Sweet Dreams and Reading Acrostics

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Weather cooler again today – yippee! (Dog pleased too). Easier to concentrate and write too. Am preparing some blog pieces to send to various places in due course. As with the flash fiction, those are lovely to write during those pockets of time when I can only write for short bursts.

I forgot to share on this page the link for my latest Cafelit story, Sweet Dreams, (though I did share it on my book page). Hope you enjoy! This was a prompt from #GailAldwin in Gill James’ Prompts Book and it was good fun to write.

Now, without giving too much away, a favourite chocolate bar comes into this story. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

But it is useful to consider favourite and loathed things that your characters might have. Not only can you use those to add depth to your characterisation, you might be able to get short stories out of these things in and of themselves, as I’ve done here, thanks to Gail’s excellent prompt.

Oh and it’s a definite thumbs-up for writing to prompts set by others. They do make you think outside of your own writing box and that’s a good way to stretch yourself and what you can come up with as a result.

Happy writing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope you have had a good weekend and that the week to come is a productive and fun one. I did enjoy using the random noun generator (yes, there is such a thing!) to create a new flash story for my From Light to Dark and Back Again FB page yesterday. I will be using the noun generator again. NB.  The story I created, Misunderstood, will appear further down under the FLTDBA again section. Hope you enjoy it!

You can set as many nouns as you want and even choose the opening and finishing letters. I just went for two nouns at random and the great thing with that is you could use these as a title, the theme, or just work them into the story somehow.

I see all of the random generators I’ve used (word, phrase, question, noun, and even number!) as an alternative method of finding story prompts. And the great thing here? You’ve got an endless supply!

Give them a go and have fun. See what you can create. Playing with words and having fun in this manner is a wonderful trigger for creativity. And I’ve always found once you’ve got a creative spark going, you want to keep it going and you end up being more productive than you might have been otherwise.

Also the stories you draft here can be polished and edited and submitted later.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I outline my characters as I’ve discussed before. What do I look for in said characters?

1. Basically a good reason for me to tell their story.
2. Go back to 1!

So what would count as a good reason then?

1. They have the qualities to overcome adversity even if they themselves don’t realise that to start with (and the best characters usually don’t). They don’t easily give up. They take good advice. They have the ability to recognise good advice when they hear it.

2. They are usually from a background that would make others consider them to be the underdog. I do love underdog winning through type stories and they are a mainstay of the classic fairytales too.

3. They have a moment of change they have got to see through, ensuring their lives can never be the same again. Stories like that are always fascinating.

4. They will often experience internal conflict as well as the obvious external type. Really gripping characters will have moments of self doubt (as we do) and that is what readers will identify with. It is then how the characters overcome that which will keep the readers reading!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’d thought I’d share some favourite moments in writing (and as ever this is not the be all and end all of lists. Am sure you can think of some things to add here).

1. Knowing I’ve picked exactly the right word for whatever it is I’m putting my poor characters through. I’m even more pleased if this is in dialogue. Good dialogue has emotional “whoomph” and shows a reader how the character is feeling.

2. Knowing my first draft is completed and I now have something to work with. This is where the work begins for me. It IS all in the edit(s) – and yes, there is always more than one! Sometimes considerably more than one!

3. Knowing my first edit has significantly improved my original story and I am getting glimmers of how it can be improved further. Out comes the trusted red pen and away I go…

4. Reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (and a big thanks to all who have reviewed it).

5. Having positive feedback on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts as that shows the piece has engaged with readers well.

So over to you then. What are some of your favourite writing moments?

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve found a new random generator! I’ve sometimes used random word, phrase, question, and even number generators to trigger story ideas. And now I’ve found a random noun generator which could be fun. Let’s see what can be done.

I set the generator to trigger two random nouns for me. Nouns generated were “foundation” and “actor”. (Incidentally as well as choosing how many to generate, you can set the first and last letter of each noun as well if you wanted to but I like to keep things simple).

Now the nice thing with the generators is you can use what comes up as the theme of your story, the title, or ensure you use the words that are triggered in that story at some point. Or you can combine any/all of that. The important thing is to have fun with this!

So what can I do with foundation and actor then?

MISUNDERSTOOD
The actor frowned as he dug out the foundation for the new amateur theatre building. He’d been promised an audience. Sure he had one. They were all yelling unspeakable things along the lines of this being the hardest they’d ever seen HIM work. Not what he’d expected at all.

He expected the finest foundation all right. He expected it to be applied to his face as he gave the starring performance of his life, which naturally would then receive glowing reviews all over the country, and lead to bigger, better roles.

He guessed it served him right for daring to mention Macbeth on stage last week. HIs fellow actors told him it would bring him bad luck.

He’d laughed then. They laughed now.

Allison Symes – 15th August 2020

Hope you enjoyed that. I loved writing it.

 

Really loved using the random noun generator yesterday. Will definitely add that to my list of story prompt generators. You can never have too many of those! Okay, you need the time to write up all the ideas, I grant you that, but this is a dilemma every writer faces and has to find their own way of tackling.

Flash is an ideal vehicle for those lovely story ideas that are best shown quickly. My story yesterday, Misunderstood, worked best as a quick tale only. I often find my humorous tales work better that way. If flash has taught me anything (and it has taught me loads!), it is to never, ever pad your story out. If it works better at 100 words, keep it there. If it works best at 1000, keep it there and so on.

Have a good writing week!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You’d think a flash fiction writer would have no problems coming up with the blurb for the cover of their book, wouldn’t you?!

Now, okay, the word count is not an issue for me here. What can be tricky is choosing what HAS to be on the cover and what would be nice to have but is not the end of the world if it doesn’t make it. Inevitably it won’t! Why?

As with the fiction itself, only the crucial details can go on. You want every word to hook in potential readers so there can be no preamble, waffle etc. You have to be realistic with yourself as to what could be seen as waffle and cut, cut, cut.

I change the way I lead into a story as this keeps things interesting for me (and I hope in due time readers as well!).

Sometimes I will use a character’s thoughts. At other times I will show you the character doing something.

I try to get into the scene quickly so a reader picks up where they are nigh on immediately and there must be something about the character to draw their interest to ensure they read on and find out what happens to them.

In She Did It Her Way, Kind Of, I start with the line “Jane Westbrook knew it was too late to do anything.” Now that sounds like it might kill a story right from the start but what I planned here was that readers would want to find out why she thought this and whether she was right or wrong.

Curiosity about a character is a really good hook and one I enjoy using.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Acrostics

R = Riveting
E = Entertaining
A = Alternative Worlds
D = Drama and Dialogue
I = Imagination
N = Narrative
G = Genre Fulfilling/Crossing

All of the above are what I look for in a good read.

Regardless of genre (and I have a soft spot for those books which cross genres), I want the book to be riveting, entertaining, and for the drama and dialogue to keep me gripped until I reach The End.

I want to be amazed (in a good way!) by the author’s imagination. There can’t be a dull moment in the narrative either.

And yet some people still think writing is easy!!

G = Gripping
E = Educational
N = Nuanced
R = Readability
E = Enchanting

And again, regardless of genres, I want whatever I read to be capable of the above. Yes, fiction can be educational. You can learn from the mistakes the characters make for a start!

