Titles,Writing Magazine, Publication News, and Part 3 of Launches in Lockdown (and Lady news update!)

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A huge thank you to Val Penny and Jen Wilson for their author pics and book cover images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

This post title should indicate what kind of week I’ve had – good but busy! Am just hoping the drink in the Pixabay picture below is a nice hot chocolate… I’m not a coffee fan. (I know, I know, writers are supposed to be but there you go).

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The advice and tips given in this series so far has been top-notch, not to be missed etc., (and the good news is there is more to come!). A huge thank you to #JenWilson and #ValPenny for their contributions this week.

Jen, Val, and I are huge fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is where we met and we are all hoping to meet up again there this year after last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We are also part of a team there called the Prosecco Queens (anyone fancy a guess at why we went for that name? Anybody? Anybody at all?!).

Last week’s post was from writers from the Association of Christian Writers. Now I mentioned earlier this week one of the joys of reading Writing Magazine is spotting how many of your writing pals you spot in between the covers, so to speak. I have to say it is usually a fairly even split between people I know from Swanwick and people I know from ACW. Keep going, folks!

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Hope Thursday has worked out okay for you. Glad to report Lady is now running again (and is very happy to be doing so, I can tell you). Mind you, it does look like she’s had a mud bath by the time I get her home. Thank goodness for my late mum’s old towels… perfect for dog cleaning duty! Also thanks goodness for an excellent washing machine!

Writing wise, I am looking forward to sharing part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up for that tomorrow.

This week I feature two fabulous guests and writing friends I’ve come to know thanks to the marvellous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (So not only have I learned from the wonderful courses there, I’ve made fantastic friends and they are the best support any writer can have. Who else but another writer knows the elation when things are going well and you have work out there? Equally who better to sympathise with when rejections are all that seem to appear in your inbox?).

Further news. I had a fab time appearing on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show last week. I’ll be writing a CFT piece about that and resharing the link once the Launches series has finished so that is my CFT diary full for February!

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One of joys of subscribing to Writing Magazine is opening it up and spotting your writer friends in there. This month it’s my turn! My February edition has just come in and I’m on the Subscribers’ News page, talking about my happy writing accident in discovering the joys of flash fiction writing. Naturally my website and Tripping the Flash Fantastic get a mention! (And It was fab my publishers Chapeltown Books had a good write-up last time).

Also delighted to see another 5 star rating come in for From Light to Dark and Back Again. A good day then!

Lady had her first proper but limited run today and loved it. Her paw is fine. The only thing we could have wished for was better weather but it is supposed to improve as the week goes on.

Looking forward to my first blog appearing on Authors Electric on the 18th. Meanwhile do check the excellent posts out there at https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/

Towards the end of this month is going to be a bit busy as I’ve lined an interview up amongst other things and I’m looking forward to all of that (and to being able to say more about the other things too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discussed titles before here but it is an important topic and they carry more weight in flash fiction stories than in other types of fiction. Why?

Firstly, the right title will set the mood and tone of the story in and of itself and that will save you on the word count for the tale itself.

Secondly, some websites and competitions do include the title as part of the word count (so always watch for that) so you want the title to do some of the “heavy lifting” for you.

Some other thoughts:-

  • Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.
  • Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).
  • Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.
  • Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!
  • Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up.

I’ve had the privilege of judging a flash fiction competition, which was interesting to do, but I was surprised to find some stories didn’t have titles with them. The really important thing to remember about a title is it is your story’s first “advert” to hook the reader in with and you want to make the most of that.

Remember only the Ten Commandments were set in stone so my advice would be to go with a working title and then change it later if you think of better (and that often does happen as you write the story. A better idea will “just come to you”. Note it and then examine it later in the cold light of day to see if it is as good as you thought and/or better than your initial idea. If it is, go for it!).

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I’ve often discussed, especially on my author FB page, the joy of outlining. I find it helpful to outline my characters. Now can you do all of that for a 50 or 100 word piece of flash fiction? Of course you can!

Like the story itself, the outline won’t be a long one, that is all. Less than a short paragraph like this usually does the job nicely – and I then get straight into writing the tale. Prep helps a lot! I’ve found it saves me a lot of time later as the outline has stopped me from going off at a tangent etc. Tangents are fun but are often not relevant to the character or plot so they shouldn’t go in. Everything has to be relevant!

So for a flash fiction outline (and especially for those tales which will be under 500 words), I ask myself a couple of questions.

  • Why do I want to write about this character? (In many ways it is for this character, it is their story I’m telling).
  • What mood is the story going to be? (This does affect the type of character I’m going to produce for the tale. If I want a funny tale, you don’t necessarily need a funny character to service it. What you do want are characters full of their own importance who need taking down a peg or several. That’s where the humour is, not necessarily directly in the character. Often a character who thinks they are funny are not and can often be tragic.).

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Publication News

Many thanks for the great response yesterday to my plug for CafeLit now the list of those appearing in The Best of CafeLit 10 is now known. (And yes this is another crafty way of getting another mention in for CafeLit and the book!). Yes, it does include me – see next post down. Sometimes a date order blog round up goes against you!!

