Writing Acronyms

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Possible writing acronyms coming up… see what you think.

ABC = A Biro, Candidly (when asked what the best thing to write with is!).

DEF = Definitely Edit Flash. It may be a very short story but editing is still required! No short cuts. No matter what its length, a story still has to be fine tuned and honed. I don’t think there has ever been anyone who can turn out the perfect short story in one go and leave it that AND keep on doing this for short story after short story etc etc. I know I’m not going to be the one to break that rule of thumb.

GHI = Get Huge Imagination. Best way of doing that? Read widely. Read lots. Read books. Read magazines. Listen to audio books. Watch films. Absorb stories no matter what their format. Think about what the writers here have done and then work out how you’d do it and why especially where you think something doesn’t work. (Or at least doesn’t work for you. Have a look at what that is – what can you learn from this that you can apply to your own writing).

Next installment tomorrow!

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Some more writing acronyms then…

JKL = Just Kill Lines. Lines that aren’t working. Lines that don’t flow as well as you thought they would. (Reading work out loud is a good test for this, you will literally hear the words flow well or not). Whatever doesn’t move your character or your story forward (or shows something the reader needs to know but STILL takes the story forward) has to go!

MNO = Manage Named Objectives. What are your character’s objectives? What must they achieve? Know what these are in your own mind before putting pen to paper or writing to screen. The idea is for your readers to discover what the objectives are through your characters rather than telling them directly. It is also a good idea to keep objectives straightforward and having them based on a need is useful foo. LOTR – need to destroy Sauron’s ring of power. Straightforward, to the point, and “simple”. How the objective is then achieved (or not!) is where the story really kicks off.

PQR = Practice Quality Reading! (Confession time: I did look up literary words beginning with Q and could only find Quatrain! The poets amongst you can make far better use of that than I can!). What do I mean by quality reading? I think of it as reading widely, often, across genres, non-fiction as well as differing types of fiction. See this as feeding your imagination. Ideas spark from other stories. You will see how an author wrote a story. You think to yourself well I’d do it this way… So go on and do so! But the more you read, the more you can kick start your own imagination and that has got to be a good thing.

More on writing acronyms then…

STU – Setting, Tense, Understanding.

Your reader should have a sense of the setting very quickly. You can share more details later, especially in a longer story. In my Job Satisfaction, I start with “Thud! The fairy returned to what she’d wrongly sworn was an open window”. I don’t need to tell you it is a fantasy story – the two words “the fairy” do that for me. “The window” tells you she’s making house calls too!

Tense – I use a lot of present tense in flash fiction as it quickens the pace but whichever you go for be consistent with it.

Understanding – A reader should have a real understanding of what your story is likely to be about by the end of the first line or so.

VWX (hmm… two challenges here)! Viewpoint, Worldview, and X-Ray Vision

Viewpoint – Whose story is it? Are you telling the tale from the viewpoint of the lead character or someone close to them observing what is going on? Again, be consistent.

Worldview – Your characters should reveal this in their attitudes and thoughts about things. Are they going with the prevailing worldview or rebelling against it? Again their attitude should make that clear.

X-Ray Vision = Confession time: am cheating a bit here. Will you be using an omnipresent narrator who really can see and comment on everything (hence the X-ray vision tag!)? Or will you be seeing everything through the eyes of one character so we only see what they can see? Again, be consistent.

My CFT post this week will be a look at the importance of memories, an apt topic as we approach 11th November. Link up on Friday. Memories are such a huge part of we are (which is why dementia is so tragic) and this should apply to our characters too. Their past may not BE the story but it should be hinted at they do actually have one!

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How about some autumnal flash fiction stories? Some even go up to three lines!

1. The falling leaves were suffocating her.

2. You know they call that cold wind the Beast from the East? Well, it devoured three workmen, two posties and a milkman on its way through our villages last night.

3. The creature liked the nights drawing in so early. Hunting time was extended and there was always someone slowly trudging home to pick off at leisure. The creature called it Happy Hour.

Hmm… there’s a theme developing here! Hope you enjoy.

Allison Symes – 3rd November 2018

The challenges with writing flash fiction are:-

1. Ensuring every line grips your reader.
2. Ensuring the tantalising opening line is backed up with a powerful closing one. No damp squibs here, thank you!