For me, nuanced means the characters have to be balanced. Nobody is all evil or all good. The only over the top characters I accept are Mr Toad in The Wind of The Willows and Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmatians but they are written specifically that way and their characters wouldn’t work any other way. But those are rare exceptions to the general rule. Characters should be balanced.

At the end of a book I want to have experienced an enchanting time reading said book. I want something about it to transport me to its setting and to regret leaving it at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts on The Writing Game

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. A HUGE thank you to my fabulous guest authors for their pics, including book cover ones, for the Chandler’s Ford Today series, The Writing Game – and What to Watch For.

FINAL PART OF THE WRITING GAME – AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT.  Hope you find it useful and enjoyable.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m thrilled to share the final part of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. HUGE thanks to all of my fabulous guests for the wonderful advice they’ve shared in this three-parter.  Do take a bow, everyone!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Today my guests are from the world of independent publishing, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, and Association of Christian Writers. Some of them cross more than one category!

 

Feature Image - Part 3 - The Writing Game and What to Watch For

Many, many thanks to all of my fabulous guest authors for taking part in The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. This is one of those series for Chandler’s Ford Today I should’ve written a long time ago!

Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

Mind you, I can speak for all of my guests in that if this series stops one person going down the vanity press route, with all the heartache and expense that causes, we would be well pleased.

I know, looking back when I first started writing for publication seriously, the main problem is in NOT knowing what you DO need to know. As you start to make progress with your writing, you then REALISE you don’t know but your next issue is where do you turn to for advice? If you needed a really good reason to make writing buddies, this is it. And the best places to meet and make writing buddies?

Writing groups – online and otherwise. Creative writing conferences – day events and longer etc. At the moment so many of these have to be online via Zoom etc., but still take part in these things. You will get a lot from them.

Have a fab weekend!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Delighted to say the story I was working on inspired by a #GailAldwin prompt is going to be published on Cafelit later this month. Will share the link when I have it. I hope this will be next week.

It was great fun to write (and thanks to Gail for a great idea here. Given my love of chocolate, writing stories inspired by sweets could keep me busy for a while! Mind you I still have well over 200 prompts to work through in Gill James’ excellent Prompts book! Still they say slow and steady wins the race. If true, that means I’m in for a brilliant result!).😆😆😆

Fence news: have finished creosoting the wretched fence. Lady was most upset I would not allow her out to join me but I really didn’t fancy going back indoors with a Ronseal “Matured Oak” coloured border collie! (There is no way she would have kept her nose out of the tin either!). Not sorry to have this done ahead of the heatwave due this weekend – and yes, Lady will be kept nicely cool.

I’m looking forward to sharing the concluding part of my CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – on Friday. My guests this week will be from the world of self publishing, the Association of Christian Writers, and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Fabulous tips and advice to share once again. A big thank you to all of my great guests over this series.

Have been happily drafting a new flash fiction piece where the prompt was to write about a sweet. This was a prompt suggested by #GailAldwin in the Prompts Book by Gill James.

I’m slowing working my way through the prompts though it is going to take me well over a year to get through them all! I hope eventually to get another collection out of these pieces in time. I also hope to share some of them via Cafelit in due course too.

But what is lovely about writing like this is it means I can get a flash piece drafted in those short pockets of time which might otherwise be wasted.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The final part of my The Writing Game – and What to Watch For is now up on Chandler’s Ford Today. For the next couple of weeks, there will be some fab interviews with writers who are changing direction with their most recent publications. Looking forward to sharing those. Lots of interesting insights.

I love reading, as well as hosting, author interviews. There is always so much to learn. But that I think is one of the great things about writing. It spurs you on so. You take the view that “I’ve done this before, I can do it again, but can I do it better?”. The answer to that one is always yes, incidentally!

And that is the way it should be. You always want to strive. It is the striving that will make you the better writer. With flash fiction, I’ve had a lot of fun recently with haiku and hope to continue that. I’m sure there’ll be other kinds of flash to have a go at somewhen as well.

Have a fab weekend! (Must admit I am NOT looking forward to the heat. Lady and I will be doing all we can to stay cool).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m aiming this year to have something submitted to Cafelit once a month. Am glad to report a story I was working on the last day or so will be on there later in August. Will share the link when I have it.

Submitting stories regularly helps give me focus. I can vary the length of story I send in and I sometimes use the Prompts book Gill James produced to trigger my submissions. (Many of the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown authors contributed to the Prompts book including yours truly. Do check it out. It’s a fun book to work through – and you could play “lucky dip” with this too. Pick a page and write one or two of the ideas up from that etc. Pick an idea and write it to different word counts etc.).

 

Hope you have had a good Wednesday. I’ve been drafting some work from the Prompts book by Gill James, as I mentioned over on my author page here, but what are the advantages to working to prompts?

1. The prompt gives you a framework to write your story to and I’ve always found that so helpful. It is why I prefer a competition with a set theme rather than an open one as a rule. I’ve got something there immediately to have a crack at!

2. There’s nothing to stop you taking the prompt and writing one story, two stories, three tales from it. Why not take the theme in two or three different directions and see what you can do with it? If you get two or three different stories to submit, fabulous. If not, you pick the one you think is strongest and submit that one.

3. If you find you’ve written a story to a prompt and you really like the character, again why not write other fiction for them?

4. Writing to someone else’s prompt can “prompt” your own imagination to come up with ideas you might want to note down for future use. This happens a lot with me but that’s fine. It means I’ve got a good store of ideas to write up as and when I can.

Happy writing!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – 

Who Defines the Goodies in Fairytales?

Yes, I know, the writer does obviously BUT a lot depends on the reaction of the reader too. I can’t help but think of Alan Rickman’s wonderful portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The out-and-out villain almost had people rooting for him to win! Now that was not supposed to happen was it?!

And Shrek turns the idea of the ogre being the bad guy on its head. There is a lot of fun to be had writing fairytales from alternative character viewpoints. This is something I’ve done a lot and my first printed story, A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology, was written from the viewpoint of the youngest “ugly sister” to good old Cinders.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am rooting for the good folk in fairytales but bear in mind good can also encompass those who’ve been misunderstood. (I’ve not seen Maleificent but believe that is the crux of the plot there).

What makes a character good to me is that their actions and motivations are understandable and do not harm others. Courage in facing up to evil usually comes up to it somewhere too. (What is even more interesting is when a character realises the evil can lurk within themselves and takes steps to fight that).

So who are your good people in fairytales and why?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Reflections

One of the joys of setting stories in alien worlds is they can often reflect on aspects of life right here on Planet Earth. The Lord of the Rings and The Narnia Chronicles both do that for me. What matters is being able to understand the characters and why they’re acting the way they are, no matter how outlandish their home planet is etc.

This can work both ways round of course. An outlandish setting could seem ridiculous to our eyes but you could write a story set here in such a way it actually makes what we know the daft option!

Fairytales have, for centuries, reflected aspects of human nature. They’re not flattering when it comes to showing what characters (and therefore us) could do. The motivations of the characters are all ones we know about too.

So how can you make your world and characters understandable to us?

No matter what your setting, your character has to be striving for something important and the readers have to care about the outcome. So outline what your character could need to do and what is in it for them if they succeed and, even more importantly, what would happen if they fail. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death thing (though it could be) but it DOES have to matter and the reader should be able to pick up on that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

Competitions, Reading, and Publication News

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

Facebook – General

Every so often, I go through my list of potential competitions and whittle them down. I inevitably don’t get to enter all of them (time!) but I like to have a shortlist of contenders to pick from and I always go for the themes that appeal to me most. I do go in for open theme competitions too but actually prefer the set themes. I like to have a framework to work towards.

