Prep Work

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good week. Busy preparing for Christmas here but at least the cards have been sent! It all counts as writing…!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post on Chandler’s Ford Today which is about Prep Work. Apt for this time of year of course! But I look at the topic from a writer’s viewpoint.

I share how prep work is an important part of my writing life, look at the benefits of it, and discuss how having a rough outline of what I plan to write when over the course of a week helps me stay on track and get more writing done overall.

Hope you find the post useful, especially if like me you are a planner rather than a pantser though I think some loose structure to a writing week would benefit most people. I know it has done wonders for my productivity.

Prep Work

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I’ll be discussing the usefulness of Prep Work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Link up tomorrow.

Also looking forward to sharing the link to Three Minute Santas in due course.

Just to flag up there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment. Looking for a last minute present for someone who likes short stories, especially quirky ones? See the link for more details.

And don’t forget the one thing you can do for authors whose work you love – leave a review! Doesn’t have to be long (indeed keeping it short helps make it more memorable and effective) but a thoughtful review is appreciated by every author.

Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 20-23-22 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

I was chatting about ideas yesterday and it is as I develop mine, I often remember books and stories which have influenced me. As I outline my characters, I know from books and stories I love the kind that work the best for me. (Not every book does this for me – I still dislike Miss Price from Mansfield Park and I love Jane Austen’s work as a rule but this case did show me what I don’t want in my characters so still useful!).

And I try to replicate what I like best in my “people”. I say people but then I have written flash pieces from the viewpoint of a mother dragon and responded to a challenge to write a piece about the inside of a ping-pong ball. My characters are definitely not all human but I still need to portray them in a way to either gain reader sympathy or to have readers happily root for them to fail, depending on whether they’re villainous or not.

All great fun and even more reasons to keep reading. I see it as research and that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to hearing wonderful festive flash fiction on Three Minute Santas hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM tomorrow. I hope to share the link in due course. I also hope to include it in my Chandler’s Ford Today post for Christmas Eve which will be a festive flash post.

Lighthearted stories take as much care to hone and polish as the more serious kind and I think even more in fact.

Why? Because you know the effect you want to produce in the reader – you are aiming to amuse and/or cheer and everything you write for this story has to serve that purpose. Also what one reader will see as lighthearted others will dismiss as frivolous. You just accept there is no pleasing everybody and you go for what your Ideal Reader would like. That Ideal Reader won’t be just you, honest!

With a sad story, you know what would make you sad, what would make most people sad so you can use that in your storytelling. But humour is notoriously subjective which is why it is not as easy to write as it might appear. It is good fun though and well worth the effort!

BookBrushImage-2021-12-17-19-5235Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate


Pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy All In The Blend.


Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 19-28-36 All In The Blend, by Allison Symes

The nice thing with flash fiction is it has more scope than you might think. You can set your characters anywhere and everywhere, in the present day or the past or the future, and don’t forget you can vary the genre too. I’ve written historical flash pieces, crime flash, humorous stories and so on. You can also vary the word count as long as you don’t go above the 1000 words limit.

So if a piece works out better at 500 words rather than 100 then that’s fine. You just can’t submit that piece for a 100-word competition or market but there will be others where you can submit it. When I keep a story at 500 words, rather than reduce it down, it is because there are telling details in that story I feel make the tale more powerful and the character more memorable.

If I feel the story would lose something vital if I were to cut further, I don’t! I leave it as it is and find an alternative market for it.

The trick is in working out what is vital. If certain details help a character make more of an impact on the reader then those things stay in. But you do have to ask yourself honestly do I really need this? Does this detail give the reader something useful?

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Looking forward to the Three Minute Santas broadcast on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on Saturday 18th December between 2 and 4 pm. My story, The Night Before Christmas, is on there and I am delighted to know other writing friends will also be having their tales on there. A great way to get into the festive mood.

I have a very soft spot for writing festive flash pieces. They’re light-hearted, just what you need I think at this time of the year, great to share on social (and other) media, and a bit of a reading pick-me-up. I will share the link to the show in due course if you can’t tune in on Saturday.

Oh and naturally I am going to love flash stories being shared in this way – it’s another method to get people into flash writing and reading I hope!

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Fairytales With Bite – Dressing Up

The most obvious example of dressing up is when the fairy godmother turned up to transform Cinder’s rags into a decent ballgown. But are there any opportunities in your stories for your characters to dress up? What events would they dress up for? And what would they actually wear? How is this different from day-to-day clothing?

Does your fictional world have tailors, clothes designers etc or is everything produced magically? If the latter, how does this work? Would your characters need to have some kind of currency to get a magical costume produced? And if they were poor, what would they have to “make do with”?

