Writing Prompts and Publication News

Image Credit

As ever, images are from the fantastic Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

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Association of Christian Writers  – More Than Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot, More Than Writers.

I’m on the 29th so that means I get every three Februaries off! 😆😆

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful. Mixing up how you write stories is fun and keeps you on your toes too!

I talked about writing prompts in my monthly slot for the Association of Christian Writers today. As well as sharing some tips, I share a story I produced using one of the tips. Annoyed librarians may well like it… hmm… go on have a look then!😊

What I’ll add here is that I’ve found it useful to mix up how I approach writing a story. It keeps things interesting for me. It keeps me on my literary toes too.

By mixing up the methods, I avoid the dangers of becoming formulaic too. I don’t want any of my stories to sound the same to a reader after all. What I do want is someone to read my stories and spot my voice through them all, but to also enjoy each tale for its uniqueness. My characters are very different people after all. The way I tell their stories should reflect those differences too.

 

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Loved the finale to Doctor Who but that’s all I’m saying about that. It is nigh on impossible to say anything else without unwittingly revealing a spoiler so best not, I think. Give it a week and then I should be all right on that!

Well portrayed characters, for good or evil, will keep you glued, whether they’re on the page or on the screen. The challenge as a writer is to ensure the characters you create have that quality to keep a reader hooked. How do you make the readers care about what happens to your people?

Firstly, YOU’VE got to care what happens! Thankfully this happens rarely but I have come across instances where I’m bored with a character portrayal and I suspect the author became bored too.

Secondly, your character has got to have a problem that must be resolved somehow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death problem, though that is obviously a great one for winding up the tension in a tale, but the issue your character HAS to resolve must be something they can’t run away from. Their situation won’t improve until they DO do something etc.

Thirdly, your character mustn’t give up easily. When their initial attempt(s) to get out of their situation fail, how do they react? Do they learn from their failures? What gives them the break through to success?

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Facebook – General and From Light to Dark and Back Again and Publication News

Story time again. Hope you enjoy. A little humour at the end of a busy Monday is never a bad thing!

Taking Time Out From the Day Job is my latest tale on Cafelit. (I’ve written flash fiction tales with fewer words than the title for this one in my time but there you go!). I have every sympathy for my lead in this one.

It’s lovely having one of my humorous fairytales with bite up on Cafelit.

Taking Time Out From the Day Job shows what happens when a fairy decides to do just that.

Hope you enjoy reading it. I loved writing it but then I do adore characters like this one.

It is a real contrast in mood from my recent linked stories on Cafelit but now you know why my collection is called From Light to Dark and Back Again. It sums up what I write!

Just to say that #ParagraphPlanet archive stories at the end of each month and the February 2020 “lot” are now available. See the link.My Time Is Everything is amongst the collection here. #flashfiction #amwriting #75wordstories

Is it easier to write to a specific word count or write the story first and then work out what the word count would suit it best?

Hmm… I’ve done both. The discipline of working to a specified word count is a great one and keeps you on your toes. It really does force you to check that each and every word has to be included in your tale. If there’s anything that doesn’t carry its weight, out it goes.

When I am working to a theme or title (often generated by random word generators), I write the story first. I see what I have, edit it, and then decide on whether it would work better at 100 words or 200, for example.

However you write, have fun!

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Conflict in stories can take many forms of course but some of my favourite tales are the ones where a character is in conflict with themselves.

This is why I find Gollum from The Lord of the Rings an interesting character. You know you can’t trust him but I found on reading the tale for the first time, I desperately wanted him to somehow come good at the end. (And I’d say it’s open to interpretation whether he did or not. I am with Gandalf on this one when he says Gollum had his part to play in the history of the Ring and left it there).

In my story, Rewards, which is one of my longer flash tales, I use thoughts to show my lead character’s conflict. The reason this tale needed to be towards the upper end of the flash limit was because I needed some space to show those thoughts and then how my character acted on them.

But then that’s the joy of flash. You can go from the tiny tales in terms of word count to the longer ones but still have a limit you need to stick to. (I do find that a really good writing discipline. It’s why when I prepare my Chandler’s Ford Today posts I set my own word count and stick to it. I have to have parameters!).

The conflict a flash fiction writer has is deciding what word count will work best for their story. Sometimes you do have to go to the upper limit. Sometimes you can say all you need to in 100 words or less. Always think of the impact of the story on a reader. Don’t water it down by padding it out. If the conflict in the story is played out in 250 words, leave it there! But if you need 999, that’s fine too.

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Symbols have a great deal of meaning of course. Can they be used in flash fiction?

Yes, as long as readers are likely to know the meaning of the symbol or can get to the meaning from context. As with any writing, clarity is the important thing here.

Could you come up with your own symbols for your characters?

Yes but it would be useful to base them on what we already know.

For example, red roses are associated with love but what could black roses be associated with?

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Reviews are so important for any writer for a variety of reasons but the good news is they don’t have to be lengthy. One or two lines would be absolutely fine. A big thank you, while on topic, to all those who have been kind enough to review From Light to Dark and Back Again.

So if you’re looking for a way to support author friends, do review their books. The one caveat is reviews have to be honest for them to have any meaning. Honest reviews also aren’t usually at risk of being taken down!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B07T…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Openings

What is it about a story opening that makes you want to read on?

For me, either the character has to be “hitting the ground running” in such a way, I’ve got to find out what happens to them, or the set up is intriguing enough to make me want to read on.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”.

There is the wonderful association with happy childhood reading of those great stories. That opening just, for me, sets the tone for what is to follow.

