Zooming Around and Being Kind to Yourself


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you’ve had a good few days. Weather changeable here. Hope it brightens up for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee (mind you, we are used to changeable weather here so prepare for it). I plan to raise a glass or two while I’m away at the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee this weekend. I know – no jubilees for ages and then two at once!

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Facebook – General

Hope you’ve had a good day. You know I said Lady and I received a bit of a soaking yesterday? Well, today we “copped the lot” in a cloudburst that drenched us in minutes. It was a relief to get home and change. Lady is pretty good at being towelled down – she sees it as a chance for a cuddle.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, prompts news etc here and if you would like to sign up, just head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Looking forward to my trip to Derbyshire at the weekend. So nice being able to do in person events again. Mind you, I’ve taken to Zoom well too. It has been lovely to be able to make the most of both worlds here. Long may that continue!

Is there a particular day of the week when writing just seems tougher to do than usual? I hope it is some comfort to know every writer has those days. On those days, I focus on writing short things or accept I will write something towards a longer piece (say one of my blog posts). Writing is writing, whether you manage 50 words in a day or 5000. It accumulates.

And on those tough days, you will still have got something written. I find that cheers me up knowing I’ve got something to develop later. On those days when I can’t write at all, I try to ensure I “up” my reading as that helps with my writing too.

Writing is hard work but most of the time it should be a joy too.

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Changeable weather here in Hampshire – Lady and I did get a bit of a soaking. (Have known worse, mind you).

Many thanks to everyone for the lovely comments in on my Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop post for More Than Writers yesterday.  Link further down.

I’ll be looking at Settings and Simplicity In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday, just ahead of my heading off to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend in lovely Derbyshire. I hope to write about that event and my recent workshop for the London Jesuit Centre in a CFT post after that. And I’ll be setting another flash challenge for Mom’s Favorite Reads soon too – so it’s all go in a good way.

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Writing Tip 10008 or thereabouts: Be kind to yourself.
What has that got to do with writing, I hear you ask. A lot! I find I write more (and enjoy what I do more) when I am relaxed. So having classical music on in the background helps me a lot there but so do things like ensuring I get enough sleep, make time for reading, etc.

I’ve learned over time to realize on those days when the writing is slow or I am especially tired to just write what I can and have done. (Mondays for me is often a day like that). I’ve found being kind to myself, especially in not beating myself up over what I haven’t got done, helps me on those days when I do have more time to write. Away I go again and it’s fine.

I also look at my writing over the course of a week so I never judge my progress (or lack of it) by what I managed to do (or couldn’t do) as a result of one good or bad day. I’ve found that helps a lot. I think my productivity has increased due to this too – it certainly feels like I get more done now than I used to do.

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It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers blog spot). I’m talking this time about Getting The Most from a Writing Workshop. I share some thoughts and tips which I have found useful over the years when going to these. Hope you find it helpful).

Looking forward to running my flash fiction workshop at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend from 3rd to 5th June too.

Oh and the most important tip (well it is to me, anyway)?

Go – and have fun!

Screenshot 2022-05-29 at 14-31-29 Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop by Allison Symes

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on my The Heights of Equals, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. All much appreciated.

I’m back on the ACW blog tomorrow with my post about Getting the Most Out of a Writing Workshop. Timely since I’ve recently run one and am about to do so so again. Link up tomorrow on that. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, news, prompts, writing advice etc and if this sounds of interest please do sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am enjoying using the various random generators to trigger ideas for stories and hope to resume more work on those tomorrow. I’m finding I am producing more stories as a result so I like that aspect too.

Screenshot 2022-05-27 at 09-24-38 The Heights of Equals by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I do a dry run of my workshop material and record myself on Zoom. As well as listening to see how it sounds (and therefore how the material is likely to come across to someone else), I can get a sense of the timing of my workshop and adjust things as I need to.

I do love that facility within Zoom to automatically convert your files to mp4 for you. So useful.

I like to leave enough time for questions too. Knowing the timing means it is easy to do that. At workshops I’ve attended, I love the question section. Interesting topics come up and I inevitably learn something useful from that.