For me the success of any story, regardless of its length, depends on the character(s). If they grip me, I’m reading the rest of the story, book or what you. If they don’t…. Well, life is just too short to perservere with something that just isn’t engaging me.

And that is the continuing challenge for me as a writer. Just how can I make my characters appeal to a reader (and especially one who may well not have come across my work before. There is a certain truth in the saying you only have the one chance to make a first impression and with my stories, I want my characters to hook readers in right from the start. You have got to have that “must find out what happens next” moment and to keep that going until you do reach the end).

One way I try to achieve this is to come up with characters readers can understand. They don’t have to like them but they do have to get where the character is from (and ideally ask themselves if I was this character, would I be doing this? If not, what would I be doing instead? If a reader is asking questions like that from a character, you know what character has intrigued them to keep on reading).

This is where outlining the character helps. And the great thing is you can pick the kind of outline that suits you. I don’t particularly need to know what my character looks like (that can come later) but I do need to know what their major traits are and what their flaws are. Think about what you would want to know from your character if you could interview them “for real” and use that as a basis for a useful outline template you can use over and over again.


Fairytales With Bite – When the Wand Isn’t Enough….

Okay, we’re in a magical world in our stories. How can a wand ever not be enough?

Well, firstly, if a wave of the old wand solves every problem, you haven’t got any stories to write. Where is the conflict in that? Problem A arises. Problem A gets resolved with said wave of magic wand. There’s no character development. And just reading problems being resolved like that will become boring so quickly! Readers want to find out what the characters do and how they react and it takes more than a wave of the magic wand to really show readers what the characters are truly made of. Are they sterling stuff or treacherous rats etc?

Also when everyone has a reasonable amount of magical power, there has to be a way of distinguishing between them (and it helps your readers to tell them apart too).

It is also a reasonable assumption to work on that some species will have more powers than others either by learning or by inheritance or both so what do the weaker species do to ensure they can survive? They’ve got to find ways of beating “their betters” without the use of magic (and that’s when stories can become really interesting. Characters are having to think on their feet here though of course you as the writer have planned this all out!).

So just as writers we shouldn’t rely on magic or coincidences getting our characters out of trouble, the characters themselves need more than the old magic wand waving too.

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This World and Others – What do Characters think of their Environment?

The answer to this question will also tell readers a fair bit about what your characters are like.

Do they care about the environment or are they oblivious to it?

If your created world has different climates and regions, are the characters you’re writing about aware of all of this or is there a certain amount of Here Be Dragons about their attitudes?

Here Be Dragons was something written on old maps where a map maker had literally got to the limits of where they were prepared to go to make their maps so anything unknown had this slogan added to it! They could get away with it because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to challenge them (and I’m sure they worked on the theory, well there could be dragons!). (Never get away with it now due to Google etc!).

How characters treat the world around them is likely to flag up to readers how they are likely to treat other characters. One of my own favourite characters in Losing Myself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic appears to be one who cares much more about the environment and natural world than any other of her own kind. That was an interesting story to write because it made me think deeply about what would make a character be or become that way.

And then there will the opposite – those who do not see or care about the environment around them. How did they get to be that way? And is there a point where they have to change their attitude?

So my lead question here can be a great way into some interesting story ideas.

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Twitter Corner



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Frustrating Things about Writing

Facebook – General

What do you find is the most frustrating thing about writing?

Rejections?

That lovely moment when you think you’ve got a corker of an idea but you go to write it down and it suddenly evaporates?

Being interrupted when you’ve got going nicely and you know you will have to come back later and find you can’t quite get into your rhythm again?

All of them, I hear you cry! I know. It is difficult to choose from this particular shortlist.

Rejections – I take some comfort from the fact EVERY writer has them, it really isn’t just you or me for that matter. But hopefully you can learn and improve on what you do with each one. Also just because a piece is rejected somewhere, it doesn’t mean it can’t be accepted elsewhere. So keep trying, keep going!

Ideas Disappearing – it happens. Write down what you can. Then think laterally. I sometimes use a spider diagram. Sometimes I get the idea I had initially back, other times I think of something better. Win, win there either way!

Interruptions – On the plus side, whoever you are prepared to drop your writing for must be pretty important to you so treasure them! I carve out blocks of time for my writing and, unless there is a dire emergency, I stick to those. I’ve found it helps to be consistent with this. It also helps to show loved ones what I’ve produced in this time, publication credits when I get them etc so they can see the point of what I’m doing that way. It helps lessen the risk of any “non urgent” interruptions!

One of the highlights of my writing year is rapidly approaching – the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Brochure arrived yesterday.

I think I know what courses I’m going to be doing – I went through the programme when it was put up on the website (I know, I know, girly swot!). Having said that, the brochure gives me the perfect chance to change my mind again and then again and then… well you get the picture!

Looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones! Pictures below taken by me – The Hayes is a stunning place to be.