I wish I could say tidying the paperwork up immediately triggered inspiration for the Best Writing Idea Ever but I think I’d need the Writing Fairy to make a special appearance for that one to happen! 😆😆 I’ll let you know if she ever shows up….

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have been slowly getting back into reading again via the Kindle.

I talked about how I’ve not read that much since the lockdown began in my CFT post last week so I am pleased the drought is beginning to clear.

I have had patches of not reading much before, mainly at times of great upset/stress etc., but also know that those patches pass so it is a relief to be slowly coming out of this one. (The last time was around the time I lost my dad, just over three years ago and I didn’t start reading properly again until a week after the funeral).

And yes I’m reading humour. It is always what I turn to first to kickstart my reading “diet” again.

And if you find you’re not writing or reading so much (or both), go easy on yourself. See this as a temporary stage only. It is!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Managed to do a fair bit of editing over the weekend so am pleased with that. My CFT post this week will be looking at books on the radio and will feature YA author, Richard Hardie, as well as yours truly. More on that later in the week.

I must admit one advantage of writing mainly in the evenings is not having the heat browbeat me down! (I never work that well in very hot weather. Mind you, does anyone apart from the ice cream sellers?!😆).

I’ve long found creative writing to be therapeutic. I suppose it is because finding a form of artistic expression that suits me is so relaxing. I see writing as my wind-down time. I like to feel at the end of a session I used the time productively even if I “only” produced two flash fiction stories, say. I want to feel happy with what I’ve written even at first draft stage (because I know the work will only get better after that).

For longer term projects, I want to feel as I’ve made progress and I can see where I’ve got to go next.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post tonight. My story Breaking Out is now on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy.

The opening line comes from a prompt I contributed to the Prompts book produced by Gill James (see picture below). Do check it out in the usual places. You won’t run out of writing prompts!

 

Prompts 2020 by [Gill James]

Facebook – General

As you know, when I’m planning out a character I focus on their major trait(s) and there usually is more than one. After all, someone isn’t just brave, say. They may well be honest, charitable, compassionate and so on as well. It is the combination of traits that sparks a character (and therefore the story).

A character who is generally honest but is forced to lie to protect people they love is going to be a character I want to read about. I will want to find out what happens as a result of that lie but also how the character deals with their internal conflict here. While they’ll be happy to protect loved ones, they won’t be happy to have had to lie so how do they handle that?

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook –

From Light to Dark and Back Again – Story Time!

Story time again. Random question generator time again. Hope you enjoy.

The question was what are the two things you would do if you woke up to find you were invisible? My answers? Panic and wonder whether I’d ever “come back”! But I thought it would be fun to write a story on this.

IN TIME

I knew something was up the moment the alarm woke me. Oh it was set for the usual time – 5.40 am – but when I realised I couldn’t see my hand as I went to switch the wretched thing off, I began to panic. I thought at first I’d lost my sight but then realised I was looking at where my hand should be and I could see my wardrobe in one corner of my room. Opposite was my chair.

I got up and went towards the full length mirror which was something I’d inherited from my gran. There was nothing in the mirror. Now I know I’m not a vampire and you’ll just have to take my word for it on that. This is when my panic settings went from mild to through the roof and up into the stratosphere territory. Well, you just would panic, wouldn’t you?

And then I remembered. I was rushing home from work and bumped into a scatter brained old lady who stepped in front of me in such a way I had no time to stop. I shouted at her to look where she was going, was she blind or something, and yes I know I was bloody rude and I am sorry about that. I’d had a horrendous day at work and I just wanted to get home. I know – no excuses but I want you to know I’m not normally rude.

Anyway she called out that she would teach me to look and I just laughed at that and thought nothing of it. I laughed even more when she got a big stick from her handbag and waved it in my direction. Who did she think she was – a fairy godmother or something?

I don’t know what to do. Will this wear off? She did call out I’d have to come and grovel to her soon. I laughed at that too.
Trouble is, it doesn’t seem so damned funny now.

I’ll be off. I’ll get my coat. If I’ve got to grovel, I’d rather get it over and done with.

Ends

Allison Symes – 23rd May 2020

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope you enjoyed my story, In Time, yesterday. This is the first time I’ve used the random question generator as the theme of the story, rather than as the title, opening or closing line. So yet another use for the generators then!

I’ve sometimes come across writing prompts that I would like to have a go at but I’m not happy with the ideas I come up with so I will bear using the prompt as a theme instead. I think that will give more flexibility.

What I would be inclined to do here is save such stories generated this way for open competitions where you set the theme anyway.

It means an idea could well produce something for you that you might otherwise have written off if you weren’t happy with something you’ve prepared with a specific theme-set competition in mind.

I’ve always found it best to submit the very best stories I can produce. Anything I’m not happy with for any reason doesn’t get binned. Neither does it get submitted. I save it and see if I can salvage something from it later and usually I can. Okay it can’t go in for that competition but that’s fine. If the author’s not happy with the story, the competition judge won’t be either!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What would you say are your favourite kinds of stories and why?

I love:-

Humorous prose, especially fantasy, as I enjoy a good laugh.

Crime(though not the very violent type) as I enjoy the puzzle and seeing justice being done.

History – fiction and non-fiction. I learn from both. A well told historical fiction story does seem to transport me back to the era it is set in. (Music can do this too. I love Ralph Vaughan-Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for that reason). A good non-fiction book will show me aspects of a historical character I’d not considered before.

Fairytales –first love, storywise. Always enjoy seeing the deserving get what they deserve (and this is even more true for the villains!).

And what I love most about flash fiction is the form is open enough for you to write in those genres and many more. All you need worry about is the word count and even there you have flexibility from the very short to the right on the 1,000 words limit. There are competitions and markets to suit the entire range too.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I mix up how I approach writing flash fiction in terms of word count. There are times I know I want to write to a specific count (usually 75 or 100 words) for a chosen market and/or competition.

At other times, having outlined my story and character(s), I write it and then work out what word count it works best at. I then keep that story one side until a suitable market/competitiion comes up.

If a story works best at 250 words, I keep it there and won’t try and edit it down to get to a sub-200 word competition.

And how do I judge where a story works best?

It’s always about the impact of the character for me. The next thing I ask myself is whether there is anything I could add to or take out of the story which would improve the tale and its impact. When the answer is no, I’m there!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events

One of the things I miss most as a writer at the moment is the ability to go to book events.

Much as I do deeply appreciate what is available online, and it is a lifeline, I miss going into libraries and bookshops.

I also miss going to author events and I look forward to being able to do all of these things again in due course.

The Waterloo Arts Festival is going to be online this year. I’ll be taking part in that as one of the winners of their writing competition and I made a video for this.

It was good fun to do but oh I shall miss meeting up in person with my fellow writers. (We will all miss the pub lunch beforehand too!).

But the good news is books can still be celebrated and they should be. Of all the times to need books for escapism, it is now, isn’t it?

Whatever you’re reading, I hope you have a wonderful time “between the covers” and, whoever it is you’re reading, do consider leaving a review in the usual places including here. It really does help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips

Image Credit:  Pixabay and Pexels as usual, unless otherwise stated. Many thanks.