I know to expect fairy godmothers turning up at surprisingly convenient moments. (I’ve always wondered why Cinderella didn’t berate hers for not coming to her aid a lot sooner but that’s another story).

I know to expect talking animals (and I should imagine the Three Bears had quite a bit to say about Goldilocks that was best kept off the page. I know how I’d feel if someone destroyed my chair and bed – though they’d be welcome to the porridge. I’ve never liked the stuff!).

I know to expect the villains to get their comeuppance. It’s just a question of finding out how and when.

And there is something wonderfully poetical about Charles Dickens’s opening to A Tale of Two Cities (which I confess I’ve not read but is on my To Be Read list), but even I love the sound of “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times” and the rest that follows. The rhythm of that opening paragraph is amazing.

So what I’m saying here is I want a story opening to take my breath away so I have to read on. Now there’s a challenge for any writer (including me!).

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Submissions, Reviews, and Publication News

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

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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.

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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.

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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.).

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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!

 

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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.

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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).

 

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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?

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What Writing Means To Me

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, the images come from Pixabay.

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What does writing mean to you? For me it’s:-

1. Escapism. (Always welcome that!).

2. Writing stretches and challenges me. I came up with blog posts or stories yesterday, can I do the same today? (The discipline of daily writing is very good for developing your imagination and stamina and is also brilliant for keeping the brain active).

3. Writing has given me a creative art form I can take part in and love. I’m useless at art (my kid sister was much better there – and still is) but I can use words. I believe most of us have a creative streak somewhere and it’s a question of finding the one that suits us best. Being creative does something positive for my soul/mental well being/self-esteem etc and that is a good thing for my sake obviously but also for those around me.

4. Writing has led me to doing things I would never have dreamt of doing (such as reading publicly from my own work).

5. Writing has given me wonderful friends who understand the joys and frustrations of writing and that wonderful buzz when your books arrive with your stories in them!

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So what does the coming writing week hold in store for you?

I’m currently preparing a review of the play My Husband’s Nuts performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today. Yes, it really is called that. Reviews can sometimes be tricky. How much do you reveal about the plot? My approach is to give enough of the “flavour” of the play without giving away spoilers. And yes, this one is a farce. Well with a title like that, it kind of had to be really.

I’ve just submitted work to a competition and I plan to work on my big projects throughout the week. Am making good progress on one in particular. I also want to get another flash fiction collection together at some point.

Delighted that the Best of Cafelit 8 with its lovely green cover goes beautifully with the cover of my From Light to Dark and Back Again. They’ll look good together on a book stall! The Cafelit series always has the same cover image, just the colour of the cover changes, and the Chapeltown flash fiction collections always have a frame around a differing central image. Branding, folks, branding – it does matter but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple ideas here can work wonders.

Publication News

Delighted to share my latest story on Cafelit called Humourless. Hope you enjoy. Definitely not something that could be applied to me, I’m glad to say.

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When something unexpected happens, how do you react? Okay, okay, I know. It depends on whether the unexpected happening is nice or not. (I was nominated for Miss Slinky in my Slimming World group tonight – very nice surprise and it brightened up my Tuesday considerably!).

Okay, next question. How would your characters react? Same response from you? Yes, and rightly so too. But it pays you to know how your characters are likely to react, no matter what turns up in their lives.

Also think about why they would react the way you think they will. If someone reacts badly to a balloon bursting, is that because their link that sound to a bad memory? There should be a reason for their reaction, especially if other characters seems to consider it an over-reaction. You can ask yourself if it IS your character over reacting and then think about why your character might do that. Trying to get sympathy perhaps?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I occasionally write a piece of flash fiction where the first letter of each line spells out a word. Let’s give that a go again now and appropriately I think I’ll go for Autumn. (Now this is where I could cheat and go for the American word of Fall here to make my life easier but I won’t!).

AUTUMN

A = Allison finished digging in the garden not a moment too soon as the rain started pelting down.
U = Urgent requirement for a hot cup of a tea and a Hi-fi bar made her put her spade away in record time.
T = Turning away from the garden shed, she ran indoors, put the kettle on, and grabbed her bar from the larder.
U = Unaware her actions had been witnessed.
M = Missy, next door’s dog, got through the gap in the fence and went to where Allison had been digging.
N = Never had a body been uncovered again so quickly; never had Allison shooed a dog off so quickly before as she rushed to cover up her work.

Allison Symes – 26th October 2019

Not based on a true story, honestly!

 

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Reasons to engage with other writers positively:-

1. It’s fun – best reason of all.

2. You will learn useful information – I’ve found out about competitions etc thanks to chatting with other writers. Some of it I’ve used, some of it I may use in the future, some I may never get to use at all.

3. When you can share useful information, see it as paying your dues. I know I’m grateful for the good advice from other writers that has helped me so pass it on.

4. Ultimately, we all want to write good material, whether it’s flash fiction, or an epic saga. There are things on our writing journeys that we will share in common. You don’t have to cope with these things on your own!

5. You can be warned about scams. No industry is exempt from these so why should publishing be?

6. Linking with 5, other writers can tell you where to go for good advice and what has helped them.

7. I was told about Cafelit and from there found out about flash fiction and I’ve been very grateful for finding out about those!!😀

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Pleased to have another story up on Cafelit – Humourless. More to come too.

http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/10/humourless.html

For Cafelit, you need to assign a drink to your story and I try to match the mood of the tale with an appropriate beverage. I sometimes find that harder to do than write the story and I’ve often searched cafe menus for inspiration!

It is a great way to discreetly flag up the mood of the tale though. This, and finding pictures for my CFT posts, are probably the main ways where I’m “forced” to think laterally sometimes. But it is worth persisting with doing that. Other story ideas have come to me that way.

