PROGRESS, PLANS AND MOODS

Facebook – General

Does the mood you are in affect what and how you write? My own answer to that is it depends!

If I’m in a flat state of mind but the writing I’m working on has a character in a similar state, then I can use my own mood to help write that piece! (I get something useful out of being in a flat mood! Ironically that knowledge cheers me up so win-win!).

Sometimes I deliberately write opposite to my mood so, again if I feel flat, I try to put myself in the head of a character in a lighter mood and find myself writing light. Again that can be a mood booster for me. Writing can be amazingly therapeutic at times.

What I do know is writing anything is a good “outlet” and later, once in a better frame of mind, I can evaluate any writing done in a flat state and see what I can do with it. But the great thing is I have still written, I still have work to do something with, so my advice would be, if you feel flat and don’t feel like writing, try to write something, even if it is a very short piece. I’ve found many times once I get started, I keep going, and writing takes me to a different, better place. Again, win-win there, I think.

Drafted first flash fiction story that I’ve created using a picture prompt in my new writing diary. 51 challenges remaining then given there’s one such prompt a week! Also enjoying working on my novel again. I want to try to enter more short story competitions (1500 word type) this year too. I like mixing the writing up. Challenges the old brain and that’s never a bad thing.

Third flash fiction volume coming along nicely though I need to group my stories at some point. Am hoping to get along to Winchester Writers’ Festival and, of course, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later in the year, also the ACW Writers’ Days. I think one of the best things about writing is you never stop learning whether it is how to improve what you do, new places to try to submit work or what have you. That is also a very good thing.

Feed that brain!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for the image of me reading an example of what flash fiction is at their meeting last year.

Having completed a picture prompt generated story yesterday, I see this week’s prompt in my diary has no picture whatsoever! Still will tackle that prompt later in the week I hope.

I’m planning to share a few of my favourite writing tips and why they’re useful on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. You pick up lots of useful tips from conferences, chatting to writer friends etc., but as is the way with these things, some advice will always be more useful to you than anything else. It can be a question of working out what is going to help you most. Anyway, will share the link on Friday.

Made good progress on the novel and short story ideas over the weekend so will resume work on those shortly. A writing session for me is most useful when I know I’ve made progress on work, whether that progress is editing something, adding a line or two to something already down, or writing a whole new flash fiction piece/draft CFT post.

It’s when I feel I haven’t got anywhere that is most discouraging and that’s when encouragement from writer friends is enormously helpful. I still wish my fairy godmother would turn up though and grant me “elastic time” which I could stretch as and when I needed to without any side effects/damage to history etc. You know I’d use it to stretch my writing time!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at the 2018 Bridge House celebration event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Am looking forward to sharing book offer related news later this week. Will share info and links soon!

Meanwhile, am making progress on a longer term project (non-fiction) I’d been wondering about doing for a while and have finally got around to tackling. I don’t know yet whether I’ll submit this to publishers or self publish but it is good to have both options on the table.

Am also making good progress on my novel too. My writing times are fairly consistent (which helps a LOT) and I’ve learned how to use which sessions for which projects in a way that suits me best.

I suppose the biggest lessons I’ve learned are to make the most of the time you do have AND accept you are in writing for the long haul. Stamina and persistence are key. (Good luck is a useful extra though!). How like life!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Once I’ve finished a few posts tonight, I’m going to use the picture prompt in my writing diary to draft a new flash fiction piece. The diary has one for every week in the year so that’s potentially 52 new stories to be written!

I do use picture prompts sometimes to trigger stories but tend to use phrases, proverbs, and things like that to get me started on stories. I’ve posted before about mixing up sources for ideas so I will be practising what I preach tonight at least!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We talk about “moments of illumination” – well, flash fiction could be the written version of those! Such moments are always brief and reveal something not known before. Your flash stories should do that too and be to the point.

From the writer’s viewpoint, this is the fun bit as you get to decide what that moment is in your story. For me, it has to be a turning point, whether you “turn” the character or the direction your story is going in to surprise the reader. It is where twist endings come in because you can save the moment of illumination until then.

I often, when reading stories like this, then go back through the tale to look for any clues I may have missed that hinted at the story ending up the way it has. I usually spot something on that look again read and of course I can learn from that and develop the techinique for my own writing.