I have brainstorming sessions every so often where I jot down lines. Some are obvious opening lines (to me anyway!). Others look as if they could finish a story. So I either work out ideas that could come from an opening line OR work backwards from a closing one and see how I could have got to that point. All good fun.

I think it a good idea to mix up your writing methods like this. It keeps you on your imaginative toes for one thing.

We’re in fireworks season here in the UK at the moment. (Fortunately my dog, Lady, is not at all phased by them). So if you are setting your story in a fantasy world of some sort, what would they use to mark occasions? I always did love Gandalf’s fireworks in The Lord of the Rings (and the film really did do justice to these in the opening scenes).

What sort of music would your world have? Is music banned? Do only the privileged elite celebrate anything or does everyone join in? Some story ideas there I think!

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Favourite themes of mine for flash fiction include rough justice, alien life being as intelligent as ours (and usually more so!), and crime (often showing the criminal’s justification, if only to themselves, as to their course of action). It is perhaps ironic that the really big themes – love, justice etc – can be summed up in one word but the amount of variety of stories you can get from these is vast.

I believe the simpler the theme, the better. It comes across well too. You don’t need your readers scratching their heads trying to work out what the theme is.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Seasonal Reading

Do you worry about reading according to the seasons?

I generally don’t, though will concede I read more during the autumn and winter. There is just something about the longer dark evenings that encourage getting the Kindle out or raiding the To Be Read pile. For me, it is one of the joys of the colder times of year. (The other is hot chocolate!).

But what I read doesn’t change much during the year. I read according to mood. So if I fancy crime, I read that. If I want historical I go for that. (Sometimes I fancy historical crime!!). The great thing about reading and writing flash fiction is one collection can cover a lot of moods in one volume! Mine falls into that category.

I will put my hands up to re-reading Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man around Harvest Festival Time and his Hogfather in the run up to Christmas though but that is about it for me for seasonal reading.

What I would like to do more of though is read more poetry. I know what I like in that line when I come across it but it is remembering to do so. For me it is the easiest thing in the world to reach for prose to suit my moods. And of course the majority of the time that is exactly what I do.

I do have what I call “comfort reading” books and these are generally humorous like Pratchett or Wodehouse. When I want a sure fire bet to entertain and amuse me, these are where I head first.

So what do you read seasonally?








Finding a Fresh Angle, Blogging and Adjusting Your Reading

Well, there’s a nice mixed bag of topics for you.  Plus I will share my top 10 tips for helping the writer in your life.  (Fellow writers, you can always drop a lot of hints to non-writing friends based on my list!).

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When you’ve had a website or a blog for a while, it pays from time to time to go back into your older posts and have another look. I do this a few times a year and inevitably I can think of a fresh angle on the topic I’ve pulled out of the archives to have a look at. Hey presto – a new post!

Some other ways to generate ideas for fresh posts include:-

1. Think about what irks you most about writing and why. Share! You won’t be alone. (My biggest bug bear? Never having as much time to write as I’d like. Answer: Just make the most of the time I do have!). You can share tips about how you overcome these bugbears or how to minimise their impact.

2. Think about why you started writing in the first place. Think about where you are now with your writing. Be encouraged by how far you’ve come but again this topic is great for being able to share what you’ve learned on your own writing journey.

3. Think about your favourite writers and stories and why you love these. Share your thoughts and invite comments. Briefly, I love the works of Terry Pratchett, Jane Austen, and P.G. Wodehouse (now there’s a combo if ever there was one!).

4. Share writing advice that you’ve found helpful and equally that which has not been relevant for you. Other writers will find this really useful.

5. What would you have found most helpful to know when you were starting out as a writer that you only found out much later on? Share!

Above all, have fun writing your posts. My CFT post this week will be Part 2 of Why I Blog. I’ll share the links later in the week but finding out what other writers have to say on a topic is (a) fascinating and (b) you learn so much yourself.

My CFT post this week will be Part 2 of Why I Blog. Many thanks again to all the fab writers for taking part in both parts of this. Lots of interesting insights and proof people really do blog for all kinds of reasons. More on Friday when I’ll put the link up.

Will be reviewing the recent Hursley Park Book Fair soon too. Good fun, lots of footfall, a very promising start to what I hope will be an annual event.

