Podcasting, Flash Fiction, and Spring

Now there’s a right mix for you!

Image Credit:  As ever, unless stated, images are from Pixabay.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

CFT – Part 1 –

The Writing and Marketing Show – Podcast by Wendy H. Jones

The post below is an amalgamation of the FB posts I shared on my author page and book page during the week.

I thought I’d start by sharing the link to my Local Author News page on Chandler’s Ford Today earlier this week where my news is the podcast interview of yours truly by Scottish crime writer, Wendy H Jones, on my favourite topic, flash fiction. I also share the link to the episode I appear in (and I repeat the link below too).

I was delighted to take part in The Writing and Marketing Show, which is Wendy’s new podcast. It does what it says on the tin, folks! I’m on Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction. Well, I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity to talk about my great writing love now, was I?

As well as discussing flash fiction, I share some tips, particularly on nailing those crucial opening lines. I also discuss what you can do with cliches – now, now… tune in the show and find out exactly what it is I DO do with them!

Every so often CFT puts up Local Author News posts when local writers have book events etc. It is lovely to put such a post up for myself! (And a huge thanks to Janet Williams, CFT’s very supportive editor who is great at encouraging sharing news like this. It is appreciated and not just by me).

I also want to say a big thank you to Wendy H. Jones for inviting me on to her show. It was huge fun to take part – and do check out the other episodes too. Episodes are released on a Wednesday. Well worth making a note in your diary for especially if you are keen to have insights into the wonderful world of writing.

Episode 4 – How to Write Flash Fiction

CFT – Part 2 – Spring Approaches

It’s always a pleasure to write posts like the above which celebrate something positive. Despite Storm Dennis being on its way, there are still signs of spring out there and I’ve already noted the daylight lasting that little bit longer each evening.

I also look at spring in the terms of new life/new developments. What new developments, as a writer, are you hoping for this year? (The podcast with #WendyHJones earlier this week was a new development for me and so much fun to do). Comments as ever welcome over on the CFT page.

Feature Image - Spring Approaches

As part of my Spring Approaches post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I look ahead to the Chameleon Theatre Group’s next production. This has the charming name of Spring Quartet. Love the sound of that. I am hoping throughout the next few months to put up additional posts featuring members of the Chameleons. More details as and when.

Do you find writing easier or harder to do when the weather gets better (it will eventually, honestly!)? I have no real preference here though I can understand the lure of getting out and about when perhaps I should be at my desk writing.

Mind you, when I do go out and about, there is always part of me which sees these trips as great opportunities for “research”.

Now that can be anything from picking up inspiration for characters (e.g. overhearing odd snippets of conversation I know I could use in totally different contexts for a tale or two) to going to a specific place and learning from it. What I learn then ends up in a story.

It’s a great excuse and I’m sticking to it!

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Many thanks, everyone, for the lovely feedback on the podcast interview for those of you who tuned in when the link was shared on Wednesday this week. For those of you who haven’t, do check out the episode via the link above. It was a joy to talk flash fiction with #WendyHJones. (And do check out the other episodes too. The link to all episodes is in the top left corner).

My usual CFT post will be up tomorrow and it is called Spring Approaches. Now I know Storm Dennis is due (named after Dennis the Menace, do you think?) but, hang on in there folks, spring really is on its way.

There are already signs of it out there. Tonight I managed to walk the dog with my better half and we only needed a torch for the last 15 minutes. That figure will reduce week on week too and I love that. Two weeks or so ago, we needed the torch for 25 to 30 minutes so those lighter evenings are slowly coming in! (On a personal note, I find the increased light helps with my writing productivity too and I bet I’m not the only one who finds that).

My post celebrates the approach of spring then but also looks at how, given we rightly associate spring with new life, what that can mean for us. A new life can mean new starts or developments. (Being interviewed for a podcast was a new and enjoyable development for me!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

F = Fun to write
L = Length of story can vary but should not go over 1000 words.
A = Alliteration can be effective in titles but best to use sparingly (otherwise readers will tire of it. You don’t want anything to seem “faddy”).
S = Story should focus on ONE important point only as you won’t have room for more, particularly in a sub-500 words tale.
H = Have fun mixing up which genres you write your flash fiction in as the good news is you don’t have to stick to one!

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When you want to mix up your flash fiction writing, how do you go about that?

Some of my favourite ways to mix things up include:-

1. Work out an ending to a story and work backwards to the start instead of working linearly. (If you usually start this way, simply reverse the process and start at the beginning!).