Occasions dictate costumes as well so what events would mean everyone, regardless of their means, has to dress up? How would the poorest manage this? And what elaborate costumes would the elite wear and why these? What is the history behind them?

Events usually commemorate something and, for everyone to have to join in, these would have to be of national importance. Can you link the history of your fictional world to what people are wearing now? As ever, with this kind of thing, there is always someone who will want to go against tradition – who, why, what are the consequences of them doing so? Does their choosing to dress differently inspire others to look at why they do things traditionally at all?

Clothing can indicate status too and you could use that as a shorthand way of showing how rich or otherwise your characters are.

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This World and Others – To Map or Not to Map?

Hands up time. I looked at the map in The Lord of the Rings once, maybe twice, on my first read of that wonderful trilogy. I was too engrossed in the story to want to go back to the map at all. So how useful do you find a map to be in fantasy works, especially the longer kind?

I can understand why the writer would need a map. Literally it is a visual aid to them to help them picture things and to thus write about their created world successfully. But do the readers need to see the map? Does film take away the need for such things now? Do feel free to comment!

I do know I couldn’t draw a map if paid to do so. I know I need an idea on setting for my flash and short stories though I find I need to know the characters much, much more. The characters will often dictate to me where they have to be set. I like that as it means I picture them and their location in one go.

And a lot of what I need to know about my characters doesn’t end up in the finished story. It doesn’t need to go in but I needed to know it to write that character up with conviction. Even if I could draw a map. I suspect the same would be true here!

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Ideas, Writing Journeys, and Characters Carrying Their Roles

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Has been a hectic couple of days. Hope all okay with you. Looking forward to hearing my festive flash piece broadcast on North Manchester FM later this week.

Screenshot 2021-12-08 at 16-07-14 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 18 December 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Facebook – General

Looking forward to sharing my Prep Work post on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Hope it proves to be useful. After that I’ll be sharing a festive flash fiction post and I hope to include a link to Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM. Will be a nice way to wind down as we heard towards the end of the year. (If you want to listen live, the show will be broadcast this coming Saturday, 18th December between 2 and 4 pm).

Just heard we won’t be having our Carols by Candlelight services this year – will be much missed, as they were last year – but I am enjoying a good sing along to Christmas favourites when Classic FM play them. Favourite carol: In the Bleak Midwinter (the Holst version). (Naturally the dog likes Bach – sorry couldn’t resist).

Am getting a newsletter together for the beginning of 2022. I share tips, writing prompts, and all kinds of things here so please head over to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up.

Ideas are funny things. Some I can get to work on immediately. I can literally see where the idea is taking me. Other ideas I have to “mull over” for a while before seeing possibilities in them. But that is the way of it and the best ways I have found to encourage ideas are (a) to read widely and (b) get on and write.

Writing in itself I’ve found encourages other ideas. There is some truth in the thought the more you write, the more you will have to write about, but the nice thing about this is it includes all forms of writing.

Writing lots of small pieces as I do encourages me to think about what the next small piece could be and I try to get a momentum going. It’s also why it pays to have a notebook to hand. I come back to the ideas I’ve jotted down at a later date. If they still seem good, I then write them up.

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Hectic day today, Mondays often are for me, though a writing session at the end of my day always makes me feel better. There is something about the creative urge that does just do that for me. If I can’t write (as opposed to choosing not to when I have days off every now and then), well let’s just say I am not a happy bunny. And the nice thing with blogging and flash fiction is when time is tight, as it has been today, I can still write something and feel I’ve achieved something. That matters to me.

Having something already drafted ready for working on later helps me satisfy my creative urge too. If I’m not writing, I am editing and that too is a creative process.

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What has changed along your writing journey compared with how you started out? For me, it is the discovery of the wonderful worlds of flash fiction and blogging, neither of which I knew about when I began writing seriously.

Then there are the technological changes too. The laptop I’m writing this on is far more powerful and smaller than the first computer I used. And then there is the development of things like social media and graphic design programs like Book Brush, which have made it possible to create your own videos and share them on YouTube.

The hardest thing for me to adapt to is getting used to a single space after a full stop. Why? Because I am of the age where it had to be a double space. That harks back to the days when typewriter print wasn’t as clear as it is now so the extra space was needed for clarity. I know! Of all the things to have to get used to! Still Find and Replace is a useful function and Scrivener actually has a Convert Multiple Spaces to Space option. (Found under the Format menu – go to the Convert section and hey presto! This one has helped me a lot!).