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I always feel a certain amount of relief when I’ve got the first draft of a story written. I never worry about making each line or paragraph “perfect” before moving on because I know if I took that approach, I would get very little written. Also, there’s no such thing as “perfect” writing anyway.

I like to get a first draft written, move on to another piece I’m editing or submitting somewhere, then come back to that draft to give myself enough distance from it to be able to judge it as objectively as I can.

There are two reactions made by a writer to something they’ve written.

1. This is genius. Not true, sadly.

2. This is awful. Whatever made me think I could write. Not true either and that’s better news!

It is inevitable as you read through a piece, ideas for better ways of phrasing things occur to you so go with that and don’t worry about it.

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Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – A Season For Everything

Do you find the seasons affect your writing? I can’t say they do with me. One good thing about the evenings drawing in earlier is the lure of a cosy room, my desk, hot drinks on the go, and an evening’s writing is even more appealing than it normally is!

I don’t write much about the seasons. Flash fiction with its word count limits means I have little room for description. If I want to show it’s cold, I’ll get my character to put on their big coat, having established they usually wear shorts or something daft like that.

Sorry to all shorts fans out there but I’ve never liked them. I’d also consign flip-flops to history’s dustbin. If I ever come up with a character I really can’t stand, I could make them wear shorts and flip-flops in freezing weather and make them suffer! I guess that could be fun…

Is there any writer who doesn’t get some enjoyment out of putting their characters through the mill, especially when those characters have it coming? I refuse to believe that is just me.

If I have seasons to writing, it is not in the quantity of what I do but in the tasks themselves. I will have weeks where I’m submitting work all over the place. (I finished drafting this after sending three stories off to Cafelit).

There will be other weeks where I’m editing work I’d deliberately put aside to look at again with fresh eyes prior to submission. It does pay to give yourself that time so you return to your story afresh. It’s the only way I know that works where you do come back and read your work as a reader would.

Without a time break, I’ve found you can be too close to your own work to be objective about it. This is why when there’s a competition deadline, I take off at least a week from the official end date and that will be the date I aim to submit the piece by. If life gets in the way as it does sometimes, I still have a few days in hand to still submit that piece.

I am so grateful for email submissions! I did start writing seriously when everything went in by snail mail (it was just after the last T Rex left this world). Some things have definitely got better. (I don’t miss typewriters, carbon paper or Tippex either. I did use to cut and paste literally).

I’ve found it pays to have periods when I’m creating new work. While I’m working on the second story, the first one is having its “time break” for me to edit effectively later.

There is always something on the go  writing wise and that’s how I like it. I have a very low boredom threshold and the lovely thing with creative writing is that threshold is never tested. There is always something to do.

Happy writing, editing etc etc!

Goodreads Author Blog –

What Do I Want Books To Do For Me?

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Books, Books, Books!

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I suspect I’m preaching to the converted with the title for this post but never mind!

Books have been a vital part of my life since goodness knows when but I’ve only been writing since I turned 30…. X number of years ago!! Quite a considerable number of years in fact but not so many as when I first discovered the joys of reading and would spend many a happy hour in the local library.

Why did it take me so long to make the connection between “you really love books and stories” and “you really like writing your own stories” so you should become a writer? Goodness knows. Looking back on it, it is daft I didn’t start writing sooner but the main thing is I am writing now!

My advice to anyone pondering if they should write or not is to give it a go and have fun creating characters and stories. Whether you then try to get published is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with just writing for your own satisfaction. What matters is you’re writing and loving it.

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I loved watching the TV series of Black Beauty when I was a kid. That encouraged me to read the book by Anna Sewell. Southern TV, as it was back then, adapted some of the Enid Blyton Famous Five books and I loved those too. Pity they lost the franchise because that ended the series pronto!

So a good TV adaptation can encourage people to get back to the books, which is very much A Good Thing! This also happened with me with Oliver Twist. Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed were superb as Fagin and Bill Sykes. Had to read the book after watching the film.

With The Lord of the Rings, I had read the trilogy first. The magic of those films was bringing to life the images I had conjured up in my head of what Middle Earth looked like. (I still like the look of the hobbit holes. I’m about the right height to live in one too!).

I love it when creative media feeds off AND benefits other creativity like this.

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So terribly sad to see the news about Notre Dame. I hope the damage is as limited as possible. Also that restoration can take place as soon as possible too.

On to other things…

The only time I specifically write to a theme is when entering competitions. I’ve usually got a character in mind when I’m thinking about a new flash fiction story and work out, from their main characteristics, what theme would best suit them. I can’t say whether this is the right or wrong way to do things but I do know it works for me.

My other use of themes is to trigger ideas for a new story and then I spend some time working out which kind of character would best suit it. If I can’t work out a suitable character I don’t write the story.

For me it is all about the characters, always.

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I suppose my first introduction to short stories must have been the Reader’s Digest Collections of Fairytales, which I still have.

I was never conscious of this when reading these books (over and over and over and over again etc!) though I do recall being stunned at how long The Little Mermaid was and that it really didn’t have a happy ending. That was an eye opener for me. I didn’t know stories could be like that!

I also loved The Snow Queen with Gerda being the “action lead”. That was an eye opener too. Here was a girl off having all kinds of adventures to rescue her neighbour from said Snow Queen (and the splinter of the evil mirror in his heart). Loved that on first reading.