Special Note:  Today, 8th May 2020 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. My parents and grandparents, who lived through this, are sadly gone, but to all who gave up so much so that we could live, thank you. You are not forgotten. Nor should you ever be.

My parents were evacuated, my father more than once as many East End families came back to London before having to leave again due to the doodlebugs.

My grandparents? One served in the Forces before being invalided out and then working as an ARP warden. He saw things as an ARP warden nobody should have to see. My maternal grandfather was in a reserved occupation – he worked in munitions and was often bombed out.

There is much to be thankful for despite our current difficulties.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I hope this week’s CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, proves particularly useful. I share my thoughts about Zoom. I go on to share hints and thoughts about having a cyberlaunch. I discuss what I found useful when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again and what I learned from this.

Naturally in the fullness of time I’m looking forward to having another one for Tripping the Flash Fantastic!

What I do know though is preparation is key! And a cyberlaunch should be fun for you as author/host. That fun will be picked up on by those attending your launch.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope the tips on cyberlaunches in my latest CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, prove useful. The good thing about holding events like these is you will always learn something from them in what worked well, what you could have done better and so on. Those you take with you to your next event!

Going to other cyberlaunches, as well as being great fun and supportive of other writers, also provides good opportunities to learn.

I held a raffle when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used a random number generator and allocated a number to every visitor. When it came to doing the draw for a prize, I simply put in the range of numbers from smallest to largest and picked out the winners that way.

That wonderful tip was something I picked up from a cyberlaunch I went to (and I’m sorry I have forgotten whose that was but I will say a big thank you now as it did prove useful and I am sure it will again!).

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Good support at 8 pm for the Clap for Carers though Lady decided not to use her vocal talents this week. I’m sure she’ll make up for it another time…

Am absolutely thrilled to say I am one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival’s Writing Competition. Many congratulations to all of the other winners who are:-

Mehreen Ahmed: Dolly
Gail Aldwin: The Price of Firewood
Christopher Bowles: Chroma
Maxin Churchman: Pulling Together
Jeanne Davies: Utopian Dream
Jo Dearden: A Small Clay Vase
Linda Flynn: Fishing in Troubled Waters
Anne Forrest: Number Twenty-seven
Dawn Knox: Rising from the Ashes
Roz Lyn: Circle Time
Paula R C Readman: Cobalt Blues
Hannah Retallick: Bookclub for the Elderly
Theresa Sainsbury: Transforming Teenagers
Allison Symes: Books and Barbarians

I will miss enormously NOT going up to London for the Festival, meeting up with my fellow writers for a very convivial pub lunch etc, but there will be online events so I will look forward to those.

What with the news of two of my stories being in Cafelit 9 later this year, it has been quite a week! This is the lovely side of writing of course. What doesn’t get seen is the work that goes into those stories over weeks, writing them, honing them, sending them off, and then waiting to hear.

This is why I like to have something I’m about to send off, another competition in mind to have a go at, and something I’m resting ready for editing after a suitable time break away from it. Over the course of a year, it means I’ve submitted a number of stories. Some will be accepted, some won’t but even there I can revisit the tales and try them out again with another market/competiton. I’ve had work published doing that.

Now on to the next story, which is almost ready for submitting!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another reason for outlining my characters is I want to be able to see the world through their eyes and until I know certain things about them I can’t do that. What their attitudes are is, to me, far more important than knowing what they look like.

I know some writers need to know the physical appearance of their characters first and then work out what else they need to know from there.

But what matters here is finding the starting point that works for you, whichever way around it happens to be!

It took me a while to work out which way WAS the best route for me to take. But all that practice in writing early on, though the results were never published, has paid off now. I know what works for me and I go with that.

Where variety comes in is how I approach writing the story. Sometimes I start with the end line and work backwards. Sometimes I use the more conventional start to end approach.

Practically always, I find I need to change the beginning of a story. It is usually only once I’ve got the first draft down I can figure out the best start is at, say, paragraph three, and the opening two are either not needed at all or I can salvage useful bits of information and drip feed them into the tale later. I know I often have to work my way into the “real” story and that’s fine. The dressing to help me do that never stays in the final tale you hopefully get to see!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Another way to mix up how you approach writing flash fiction is to take a closing line from a story of yours and then use it as the opening or a title to a completely new story. I’ve not done this YET but I have in my draft third book used the same characters in more than one story AND have someone else refer to them in yet another tale.

A little while ago I had a series of linked flashes on Cafelit which was prompted by an exercise in the Prompts book by Gill James and that was good fun to do. See link!

As you know, I like to mix up the mood of the stories I write plus I like to write in different genres too. My overall favourite will always, I think, be what I call my fairytales with bite (aimed at an older audience, usually with humour and/or with a twist). But I have enjoyed writing historical flash fiction and hope to do more of this too.

Prompts 2020

Image by Gill James

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again –

and Publication News! (Yes, it’s been a good week!)

It will be lovely having another story in the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition ebook anthology during the summer. It will be the third year in a row I will have had a story in there. This year’s theme was Transforming Communities and my story is called Books and Barbarians. I’ll leave you to wonder about that one for the time being!

Every writer had to write to a 1000 word count maximum and all on the same theme. The other ebooks from the Waterloo Arts Festival (publisher: Bridge House Publishing) are a fantastic mix of styles and moods.  Here is the link to Transforming Being. The first in the series was called To Be…To Become.

The books prove, to me at least, that each writer has their own voice and, as a result, we really are not in competition with each other. Do check the books out. Available you know where….

 

What do characters in a flash fiction story need to have? For me this would include:-

1. A strong voice. They have to be distinctive and intrigue a reader enough to want to follow their story.

2. An intriguing personality (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nice one!).

I also need to feel at the end of the story that no other character could have/should have been the lead.

When writing the story, I want to be fascinated enough by the character to WANT to write about them. I usually know fairly quickly when outlining thoughts for a story/character that yes, this is going to work because…

I sometimes know that the character will work if I beef them up a bit here and here… (and that’s nearly always a sign I needed to do a bit more outlining at the beginning to get the character right but that can be and is fixed).

And talking of which, I have a character in a draft story that definitely needs my attention!

Happy writing!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – What is Your Favourite Fairytale?

I would list my favourite fairytales as:-

Cinderella

Snow White

The Little Mermaid

The Ugly Duckling

Puss In Boots

Toy Story series!

Shrek series

Be fair, I didn’t say they had to be just books now!

Common themes here:-

  1.  Wrong being righted.
  2.  Not judging by appearances.
  3.  Animals being smarter than humans – okay just the cat in this instance but be fair, what a cat!
  4.  Evil being thwarted.

All great individual themes for stories of your own there! And yes, you can still write fairytales with animals in them. It never did Roald Dahl any harm!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Interaction

When you set up your created world, are you getting it to engage with other worlds or is it just one universe you are concerned with? The advantage of having at least one other world in your set up is the possibility of conflict between World A and World B, which can lead to some great stories. The disadvantage is you have at least two worlds to think about and plan for fully before you start writing.

Having said that, bear in mind, as with The Lord of The Rings, you can have one complete world and within it varying countries/regions. Here you will need to give careful thought to what these have in common and what the differences are. Who lives where and why? Do they get on with the other regions and if not, why not? How are they governed? Do different governing styles lead to conflict and what are the results?