I do not miss carbon copies. Cut and paste is so much easier to do in a word processing program too.

Zoom has helped me rediscover the joys of PowerPoint too, very useful for author talks.

Change then can be a good thing and I am grateful I can send in submissions by email rather than have to go and queue in a Post Office to get things weighed (especially at this time of year). There is a lot of time of my life I won’t get back there!

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Nice to have a quiet one after a fabulous day at the Bridge House Publishing event last week. Finished the Christmas cards so that’s one writing task completed today!

I’ll be discussing the value of prep work in my Chandler’s Ford Today post next Friday. I’m just not the “pantser” type but I will be looking at how a simple structure to my writing week pays dividends for me. And the principle of planning out what you write over the course of a week can be applied no matter what you write.

Ideas for my CFT posts especially will come out of other articles I’ve written. There is truth in the thought the more you write, the more ideas you will generate. I’ve certainly found that to be true for my blogging.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use different ways to get “into” my flash fiction but the key one has to be knowing my character. I don’t need to know everything. I need to know what their major trait is as that will often determine the types of action they could be reasonably expected to do. Equally it will show up what they would not normally do.

A coward, for example, could become brave if and only if they had no other option to ensure their own survival. That should become apparent in the story. In this case, I would also like to know what made my character become a coward. Have they always been like that or is there a story to be told in showing how they got to be that way?

And yes you could have linked flash tales here. One showing what the coward faced to become that way, another could show them how they overcame it even if that was forced on them.

Motivation is a powerful reason for our own behaviour. Our characters should reflect that too. Asking your character “what is your motivation here” will also help you get a clearer picture of what they are like. Appearances, after all, can be deceptive.

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It’s Monday, it has been a hectic day, time to unwind with a story. Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube video, Getting the Mix Right. One lady really fancies the changes when it comes to ingredients for her friend’s recipe…


Pleased to say the December 2021 issue of Moms’ Favorite Reads is now up on Amazon for free. As ever, there is a wonderful wealth of features here. I talk about Festivities for my flash fiction column this time and I loved reading the stories that came in on this theme. Time for a cup of something nice and a good read I think!

Screenshot 2021-12-14 at 20-10-34 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine December 2021 eBook Publishing , Goylake , Howe, Hannah , [...]

I sometimes start my flash stories knowing I want to write a funny tale, say. It’s then a question of finding a suitable character who would be able to “carry” a funny role. They themselves need not be funny. Often they’re not. Often they don’t find the situation I’ve put them in funny at all.

It is for the readers to judge whether it is funny or not (though if it makes me smile, I think it will make others smile too. I always write with my Ideal Reader in mind. I ask myself what would they see in this story, this character?). It is all about reaching out to potential readers.

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Goodreads Authors Blog – Reading Acrostic

R= Romance
E = Epic Sagas
A = Adventures
D = Detective stories
I = Intergalatic tales
N = Novels, novellas or new flash/short story collections – the choice is yours.
G = Genre Fiction or literary – again the choice is yours.

Plenty of wonderful books to explore -paperback, hardback, audio, ebook.

Happy reading and I do hope there are plenty of book-shaped presents under your Christmas tree this year!


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Talking About Writing

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an odd week – starting with my birthday and my first Covid jab and ending with moving a metric tonne of pea shingle… it’s a long story! But the advice on the keyboard below is worth following!

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Oh and don’t forget my author newsletter sign up can be found here.

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Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Talking About Writing piece for Chandler’s Ford Today. The last few weeks have been a good learning curve for me as I prepared for a WI talk, an international writing summit, and a radio interview!

I share some thoughts about the prep work I did for all of this (and good prep work always pays off even if you don’t end up using all of the material. I found it boosted my confidence no end just knowing I had material to hand I could use if I needed the extra. And material is recyclable! I am sure I will use at least some of this material in other talks and presentations in due course).

The link to my interview by #HannahKate is in my CFT post and am posting the link here too. Do have a listen. It was good fun and I think that sense of fun comes across in the interview.

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Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. This week my post is Talking About Writing and looks back at various events I’ve taken part in recently where I have done a lot of this! I also share how I prepared for the writing summit, radio interview and WI talk. Allowing enough time for good prep work is vital.

For me, I have to write down what I think I’m going to say. Other writers may just write down a few bullet points. What matters is recognizing what you need as prep and then follow through on that. (The other advantage of writing things down is you can take those notes and turn them into articles or material for other talks etc).

This post also gives me another chance to share the Share Your Story Writing summit and the poster for it. Now this will probably make me sound like a big kid, okay an old big kid (I know!), but I was so excited to see myself on the advertising materials for this event. It was something that hadn’t even occurred to me might happen when I started writing, My focus was on just becoming published and then seeing if I could do it again and then again etc.