Here is where you meet ideas for future characters of your own – by reading widely and discovering them in other stories, then wondering what YOU could do with a character like that. You then wonder what setting YOU would put them in and what adventures/problems YOU set them. YOU wonder how your characters would sound and act and react and all of this comes together, creating a story that is uniquely yours. Writing and reading are truly wonderful things.

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The Book Depository UK has FLTDBA listed as available within 2-3 business days. Amazon currently has it available as one month plus! I don’t know why this happens but it does pay to check out online retailers for availability, whether it is in books or anything else!

And I will put in another word about reviews. They really do help authors. Amazon sit up and take notice if you have 50 reviews. If you’re not sure what to write, one line saying what you liked (or loathed) about the book is sufficient. It is a great irony that even a review where someone didn’t like s book still helps the author of that book when it comes to the “numbers game”.

My own policy for reviews, whether it is for groceries or books, is to have a good look through what people have said. Usually there is a consensus and I can then go with that or not as I see fit but I find reviews a useful guide when I’m on the other side of the fence. So please do review! Thanks!

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I sometimes use alliteration in my flash fiction titles (Pen Portrait, Telling The Time etc) but I haven’t deliberately done this. In each case the title has been the right one for the story and the alliteration is a nice side effect!

I also think it is better to have things that way round rather than try to think of a clever title and try to make the story fit it. I can never see how that would work. Something would feel artificial about it.

I have to have a title to work to when writing a story (of any length) but I will change it if something better pops into my head as I’m working on the first draft. I use my titles to help me set the mood for a story. I sometimes use titles which can have a secondary meaning that the story makes clear.

The important thing is that the title suits the story.

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Once I’ve got a flash fiction collection written and edited, I spend some time working out what would be the best “running order” for the stories. This can take some time but it’s worth it.

From Light to Dark and Back Again lives up to its name (!) but the big plus with that was it helped me group stories beautifully!

The reason for all of this? I don’t just want my individual stories to make an impact on a reader. I want the book as a whole to do so too so taking a step back and planning what stories goes where helps enormously with that.

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What is the worst aspect of writing flash fiction?

For me, it’s coming up with a character with a strong enough voice. Once I’ve got that (after some outlining), I can set that character wherever I want and away they go!

It’s not enough for a character to be pushy or what have you. There has got be strong enough reason for them to be like that. Give them this and you will take the reader with you even though the reading journey for flash fiction is necessarily a short one!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Playing with Genre

With my flash fiction, I like to play with genre a lot. As flash fiction has to be character led due to the strict word count, I can have great fun putting that character wherever and whenever I want. I’ve written fantasy flash fiction, historical flash fiction, crime flash fiction etc as a result.

I’ve read excellent collections by other authors too. Some focus on one genre. The Great War by Dawn Kentish Knox is a great example of a themed historical flash fiction collection. Do check it out. The characterisation is very moving.

But it is not just in the flash and short story form that genre can be played with, far from it.

I love the crossover novel. It blends the best of the two (usually) genres it is mixing and gives something unique to the reader as a result. A good example to check out here is Jennifer C Wilson’s Kindred Spirits series which crosses ghost stories with historical fiction. Great mix!

I think readers are much more flexible over this than writers/publishers realise at times. I know what I like when I read it even if I can’t categorise it! And while categories ARE important, I don’t think they’re meant to be straitjackets either.

Have fun with your reading/writing and mix those genres!

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Writing Tips

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One of the problems I had in writing this week’s CFT post about Writing Tips was picking the those tips that have not only BEEN useful but mostly still ARE and then whittling those down to what I think are the most useful.

One of the great things about going to conferences etc is picking up all sorts of useful advice on the way. Some tips you’ll use immediately, others you will come back to later and I’ll often find, even in advice for say scriptwriting, there are often general pointers useful in other forms of writing. So I’ve learned then it pays to pay attention!

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Other than your PC or laptop, what is the most useful thing on your desk?

For me it is the humble notebook and pen (I count these as one item given they’re not that great without each other!).

I don’t always want to stop what I’m working on in Scrivener to open up a new folder to jot down the latest good idea I’ve had (well I hope it will be a good one!).

But a quick note with paper and pen and I can open up a new file and start researching when I’m ready to do so. I’ve long thought pen and paper really should come into the writing process somewhere, it seems right somehow, and that is despite my writing to screen most of the time.

These days odd notes here and there are generally what I use “old technology” for. And neither the notebook or pen need batteries, charging, discharging, or are at the mercies of power cuts etc etc…. Still I’m not sorry I no longer have to literally cut and paste or have to change typewriter ribbons or faff about with carbon paper…

My CFT post this week will be a a round up of writing tips I have found useful over the years (and still do). Hope it will prove useful. Link to go up on Friday.

One great thing about going to conferences like Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Winchester Writers’ Festival is you do get to pick up so many useful hints and tips, some of which are not always useful immediately, but you will come back to them later. And they come not just from the courses but when you get together with fellow writers over tea, coffee, dinner etc. So added reason to (a) go to good conferences and (b) get chatting with your fellow writers.

Like we needed an excuse or something…

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More six-word stories for you. They should conjure up images and you can see a definite start, middle, and end.

1. The lion ran straight at you.
2. The dentist will see you now.

(Own up, which one scares you the most out of those two? The one that is just about possible or the one where you know you WILLhear those words at some point?!).

3. The fairy godmother trashed her wand.
4. Prince Charming wed an ugly sister.

(Probably as a direct result of story line 3 here!).

5. What was this world, she mused.
6. It really is hell in here.

Hope you enjoy!

Not a new topic I know, but one that is always pertinent: can I put the word out about reviews being really appreciated by authors? The obvious places are Amazon and Goodreads but links to other places so authors can share good reviews on their websites etc are also welcome.