I often read a story or two of mine and break down how I wrote them. (I’ve found this useful when other writers do it). So I get to practice that too.

It helps (I find just knowing I have had a read through helps with nerves. I can remind myself I have read the stories, it was fine etc., now all I need to do is do it again – and that’s fine). With flash, the huge advantage is the readings don’t take long (leaving plenty of time for question time later!)

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How come it is almost the end of May already? I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know it’s Monday and time for a story. Hope you like my latest YouTube story, Surprise.

I’m running my flash fiction workshop as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend (3rd to 5th June – yes, we’ll raise a glass or two to the Queen while there !). Very much looking forward to it as it is always a pleasure to spread the word about the joys of writing flash fiction.

I look at how it can benefit all forms of writing and share a couple of stories and break down how I wrote them amongst many other tips and advice and yes I set writing exercises too. All good fun. Did I imagine I would ever do something like this when I started out as a writer? Absolutely not! It’s another reason to be grateful for the flash fiction though!

 

I often read my stories aloud, as you know, sometimes for things like Open Prose Mic Nights. I also do this as I prepare workshop material so I can hear that my chosen tales do fit in as well as I thought. I also do this when I get a collection together. I see that as part of my editing.

Reading work out loud does confirm if the story flows as well as you think or not. If you stumble over reading the story, a reader will do but you can adjust that before the story sees the light of day. I’ve done this several times. It can be strange sometimes when you see dialogue written down, say, it looks fine. Reading it out loud shows otherwise!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Other Worlds in Books

All books take us to other worlds. Yes, even non-fiction, given that can enlighten us to aspects of life in this world and increase our knowledge, making us see this world in new lights.

But for fantasy and sci-fi especially, what is it about their settings which convinces you to “suspend disbelief” while reading the story? For The Lord of the Rings (though this applies to many other stories too) it was the portrayal of the characters which made me believe in the settings.

Hobbits are small so it makes sense for them to live in something like hobbit holes. I was also convinced by the peaceful tranquil setting of The Shire especially when contrasted with the dark world of Mordor. To have both of these elements in the book made sense to me. One represents good, the other evil. No world is perfect, even in fiction. Contrasts work for me.

And we can all understand the wish to defend one’s home, even more so with world events right now. So again I get the setting and the wish to defend that. I don’t need to know every little thing about the setting but I do need to know enough to understand why the characters love it.

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Character Conversations

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Pictures of Lady are by me, Allison Symes.

Image of Val Penny was kindly supplied by her.

Image of me signing a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again taken by Jennifer C Wilson.

Image of me reading at a Bridge House event was taken by Dawn Knox.

Image of me with Tripping The Flash Fantastic was taken by Adrian Symes (Lady would’ve helped but she has not yet managed cameras!).

And after all that, down to business!


Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers blog – Character Conversations

My turn on the ACW blog today. I talk the talk and ask if you know when your characters SHOULD shut up! See link above for my Character Conversations.

I must admit conversational ping-pong with your characters can be great fun but behind dialogue in fiction, there should be a purpose. There should be a sense of moving the story on.

So I say again, do your characters know when to shut up and talking of which….

Many thanks, everyone, for the great comments on my ACW blog post today about Character Conversations. It is always nice when positive tips are shared in the comments box too!

Am thrilled to say my copies of The Best of Cafelit 9 arrived today. I have two stories in there. Humourless is a flash piece and Green Door is a standard length short story. So good to be between the covers with friends old and new in this one.

Not a bad start to the week then and it is only Tuesday!

 

Appearing on the Christmas Book Hub Facebook Page

Note: I take part in a few selected Facebook groups. A time limited one is the Christmas Book Hub and I have posted about Tripping The Flash Fantastic on there. I thought I’d flag this particular post up for the obvious marketing reasons (!) and to share a little of what I love about writing flash fiction.

Hello, everyone. One thing I love about writing flash fiction is it has to be character led. That in turn means I can set my characters wherever and whenever I want and I do!