When I work out ideas for a story, I focus on the lead character and then plan all sorts of havoc either for them to experience or to be the cause of – all good fun! But I do need to know the lead character’s main trait/attitude first – I use this as a “driver” for working out who they are, what they know they are capable of, and so on.

For me, character is everything. The right characters for the right stories make them spark and come to life for the reader. A good character in a weak plot – both end up being disappointing. You get the feeling the character has been “wasted”.

I’ve found it pays to take my time in outlining a character (and this is a feature of Scrivener I adore. On their fiction setting, you have a template you can fill in to help you plot out a character and I’ve used this several times. Scrivener also have one for working out what the setting of the story is and I have used this but the character development one is really useful. I don’t tend to use it for flash fiction but for longer stories where I’ve got 2 or more characters to flesh out).

Once I’ve got my character, I’m generally well away into writing the story. While editing is always necessary, outlining at the start does stop you going off at an irrelevant tangent and has saved me considerable time.

Will have book offer related news later this week so stay tuned! Links and info up when I have them.

What are the difficulties of writing flash fiction?

1. It is so easy to overwrite and be well over the word count limit. Okay a very good edit will take care of that but the story still has to flow, make sense, and impact on readers, once that editing is done. There’s the real challenge, I think.

2. Knowing where and when to stop! (Having said that, if the idea is a strong one and you can continue it so you end up with a standard length short story, do so. You just enter that piece for standard length short story competitions and markets instead!).

3. Getting people to take the form seriously, though this situation is improving!

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Idea Spotting

Do you ever indulge in story idea spotting when reading a favourite novel? I do!

I love looking for what I think are the influences for a writer. To me this adds extra enjoyment to the story and gives me the perfect excuse for re-reading a book. Not that I really need one but never mind.

It’s my experience you never find all the influences/links in one read through! Sometimes not in two reads either!

Sometimes I know what the writer’s influences are in advance because I’ve read interviews etc and can then have fun seeing how these play out in what they have produced. Other times I don’t know and I get to play detective here.

What I like best is when spotting an influence in a book and it is clear the writer is a fan of another writer I also love. Double whammy!

Reading is fun anyway of course but for me this is extra and I love that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is an alliterative one! As Autumn Approaches is a reflective look at the season, I share some thoughts about how the season is for writers.

I also discuss the importance of taking time out to look back, as my church has recently done for its 200th anniversary, but equally how vital it is to move on from periods of reflection, given what stays static dies eventually.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My CFT post this week is a reflective one on autumn. I share what I like about it, why it is an interesting season for writers, and also discuss my church’s recent exhibition to celebrate its 200th anniversary where we took stock of our history and recalled friends past, present, and no longer with us. Oral storytelling and local history are so important.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers’ More than Writers – The Highs and the Lows

Many thanks to all who commented on my More Than Writers blog earlier. You really can’t underestimate how much persistence, determination, and ability to work hard you will need as a writer. The great comfort is ups and downs are a normal part of the writing life so you’re definitely not alone here.

The Highs and the Lows – Allison Symes

What would you say were the writing highs? 

Your first piece of writing (aka “the I did it” moment!)?

Your first publication credit (the “family start to take you seriously” moment!)?

Your first book acceptance (the “some of the rest of the world start to take you seriously” moment!)?  Sadly, it always is some of the rest of the world…

What would you say were your writing lows? 

That first rejection?
Having your novel come back for the umpteenth time?
Countless short stories turned down?

The great irony, of course, is, with the right spirit and attitude, a writer can use those rejections and set backs to (a) fill them with determination to keep going, (b) to improve on what they do so the turn downs don’t arrive so often as they once did, and (c) recognise all writers go through this.

There are no shortcuts to publication.  Also, even when published, the learning curve goes on and you have to be open to it.  The writer that doesn’t learn is the one who remains static.  What is static dies, eventually.

So then it is a question of relishing the highs and getting through the lows, which is where the support of understanding writing friends is crucial.  One of the things I love about social media is the fact it makes it easier to stay in contact with said writing friends, especially when you can only meet up face to face once or twice a year.Writing forums such as the one we have on the ACW website are also useful for this kind of contact (and for sharing helpful advice and tips too).  Going to a good writing conference is invaluable too given that for most of the year we are at our desks, working alone.

Peter, of course, literally had his mountain top experience but his low was clearly his denial of Christ.  (What I love about Peter’s story is his redemption – it offers hope for us all).  So this pattern of highs and lows then is a reflection of life as it is lived and not just the writing life.