Also think of interaction at a local level. Local officials can often have more sway over people’s lives because they are dealing with said local officials all the time. The people may never  have dealings with the overall government so what are the local officials like? What actions of officials might lead people to rebel? Again, think consequences and happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking Forward

Image Credit:  Unless stated otherwise, all images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General

On days when I don’t have much time to write, I focus on drafting blog posts for future use and/or flash fiction stories. Ironically it can often feel like I’ve got far more done because I’ve written 3 or 4 posts and a couple of 100-word stories. But that’s fine. I don’t mind that at all.

What can feel tough is when you’re on a longer project and it feels like you haven’t got much done. Hang on in there. You have. You’ve written a chapter (fiction or non-fiction) for a book. You’ve drafted a longer story (say 2,500 words plus). You’ve edited a lot of work. You are achieving. It just doesn’t show up so well that’s all.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Loved Part 1 of the Doctor Who series finale, looking forward to Part 2 next week, and that’s all I’ll say there!

A good story makes you wonder, especially on your first read (or viewing come to that). The characters you’ve become attached to? Well, what WILL happen to them? I find I start trying to anticipate how the story will pan out. Sometimes I’m right but I love it even more when I’m wrong and the writer has wrongfooted me.

Of course flash fiction is a great vehicle for twist in the tale stories. The twist has to make sense – none of the “it was all a dream” nonsense, the last author who used that with any conviction WAS Lewis Carroll. This is why, for twist tales, I often know what the twist is first and then work backwards to get to several reasonable starts. I then pick the one I like best. Good fun that!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I can’t recall when books and writing were absent from my life. Nor do I wish to!

I do know they mean a great deal to me, even when the writing is a struggle or I’m not getting as much time as I’d like for them.

Incidentally with the former, it is usually just a question of being dog-tired (sorry, Lady!) and a good night’s sleep restores me and my imagination.

Don’t undervalue the importance of getting enough sleep. People focus on the health benefits of it but it is also true good sleep will help with your creative side. (At least you won’t have tiredness dragging it and you down).

A good writing day is when I head off to the Land of Nod happy with what I’ve written/edited/both and am anticipating another good writing session the next day.

A bad one is when I struggle to get anything down and am fighting to keep my eyes open. Time to give up and just get an early night. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to going to #TheChameleonTheatreGroup‘s Spring Quartet production in April aka the Chandler’s Ford Today works outing, given my lovely CFT editor will be there too. A good time will be had by all though, unlike with TCTG’s last production, there will be no cries of “It’s behind you!” to contend with – well, not unless something goes horribly wrong… 😆😆

More immediately, am looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post which will be an interview with #PaulaReadman. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss it. Some fab insights as to what books and writing mean to her.

Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the shout-out on her Knox Box of Miscellany. It is also a pleasure to highlight Prompts by #GillJames as well. It is a fab book and I’m looking forward to writing up many more of the story ideas.

So lots of looking forward going on tonight but given Lady and I got caught in a downpour earlier today, I think looking forward, especially to spring, is a very good idea indeed!

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale).

I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers). I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type.

Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you).

I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch – and even there I have choice. If something works better at 200 words than 100 so be it. It just go in for a 100-word (aka drabble) competition or market, that’s all.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What I like with character creation:-

1. The sheer joy of coming up with a fully rounded person you as writer can have fun telling what to do and dropping right in the mire when it suits you!

2. When the character comes alive and, for me, that moment is when I know how they’d react in ANY circumstance. I usually know things such as what kind of music they’d listen to and so on. When I started out writing, I used to find it a little unnerving to hear a piece of music and think oh yes, Character X would like that. Now, I see that as a good sign.

3. When the character makes you laugh, terrifies you etc., just as you want them to do to a reader. If there’s no reaction from you, their creator, there won’t be from a reader either.

4. The challenge of coming up with different characters. Their voices must be different. I don’t want to write “all the same person” any more than a reader would want to read that. So getting the variety in keeps me on my toes.

5. When someone tells you they really loved or disliked a character but that is the reaction which is meant to happen!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What I like about writing dialogue:-

1. When the dialogue flows, I know for certain I’ve got into the head of my character properly. It can feel almost as if I’m taking dictation from my characters but that’s a good sign.

2. I can get my characters to say things I’d love to say but wouldn’t dare! Now that’s got you wondering, hasn’t it? Best left there I think. Well, imagination is not fun if you give EVERYTHING away now, is it?

3. For my longer stories, I love getting two characters to spark off each other via their dialogue. My danger point there is to make sure everything is relevant to the story and I’m not just writing it because I love my characters and what they’re saying (though I do!). This is where the edit comes in and I do cut out anything that does not move the story on. I really do kill my darlings, darlings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Further to my mini-series so far, what I like about writing in general:-

1. Writing is fun and can be amazingly therapeutic. It is not a cure-all, nor is it meant to be, I think, but just escaping into your created world for a bit I’ve found to be very helpful and relaxing. Sometimes just that is all you need, regardless of what happens to the piece of writing itself. Of course, if you submit it and it is published/wins a competition etc., even better!

2. It is a challenge to do but it stretches you and that, I think, is a good thing.

3. You will expand your knowledge. I’ve looked into all manners of topics for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, but research comes into fiction writing too. (If you are also a quiz fan, this could be really useful for that too!).

4. You can try all sorts of writing to work out which one suits you best. Nor do you have to stick at one either.

5. The challenge to begin with is to see if you can create a story, then, for me at least, it was to try and be published, and since then to see if I can be published more often. That challenge continues. It combines with wanting to make your storytelling better as you learn from what you write as you go along too.

Whatever you write, enjoy!

Goodreads Author Blog – Sneaking In Reading Time

My main reading time is in bed but the snag with that, of course, is if you’re really tired, you’re going to be lucky to get to the end of a page before your head hits the pillow and the book drops to the floor!

Having said that, there is nothing to beat being nicely cosy and comfortable and settling down for a chapter or so before sleeping. (To my mind this is not the time to read Stephen King though, especially if you dislike clowns!).

So I’ve managed to find little pockets of time during the day when I can sneak in some extra reading time. Five minutes here, five minutes there, and it’s lovely.

At the moment I’m using these pockets of time to catch up with my magazine reading but that’s great. Reading is reading when all is said and done, whether you read magazines, books, graphic novels etc.

When I use the train, I tend to focus on writing. I will occasionally read but I do feel the need to be “doing” something so out comes the smartphone, Evernote, and my stylus and I either draft some flash fiction or blog posts like this one.

So how do you sneak in extra reading time? I realised long ago there is never enough time in the world to do all the reading you would like to do so it’s a question of compromise.

What must I read next? What must I read now? How can I break the book I’ve chosen into manageable reading chunks?

I am grateful for the time I have though and it is a question of trying to make the most of what you can do here. (Same applies for creative writing). Any thoughts and comments on how to sneak in even more reading time are welcomed!

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Thanks as ever to Pixabay for the images here.

Facebook – General

Good evening so far. Submitted a flash piece, pitched a couple of non-fiction ideas. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that.

Also sorted out my bedside cabinet and organised my reading piles (one for books, one for magazines before you ask!). Feel both productive AND virtuous and, trust me, that doesn’t happen often!