Are there Christmas stories in Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my new collection? Oh yes. Re-living The Past and Good To Go are two stories from Santa’s point of view and were great fun to write.

And one of my poetic stories, The Working Man, looks at the Christmas tableau from the viewpoint of a carpenter. Strangely appropriate that!

Tripping the Flash Fantastic Medium


Hope your Monday went well. It was full on puppy party at the park today with Lady having a riotous time with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and other pals. All went home shattered. Job done!

I’ve written the odd flash tale around dogs (most notably The Magician in Tripping The Flash Fantastic) but mainly getting out and about with Lady is a chance for fresh air and exercise, rather than story inspiration. And that’s fine.

The break away from the desk in itself can help your imagination. Why? Because you are giving yourself time to recharge and that’s important.

Hope you have had a good weekend. As well as the Zoom event yesterday, which was great fun, my box of goodies from a well known print company arrived on the same day.

Now I must admit to still being a big kid when it comes to opening a parcel with my name on it. So what with my copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic arriving and this box of goodies, I have had a very good week. Whether the postie is pleased about it is another matter!

I’ve also been blogging away (as you do – 😊) and hope to share links to these in due course. Many thanks to all those who will be hosting me and those who’ve hosted me recently. I love hosting people on CFT via various mini-series I’ve written and will continue to write but it is also lovely being the guest. It’s good to be put on the spot with questions!

My main writing tasks for the next few days will be my CFT post, more blogs, and preparing for my cyberlaunch. Am so looking forward to that.
I try, with these things, to ensure they’re the kind of event I would want to go to if I was the guest.

Putting yourself in your readers’/potential readers’ shoes is always a good idea. That tip also helps me with my stories directly as I’m always thinking about what impact I want my characters to have on those who read about them and I write accordingly.

Write with your Ideal Reader in mind is always a good idea. Why? Because one of those Ideal Readers WILL be YOU. You have to like what you write. If you do, others will like it too. By also looking at what other Ideal Readers might like with your writing, it helps you to focus on what matters in your story and cuts the temptation to waffle. And that is always a good thing.

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Had a fabulous afternoon at the Zoom event with #GillJames and #DawnKnox. We talked about our work and shared stories. I read Enough is Enough and The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

I also talked about my love of flash fiction, how it can benefit all writers regardless of what they mainly write, and shared a Powerpoint presentation. All good fun!

And it was great to see friends, old and new, here too.

In other news, and thanks to a shared tip earlier today from #PatriciaMOsborne, I’ve now used Booklinker net to create shorter links for my two books, From Light to Dark and Back Again, and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Mind you, I think for my next book, I will have to come up with a shorter book title given only 22 characters are allowed! 😆😆

Still this gives me a chance to show my nice new short link for TTFF off! See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Hope your Tuesday went okay. Not bad here. Am busy prepping for blogs I’ll be appearing on fairly soon and also for the launch of course. Plenty to do on my To Do list but am working my way through.

The positive thing about marketing is that it is ongoing and not everything has to be done at once. Not everything can be done at once anyway, which is why working out what you want to do here and “making a plan” so you get it done is a good idea. (Well, it works for me, and naturally I’ve learned from the launch of From Light to Dark and Back Again).

I know marketing does not come naturally to many writers, including me, but working out what you would enjoy doing helps. I love blogging so that is a natural route for me to go. (And material you prep for these things, if it is not all used in the blogs, can always be recycled for use on your website etc).

Delighted to have my copies of The Best of Cafelit 9 reach me today. I have two stories in there. Humourless is a flash piece but Green Door is a standard length short story.

My longer term projects are on the back burner for the moment but I will return to those in due course. And I do have plans for further flash collections as well so plenty to keep the old imagination going for some time to come!

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Delighted to share part of a review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic from Scottish crime writer, Val Penny.

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The Review

Tripping the Light Fantastic is a special little book, the right size to keep in a pocket or a hand bag with stories and poems to entertain while on a bus trip, train journey or just relaxing with a cup of tea.