I also share the link to my interview with the lovely #HannahKate. If you haven’t had chance to hear this you can tune in via my link in the post tomorrow (though I will add in a quick thank you now to all who’ve given me great feedback on this).


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I post on #Val’s Book Bundle most Wednesdays and this morning I was looking at the diary format for books. This is partly because I’ve always loved things like The Diary of Adrian Mole and am currently reading a fabulous book by #RuthLeigh (The Diary of Isabella M Smugge#doyourselfafavour, #checkitout – those who’ve read the book will know why I’ve put the hashtags in!).

I’ve used the diary format myself in flash fiction. Yes, it is possible! In my Losing Myself in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I use this though I needed pretty much the whole 1000 words allowed in flash to do it. Good fun though and I’d happily use this format again.

This story was interesting to do as I get my narrator to write her diary for the person she wants to read it so it is addressed to that other character. As the diary goes on, you find out more about my narrator and her nemesis, a third character. And I managed to get a twist in the end too – so lots of wins for me there.

This was a story where I knew the beginning and how it needed to end pretty much from the start. It was filling in the gaps for this one where the work was needed but this was where outlining my character helped enormously. What I outlined acted as stepping stones and they are a lifeline!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I sometimes set out to write a 100 word story (aka a drabble) but it doesn’t always meet that target. Sometimes a story simply does work better at 50 words or 500, say, and I know now to leave such stories be and submit them to different markets. I then have another crack at the 100 worder!

The story has to be the appropriate word count length for the story. (You’re not going to write a quest tale in flash fiction, though you could do it as a series of flash fiction pieces and end up with a novella-in-flash).

When I’m looking back at my “finished” piece, I ask myself if the story has the impact I thought it would have and has it said everything I want it to say?

If the answers to those is yes, I submit the story to the appropriate market.

If the answer to either is no, I have more work to do on that tale before it goes anywhere!

The ultimate question here I think is whether the story is at the best I can make it. If it is, off it goes.

Word count is obviously important in flash but the impact of the story is a more important consideration because you want to “wow” your reader. What you don’t want is a sense of anything being watered down because you’re trying to meet a set word count. The jigsaw pieces do have to fit properly! No squeezing the story to make it fit. It will lose resonance and impact.

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The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale. The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story. In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

 

Comparisons are a useful device in stories. I use this in Rewards in my From Light to Dark and Back Again where I get my narrator to compare herself to a woman she has come to loathe. You can also save on the word count here.

For example, one line in this story reads “Her blue eyes didn’t sparkle”. That tells you the other character must have blue eyes and hers do sparkle! So I’ve managed to get good description in for two characters in one line and you can tell a lot about the attitude of one of those characters from the way that sentence reads. Someone is clearly not a happy bunny!

Also the fact someone is marking comparisons usually indicates that same someone may well have a self-esteem issue. Why would you want to compare with someone else after all? How else could that insecurity manifest itself in your story? So, though flash has to be short, you can still get in some useful unconscious revelations from your main character.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where do your characters go for advice?

Nobody can know it all. Everyone has problems that are beyond them at times. This equally applies to your characters regardless of how magical they are or how fantastical your setting for them might be. So where would your characters go for help or advice? Who would they turn to?

If they would turn to a wizard, say, why have they gone to them? Is that wizard reliable? What is their track record? Have they ever let people down, deliberately or otherwise?

Is the society your characters live in open to their people getting help when needed? Or does it despise such characters for being “weak”?

If it is a wizard needing advice, where would they go to? What hierarchy exists in your setting? Does it work? Can people fall between the gaps?

Once your characters have got their help or advice, do they act on it? What are the consequences?

Plenty of story ideas there, I think!

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This World and Others – How Open Is Your World?

Tying in with Fairytales With Bite above, just how open is your world in terms of characters being able to admit to weaknesses? Is it open to other species or is it a monoculture?

If the majority are magical, how do they treat those who are not? (An interesting idea to explore here is where the magical ones need the non-magical ones for something vital that cannot be produced magically. Who would be the servant in that servant-master relationship? Would it cause resentment?).

Has your world become open, having learned from its mistakes in the past? What were those mistakes? Are there ramifications coming through from those in the current day?

If your world feels threatened, how does it react? Does it stay open or does it become less welcoming? How do the characters react to the changes? (Another interesting idea here can be when the government is open but the people are not. How does the government react to that?).

I could see some interesting short stories coming from answers to these. There is potential for longer works too, Happy writing!

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