Keeping Busy, Desk Tidying, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Desk Tidying:  The fact I’ve put this as part of the title for this post should indicate how often I do tidy my desk! (Halley’s Comet comes around more often… – well, okay, maybe not, but I give it a run for its money!).

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

Facebook – General

Has tipped it down here in soggy Hampshire for a lot of the day. Not that Lady minds. She gets wet. Her owners dry her off. Why should she worry? (Is currently curled up on the sofa, dozing).

Many thanks for the great comments and response to part 1 of my new CFT series, The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. I look forward to sharing the other two posts in due course. I’ve also got some super interviews coming up too in August so much to look forward to there.

My main work this week has been the old blogging and that’s fine. I get weeks like that. So I simply redress the balance and I hope next week to focus more on the flash fiction.

Am also feeling a bit chuffed. Better half has added some wonderful protective material to my writing desk and it looks really good. Plus side of that: it forced me to tidy up said desk!

I am not one of life’s workers who always has a neat desk! I know where everything is and why it is there though but I can be accused of having a clutter habit!. Surprise, surprise NOT, I am surrounded by books, pens, and notebooks! But I can see the surface of my desk tonight so feel as if I am on a roll!😆😆

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Busy day working on editing but a productive one. Am making good progress on the remaining parts of my new CFT series. Then I will have some fab interviews to share. So all go but in a very good way.

One thing I’d like to try and do more of is schedule Facebook and Twitter posts. I’ve tended to save doing this for when I know I’m going to be away but it is a useful tool and I think I can make better use of it.

I sometimes write tweets for the Association of Christian Writers (hence learning to schedule said things) and I know I can use that scheduling ability for other things. It’s a question of sitting down and actually doing so though. Isn’t that so often the way of it?!

But one thing has happened throughout my writing journey to date and I know it will continue to happen. That is, I pick up useful things to apply to my writing such as scheduling more, get on and use them, and then wonder how I ever did without them!😊

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another soggy day in Hampshire, not that Lady minded. She needed all of two seconds to “unarrange” the sofa on coming in in from her late walk before deciding it was time to stop and get on with the important business of the evening – having a doze. Item 1 on the Agenda duly ticked…

I have now submitted for consideration some of the pieces I wrote as part of the Zoom writing workshop I attended over the last week or so. If accepted, they will be showcased so am keeping fingers crossed about that.

It is a fact I’ve got used to that I get good ideas for stories, CFT posts etc., when I’m busily doing something else. So I just pause, jot those ideas down, and then resume what I was doing.

I’ve never followed the advice to keep a notebook by the bed to write down any interesting dreams etc because once I am asleep, that’s it. It really does take the trumpet of doom or our alarm clock to wake me up.

I don’t dream much at all and, on the rare occasions I do, everything is disjointed. Trust me, if I wrote any of that down, you would wonder what I’d been drinking the night before! I’d wonder too!😆😆

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Belated Publication News – Cafelit – Strangers In the Night

The last few days have been particularly busy but I must admit it’s now confession time: I forgot to share my latest story on Cafelit, Strangers In the Night, which went up a few days ago. Oops! Still the great thing with online magazines is they generally don’t have a read by date!

And if you want to know what happened when Robbie the vampire met a monster who believes good manners are SO important, do check out my Strangers In The Night story.

Hope you enjoy. It was great fun to write!😊

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Could a flash fiction story be told in haiku and still have a proper beginning, middle and end? Let’s have a go!

1. The fish thief ran off
But in hot pursuit was the
Dog after the cat.

2. The happy ever
After could wait, she believed.
Breaking glass slippers.

Allison Symes – 25th July 2020

 

Hope you enjoy!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The benefits of writing to a set word count don’t just apply to flash fiction. I’ve found that writing “tight” has paid off with my blogging and longer short story writing. Writing flash has developed my “AWW” detector no end!

AWW Detector? What’s that?

Simple: Allison’s Wasted Words Detector.