Doesn’t have to be a long review either. I liked or loathed Book X because….. is fine. The crucial point is the review has to be an honest one so if you dislike a book, say why. With my consumer hat on, I do read reviews when I do my online food shop or am buying books myself and I like to see a variety of reviews. I am always suspicious of anything getting ALL 5 or 1 star reviews. I do read the positive and negative reviews and then make my own mind up! But the author is still helped as review numbers make a big difference, especially with Amazon.

Oh and don’t forget reviews are just as welcome for ebooks as they are for paperbacks.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find mine from films, odd sayings I’ve overheard or had said directly to me (so do watch what you tell me incidentally!), proverbs, advertising slogans, the classic fairytales, timeless themes such as love and revenge (and sometimes love and revenge together!), etc etc. The key to being inspired is keeping your mind open to the fact that ideas can be found all around you. It is then up to you to develop that initial spark further.

My Learning the Trade is inspired by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and naturally my character blames the boss for basically not having an “undo” spell to hand! The Haunting is inspired by the Ladykillers (and if you ever get the chance to see the stage show of this, do. It’s fab in its own right though nothing will top the Ealing comedy with Alec Guinness).

Getting that initial idea is fabulous but what I really love is taking that and seeing what I can do with it. I like to have fun with my words and writing should be fun, most of the time anyway.

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale A to Z Part 6

On to the next section tonight then and I get to do one of the difficult letters – Q!

P = Princes/Princesses are often the heroes/heroines in fairytales of course but I love the heroines that prove themselves every bit as capable and intelligent as any hero (and are often better!  Think Fiona in the Shrek series basically!). I also like those stories where the characters here have to prove themselves worthy of their calling – i.e.  it doesn’t just all fall into their laps because they are royal.  A character who has to work for something, regardless of their background, is a character that will face conflict, dilemmas, enemies, and will make mistakes and basically give the reader lots of lovely action and drama to follow – and they will.

Q = Questions.  Not such a tricky letter to find an answer for here though as I write this I don’t know yet what I will be coming up with for X!  All characters should ask questions and make your readers question them.  The situations you put your characters in should test them (and make them query whether they are doing the right thing or not – internal conflicts like this add depth to your stories and make your characters seem more real.  We all have internal conflicts to deal with so why shouldn’t fictional characters do too?).  Your readers should be engrossed with what your characters do and their attitudes and perhaps question themselves as to whether they’d act that way or not.  A reader that is asking questions like that is one who is engaged with your characters and stories.  You want lots of those!

R = Reading.  It goes without saying we need to read widely to know what it is we like and what we would like to write as a result.  But what would your characters read and how can you use that to show something of their personality?  What are their world’s myths and legends?

This World and Others – World Building Tips

Whether you write flash fiction or novels (or both!), world building tips should prove useful.  With my flash fiction, when I write in the fantasy genre, I just give enough details to confirm it is a magical setting for my story.  With my novel, I’ve got room to share more but things to consider when creating your world for your characters should include:-

  1. How your characters eat and drink (and what!).  Is the society a hunter-gatherer one? Meat eaters or vegetarians?
  2. How sanitation is dealt with.  If your characters are eating and drinking, they will need to excrete!  Okay this may not be a crucial part of your story, but there should be a general sense of how characters keep clean, and how disease is avoided (or not) due to good sanitation measures (or in the case of not due to the lack of them!).
  3. How their society is organised.  Is it class based?
  4. What their society expects of them especially if it is class based.  What happens to anyone defying expectations?
  5. Is their world a developed or developing one?
  6. If magical, are there limits to what people can do with their powers?  How is anarchy or dictatorship prevented (assuming it is!)?

Food for thought there I hope.

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REVIEWS, FAIRYTALE RELATIONSHIPS, AND STORY IDEAS

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My CFT post tonight is the penultimate one in my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series. I have had no trouble whatsoever in coming up with 101 things! This probably says a lot about me but never mind…

As well as the horror of ripped jeans, I consign “easy to open packets” and the ability to lose scissors into the vault of doom. The latter of course is a real pain when wanting something to cut open the supposedly easy to open packets…

Part 6 - How many of the packets in a supermarket are that easy to open

How many easy to open packets are here, I wonder, and how many REALLY are easy to open? Image via Pixabay.

Part 6 - We'll be with you between 9 am and 6 pm with your parcel, argh

“We’ll be with you between 9 am and 6 pm”. Hmm… not exactly helpful is it? Image via Pixabay.

Part 6 - A ban on trumpet playing wasn't my first thought on bad manners but here things are different

A ban on trumpet playing? Image via Pixabay

Part 6 - End of the world predicted

I can predict there will be more end of the world predictions! Image via Pixabay

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What are the signs of a really good story for you? My top five would be:-

1. Not wanting the story to end.
2. Wondering how the characters would have carried on with their lives after the story ended.
3. Re-reading the story several times. (In flash especially a second or third reading will often reveal meanings and inferences you didn’t pick up the first time. You then really get to appreciate the depth of the story in such a tight word count).
4. Wishing you had written it!
5. The ending is so apt for the story, you can’t imagine it ending in any other way.

Comments welcome!

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Where do story ideas come from? Mine come from a wide range of sources including proverbs and other sayings, books or films that I’ve loved, to objects on my desk that have particular meaning for me.

I’ve learned, over time, to be “open” to ideas and not instantly dismiss them as being “too silly” or what have you. I will explore the idea to see if I can do anything with it and nine times out of ten I can.