Hope the weather isn’t causing too much havoc where you are. Mainly tree debris where I am. Always sad to see trees down (though Lady will end up having more sticks to play with than she ever thought possible so there is that to it).

The other thing to be said about the weather is if you needed encouragement to stay cosy and warm and get on with writing at your desk, you’ve got it. Well, you’re not going to want to go out now, are you?

It WAS a dark and stormy night – and writers everywhere took one glimpse at the horrible weather, got on with their latest epics, only too glad to do so!😀😀

Happy writing, everyone!❤️⭐️

I’m looking forward to sharing two separate items of publication news later on in the week. It has been a good few days. I wish they were always like that but there you go!

Am almost there on a standard length short story I want to submit for a competition. I hope to get that submitted by the end of this week. And I’ve picked out the next competition I want to have a crack at so need to start thinking out some ideas for that.

I’m also going to be working on the edits for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, so have plenty in the pipeline.

But that’s how I like it – a nice mix of non-fiction writing (CFT particularly), sending stories out to hopefully good homes (!), and editing.

Reading wise, I’ve recently started London: The Biography. It’s an interesting concept for a historical book – a biography of a city – and I anticipate an enjoyable read. I love history – fiction and non-fiction. I won’t be sorry if story ideas spark from reading this book. (I’d be disappointed if I don’t get something. Non-fiction can be a great source of sparks for stories).

Hope the weather rapidly improves where you are. It is calmer here in Hampshire though there is some flooding. Lady gets a bit skittish in high winds (a bit like some young children can do) so it’ll be fun walking her tomorrow when said high winds are back. Still, at least it’s going to be dry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do you love writing the most? I love getting inside my characters’ heads and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes said thoughts surprise me and I think where did that come from but it’s a wonderful feeling when that happens. It confirms to me the character has backbone, is taking on a life of their own, and is going to resonate with readers. All good things to aim for!

But the danger here is to only focus on the things you like writing most. I do enjoy writing narrative but I’ve come across too many books in the past where the narrative has gone on for too long and is keeping me away from the character whose story I want to follow.

For narrative writing, I’ve learned to focus only on what a reader needs to know for the character and/or story to make sense and there are absolutely no massive descriptions of setting etc. That I feel belonged to a bygone era.

I got into conversation with someone (and I apologise now because I’ve forgotten the name) who felt that the long descriptions of setting particularly in classic novels were necessary then – no TV or film back then. I think that’s a valid point. Now, of course, books are just one form of entertainment amongst many. Everyone knows the kind of setting that would be in, say, an ancestral home thanks to things like Downton Abbey, TV adaptations of stories such as Pride and Prejudice, etc., so do you now need to write every aspect of that down? I think not. You just want enough to conjure up the appropriate images in a reader’s mind and leave it there. Less is more and all that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

PUBLICATION NEWS

Delighted to share not 1, or 2, but 3 of my linked flash fiction stories called Story by Number published on Cafelit. Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her excellent prompt idea in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. My stories here are directly inspired by that.

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The titles all reflect the number of words in each story. Hope you enjoy.

Will I write more of this kind of story again? I hope so. It is great for the old imagination muscle to mix up how you write a story. It keeps things fresh for you and will do for a reader too.

(The image I’ve added to the link below comes from a recent Chandler’s Ford Today post of mine called Numbers into Writing Will Go. It seemed appropriate! Link to article below.).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Firstly, a big thank you to Val Penny for her lovely comment on the book on Twitter earlier today (18th February). Much appreciated, Val!

 https://twitter.com/valeriepenny/status/1229794879544479745

If you’re a reader and know some writers, I bet they’ll have asked for reviews of their books etc in the usual places. (My friends know I’ve asked them!).

If you think well hmm… I wouldn’t know where to start etc., I’ll just add that reviews on Amazon, Goodreads etc., don’t have to be lengthy write-ups. A line or two would do and whatever your tastes in reading, the author will appreciate those reviews. They’ve got to be honest ones though!

(Oh and a good place to start is what YOU liked about the book and yes what you disliked too. Reviews have to be honest to have any meaning and writers will learn a lot from feedback they receive this way).

Making writing friends online is great but meeting them in person is even better

I’ve mentioned before that I like to use character traits to help me “get going” with creating a new person to either write about or to be my narrator for my next flash fiction story.

I also talked about this in my interview with #WendyHJones which went out on Wednesday this week. Naturally that gives me a golden opportunity to share the link again! (Shameless plug and all that….! 😊❤️).

Episode 4 – How To Write Flash Fiction

Feature Image - Local Author News - Allison Symes - Podcast by Wendy H Jones

It was lovely being able to write a bonus CFT post for this. Image by Pixabay

But going on from there, one question could be “could you run out of character traits?”. Surely there are only so many.

Well that’s true but I like to combine them with something else.

For example if I have a character who is feisty, I’ll give them a vice such as greed. There could be a crime story there. There could be a comic story too if their greed dropped them right in it. The reactions from a reader here could range from horror and disgust at my character to laughter as my character makes a complete fool of themselves.

The trick will be making readers care enough to read about a character like that. There will be a certain amount of wanting to see if that character either gets their comeuppance (I love stories like that!) or somehow redeems themselves. Either way there is going to be a significant change in that character or their situation by the end of the tale and I hope I can make a reader curious enough to find out what that is.

Another character who is feisty I may well make charitable but their big mouth lands them in it from time to time. So there I would hope a reader would want to find out if the character can carry on doing their good works and their loudmouth has not ruined things completely. Or perhaps the being outspoken ends up bringing in much needed changes and my character is a catalyst for positive change.

Yes, there’s that word again – change. The single most important thing about any story of any length. There has to be change. Your character has to be different in some way by the end of the story whether it’s 50 words long or 50,000. The challenge is to have a character your reader HAS to follow to find out what happens to them.

Image supplied by Wendy H. Jones

Will have flash fiction publication news to share later in the week so am looking forward to putting the relevant links up.

Will be starting work soon on the edits for Book 2 – Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Looking forward to that. I do enjoy editing. Sure there are some tasks associated with that which ARE less interesting (yet another misplaced comma to remove etc etc!) BUT I keep in mind the overall goal is to improve my work and to get it to the best I can make it. That helps a lot.

I’ll be talking about short and long form fiction in my CFT post later this week and will share more on that on Wednesday. No prizes for guessing which is my big love here!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How do you handle those times when you know your story hasn’t got anywhere with a market or competition?

My practice here is to look at my story again. If I spot anything that could do with strengthening, I do that but I then get the story back out again to another, suitable market or competition.

Another way of using a story that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere is to look at why you wrote it in the first place and analyse it as if it had been written by someone else.

If this story had been in a magazine, would it have appealed to you? If there were bits that didn’t seem to gel with you, ask yourself why?

This is a good editing technique and by putting your reader’s hat on, you might find something about the tale that could do with working on and which, once done, will give it more of a chance in the big, bad world out there.

The one thing I’ve found is you have to be totally honest about what you think works in the story and what doesn’t work so well. The trick of course is to improve those latter sections so there are no bits which don’t work so well!

And be persistent too. One market or competition may feel it is not right for them (they may have taken something similar to your story recently, you will never know), but it doesn’t mean others will feel the same way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Just a quick reminder for Writing Magazine subscribers that you can advertise your book on their Subscribers’ Showcase. Proof of the pudding? See this link!