We all have wasted words. Mine are very, actually, and that. Sometimes I can justify the that. Less often I can justify the actually. (A character will sometimes actually speak like that!). I’ve never been able to justify the use of very.

But you do get better at knowing what can come out immediately on the first edit. I’ve found getting this done helps me get back into the stories quicker, spot other things to be tightened up, and away I go.

So it does pay to know what your wasted words or pet phrases are. You can ensure then if there is a case for using them, you know what it is and you’re not just putting them in because you always write those things.

I’ve not yet found a way of stopping myself writing these things in the first draft so have given up trying. I accept I’m going to do it. I know those words won’t make it further than the first draft so that’s okay (and I can justify that that!!).

Oh and several cases of that bit the dust before I hit send on this post!😆😆

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Monday. Hmm… Busy. Expect yours was too. Do you find writing more difficult on days like these?

I always find writing a pleasure and a way to relax, funnily enough, though Monday is the one day when my word count is significantly less than the rest of the week. I’ve learned over time not to worry about it. Just write what I can, enjoy doing it, and edit it later! All that needs to be cut WILL come out in the edit!

The thought of writing though at the end of a busy day spurs me on to get to the end of that business though so writing helps me that way too.

And Monday is often the day when I will focus on draft blog posts and flash fiction pieces for use later on. So Monday has its uses then!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The one thing you can guarantee about any New Year is not all of the 12 months will go as smoothly as we would like - Pixabay

I was a bit cross with myself for forgetting to share my latest Cafelit story, Strangers In the Night, earlier than this, but these things happen!

If you’re wondering about the drink assigned to the story, Cafelit ask for writers to come up with something they think they will suit their tale. Given I’ve got a vampire in this one (called Robbie), I thought Bloody Mary was an appropriate drink to use for this. Hope you enjoy.

http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/strangers-on-nigh…

Goodreads Author Blog – Intriguing Titles

What kind of book titles grab your attention? For me, they’ve got to intrigue.

For example, Josephine Tey’s marvellous historical detective novel The Daughter of Time grabbed my attention because it made me wonder how that could apply to a story. I found out of course!

As for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, I had to find out who was the proud one and who was guilty of prejudice. I found that out too!

I like open titles too which can set a mood in any direction. A good example of that is The Lord of the Rings. Yes, really. Why? Because I had to find out who the lord was and whether they were good, evil, or something in between. The title itself does not reveal that. You also have to find out why the rings matter so another good hook there.

When I’m writing my own stories, I have to have a title as a “peg” to work to but I often find I come up with better thoughts after I’ve got that first draft down.

That’s fine. I simply change the title to the better one but do find I have something to help me get started.

Titles matter. They are a great advert for a book. I would argue they’re the first great advert for a book. If the title doesn’t grab me, I’m not going to even look at the blurb. Again lessons for all writers including me there.

Whatever you’re reading, enjoy. And I hope it has a super title!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work In Progress/Flash Fiction Ideas

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

Facebook – General

A week today and I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School again. Can’t wait! Always good to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and learn so much from the different courses and workshops. The usual dilemma of which ones to go to applies… but I know I’m in good company with that!

Many thanks to all who’ve read Stolen on Cafelit.

Hope to get another story off for a competition this coming week. Am making a conscious effort to increase my throughput (so to speak) and am pleased I’ve done better this year on this than I did at the same time twelve months ago.

As for where I don’t hear what the results are or where I receive outright rejections, I will review those stories later in the year and see if I can submit them elsewhere. Usually, I can. Sometimes I can spot something, after a break away from it, that could do with strengthening so I work on the story and then re-submit it. Very little is wasted!

Update:  Am pleased to say I will have another story up on Cafelit on 12th August. More nearer the time.

And the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay

I can’t remember what the first story I wrote was. It was not published but to begin with I didn’t write with publication in mind. My first thoughts were to see if (a) I could write a story at all and then (b) can I repeat the process?