I’ve only abandoned an idea once or twice in all my years of writing and I know now that was due to my not having outlined enough. By outlining (and spider diagrams can be useful here), you can work out whether an idea has “legs” or not or whether it needs something else to bring it to life.

 

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It’s funny how often in writing we remember the bad reviews but not the good ones etc. However, there is a flip side to this. I remember my first acceptance (hello, Bridge House Publishing, for my A Helping Hand in their Alternative Renditions anthology). That will always be a special writing moment.

I can’t recall my first rejection though. Nor do I wish to! I do wish I could recall my LAST rejection but that would mean stopping writing and I’m one of those people where the pen would have to be wrested away from me. And that is the way it should be!

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Does mood affect what you write? The jury is out on this one as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve written funny stories when feeling sad (it was therapeutic doing that). I’ve written dark stories when feeling cheerful. (Not entirely sure what to make of that one).

What matters most, I think, is you have to decide what is going to be the mood of your story and then write accordingly. Deciding on the mood will then lead you to think about why you’ve chosen that and what character or type of character would be best for your tale. Sometimes I think putting a story together is exactly like putting a jigsaw together. The pieces are interconnected but you need a starting point and using mood of story can be a useful way to “kick off”.

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What influences your writing? Books and stories you’ve admired by other authors? A cracking film that kept you on the edge of your seat for over two hours? A special symphony?

I expect that your influences come from all over the place. What is lovely is when a couple of them combine and you can create a new story from that combination. For example, your lead character loves gothic novels and classic railway engines. How could you use that in a story? (Could be fun finding out. Indeed, SHOULD be fun finding out!).

What is great here is that by reading/watching films/listening to music etc, you can ensure you never get stuck for an idea again. The “trick” is to read widely/watch films across many genres/listen to several types of music etc. Think of it as casting your net really widely!

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It is only when you are putting a collection together, you realise sometimes just (a) how much you have written and (b) that more work is going to be needed to get that volume right.

Where themes emerge, you will want to group them together (so you’ll need to get your contents page right for one thing and that will keep changing as you move things around).

The importance of VERY accurate proof reading will dawn on you in a way it may not have done before! (You want “your baby” to be perfect, yes?). Also, you will soon realise you cannot rush the proof reading stage to be sure of accuracy.

But enjoy the process. This is a very special part of the writing life – you are that bit nearer to publication.

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Busy preparing a couple of flash fiction pieces for a competition. Been a while since I submitted competition entries (not deliberately, you know how it is. You become engrossed with other writing work etc). Want to do better on this front so am starting to make diary notes to remind me to do it.

Really pleased that my last competition entry, for the Waterloo Festival anthology, did well and will be included in that ebook when it comes out. Naturally I shall post about it nearer the time!

I’ve been making greater use of my writing diary since earlier this year for sending in work to Cafelit and that has worked well. Why is it that almost making an appointment with yourself to do something like this can and does make all the difference to whether you actually do it or not?

I suppose it is because seeing it in the diary makes me block out time to actually get the job done. I need to block out more time!

Fairytales with Bite – Relationships in the Fairytale World

I write this post on the eve of the Royal Wedding in the UK between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  So there will be a lot of talk about “fairytales” as in “fairytale weddings” tomorrow.  And yes, the happy ever after fairytale ending is a classic one.  But if you take a deeper look into fairytales as a whole, you will find that most relationships in a fairytale world are fraught ones!

1.  Cinderella.  Didn’t exactly have the happiest relationships with her stepmother and stepsisters.

2.  Snow White.  Having a stepmother actively trying to kill you puts Cinderella’s woes in the shade!

3.  Hansel and Gretel.  Could sympathise with Snow White.  Would feel, at best, disappointed their father ever agreed to the stepmother’s scheming at all, even if it was reluctantly.

4.  The Emperor in the Emperor’s New Clothes.  Couldn’t rely on his courtiers to be honest with him.  Quite sad really.  Makes me wonder if his vanity was an insecurity issue. How did he react, later, after his foolishness was soundly mocked?  He really needed someone to tell him he was being an idiot (and be honest enough to admit he needed that, as I think we all do).

So jealousy, hatred, and insecurity are huge themes here.  Hmm… fairytale relationships?  Perhaps not quite so happy ever after then!

This World and Others – Advice to My Much Younger Self

I wrote a Chandler’s Ford Today piece on this a while ago where I discussed what I’d tell my 20-year-old self.  I thoYouught I’d revisit the theme and list some things I would tell myself when I was starting out as a writer that I know now but didn’t then.

1.  Expect rejection but don’t be fazed by it.  Use it to improve what you do.

2.  Submit to honest competitions as often as you can.  It is all useful experience in submitting work for outside criticism and in meeting deadlines.  If you do well and win or are shortlisted, you can add that to your writing CV.  And always check out the background of the competition so you know you are submitting work to a reputable one.  It’s not you, there ARE charlatans out there.

3.  Be open to trying different forms of writing.  Had I done this when younger, I would’ve discovered the joys of flash fiction that much sooner!

4.  You can never have too much A4 printer paper or toner cartridges or pens.  Stock up.  Take advantage of special offers when possible.

5.  Submit work to honourable online sites as well as for print anthologies etc.  Your body of work will soon build up doing this and you cover both audiences – those who only read online, those who read “proper” books and most people go for both anyway.

6.  Don’t underestimate how long it will take you to be published.  It always does take far longer than you dream of!

7.  Before entering any contract, get it checked by the Society of Authors (UK) or other reputable equivalent body.  You can save yourself a lot of heartache and money doing this.