There are various examples of flash fiction. I had not realised that poems could be considered to be flash fiction until I read this book. The book contains some very short stories with good twists in the tales, longer pieces (still under 1000 words) including Symes’ trademark fairy tales and several neat poems. Tripping the Light Fantastic is varied, clever and entertaining. I highly recommend it to readers of all age groups.

See the full post at https://bookreviewstoday.info/2020/09/24/tripping-the-light-fantastic-by-allison-symes/ and many thanks, Val!


How do I flesh out a character for my flash fiction? Physical appearance doesn’t usually matter for me (though there is an exception in Tripping the Flash Fantastic where one of my characters can change into something very unusual indeed).

I’ve mentioned before that I look for the major traits. I should add I look for the positive and negative ones of these. I look at what these traits could lead to and often by the time I’ve finished doing that, story ideas are coming to me and it is then a question of working out which would be the strongest and most likely to work.

I then write the story! I guess I like a framework in place. I know that doesn’t work for everyone but when you find something that works for you, then play to the strengths of that.

 

It was great to see everyone at this afternoon’s Zoom author event with #GillJames and #dawnkentishknox. It was lovely reading stories from Tripping The Flash Fantastic for the first time too. I read The Pink Rose, also talking a little about how I came to write this one, and Enough is Enough (which I think anyone who has ever dieted would sympathise with!). All great fun.

I think the most important thing to remember when you’re reading work aloud is to slow yourself down. You’re less likely to trip over your own words doing that. (Oh and if you ever needed a reason not to give your characters complicated names, let the thought of reading them out loud be the reason! It is reason enough!).😆😆

Picture below of me reading at the Bridge House event late last year was taken by Dawn Knox and it was great to hear a story from her collection Extraordinary today too. I love being read to just as much as I love reading my own work! And that’s how it should be. The pleasure from stories is very much a two-way thing.

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Dawn Knox

Dawn Kentish Knox. Image kindly supplied by Dawn.

Goodreads Author Blog Reading Aloud –

I had the great joy of reading two stories from my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, today. I chose The Pink Rose and Enough Is Enough. One is a moving tribute to someone special to me and the other is a wry tale about someone who changes her life and gets her own back on those who humilated her.

I love listening to stories and it was great to hear stories from Dawn Knox and Gill James too at this online event.

There is something so soothing, I think, in being read to like this. And, of course, from a writer’s viewpoint, you get to hear the rhythm of dialogue from other people’s stories and you can of course learn from that for your own work.

I loved being read to when I was a kid and later, on becoming a mum, loved reading to my son. The first novel I read to him was Kenneth Graeme’s The Wind in the Willows. Yes, it went down very well with all of us!

Do you remember which book you cherished having read to you when you were a kid? Equally, what was your favourite book to read out loud to your children?

I see storytime like this (and this afternoon’s event was kind of like a storytime for adults I thought) as so important. In our current situation with the pandemic, the joy of stories and books and being read to cannot be lauded loud enough I feel.

Preparing An (Online) Party

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Book cover image from Chapeltown Books.

Image of Val Penny giving a wonderful talk at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School kindly provided by her and used in previous CFT posts.

Images of Gill James and Dawn Knox also provided by them respectively and again used in CFT posts.

Many thanks also to Penny Blackburn for her picture of me reading at the 2019 Open Prose Mic Night at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Many thanks to everyone who has already reviewed Tripping the Flash Fantastic and/or has shown support for my cyberlaunch. Very much appreciated. (Further down I share a link to a wonderful review on Val Penny’s Book Review Blog and I hope to share further reviews in due course).

No prizes for guessing why I wrote this piece for CFT this week! See link below (and I do like the way this aspect of the new WordPress works).

My CFT post this week is all about that launch with all relevant details included, BUT I also go on to talk about the advantages of this kind of event. I also share some thoughts on how people can support their writer friends. Hope you enjoy.

Preparing An (Online) Party

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Also, just a quick reminder about the author event I am taking part in tomorrow afternoon, with Gill James and Dawn Kentish Knox. Would be good to see you “there”!

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It has been a good day. Delighted to get off in the post copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic to someone I know who has been waiting for the book to come out almost as much as I have! So first sales – yippee!