Our characters must have their highs and lows.  Without them, there is no conflict yet alone a story.  The highs and lows are not just the story events but what is in those characters.  No villain should be all evil (there must be a decent reason for them acting the way they are, decent to them at least).  No hero should be a goody two shoes.  Much as I loved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I found it easier to identify with Amy or Jo rather than the saintly Beth.  Identifying with your characters is the goal.  The moment a reader does that, the more likely it is they will read on and find out what happens.

Show the flaws.  Show the vulnerabilities.  Show the things the character does well.  Enjoy the process.  And good luck.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Don’t forget if you subscribe to Writing Magazine, you can put your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. It’s free for a while but after that you pay a small amount per month to have it on there. My own plans later, once hopefully I have more books out, is to switch which ones I put up there to keep things fresh.

n a novel, you would have the space for different moods. Moods in the story itself. Moods of the characters. In flash fiction, you have to focus on one mood (and often on one character). But the advantage of putting a collection together is over the space of the entire book, you can have a range of moods and therefore of stories.

This was one aspect of putting From Light to Dark and Back Again together that I really enjoyed. Themes and moods became apparent and it was so easy to group these together.

Time for some more one-line stories, though one I admit is also useful wildlife advice!

1. The dragon, determined not to be fobbed off with false gold coinage, destroyed the Royal Mint with two blasts of flame.

2. Glass slippers, how the hell did that happen, thought the fairy godmother as she hung up her wand in disgust.

3. The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog only to find the canine could bite in places no male animal would ever wish bitten.

4. When the red, red robin comes bob bob bobbing along, it’s looking for food in the winter months, not the chance to be the star of a song.

5. The girl in the red hooded coat took one look at the Big Bad Wolf in her granny’s bed and said, “That gingham really doesn’t suit you, try silk next time.”

Any story, no matter what its length, should create an impact on a reader, whether it is to make them laugh or cry. I concede though No. 3 will probably make a few of you wince!

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog Where Do You Turn First?

So you have limited time to read (it is ever so!) and you can choose between reading one hardback, one paperback, or pick one option from your Kindle? Which would you automatically plump for over the others?

I’d go for the paperback every time (partly because while I have some hardbacks, my paperback collection is far greater). There is still the element of the “go for the real book” here, much as I love the Kindle.

Where the Kindle does come into its own is when I’m away anywhere and the last thing I want to do is lug a lot of books along with me (unless they’re by me and I’m trying to sell them of course!).

The other reason I’d go for the paperback first is I’d want the experience of the “whole book”. You can’t smell a Kindle’s “pages” but you can do it with a paper book – and I have and will continue to do so.

I do like the smell of a book. I like the look of a well designed cover. I like the feel of a paperback in my hands. So there is the whole tactile experience going on here.

I do know I’m not the only reader/writer to feel that way so if I’m weird, I know I’ve got company. Very well read company, I should add!

So what would you pick then and why? Comments welcome.

Fairytales with Bite Fairytales A to Z Part 4

J = Jealousy.  Such a powerful emotion and an excellent trait to exploit in your characters given it is understandable as a motivation for action. People do strange things, motivated by this, in real life.  Your characters can do so too in fiction.  You don’t have to like jealousy as a trait or the character to be able to identify with where the character is coming from here.  It can also act as a kind of shorthand.  If you say someone is the jealous type, it conjures up an immediate image of what that person is likely to be like, doesn’t it?

K = Killer Instinct.  Do your characters have this?  Do you?!  Firstly your characters, particularly your villains, need this (and often in the literal sense), but even the “goodies” need this to keep them going in the face of opposition etc.  They need to know when to “go” for a course of action and it will be their instinct here that will ignite the spark which drives them on.  As for you as a writer, do you have the killer instinct when it comes to editing your work?  Will you take out anything that is really not working (and be open to the idea it isn’t)?  You need to learn to be ruthless about taking out anything that is not pushing your story on.  The “kill your darlings” expression has a lot of truth behind it.

L = Learning and Laughter.  Do your characters learn from their mistakes?  A good story and great characters will have that as a major factor.  Some of my favourite series novels have shown the lead character developing over time and I love that.  It makes the character far more real to me.  As for laughter, even in darker stories, there can be room for this.  In the classic fairytales, for me, the Emperor’s New Clothes is a great example of laughing at those who supposedly are superior but are taken in by conmen (and you do have to hand it to those tailors for sheer nerve).  So where can laughter fit into your stories?