8.  Expect to be addicted to (a) notebooks, (b) nice pens, (c) going to good writing conferences, and (d) tea/coffee etc to keep you going as you write.  Save up accordingly!  Start now…

9.  Read as much as you can, contemporary and classic, fiction and non-fiction.  You may think you’re already doing this but writing has made me read much more than I ever did before, sometimes for review purposes, sometimes not.  You need to know what’s out there now.  It can help you find your own niche for one thing.  You can then play to your strengths here which will give you a greater chance of success when approaching publishers.

10.  Remember practically everybody struggles to find an agent, it isn’t just you.  Rejection is never personal either.  It can be easy to forget these things.  Keep going.  There is a lot of truth in the saying the professional writer is the amateur who didn’t give up.

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HOW TO HELP THE WRITER IN YOUR LIFE – AND A NEW FLASH STORY

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Glad to say my latest flash fiction piece, Getting Lost, is now up on Cafelit. Hope you enjoy.  If you’ve ever had a sat nav give you “strange” directions, this is a story for you!

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If you want to help the writer in your life, please do review their books on Amazon, Goodreads etc. The lovely thing with this is that the review doesn’t have to be a long one – the crucial thing is it has to be honest! The numbers of reviews build up over time and really do help an author’s profile.

One great thing a writer can do is review other books and across a wide range of writing tastes. I must admit I tend to have a “glut” of reviewing and then write none for a while. Not deliberate on my part. I just need to be a bit better organised on that front! The reason why this is so useful is by bringing a book into the publishing world you are joining the industry and it makes so much sense to support that industry by buying other books and reviewing them!

Present buying for writers? Well, you can never go wrong with nice notebooks and pens or book tokens/gift cards. Getting that one in a tad early for Christmas I know, but hey writers have birthdays too!

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There will be a new flash fiction piece from me up on Cafelit tomorrow (sometime during the early evening onwards) called Getting Lost. Must try and enter more flash fiction competitions this year too.

I tend to draft promising first lines and then draft stories to fit them (often when on train journeys). It definitely beats doing the crossword by a very long margin! Often that promising first line sparks ideas for the title of the piece too.

How do I decide whether a story will be a drabble at 100 words or a longer one? Basically when I know I cannot edit the piece any more without it losing something that contributes to the characters or the overall story. I then leave the piece be and whatever the word count is remains the word count! Often this will be at 100 words or under but sometimes a piece really does work better as a 250-300 worder. This is where reading a piece out loud can show you how well the whole thing “flows” and if it “flows” well, that is when it is time to drop the editing pen.

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One of the great joys of reading flash fiction is picking up on the clues the writer gives you. I normally have to read a story twice to pick up everything (I was like this when watching things like Columbo too – this DOES say something about me!).

You can learn a lot about story construction when reading a piece through more than once. This, of course, is one great joy about writing flash fiction. You pick up things like story construction to help inspire and improve your own work and are looking for things a reader simply wouldn’t.

One difficulty with flash can be working out where to end it. It must not seem like a big bit of prose cut abruptly short. This is where I love the twist ending as it overcomes that. The twist clearly is the ending with no room for anything else afterwards. Problem solved!

 

 

REVIEWS – BY WRITER AND CHARACTERS!

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My latest CFT post takes a look back at my writing year and I also share some recently published stories of mine on Cafelit. All have a Christmas theme. I hope you enjoy them and that you have a lovely Christmas.

I must admit I think the picture I found on Pixabay to use as my feature image for this week’s post is probably the loveliest I’ve used ever. I just love the colours in this one.

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A little Christmas scene…

In the middle of the Christmas rush
There was an old man carving a brush
He was clearly an expert in wood
He could make any timber look good
Right by the old High Street church he was
He so wanted to be there because
The God he loved was a carpenter
A worker should be at the centre
Of the scene, as the shepherds had been
There long before the wise men were seen.
The man liked a God who worked with His hands
In the tableau He was in swaddling bands.

Allison Symes – 22nd December 2017

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. (Oh and I’ve nothing against the wise men incidentally. They would have been highly educated men. It is interesting to see the wide variety of people who were at that first Christmas).

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Fairytales With Bite – Looking Back

Looking back/reviews is my theme for tonight as I cover this in my This World and Others post where I talk about the usefulness of reviews and for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week where I look back at my writing year.  (I also share some recently published stories of mine from Cafelit, all on a Christmas theme.  Hope you like them).

Do your characters look back at their lives at all?  (You should as their creator!  Have they developed?  If so, positively or negatively?  How does this impact on the story?).  If the characters do look back at their own lives, why are they doing it?  Are they trying to learn from past mistakes and do they actually do so?  How does that “look back” change their behaviour (for better or worse) and how does that change the direction in which they go?

Sometimes Character B can look back at Character A’s life and this can be because:-

1.  They don’t like the changes in A’s life now (and they may be right to take that view!).  By drawing A’s attention to this, B is hoping to get A back to where they used to be.

2.  Character B is comparing themselves with A, especially if A has gone on to be really successful.  (We all do this for real so why shouldn’t our characters do so?!  What is interesting here is how does B respond?  Are they jealous?  Do they seek to improve themselves or try to “do A down”?).

3.  Character B is delighted Character A has changed (and again they may well be right.  Equally they may be pleased because A has worsened and it makes B look better!  B does not have to have noble motives here!).

All three of these points could generate some fascinating stories.  Happy writing – and I hope you receive plenty of books, in whichever format, over Christmas.  Stories are wonderful and Christmas is a great time to celebrate them.  As a Christian, I celebrate what, for me, is the greatest story – that of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, but whether you share my beliefs or not, I hope you have a lovely Christmas season and New Year.