Did I mind going round to the Post Office in a mask for that one? Not a bit! (Got a sneaky bit of advertising in while I was there too. You know how they always ask you what is in the parcel…. well I told them!).😆😆

Also delighted to see the latest review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic is now up on Val Penny’s Book Review Blog. Many thanks, Val. (It is particularly nice to see the covers for both of my books forming part of this review).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about my cyberlaunch for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. All the necessary details will be there but I’ll also be sharing thoughts on the advantages of having launches this way.

There are several advantages (and not just for the writer either. Events like this can be huge fun for the audience and I love attending the ones my writer pals hold for this reason. A good event should be entertaining. The idea is to engage with an audience and, yes, hopefully generate book sales but engaging with the audience is SO important. The event has to be fun for them as well as for you.).

I’ll also discuss how readers can make a huge difference in supporting their writer friends holding this kind of event. Link up on Friday.

And just a quick reminder that #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox and I will be on Zoom this coming Saturday between 3 and 4 pm discussing our works. There will be stories. There will be giveaways. Hope to see you at both events! Should be fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

For both the author event I’m involved with tomorrow and my cyberlaunch on 10th October, I am particularly looking forward to is reading out some of my flash fiction. Flash works excellently for this kind of thing as it is short and to the point and I’ve always loved being read to! Hope you enjoy that too.

I read work out loud regularly as it helps me to literally hear how the story flows. If I trip over words while reading, then I know readers will, so I can correct that. I sometimes record and play back too (usually for longer pieces) and that is also helpful.

Have a lovely time with your reading and/or writing this weekend!



I’ve mentioned before that flash, despite the word count limit, has more flexibility than you might think. Not only can you vary the word count you choose to write to (up to 1000 maximum of course), you can vary the genre of flash story you write.

In both FLTDBA and now Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I have deliberately exploited that. I’ve written crime tales, historical ones, fantasy ones, and so on. I’ve also varied the format of my flash tales. In TTFF there are stories told in poetic form. I’m working on linked flash stories for what I hope will end up being my third collection eventually.

I like to mix up the way I approach a flash story because it keeps things interesting for me and it makes me “up my game”. It’s not a bad thing for a writer to be kept on their toes. Indeed I’ve found it helps my flex my imaginative “muscles” and the more you use those, the more you find you CAN use them.

That is one reason to write regularly. Naturally you need to read regularly too to help feed that imaginative muscle too. We are all inspired by the stories that have come before us. It would be nice to think later others will be inspired by the stories we’re writing now.

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I love that moment when I know I’ve got a character “set” and ready to go. It means I know what makes them tick and, whether I then put them into a funny story or a darker one, I know they will “rise to the occasion”.

For me, a story of whatever length is always about the character. It’s their story. It is them I want to find out about. (Mind you, I am a curious soul like that!).

That doesn’t mean plot is irrelevant. Far from it but you do have to have a “cast” who can get the most out of the plot you devise for them.

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Fairytales With Bite – Magic in Words

A good story has a magic all of its own. It will make you forget the cares of this world for a while and take you into the created world the writer has set up for you. This is why a story that is written “just” for entertainment should not be looked down on in my view. Helping people escape for a while through stories is a wonderful thing to do. And stories inspire people, which is another reason to love tales of all kinds.

So there is magic in the words we write then but for me, as you know, it is all down to the character. They have got to draw you in and one of my favourite ways of doing this is to ensure a reader HAS to find out something about said character.

That can mean showing the reader a character’s obvious flaw and the hook here is to see what that flaw does to that character during the story. If my character is a bossy boots, how does that flaw get in their way to achieving their objective? Does the character realise the need to change and how do they do it? There is the story. A reader has got to be curious enough to want to read on. So always think about what your hook is going to be. (And that’s a good marketing tip too!).

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This World and Others – Advantages of Using An Alien Setting

A number of my flash stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic involve alien worlds to a certain extent. Due to the restricted word count with flash, I can’t show a lot of the settings, but I can imply such an alien world in few well chosen words.

