reading (no more worrying about how many books I can take on holiday either!). Image via Pixabay.

WHEN WISHES WON’T COME TRUE

INTRO

This is a bit ironic really since one of my wishes has come true today!  From Light to Dark and Back Again is now available on Kindle and the Amazon link is https://www.amazon.co.uk/Light-Dark-Back-Again-ebook/dp/B06VT92429/

I use the Look Inside feature a lot when browsing books on Amazon so am glad to say it’s available on mine too.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

When Wishes Won’t Come True is a piece about when magic is limited in your stories and I think it has to be.  If all problems can be solved with the wave of a magic wand, where’s the conflict, the drama, the story?  Also what do you do when you face something who is as good magically as you are?   You effectively stalemate each other.  I also look at those characters who might be relieved magic can’t solve everything and how that would put them at odds with almost everyone else in a magical environment.  There should be some good story pointers here.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Working Hard discusses which characters work the hardest and why in your stories and what kind of world are they living in?  One that uses machines a lot or is still dependent on manual labour?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I spread the word about the Kindle version of my flash fiction collection.

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My debut flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books

My debut flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books