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

I hope later in the year when Tripping the Flash Fantastic comes out to put that on here (probably with a link back to From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Meanwhile over on Cafelit, do check out my latest three flash fiction stories. Yes, three of them. They are linked though. Linked flash fiction is relatively new for me and this set was inspired by a prompt in the Chapeltown Books Prompts Book. (Thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for her cracking idea which inspired me here).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author BlogReading Piles

How many reading piles do you have? Mine include:-

1. My book pile.
2. My magazine pile.
3. Everything on my Kindle!

It’s probably enough to be going on with though I suppose I could split my book pile into two categories: novels and short story/flash fiction collections.

Note I said probably just now. I’ve just seen a lovely post on Facebook where someone has come up with a new idea for an escape room – you have an hour to get out of a well stocked book shop!

I don’t know about you but that’s me well and truly stuck then. One hour would just about give me enough time to have a good look around and work out what was where. I might get to decide where I would be starting first if I was efficient with my time!

I’ve mentioned before I like to mix up my reading. There are some evenings where I just HAVE to read magazines, rather than books, and the other way round. I don’t really know why that is but I love reading both overall so that’s okay. So therefore it is absolutely necessary for me to have reading piles that suit all my reading moods.

How do you organise YOUR reading?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginnings

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay unless otherwise stated. Think I’ve finally nailed the “have an appropriate title for the start of a New Year for your blog post” game!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Well, Beginnings is an appropriate topic for the start of 2020! I look at why beginnings are so important for any creative art (especially storytelling), share some of my favourite story openings, and discuss New Year’s Resolutions. Talking of which, Happy New Year!

As my CFT post on Beginnings mentions, I see the end of the old year as the time to take stock of where I am writing wise, so I am raring to go again as soon as possible writing wise after the festive season.

My initial goals are to continue to try to get more work in more anthologies and to develop professionally in other ways too. I hope to share more of the latter as I go throughout the year.

I am aiming to submit two of my big projects by the spring and see how I go with those. I’d like to finish another project by the end of the summer if possible and see if I can be submitting that by the autumn.

I’m also hoping to pitch more non-fiction articles too.

I don’t set specific dates ever because life can and does get in the way and no writer should feel bad about that. My deadlines are only set for my CFT posts and competitions and I work to those fine but it is lovely having longer projects to work on too. I like a good writing mix and am loving all of the writing I do. I hope that comes through in what I write.

So onwards then. Happy New Year and happy writing and reading!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sent off my two short stories yesterday so that gets 2020 off to a promising beginning! I’m also working on some writing prompt exercises and those are proving to be good fun. Hope to resume my major projects over the weekend.

Appropriately my CFT post this week is on Beginnings. As well as sharing what I think of New Year Resolutions, I discuss why beginnings are so important to get right for any creative piece of work. I also share a couple of my favourite beginnings. Link up tomorrow as normal. I am SO grateful to CFT, especially this week. It means I know tomorrow is Friday!! (On weeks like this one, having a good writing routine helps so much!).

(Oh and the pictures of fireworks below, courtesy of Pixabay, are the only place I like to see such things. Lady agrees with me on that one).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wow! Absolutely adored Doctor Who tonight (shown in the UK on New Year’s Day) and can’t wait to see Part 2. Cracking storyline and am intrigued to see how it pans out.

Getting off to a reasonably good start as I have two stories I’m planning to submit this week. I then have two competitions to prepare material for plus, at the weekend, I hope to get back to my longer projects.

Have been out and about with other half and Lady in the New Forest today. I hope all the exercise will prove to be refreshing to the imagination as well as much needed after the Christmas festivities! (Lady had a great time at the festivities and on the walks!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Plans for 2020 include submitting to even more competitions (flash fiction and short stories). I am pleased I did enter more last year though nothing happened with the tales themselves. Still, that is material I can edit and resubmit elsewhere.

Little is wasted in writing especially if you can take a step back, analyse your story and be prepared to change things to make the tale stronger if it is needed.

Bear in mind sometimes a story not “making it” can be because the competition organisers/publishers have already chosen a story using the same theme you have. Sometimes, even when they want the same theme, someone else’s tale has just got a bit more bite to it which has clinched things for them. I’ve found it helps to see this as a challenge to me to “up my game”. That aspect of writing keeps me on my toes and I think that’s a good thing. Never take anything for granted!

Look at work that hasn’t been accepted in the cold light of day. Still can’t see any changes needed? Try submitting the story elsewhere. If you can get feedback on it, even better. And good luck with your writing plans for 2020.

I’m having fun at the moment coming up with linked stories based on the same character but set at different word lengths. Worth a go! (And a big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the tip). Will definitely be trying this again.

One huge advantage to writing prompts (which is where the above idea comes from) is they make you mix up how you approach writing a story. That keeps you on your toes, I’ve found it keeps writing interesting for me (and hopefully that comes through to a reader), and differing approaches can encourage you to try different styles. Well, you never know what you like here until you try it! I DO know you don’t want to get stuck in any kind of rut with your writing,

See Prompts by #GillJames on Amazon. Highly recommend.

 

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

Lovely afternoon walking in the New Forest with other half and Lady (New Year’s Day). Was eerie the way the mist suddenly appeared though. Of course the problem with having any kind of imagination at all is being able to visualise what kind of monsters that mist could be hiding!! Fortunately, only the New Forest ponies were company for us (and Lady looks at them curiously. We think she thinks they’re some kind of very big dog!).

Hope to get back to flash fiction writing shortly (though my immediate plans are to submit a couple of standard length short stories). I must admit the break has been great but the lovely thing about writing is I always look forward to getting back to it again.

Onwards and upwards! Or maybe for flash fiction that really should be onwards and downwards (with the word count!😀).

Fairytales With Bite – Starts

So many of the classic fairytale characters have awful starts to their stories but, of course, the real tale is in how they overcome those things (with or without the help of a fairy godmother).

This is why Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is such a revelation. It was the first fairytale/story I’d come across where there isn’t a classic happy ever after ending (well not for her anyway. Do check out the original tale and you’ll soon see why Disney couldn’t film it as true to the original. Well not and keep their All Ages certificate anyway!).

How do you start your stories off? I like to set up an intriguing situation and/or characters quickly (it usually is both together) and then I happily dump my characters in it. I have fun in finding out how my characters sink or swim and I hope if I have fun in writing that, readers will also have fun in discovering the same thing for themselves.

I nearly always have to chop the start of a story when I go back and edit it. It can be tricky to work out where a story should start but what matters is getting that draft down. Then you can see, after time away from the tale to give you some distance to be able to be objective, where the opening should be. But you do need to get  started on a tale and I’ve learned never to worry that an awful lot will be chopped later. That’s okay. It is a case of looking for the nugget of the story and ensuring that shines through. Anything not helping that nugget to shine gets cut.

Happy editing!

This World and Others – Celebrating

I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating Christmas and the New Year. When it comes to our fictional worlds, what kind of celebrations do they have? What is the history behind those celebrations? You almost certainly won’t put all of that into a story.

I’ve found it useful to work details like this out and then select those a reader needs to know. I’ve found working things out gives me the confidence to write the story and I think something of that confidence comes through. (It can also be useful to have this material to hand for use on your website as additional information for readers. I know I love reading material like that on favourite author websites. Little is wasted in writing. It is a question of finding an appropriate use for material at times!).