For example in my story, Job Vacancy, I start with the words “Wanted: Wizard’s Assistant”. Now that tells you immediately, the story has to be set in a magical world and your imagination can conjure up (pun intended!) what that might look like while I get on and show you the rest of the wizard’s job advert!

In The Terrified Dragon in TTFF, I have arranged things so said terrified dragon is surrounded by angry humans right at the start of the story. Now that means this story could be set on an Alternative Earth where dragons existed. Or we go right back in time right here on the planet we know and love where dragons could have existed. I leave that to the reader decide while I again get on and show you what happens to the dragon.

With alien settings which are either directly spelled out or implied, that gives me freedom to suspend some rules. If my story is not set here but on some strange planet at the back of beyond, then maybe that is a place where gravity doesn’t exist or the sky is coloured British Racing Green. People accept all of that and more as long as it is clear from the outset that the world is alien to what we know and, as a writer, I can have a lot of fun with that.

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And once again, thanks to Val Penny for a fab review of Tripping the Flash Fantastic.  See screenshot for more.

Screenshot_2020-09-25 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes, Allison Amazon co uk Kindle Store

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Editing, Dream Characters, and Story Collections

Facebook – General

I’ve never understood writers who edit as they write. I know full well I would stymie myself if I tried that. When would I ever accept I had written a good enough first line yet alone a first page etc?

It has helped me enormously to know you don’t have to get it right all in one go. Indeed, the one guarantee is you won’t! So I write and focus on getting the story written.

Then I worry about:-

1. Does the story work?

2. Does the structure make sense?

3. Have I overwritten anything? (The answer to that is always yes!).

4. What “flabby prose” can I tighten up by better choices of words, phrases etc? (There is always something to be improved here but that’s fine. You get better over time at knowing what to look for here and how you can put it right. It is slightly annoying you can’t stop yourself writing flabby prose but at least nobody else has to see it!).

5. Do my characters come across the way I want them to do? (There’s nearly always room for improvement here).

I love editing. It’s a great feeling when you know your story has improved dramatically because you’ve dealt with the 5 points above properly.

But it is a case of one thing at a time. Write first, edit later.

 

Pleased I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces. Won’t know results for a while but it’s such a joy being able to submit work online.

When I first started out (and the dinosaurs had just left the planet etc etc), all submissions had to be done by snail mail. When I think of the costs and time tied up in that, the mind boggles!

The great thing is I have acknowledgement of receipt of entries pretty much straight away too. I recall having to put in stamped addressed postcards to publishers when I was particularly keen to know if something had reached them.

So am I pleased at the development of email submissions etc? You bet! Technological change is often a good thing.

What would you class as a dream character? For me this would be someone who was:-

1. Feisty and honourable. (Funnily enough, that can apply to villains too. They will have a code they adhere to no matter what. It may not be one we as readers like or agree with but there will be something there where we can see why the villain would act the way they are. What I can’t stand are characters who do things for no apparent reason. They leave me thinking “What….?!”).

2. Comes up with all the best one-liners

3. Gets on with most other characters because they’re not full of themselves or, in the case of a villain, is able to charm other characters into obeying them. The fascination there is how they draw people in.

4. Is the type of person you would definitely want on your side in a fight/life or death scenario. In the case of a villain. who is the cause of said fight/life or death scenario, they are the kind of person you would run a million miles from. They have got to be PROPER villains.

5. Fascinate YOU as the writer. You are your own first audience.

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I’ll be looking at What Do You Think Makes a Good Book in my CFT post later this week. I’ll also be naming three of my all-time favourites, which are varied in genre and era, and look at what they have in common. Link up on Friday. I love writing for CFT but posts this like are especially fun to write!

How to spot a committed writer (and possibly one that should be!):-

1. Their book shelves are piled high with books from across the genres

2. They have notebooks everywhere (but can have trouble finding a pen when asked).

3. They can go on about stories for ever and ever amen (and do given half a chance).

Hmm…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Editing is my theme for tonight. One of the issues with flash fiction is how far do you edit? It is too easy just to focus on getting the word count right and not look at the balance of the story overall. It’s something I have to watch out for.