2. Try writing a flash fiction story in a genre or format you’ve not tried before. If it doesn’t work out, why worry? You were playing with words. I would suspect also some of what you write you would probably be able to use elsewhere. Equally if you discover a new way of writing flash, even better. This is how I started writing historical flash fiction pieces. Until fairly recently, it wasn’t an area I had explored.

3. Write to different word counts. While my natural home is between the 100 to 250 word count limit, I do write much shorter than that. I also go up to the top end of the scale for flash at 1000 words.

And why mix things up at all?

Firstly it keeps things interesting for you. You really don’t want to become bored with what you do.

Secondly, a variety of stories, whether it’s in genre or word count or both, means you have a wider selection of markets and competitions to aim those tales at! Good luck.

Fairytales With Bite – 

When the Magic Wand Isn’t Enough

One of my favourite things about fantasy fiction is when magic is limited in some way. That is a character can only do so much with their powers and no more. Or if they go beyond that, then there is a dreadful price to pay.

What is fascinating there is finding out how the characters get around this. When you can’t or dare not use your special skills, what do you do?

Likewise if two magical characters have the same kind of powers, then you know they’re going to cancel each other out effectively. What does each of them do to try to get the upper hand on the other?

I believe more of the real personality of the characters comes out when they can’t just rely on magic to get them out of trouble (and even more when they know using it will exacerbate their problems).

I love stories which show the downside of using magic and where characters have to use their wit and intelligence to overcome problems. My favourite of all here has to be Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series given, when in doubt, she goes to the library to look things up! What’s not to like about that?!

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This World and Others – 

What Do Your Characters Make Of Their World?

Asking yourself this as you outline your fictional world is useful as:-

(a) it will show you insights into what your characters really think revealing more of their attitudes which should prove useful later and;

(b) it will show you what your characters think is the most important aspect of their world. It might not be what you originally thought!

I would then probe further as to why that is. If you thought the most important thing was your created world’s fantastic lakes but your character thinks the best thing since sliced bread is the mountain behind their village, look at why. Have they got a fear of water, say? Have they got a famous ancestor who was the first to climb that mountain? Could that come into your story at some point?

How do your characters react to their world during the course of the story? What aspects of it get in their way on whatever their mission is? What aspects help them? Does the transportation make their mission easier to carry out or more difficult? How easy is it for them to get provisions? What do other characters think of their mission? What and/or whom gets in their way?

If your character is trying to save their world, are they doing so out of love for that world or knowing that whatever the world is facing is too dreadful to contemplate allowing to happen so has got to be stopped no matter what else they think? Is the world around them grateful for their efforts?

Above all, what changes have to happen in and to the characters to make them want to carry out their mission? It is not uncommon for the hero/heroine to be reluctant to take on their quest and they have to be persuaded into it. So who does the persuading? What makes the character “bite”?

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The Good Writing Fairy, Research and the Waterloo Arts Festival

Facebook – General

Which writing books have you found most useful? I’d have to list:-

On Writing – Stephen King

Scrivener for Dummies – Gwen Hernandez

Wannabe a Writer?/Wannabe a Writer We’ve Heard Of? – Jane Wenham-Jones

Story – Robert McKee

There are loads of others I’ve found useful, for different reasons, over the years but these ones stick out. I’m also fond of The Seven Basic Plots which is a detailed book and gave me plenty of pause for thought.

What do you want from a writing book? Encouragement, yes. Honesty, yes. (You do need to know you need stamina and persistence but that it is also okay to change direction if you want to do so). Useful tips you can apply to your own writing, yes. A friendly and easy to read style – in most cases, yes. For something like The Seven Basic Plots, the style is more academic but is still a fascinating read.

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Have caught up on a few writing prompt exercises in my diary. One was based on a lovely picture of a dog having fun at the beach (my Lady could so identify with that!) and another was to list 10 words associated with a train journey which I then had to use on a piece of writing. Very good stretching the imagination type work though what came out was a couple of very rough poems rather than flash fiction.

Whether these pieces will stay as rough poems (and they are VERY rough right now!) or whether I’ll transform them into stories later, I don’t know, but there is something liberating about a writing exercise where you can use any form you like. You don’t feel compelled to write to your normal form. You have fun playing around with words and seeing what happens.

 

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How much research do you do for your writing? I suspect your answer will be the same as mine – it depends on what I’m writing. Correct!