I kept doing that for a while until I had a reasonable number and then started submitting work (on the grounds I had absolutely nothing to lose so may as well give it my best shot. If I was published I’d be thrilled to bits. I was – and I was! I still love that thrill of knowing something of mine has been accepted for publication. That’s the nice thing. That thrill does not diminish!).

I will always remember the first story that was published though! (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I suspect time will stand still long before I forget that!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pleased Just a Minute is back on Radio 4. That and Clue are the main comedy shows I listen to now. JAM is a wonderful way of discovering just how hard it is NOT to repeat, deviate, or hesitate when talking on a topic. Know I couldn’t do it.

Repetition in writing is something I have mixed feelings on. I sometimes repeat a word or phrase deliberately for emphasis. Sometimes I get a character to use a particular word so whenever it comes up, you know it’s that character who is speaking. (I avoid tags as much as possible but generally stick to he said/she said/it said when I do need to use them).

When I edit, I’m looking out for the repetitions I didn’t mean to do and there are always some! (This is another reason for reading work out loud by the way. I’ve found I’ve missed things even looking at a printout. Reading the work out literally brings home your repetitions and other failings as you hear yourself speak and realise you’ve used a phrase several times when you didn’t need to or mean to).

Delighted to say I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week too. More details a bit nearer the time. Looking forward to sharing the link while I’m at Swanwick too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I don’t schedule posts as often as could but I will be preparing a two-part CFT article on Making Space, which I’ll schedule for this Friday and the one after. (I will be very tired but happy after a wonderful week at Swanwick for the second part of my post, which will focus on making space as a writer. More details on the first part tomorrow).

I usually schedule posts for when I’m due to be away but, increasingly thanks to Evernote and a smartphone, I’m drafting posts and then putting up later the same day. I often use train journeys for this as well as my flash fiction. It means I get a nice mixture of writing done.

I need to try to write up posts in batches more often and schedule them, as I’m sure that will prove to be more efficient. The nice thing is as well is if something topical comes up, you just change your schedule for whatever you WERE going to post. You can always use that another time. The only thing to watch is to ensure any batch posts are all timeless and could go up at any time.

Pleased to say I submitted another story yesterday for a competition. Have submitted more work at this time this year than twelve months ago so pleased with that. Need to catch up on the writing prompts in my diary too as I know those will trigger more stories.

As you can no doubt tell, I don’t have time to get bored! But that is a very good thing indeed…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Favourite things about flash fiction for me:-

1. Can read a story in one sitting. (Invaluable when I’m short of time).

2. Great for twist endings (which I adore).

3. One-liners and punchlines work well here too and again I adore those.

4. You can set your character in any genre you want. It is only the word count you’re watching. I’ve found as a result the story has to be character led as that is more direct. There is no room for descriptions or interaction with many other characters after all.

5. I love writing dialogue. Not a lot of room for that in flash but what I can do is show you some of my character’s thoughts and I love writing those too. The great thing with that is you will pick up on the character’s general attitude to life. In dialogue they may disguise that especially if they want to impress someone.

Sometimes a flash story tips over and becomes a longer 1500+ tale and that’s fine. It just gets submitted to a different market/competition.

I’ve learned over time to let my character(s) have their voice. The trick is ensuring that what emerges IS relevant to the story (or deepens it and makes it more meaningful).

Writers need to come with an in-built “you’re waffling and you know you are, cut NOW” detector!

The critical test for me is to ask myself does a reader really need to know this? Will their enjoyment of the story be greater if this is in the piece? If it’s Yes and Yes, the material stays in. If there’s any doubt on either, out it comes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Loving listening to the Pink Panther theme on Classic FM tonight. (You’ll be humming it all night now. I know I will but it is wonderful music! Loved the films AND the cartoons. I don’t know how many other films spawned cartoons either).

So you have distinctive and memorable pieces of music then across the genres. The challenge for writers is to make OUR writing distinctive and memorable.

For me, the only way to do that is to have stand-out characters. It’s never about the plot for me. It’s always about whether the character engages me regardless of whether the story is a 50 word dribble, a 100 word drabble, or a 250,000 word epic saga!