And Swanwick Writers’ Summer School draws ever closer too!


Do you adjust your reading according to the seasons?

The nearest I get to it is that I make sure I read or listen to Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man around September time and his Hogfather in the run up to Christmas. (I also sneak in either reading or watching A Christmas Carol during December – the Muppet version is my favourite!).

I suppose summer is associated with “light” reading to match the longer, lighter days, but I don’t change my reading much here. I am still reading history (and historical fiction), flash fiction, short stories, novels across the genres etc. What affects my reading choice more is mood.

As for writing, well it’s always a case of “game on” for my flash fiction and blog posts!

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I think every flash story has to contain an element of surprise for it to engage the reader. Okay, you may well see where the author is going but isn’t the fun to be had there in finding out whether you are right or not?

That is what keeps me reading when I think I’ve guessed ahead correctly (and sometimes I’m right, sometimes the author twists the tale again and fools me. I like both of those options!).

Having said all that, it doesn’t mean the surprise has to be a nice one, far from it!

What should come through in your flash fiction pieces above all else is what makes your character tick. There is usually room for 1, maybe 2 characters, at most and their attitude should come through clearly. The attitude doesn’t need to be a “nice” one but it should be one readers can understand and, as they read on, see why the character has developed this.

As ever, it is the telling detail that matters here. For example, in The Outcome, the opening line is “I’m pleased to be wrong about my misgivings”. The attitude here is of a character who is open to the possibility of being wrong and being willing to admit it. Of course you then hopefully want to find out what they were wrong about! But it is that hook, the attitude of the character, which draws you in, I think.

Top ten tips to help the writer in your life:-

1. Buy their books!

2. Review said books. Doesn’t have to be a long review but must be honest.

3. Go to their book events to show support. Trust me, it is appreciated and, as a certain supermarket would say, every little bit helps.

4. Always get them nice notebooks and pens. The idea that any writer could ever have enough of these is just plain wrong! From your point of view, you’ll never be stuck for present ideas for your writer friend ever again. Win, win here.

5. If you are a computer whizz and can act as technical support, fantastic! You’ll save them a small fortune. No doubt your grateful friend will put you in their next book and not as a character to be killed off horribly either.

6. Plentiful supplies of tea/coffee/chocolate/other treats generally go down well with said writer. If it lifts their mood because they’ve got bogged down in Chapter 8, it benefits you. Do away with moody-writer-syndrome. Feed them their favourite treats. You know it makes sense.

7. If you really do feel you can’t get your writer friend any more notebooks and YOU feel like getting them something different, go for book vouchers or vouchers towards a writing course/retreat. Will go down well.

8. Accept said friend will often seem to be in a world of their own. That is because they are! Give them time to come back to earth before engaging in conversation. You’ll get more sense out of them for one thing doing that.

9.Never ask where they get their ideas from. You want to stay friends with them, yes? Just trust me on this one. If you insist on asking, don’t blame me if your friend gives you a long lecture on well this idea led to that one, I was inspired by one paragraph in A Christmas Carol, I thought I’d add a twist here and there, etc etc. Your friend should be able to go on at length as to where they get their ideas from. If you get bored, (and you almost certainly will), you only have yourself to blame here.

10. And last but not least, do spread the word about their books. It all helps.

 Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

What do you have in the way of book accessories?

I love bookmarks and those clear plastic stands for displaying books at signings etc. They make such a difference to your presentation.

I also like nice pens with a book logo on them and had some produced to go with my flash fiction collection when that came out. Likewise, a nice spiral notebook with the cover of the book on also went down well as prizes for my launch.

But the ultimate book accessory for me I think is the hardback and jacket! While nothing will diminish my love of the paperback, I do have some wonderful hardbacks, including a Sherlock Holmes collection, where the book itself is simply beautiful (and the contents brilliant! Got to hand it to Conan Doyle…).

I must admit when I do choose a hardback, I tend to have a quick peep to see if the cover has been reproduced on the book or if it is just on the jacket. A lot of the time it is the latter, all to keep costs down, but I have some where the cover has been reproduced on the book itself. Always looks great.

Even with a “plain” cover, a hardback book can be lovely in the way it has been bound etc.

So while the contents of the book are always the most important thing for me, I do enjoy the aesthetics of a lovely tome as well.

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