If a phrase, say, tells me something more about a character than a shorter expression would, the longer phrase stays in. It’s all about the relevant details. Focus on what HAS to be in your story. What’s left is where you can cut back.

But look at how the story flows and do read it aloud to hear this for yourself. An edit doesn’t work if you’ve taken out ALL that makes the story flow. This is the point if I decide a story works better at 250 words than 100, it stays at 250.

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What are the advantages of using the first person in flash fiction?

1. I can take you straight into that character’s thoughts.

2. That in turn will show you their attitudes (which will also give clues as to what their significant traits are likely to be).

3. I show you the story through that character’s eyes and I think it creates immediacy.

4. I can vary how my “I” character talks to you as a reader – and that can in turn help you guess at likely age and so on. My Calling the Doctor has a confiding tone to it. My They Don’t Understand has my narrator looking back at life with regret. I don’t need to tell you the latter is going to be a senior citizen as a result. It is all implied in how they “talk”.

5. As first person is so direct, it can save a lot on the word count!

What do I look for in a writing prompt? The obvious answer is something to stretch me (no, not a rack or a huge elastic band!). The format of that prompt matters less.

I’ve used picture prompts, opening line and closing line prompts, list so many words connected to a theme prompts and so on.

I do think it a good idea to mix up which prompts you use to keep things interesting for you and also to ensure you ARE challenging yourself frequently enough. It can be easy to get into a rut of using only certain kinds of prompts/ideas to get you started.

Mix things up, have fun, play with words. Once you’ve got your thoughts down, then stand back and put your editor’s hat on.

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I’ve long been an advocate of reading work out loud. I’ve picked up errors this way and find out if my dialogue really is as smooth as I thought it was when I wrote it. If I stumble over it, a reader will too, and out comes the editing pen again.

It is one of those oddballs that something which looks great written down does not necessarily transfer well to speech.

The other advantage of reading work out loud is you hear the rhythm within the prose and you can tweak that to the advantage of the story’s overall impact.

The great thing with flash fiction?

Reading work out loud doesn’t take long!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

I have got a very soft spot for story collections for several reasons:-

1. My first real reading loves was the Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales, which I still have.

2. You get a lovely mixture of tones and length of story in an anthlogy.

3. I’ve been published in such anthologies (and am due to be so again) so am not unbiased here!

4. If you’re not sure what to read next novel wise, why not switch to short story collections for a while? I’ve found reading a collection makes a nice “refresher” before I pick which novel I’ll read next. You also get to mix up your reading here (which I think is always a good thing as it can be a great way to discover authors new to you).

5. You can have collections on a single theme or genre so it is easy enough to go with what you fancy here.

6. You can support the indie presses who bring out such anthologies as these give more authors a voice (and readers more choice too).

7. It’s my belief short stories and flash fiction can encourage reluctant readers to venture further into the wonderful world of books. You’re not asking them to commit to too much at the start. Hopefully by the time they’ve finished a collection, they’ll be hooked and will want to read more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations, Reading Work Out, and Framing Stories

A nice mixed bag tonight I think!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is the review of the recent Bridge House event, Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit, though I’m quite pleased I managed to come up with an alliterative title! I also look at how reading work out is useful to writers, as is listening to others reading their work out. For one thing, you literally hear a story’s rhythm and can apply that to your own stories.

Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use some of the images in this piece. I’ve yet to find a way of reading work out and taking my own pictures of me doing this at the same time! (Oh and before you ask, I am really not keen on selfies!).

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My CFT post this week will be a look back at the Bridge House celebration event held on 1st December. I’ll also share some thoughts on the benefits of reading work out loud and on being read to, both of which are lovely!

One of the nicest things about this time of year is that it is very much a time for stories, which is a theme I will be looking at for CFT before too long. Naturally, I love the Christian Nativity story but I also love those wonderful tales associated with it. For example, how did the robin get his red breast? By burning himself on a fire he was fanning to keep a fire going to keep the Holy Family warm.