I find working out what my main character’s chief trait is going to be a useful way to unlocking what makes them tick, WHY that trait is their chief one and so on.

For my flash stories (and especially the first person ones), I have to know what my character’s voice is before I start writing them. Are they whiny? Boastful? Remorseful etc etc? Only when I think I’ve got a handle on who they really are do I start writing the story. Outlining like this has saved me a lot of time later.

Where I’ve found ideas for flash fiction stories includes:-

1. Proverbs (to use both as titles and themes).

2. Advertising phrases

3. Taking a period of history I like and writing from the viewpoint of one of my favourite characters from that period.

4. Other well known phrases (e.g. my Circle of Life, Pressing the Flesh, and Coming Up Roses).

5. Turning stereotypes on their head (e.g. my George Changes His Mind. Let’s just say I have an alternative view as to what happened when George met that dragon).

6. Using an alliterative title and seeing where it takes me (e.g. my Pen Portrait). The more open to interpretation the title, the better.

7. Taking a book I like (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) and writing a snapshot story from the viewpoint of one of the characters (e.g. my Changing My Mind is from the viewpoint of Mr Darcy).

8. Picking a fiction genre and seeing if I can write a flash fiction story in it. (I’ve written what I call light horror such as my Calling the Doctor in this vein).

9. Posing a question as the title and again seeing where it might take me.

10. Using a letter format from one character to another to generate a story.

What I like most is mixing up the methods used. It keeps me on my toes and I think makes the writing more interesting. It is really important to have fun with what you write, I think.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Can’t Finish

I’m glad to say there aren’t many books I haven’t been able to finish but I guess this is one of those things that happens to most of us.

I always think it’s a bit of a shame when this does occur and I ask myself just why I couldn’t finish the book. The answer is nearly always that the characters didn’t grip me enough to make me want to find out what happened to them.

These days, given life is short and I have to TBR pile to be seen to be believed (and on my Kindle too!), anything that doesn’t hook me quickly is discarded.

It’s a good challenge to me as a writer to ensure I do put plenty of hooks into my flash fiction and short stories.

It also makes you appreciate those wonderful writers who can keep doing this book after book after book over many, many years. When I think P.G. Wodehouse wrote over 90 books and was consistently funny, well for me that’s genius and should be recognised as such.

Now back to my reading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Swanwick, Scheduling and the Book Cover Challenge

Facebook – General

Am busily preparing CFT posts for the next couple of weeks. I’d like to get both of the following Fridays done because I know when I come back from Swanwick, I will be happy but shattered so doubt if I’ll be writing too much later that evening! So easier to write and schedule such posts now.

I need to get back to blocking out time for specific things I’d like to do (which is where Swanwick will be particularly helpful to me this year).

Once the CFT posts are done (which I hope to have up and scheduled by Wednesday). I can focus on some fiction. The great thing with flash is I can happily spend an evening writing that and have several stories by the end of it to work on further. Okay, they WILL need working on further but the joy of the first draft is worrying about editing much later on!

I love taking my Kindle away with me as it (a) saves a lot of packing and (b) saves a lot of heartache working out which books to take and which to leave behind. Also for some reason my case is always a lot lighter than it used to be! Biggest issue for me though is to remember to pack the charger!

Talking of recharging the old batteries, my CFT post this week takes a look at that and I will be sharing a few things I find really helpful for unwinding (and I don’t even mention wine, chocolate etc., so you have still those as options too!). Link up on Friday.

I’ve been enjoying taking part in a book cover challenge this week. Has made me really think about the novels I couldn’t be without. What are the ones that have influenced you in some way?

So far I’ve included The Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, The Daughter of Time, Raising Steam, and Murder on the Orient Express. A nice mixed bag there! And all great in very different ways.

Am doing my packing for Swanwick tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if other writing friends have done theirs already but the Thursday before is soon enough for me and my books and notebooks go in first! (Did put my rail tickets in my railcard holder today – I suppose that counts!).