If your world does not celebrate anything, why is that? Was there a time when it did? What went wrong? There should be some interesting story thoughts there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s That Time of Year Again

Welcome to a bumper edition of my blogs round up. As ever, all pictures are from Pixabay unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It really is that time of year again! I look back at my writing year, anticipate the one to come, and share why networking with other authors is such a good idea. (And that’s besides it being enormous fun, which is the best reason of all to do it!).

I set short, medium, and long terms goals for my writing. Do share in the CFT comments box as to how you go about this kind of thing. The lovely thing with chatting with other authors is you can learn so much from each other. I’ve picked up useful hints and tips and hope I’ve shared some too. I’m a big believer in paying it forward and backwards.

I also share some wishes I know we can all second.

Incidentally, there will be no Collected Works round up from me tonight but I am planning a bumper edition next Tuesday. As well as the link to this CFT post, I’ll be sharing my ACW blog link (due on Sunday), my Goodreads post (due tomorrow) and all FB posts from today. I’ll be back in the writing “saddle” properly from tomorrow but have relished catching up with some reading over the Christmas period.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas and more power to our pens/PCs for the year to come. Creativity is a good thing and worth celebrating on its own account!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What are your favourite openings to a book or film?

I love the opening sequence to the first LOTR film which shows how Sauron lost the Ring of Power. There is a real sense of an opportunity lost to get rid of the thing for once and all then. You know then the rest of the story has to be about what happened to the ring, did anyone find it, and was it destroyed eventually?

It is a classic example of setting your theme and building a sense of anticipation from the start.

Another favourite of mine is the opening to Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal. It says a lot for the story that it starts with the hero being hanged and goes on from there. Yet I am really not giving much away when I say that!

Again you have a tremendous sense of expectation that the story and its hero will somehow deliver despite what must surely be a disastrous start! Do read it if you haven’t already. Even if you have, re-read it.

Great stories stand up to repeated reading and I find I always pick up on something new.

Reading is such a wonderful thing to do anyway and as a bonus, as a writer you will always learn something from what you read.

Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – Christmas Angles

My monthly spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog looks at Christmas angles (yes, angles!) and why I like the telling details.

I looked at the little details that mean the most to me in my blog for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog, this month. What was crucial was the Bible story only gives what it considers to be the vital details. Now there’s a lesson for a flash fiction writer right there!

What can be tricky is working out what ARE the vital details and I never get this right on a first draft either. But that’s not what a first draft is for. I’ve always loved Terry Pratchett’s take on first drafts when he said “first drafts are just you telling yourself the story”.

So let that thought take the pressure off. You don’t have to get it right at the first go – nobody does!

 

Facebook – General

I’ll be looking at Beginnings appropriately enough for this week’s CFT post. I’ll be sharing some of my favourite beginnings, have a look at why they’re so important to the success of a story or film, and discuss why I DON’T go in for New Year’s Resolutions. Link up on Friday (3rd January 2020).

I’ll be including LAST week’s CFT post (my end of year review) in tomorrow’s WP round up, which will be a bumper edition as it will also include a link to yesterday’s post for ACW on Christmas Angles. (I had to work hard here to make sure I DIDN’T put the word “angels” in. That’s the problem with words that are right in and of themselves. I’ve found grammatical aids do not pick up on context so it is still possible to come up with total nonsense, albeit it beautifully spelled and gramatically correct so beware!).

I’m editing two short stories for competitions and hope to have them submitted by the end of this week too. Whatever your week holds in store (writing wise or otherwise), I hope it’s a good one!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Am drafting this via my phone and Evernote enroute to West Bay, Dorset. This is one of my post Christmas traditions.

Having enjoyed the feasting, now comes the time to do the walking it off! Lady will be having a particularly good time today. She loves the beach.

Do your characters have favourite places to go? What makes these places special? How often can your characters get to go there?

Also, do they have special places from their past which they can’t visit now but which have special memories for them?

How do those memories affect their behaviour in the here and now?

I suspect some good stories can be generated from answering those points. Good luck!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ll be back in the writing “saddle” properly from tomorrow (Saturday, 28th December) but wanted to pop by to say I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I managed to catch up on some reading which is always a fab thing to do!

My next Collected Works round up won’t be tonight but I am planning to post a bumper edition on Tuesday. I take a look back at my writing year on Chandler’s Ford Today which is now live.

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/its-that-time-of-year-again/

I hope the coming year brings you much joy whether you write stories, read them, or do both!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some thoughts for as we rapidly approach 2020:-

F = Find new competitions to enter but check out credentials first.
L = Love writing, love reading.
A = Always have stories to read and write.
S = Submit work regularly so you have plenty of material “out there”.
H = Have plenty of writing prompts to hand so you’re never short of ideas to work on.

And talking of which:-

I’m glad to say #GillJames has put together this book of prompts which were written by authors published by Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown etc. I’ve got a few prompts in there too and I am very much looking forward to working my way through this book in the New Year. Hope you have as much fun with this as I intend to!!

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

The biggest challenge for flash fiction writers is continually coming up with interesting characters to write about (though that for me is what I love most about it).

I have, in the collection I’m working on, linked a few flash stories where either characters carry on into another story or two or where they are referred to by others. I’ve liked that and will continue to do it but I do relish inventing new people.

I also love taking known settings and looking at a story from the viewpoint of an alternative character. For example, I have a flash piece called The Craftsman in this quarter’s edition of Christian Writer, the magazine produced by the Association of Christian Writers. I took as my lead character the man who makes Jesus’s cross.

What alternative/minor characters could you get to tell a flash fiction story? What would their outlook be on an event we know well? It’s an interesting angle to work with.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well, have you got your writing diary on stand by? I’ve gone for the same type as last year with lots of prompts to work my way through. (What with that and the book Gill James has produced – see below – I’m not going to be short of things to work on. Oh good!).

Whatever your writing year holds in store, have fun! Writing should be fun. It is also hard work, frustrating at times etc., but it should be fun most of the time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Loved listening to Ravel’s Bolero on Classic FM when I drafted this post enroute to West Bay in Dorset earlier today.

Yes I do remember watching Torvill and Dean ice dancing to it in the 1984 Olympics. The other breath taking sporting moment for me was Murray winning Wimbledon in 2013. (Loved his second win too but the first was pretty special).

What breath taking moments have you created for your characters and why pick these to be special? Could you write a flash story solely based on something like that?

Hmm… now there’s a thought!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog –What Day of the Week Is It?

Do you find you lose all sense of what day of the week it is after Christmas and Boxing Days? I do.

Time only has meaning in that I get to do more reading at this time of year. And naturally all time and its meaning goes completely when you’re engrossed with a good book! (But that is exactly how it should be).

Also why is it when, having decided to have a good read in bed, you find you’re asleep in minutes?

Conversely, on the thankfully rare occasions I have insomnia, why is it reading does not send me to sleep then?!

I read during the day when I can, usually at lunchtime, but it always feels a little like I’m playing truant. It’s tricky trying to ignore all the things I should be doing but I usually manage it!

Reading and time available are never in the ratio I’d like though! Still there is always time for one more book, one more story etc. Now back to that To Be Read pile. The only decision to be taken is whether I’m going for the “real” book TBR pile or the Kindle one!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Will resume Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others from my next post on Friday. 

Have a wonderful 2020 and many thanks for your support.