Do I need to do any research for my flash fiction stories? Yes, sometimes. For historical stories, I have to ensure any dates used are accurate and so on. If I mention a piece of furniture, for example, I need to ensure it WAS around at the time I’ve set the story.

For my CFT posts, I have to do more research of course. Can research become procrastination unless you know that’s a risk and don’t allow it to happen? Oh yes. Is it too easy to go down all sorts of interesting byways and be distracted from the task in hand? Oh yes.

But being aware of that risk can help nullify it.

Looking forward to the Waterloo Arts Festival on Saturday and meeting up with fellow writers there. Hope everyone is in good voice. Am looking forward to hearing the different stories. It is a real treat being read aloud to at events like this.

What I like about this is all of us have had to write to the same word count and on the same theme, but there will be 16 different stories here. You can’t have a book with 16 stories all with the same take on the topic as that would be boring to say the least.

This kind of event proves the point that what makes a writer unique is THEIR voice, THEIR take on a topic and nobody can write as YOU do with YOUR voice. So write away!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The story in one sentence exercise is great for stretching the brain AND cutting your word count, but other uses for it are:-

1. Using what you come up with as an opening line. For example, “She refused to part with the key. This was the beginning of things going wrong for Sharon…”

2. Using what you come up with as a key to “twist” the story. For example, “She refused to part with the key” could lead to a twist being that she knows the key is useless for the purposes her partner in crime wants it for but cannot say how she knows.

3. Deliberately using what you come up with as the closing line. For example, “It was no good Bill arguing. Mary had been consistent. She refused to part with the key.”

Have fun with your one-liners then and put them in different places and see what impact they have.

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I use Scrivener for my writing and one of the things I have found most useful for my flash fiction work is being able to set the word count target you want. I love seeing the bar change colour as I near my target. I know it sounds silly but watching that colour change is great incentive to keep on writing (and especially when you might feel like giving up).

I use the short story character and setting templates for longer stories and these effectively help me get my outlining done. As I flesh out who my character is, what their traits are etc, ideas are beginning to tease away at just what awful situations I can dump that character in (nobody said a writer had to be nice! This is also so much fun!).

In organising my writing in a better way, I do get more done. I don’t use all of the Scrivener features by any means but select the ones I know I’d find most useful. The word count setting is brilliant for flash fiction writers as I can adjust it to take account of those markets where the title IS part of the word count and for those where it ISN’T. I know I’m not going to get it wrong.

The screenshots of Scrivener below were taken by me. It’s also useful being able to see how much you do in a session.

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What do I look for when reading flash fiction? There is no one definitive answer to this but I would include the following.

1. It has to be an entertaining read.
2. It should show me the most important point of change in a character’s life, especially as there won’t be word count room for anything else.
3. It can take me back or forwards in time.
4. It can show me new worlds or make me look at this one with new eyes.
5. The ending should be a powerful one.
6. Any twist should have clues within the story that I can go back and check later on those occasions when I fail to pick them up immediately!
7. I like slices of life stories but would like to see more humorous tales.

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If the good writing fairy turned up, what would most writers wish for? Aside from wanting to know why she hadn’t turned up earlier in my writing life (!), my wishes would be:-

1. To have as much time as possible for writing and to use that time well. (She may count this as two wishes in one here but I’d chance my luck here and see if I could get away with it counting as one!).

2. For reviews to appear at a steady rate against FLTDBA and the Cafelit and Bridge House anthologies in which my work has appeared.

3. To never run out of ideas to write up and energy with which to get on and do so. (Again, she might count that as two wishes. I’d argue it was two sides of ONE coin so ONE wish).

Now while waiting for said fairy to turn up, I’d better get on and write!

Goodreads Author Blog – Mixing Up What You Read

I like to mix up what I read in several ways.

1. I mix up genre. I tend to read a crime book or two, then must move on to, say, fantasy for a book or two, before moving on again.

2. I mix up how I read. I have a “glut” of reading on the Kindle followed by a “glut” of reading printed books, then magazines etc. (The one thing I’ve not really “got” on the Kindle are e-magazines but I suspect I’ll get around to them eventually).

3. I mix up reading novels, short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction. So for a while I will only read novels, then move on to short story collections for a while, then have a non-fiction feast etc.

4. I switch between books and magazines. I do love a good magazine.

All of this means I’m never short of something to read!

I think mixing things up is good for my old brain and I like to ensure I don’t neglect any type of reading material I like. It would be too easy to “just” read books or magazines and neglect the other.

What would I wish for though?

More time to read, definitely.

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