The case is packed ready for Swanwick. Just the usual odds and sods to add at the last minute. (Disaster for me will be forgetting my phone charger!). And yes I did pack my books, notepads, pens etc first. Got to have your priorities right!

Okay, I’m not sure where I’ll put books I buy from the Book Room but I’ll worry about that later in the week (and I refuse to believe I’m the only Swanwicker taking that view!). Happy, and safe, travelling to all who are going. May you get through the engineering works at Derby without your blood pressure soaring too high!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I do love writing some one line complete stories from time to time and it makes for a good exercise to get you into your writing session. For example:-

1. The day the clocks stopped the watchmakers were fired.

2. The dragon surveyed the empty street, which had been teeming with life a moment ago.

3. Try as he might, Arthur could not get that wretched sword out of the stone. (N.B. This also counts as a complete story wrecker!).

4. Turn left and he’d face obliteration, turn right he’d have to face the New Year sales – he went left.

5. The gull enjoyed the look of astonishment on the day tripper’s face, almost as much as the bird loved the stolen battered cod.

6. Dessert was sorted – the gull went back and pinched the same tourist’s mint choc chip icecream.

Allison Symes – 6th August 2018

Give this exercise a go! It’s fun and there’s nothing to stop you developing your ideas further. As for me, that’s some ideas drafted for my third flash fiction book!

My favourite forms of flash fiction are the ones I write in the first person. There is an immediacy about those I think and I love being able to get straight into the character’s head.

It is also great letting them “tell you” the story. There is no pretence at being unbiased or anything like that. The character will give you their thoughts with both barrels, so to speak.

Of course, when everything goes horribly wrong with said character, the reader should be able to see the seeds of that happening early on in the story. And often it is the character’s attitude that plays a major part in this. Great fun to bring about!

Looking forward to my train journey on Saturday to Swanwick despite the engineering works at Derby. Why? Aside from loving train travel (usually!), I hope to write quite a bit via Evernote and my phone for my flash fiction and non-fiction posts. Three hours? Can get a fair bit done in that time, thank you.

I’ve been on the train a fair bit this year so that almost certainly helps for my being further on with my third flash fiction collection than I thought I’d be! And I am getting better at using “dead” time more efficiently. The stories soon mount up (and if you’re a crime writer, the bodies do too! 😁).

The ABC etc of Flash Fiction… (will continue this over the next few posts though there may be some gaps in posting due to my being at Swanwick and probably having far too good a time to be posting!).

A = Atmosphere. The story may be short but its atmosphere must come through clearly. You literally have a few words to set the mood and then follow through. On the plus side, if you like writing “from inside the head of the character”, as I do, this really isn’t a problem.

B = Brutality. There is editing and there is editing. You really do have to murder your darlings with flash fiction. Only what is crucial to the story remains. And it can be hard sometimes to cut a really good line but if it really isn’t vital to the tale, it should go out. Save it though. Might be able to use it elsewhere.

C = Characters. Couldn’t really pick anything else for C. Flash fiction has to be all about the characters. They show you their world and their attitudes in a few words and, ta da, from that the story comes. Character attitudes lead to conflicts which in turn lead to stories.

More next time…

Goodreads Author Blog – Getting Away From It All

I shall be getting away from it all shortly at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once again but will be immersed in a world of stories and books (reading and writing them!). Bliss!

So what books go with you when you get away from it all?

I pack my Kindle and what I read depends on my mood, naturally, though I am currently enjoying Lucy Worsley’s A Very British Murder and hope to finish that by the end of the week. The book is great. It is usually a question of how long can I keep my eyes open at the end of the day! That is the trouble with bedtime reading…

There’s a couple of other crime novels I want to read as well while I’m away. And after that I may well turn back to humour again. I do find I like to read a few stories or books in a genre, then switch to another one and read a few in that for a bit. Still, it all mixes up the reading and then there is always the delight of the wondrous world of non-fiction too!

So whatever your holiday/summer reading is, enjoy!