This World and Others Reflections

Reflection is a major theme of my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post called As Autumn Approaches.  (Well, this is true for the UK and Europe anyway!).

What would make your characters reflect on their actions to date/their attitudes to life?  Being made to confront the consequences of what you are doing would be one major reason to take time out to reflect, especially if there was time to reverse matters or limit any damage done.  Love, as they say, changes everything and can be a major influence in making people change their behaviour (usually for the better, but this isn’t always the case).

Sometimes a character will take time out to reflect before heading out on their adventure/quest etc.  What is interesting here is how that period of reflection influences what the character then does.  If your characters do this, how do they reflect?  On their own or do they have a mentor?  Do they look up books (especially history) to find out how others in their world’s past handled certain situations?  If the characters themselves will be setting a precedent, are there general guidelines to give them pointers as to what they should be doing?

Last but not least, are the characters themselves willing to learn from the reflections of others?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment I've hoped to achieve for more years than I care to recall...

MOODS AND THEMES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I finish my mini series on Writing Tips tonight with A to Z of Writing Tips Part 8 where I cover W to Z!  I discuss Writing, X-Rated (fiction),  Young Adult (fiction) and Zero Heroes.  By the latter, I refer to those storeis whre the hero is not particularly likeable but clearly the best of a bad bunch.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In Moods and Themes I look at writing to a theme and discuss how often mood can emerge from a story, taking even its author by surprise.  That’s happened to me quite a bit!  I’ve often written to a theme but rarely write to a mood.  How can you decide to write “funny”, for instance?  The “funny” has to emerge naturally or it will come acrsoss as artificial.

FACEBOOK PAGE – GENERAL

A bit of a mixed bag tonight.  I pay my own tribute to Brian Cant, who was one of my favourite children’s TV presenters when I was growing up.  I also discuss my holiday reading plans.  Whether they actually happen is another matter!  I also make a plea for dogs to stay at home in the very hot weather we’re currently having in the UK.  Dogs can literally cook in minutes if left in cars – regardless of whether you leave the windows open.  It really is kinder for the dogs to stay at home if you can’t take them with you.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F998918886877757&width=500

FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I discuss moods and themes again here tonight.  I also look at how easy (or not) coming up with titles is and throw that question open to you.  Comments welcome!  I have to have a title to work to, even if it changes later (and it often does).  It’s almost as if I need a “peg” from w hich to hang my story!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ffairytaleladyallisonsymes%2Fposts%2F560532417668904&width=500

ADVERT FOR RAILWAY SIGNING

 

 

 

 

A TO Z OF WRITING TIPS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I started a new series yesterday (31st May 2017) and share the links here for Part 1 and Part 2 of my A to Z Series of Writing Tips, which I hope you find useful.  Part 1 covers A to E and I look at things such as how useful being published in anthologies can be, just to name one example.  Part 2 covers F to H and includes my thoughts on heroes/heroines and that they need to be fully rounded characters who have off days, the same as the rest of us (!), yet there should still be something about them which makes it clear they deserve to be cast heroically.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

The Right Title shares some of the ways in which I come up with titles for my stories, and again I hope this is of use.  I use some of my stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again as examples (though if you want to read more of the tales, you will have to buy or borrow the book!  Having said that, and if you would like a taster of what I do, one of my stories is on my book’s trailer, which I share below).

FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN – BOOK TRAILER

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fvideos%2F954726234630356%2F&show_text=0&width=400

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

I hope to resume blogging for CFT in the next week or so.  I have taken a short time off all writing due to a family bereavement and am only beginning to get back into things again.  (Am glad to be writing again, it is so therapeutic at times, but I know it will take me a little while longer to get back into writing my feature articles again).

FACEBOOK – GENERAL

I talk about moods tonight.  I either write to my mood or sometimes deliberately write against it.  Both can produce good stories (and make you focus on anything other than the situation that triggered the mood in the first place!).

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F984987101604269&width=500

FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

Topic for you to consider – are the best characters the ones where the author actively dislikes them?  I think so!  For reasons why see the link and comments with your views on this would be very welcome.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ffairytaleladyallisonsymes%2Fposts%2F547209205667892&width=500

water-768498_640castle-2115425_640