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This World and Others – Reviews

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post reviews my writing year and, while on topic, I thought I’d look at how useful reviews can be whatever you write.

Obviously anyone with a book out there, including me, appreciates reviews on various websites as they do help.  An honest one or two line review is enormously helpful so do please put them up.  (And yes, do say what you dislike about a book as well as what you like about it.  Honesty is vital.  Amazon have, understandably, clamped down on reviews they think were written by the writer’s granny or by rival writers who are wielding a hatchet!).

I always carry out an end of year review and tick off the things achieved, carry certain things over (I will always want to have flash fiction work and short stories out there so this is ongoing) and perhaps look at why other things I hoped to achieve didn’t happen.  I then look at whether I can do better on these ideas in the coming year or whether it was the ideas themselves that weren’t strong enough etc.

There will always be things I’m disappointed I didn’t achieve, that’s life, but that’s no reason to NOT have another go in the year to come!

Reviews and Favourite Stories

Facebook – General – Reviewing

One of the problems with any kind of review is that you can’t take the personal taste of the reviewer out of it! Now that, of course, can make for some great reviews when the reviewer (a) acknowledges that and (b) gives a fair assessment whether or not they love whatever it is they are reviewing.

My policy here is to never review anything unless there is a good chance I am going to like at least something about the production or the book in question. I’ve never seen the point of “hatchet jobs” in reviews when it is clearly the reviewer’s personal taste clashing with whatever it is they’ve gone to see or have read.

As a writer myself, I have every sympathy for the hours and hours of work put in by the writers, actors etc only for them to receive said hatchet job. Why bother doing that? Simply say why the production or book didn’t work for you and leave it at that. That way at least the reviewer is merely being honest and readers can decide whether or not they are likely to agree and so either go and see the play/read the book or not, as the case may be.

Image Credit:  General images are from Pixabay, images of books I’ve appeared in or have written are obviously by  me.

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Facebook – General – Favourite Stories

Do you have a favourite story?

I think the nearest I come to this is the Cinderella one as, not only is it a great fairytale, my take on it was my first story in print (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions). I tell the story from the youngest ugly sister’s viewpoint. The anthology comprises fairytales told from the viewpoint of minor characters in those tales and is good fun.

So the story has special meaning for me on those grounds and because I love the idea of injustice being put right (even if it does take a fairy godmother, some rats, and a pumpkin!).

What I read is dependent on my mood. I tend to read a lot in a genre for a while, then go on to another one, read a lot in that and so on. Of course, what matters most of all is to read widely and frequently. I see it as “topping up” my love of stories and books and that is necessary to help me write my own.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m preparing a talk on flash fiction, which I hope to use at an event later this month (and adapt for future events too!). More details on the event concerned when I have them but my talk looks at what flash fiction is and the benefits to readers and writers alike.

When preparing something like this, I focus on what would most likely be of interest to the potential audience. In most book and literary events, there is likely to be a mixture of readers and fellow writers. The nice thing is all writers should be able to wear the “reader’s hat” as well as obviously wearing the writer’s one and so pitching the talk, and working out what both are likely to be interested in, is easier to do.

Both reader and writer are interested in the process of producing a story, albeit from different angles. Both are interested in the inspiration behind the stories, though the writer wants to know how to take that inspiration and use it to produce something unique to themselves. Both reader and writer are looking for connections.

In the case of a reader, you are pointing them in the direction of reading your story if they haven’t done so already. If they have, you, as the writer, are generally looking for feedback. What worked well? What was less good/effective? In the case of another writer, they are looking for tips to help them improve their own writing and learn from you what lessons YOU learned the hard way so they don’t have to! Be fair though. You will do this yourself every time you go to another author’s talk!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again Part 2

The art to a great flash story
Be it sad, funny or gory
Is having no word out of place.
It also grips you and its pace
Is apt for the allegory.
(Allison Symes 2017)

Okay, the Poet Laureate’s job is definitely not threatened by me, but the above does sum up flash fiction reasonably well.

I’ve used nursery rhymes (Hickory Dickory Dock) as a basis for my tales (Telling the Time), as well as fairytales told from the viewpoint of other characters.

I’m looking for what impact my flash fiction will have on a reader and I like my characters to justify their stance. It doesn’t mean that they’re right but you should be able to see into their mind and understand why they act the way they do and/or live the way that they are. It is a question of looking out from where they are, as opposed to where I am. I write more effectively for the characters if I can do that.

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REVIEWS – AND WORLD BUILDING PROBLEMS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I discuss world building problems that need to be overcome.  These include working out what your system of government is, how well educated (or not) your people are, and what limitations on magic there are.  There will need to be some magical limitations as if all problems can be solved with the aid of a wand, there is no conflict and, so, no story.   You will also need to work out how people exist in your world

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Odd thing happened tonight.  I had written a post on reviews but it vanished.  I have since rewritten the post.  I discuss the importance of reviews as it links into my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and ask whether there is any such things as reviews on your fictional world.  This kind of thing would give a good indicator to the reader that your world is generally a literate one.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY/FACEBOOK GENERAL

I talk about the importance of book reviews in tonight’s post.  (I like to spread the word!).  I share some wonderfully acerbic comments from Mark Twain (who knew a thing or do about honest writing!).  I also share why reviews, if they are going to be meaningful, must be clear and truthful at all times.

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FACEBOOK PAGE – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I share news of my CFT post which is about the importance of reviews.  To mean anything though, the reviews have to be honest but they don’t have to be lengthy.  If you want to help the writer in your life, reviewing their book is a good way to go!

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Glorious books to read and review - image via Pixabay