I also like to have a general review of the year (and also a specific writing review. How did things go? Did I achieve all the goals I set myself? What goals would I like to set for 2019 etc?). So that’s my CFT posts sorted until the year end! Just have to finish writing them now…

One of the great joys of stories (both writing and reading them) is their escapism value, especially if the news is particularly grim. That shouldn’t be underrated.

Whether you read or write humour, horror, sci-fi, or what have you, a story, of whatever length, should transport you into its world. You should be happy to stay there for the duration too! That, ultimately, I think is the biggest challenge to a writer. But it’s a great challenge to have a crack at!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to choose themes which can be open ended. Love, for example, can obviously provide happy stories. It can also provide tragedies, something Shakespeare took good advantage of in Romeo and Juliet.

I’ve found that picking the theme I would like to use and then deciding on the mood of the story is so helpful in giving me a “frame” for my story. Then the title comes into play and again I try to choose one which is open, unless I specifically want to put a twist into the tale right at the beginning (my Punish the Innocent is a good example of that).

I find it useful to have my “frame” and then write. It helps me focus.

When drafting a story, what is the first thing you are keen to get right?

For me, it’s ensuring I know my character well enough to know how they would react/act regardless of what situation I drop them right in! (Dropping your characters right in it can be a great way of finding out just what they’re made of). I also like to know what would shake my character out of their sang-froid and what their general beliefs are. Naturally, there should then be something to challenge all of that!

I like to use things that inspire me as a source of story ideas. The great thing with this method is what inspires me and how I combine these to create a new tale will help my writer’s voice to come through. Nobody’s tastes and inspirations are exactly the same. The way these are combined will also differ from writer to writer. So list what your inspirations are. Think about how you can use these. At the very least, you should find some great themes emerging. Good luck!

Fairytales With Bite – Why Fairytales with Bite?

It occurs to me I should have written this post long ago but never mind!

I use the phrase “fairytales with bite” as a lot of my flash fiction work, in particular, is set in a fantasy world and I use a lot of irony. There really is a bite to a lot of what I write. I like quirky writing – my own and that of others! I also use twist endings a lot and there can be a great deal of bite behind those. I am, after all, looking to make an impact with my stories.

My catchphrase is also a reaction against those who think fairytales are twee. I know I’ve touched on this topic before, here and on other blogs I’m involved in, but fairytales can show up human nature for what it is and are anything but twee as a result. Think of all the tales where kindness is rewarded and/or greed is punished. What happens to the villains in lot of fairytales is anything but twee!

Of course, with the Big Bad Wolf, you could argue the fairytale with bite is literal here!

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This World and Others – Reading Work Out Loud

This theme ties in with some thoughts I share on this as part of my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit.  The latter is a look back at my publisher’s annual celebration event but one part of this is where some of the writers, including me, read some of our stories out to our audience.  Good fun whether you’re taking part or not, but for a writer it’s incredibly useful and here are some reasons why.

1.  You quickly realise if you stumble over words, so will your readers, so out comes the editing pen again.  Always better though that this happens before you submit the story anywhere.  By reading the work out to yourself before submission, this acts as another editing layer and can save your blushes!

2.  You literally hear the rhythm of the story.  There should be a natural ebb and flow to it.

3.  Especially if you write in a genre where you’re inventing names/place names etc, you can literally hear if what you’ve come up with is pronounceable!!  So no more Xxxrbtrzog (try saying that sober yet alone if you have had alcohol!) but something like Xerstone is “do-able” and still conveys to a reader they are in a setting NOT of this world.

4.  As you listen to someone else’s work, take note of what makes a real impact on you.  Is it the power of the dialogue?  Is the sentence structure hitting home well?  I usually find short, simple, and to the point works best.

5.  As you listen, watch out for where you are anticipating what comes next.  What MAKES you wonder what comes next?  Can you apply those thoughts to your own writing?

6.  We all love a story, it’s why we’re writers, and the oral tradition of storytelling is fantastic.  Without it we would have no stories at all so it is a joy to take part in and kind of “support it” ourselves.

Love your reading!