How can you tell when a story idea really is something you should run with?

When the idea haunts you, basically.

When you start writing the idea down and more ideas flood in as you do so.

I’ve only had a couple of ideas where, on outlining, I found I couldn’t expand them further to create a story. All that promise and nothing… bah humbug!

So does it pay to outline? Definitely. Can save a lot of time.

As for outlining flash fiction, I keep this brief, aptly. Character is X, major trait is Y, how is latter going to help or hinder X?

I often find that a flash story can go in a couple of different directions and then it is down to what mood I want to go for. A humorous story is when X’s major trait hinders, causes trouble etc – there is a lot of comic potential there.

A more sombre story shows the major trait hindering X but they are not necessarily aware of it. What X sees as persistence, all those around them see as stubborness and X being an awkward so and so.

But a good idea gives you that potential to go in different directions.

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Looking forward to seeing the latest production by local theatre group, The Chameleons, tomorrow night. Will be writing more about it for CFT later but my lovely editor, Janet Williams, is also going so I think I can classify this as the nearest thing CFT has to a “works’ outing”!

My CFT post this week will be looking at what to look for in a good review/critique. I also share some tips – link to go up on Friday.

The local wildflower meadow I wrote about for last week’s CFT post is still going strong I’m glad to say. This is totally unlike the grass in the park, our lawn, and most of our plants. I’ve also noticed the trees have started to shed leaves. Really wouldn’t mind some rain now… and talking of the weather, it has been mad here today. It was hotter at 8 am than it was at lunchtime and hotter still at about 5/6 pm!

This is not in my genre at all but I guess there is room for climate change fiction!! (And practically all of it will be based on facts…).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t set out to write fiction with a “purpose” other than hopefully to be entertaining. I’m all for books that can educate, open readers’ eyes to new worlds etc etc. but there is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to write stories which make people smile/laugh/scream as appropriate and be for sheer entertainment only.

I’ve never understood why some can look down on genre fiction due to its easy accessibility to readers. You want people to read, yes? Fine, let them get on with that. Maybe people will move on to “more worthy” books later when they are ready but if not, they will still be reading, which is always a good thing.

(And writing to entertain can be easier said than done anyway! Now back to the writing… oh and the first one you have to entertain IS you. If you don’t like it, why should anyone else?}

When is the right time to start a new flash fiction book? Directly after you’ve finished the last one and sent it off to the publisher!

Am making good progress on my third collection. Am planning to make even more progress on it while I’m at Swanwick. I also plan to revisit my unpublished novel (as I would like to change the status on that one!!).

So plenty to do and no chance of getting bored – good, bring in on, say I!

Should you be able to guess the ending of a story, regardless of length?

I must admit one of the joys of reading for me is to try to work out where the story will head. It is great when I’m right. It is even better when I’m not! I like a really good story twist that takes me by surprise yet when I go back through the tale find that the clues to it were there all along.

When I write my twist endings, I nearly always reject the first idea that comes to me. Why? Because inevitably the first idea that occurs is the same one that will occur to most other people too! There is no fun to be had in guessing the ending there!

I do write that first idea down though, despite knowing I inevitably won’t use it. Why? I’ve found the very act of writing it down helps generate other, better, stronger ideas. I find it easier to come up with something when paper and ink are involved somewhere in the process rather than just think it all up. I suppose in a way in drafting ideas like that I am kind of giving myself permission to “play about” with the thoughts that have occurred to me. Whatever the deep down reason, all I know is that it works!

In flash fiction you don’t have room for many characters but you can “infer” some to compensate for that. I do this by revealing what my lead character thinks of X even if X never makes it into the story itself. This also reveals my lead character’s attitude to X and can show how likely it is my lead gets on with others (or not. I can think of quite a few of my “people” I wouldn’t get on with but the great thing is I don’t have to like them to write about them!!).

Another way of showing another character yet without them taking up precious word count room is to have the story written as a letter, diary etc. I use the letter format in my You Never Know where my lead character’s attitude to who they’re writing to is all too apparent! It is also clear they are irked by the attitude of the unseen character.

I love being able to imply things with stories like this. I’ve never been that keen on stories where the author spells everything out. I like putting two and two together for myself and if the writer can send me up a false trail, well done them!

 

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Book Covers

I think everyone does judge a book by its cover. How else can you do so? You need something to draw you in initially and that is the cover’s job.

I like a cover to be appropriate for whatever it is I’m reading and, ironically for a writer, I want the picture to do most of the work.

I’ve sometimes given opinions on book covers before the books concerned are published and the ones with lots of text merely look cluttered. Far from giving me more to read on the cover, too much text here switches me off.

Where I do want the text is on the back for the blurb. Have you ever read a book, enticed by the blurb and cover, but the story fails to deliver on its promise? I think most of us have and you just feel let down. (All writers beware here!)

The great thing here though is that despite the cover and blurb being really important, it is STILL the story that matters most of all. And what we are all after is a story that entertains, educates, keeps us gripped to the final page and so on.

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