Bridge House Celebration, ALCS, and the What If question

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Image of me with wild hair and Tripping The Flash Fantastic taken by Adrian Symes.

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Great to see Amazon have updated my Author Central page quickly so Mulling It Over and Transformations are now both on there.  (Lovely to see a good collection building up here!). And that has reminded me to add these books to ALCS too. What is ALCS?

As I’m a member of the Society of Authors, I have free membership to ALCS (the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society). ALCS collects money from copyright licences etc and distributes said monies to authors. There is no way any one writer could possibly keep tabs on X making photocopies of their work here, Y doing it there and so on.

If you’re not a member of the Society of Authors, you can still join ALCS. It costs £36.00 and this is lifetime membership, not per year. See https://www.alcs.co.uk/how-to-join for more.

I had my first modest pay-out from ALCS back in March and most welcome it was too. Do check out their website for more information. The main thing to remember is to update your details when you have new works out. And this includes, for me, not just my two flash fiction collections, but all of the paperback anthologies I have been in and continue to have work appear in.

(The reasons for the emphasis on paperback is ALCS need you to tell them the ISBN number and ebooks don’t have that. They have an ASIN which ALCS do not work with but given most anthologies come out in ebook and paperback, you can at least register the latter!).

Very well worth doing. (And another little task ticked off my writing admin list today!).

Even colder than yesterday here in Hampshire though Lady did get to have a fab time with her busy buddy, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback today. No chance of them getting cold with all that running around.

I’m going to be having a look at Continuing Professional Development and how it can apply to writers in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Have also put in my book order for copies of Mulling It Over and Transformations and have also asked Amazon to add these two to my Author Central page in due course. Hopefully they’ll appear on there later this week. I’ve usually found Amazon answer such requests quickly.

It is nice to see a good collection of books appearing on my page now. This is not something I anticipated when starting out but it does show the value, I think, of persistence, keeping going, and learning over time to get better at targeting my work to the appropriate market. And yes, it does take time. But this is true for everybody and I found that quite encouraging when I was starting out. It is good to know it is not just you!

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Brrr… so cold today. Even Lady wasn’t sorry to get in from her evening walk. Enjoyed watching The Polar Express tonight. One of my favourite Christmas films along with A Muppet Christmas Carol. Better half put the decorations up yesterday so the old homestead is looking festive. Am very thankful Lady leaves the tree alone.

Making good progress on my non-fiction project. Am on track to finish the first draft by the end of the year. Whenever I write anything, I always feel a certain relief on getting that first draft down. I love the creative side but I also enjoy the editing and getting the work into good shape ready for submitting somewhere. I swear I can almost feel the draft getting better as I take out my usual wasted words and sharpen up what remains. I like that feeling.

I’ve also got a third flash collection on the go. I plan to resume work on that once I’ve got the first draft of the non-fiction project done as I know I’ll need to rest that for a while so I can look at it with fresh eyes when I get back to it.

Writing is the gift that keeps on giving in many ways.

Firstly, boredom is a thing of the past as I’ve always got something to work on!

Secondly, writing stretches me. I want to keep trying to get better at what I do.

Thirdly, to write well you need to read well so you get two activities in one here. But best of all?

Making friends thanks to a shared love of writing!

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It was great seeing everyone at the Bridge House Publishing celebration event this afternoon. It was lovely to see friends and meet new people and the turnout was wonderful. There was plenty to celebrate too, despite the obvious problems affecting everyone this year.

There were plenty of new books out via Bridge House, including the recently released Mulling It Over and Transformations. Plus there were new single author collections out too, including my own Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

There was a cryptic clue quiz. I was hopeless at it but I always am at cryptic clues. It was something of a relief that I did get my book title in amongst the mix, plus the two I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of editing for Bridge House this year. (And that really was about my lot!).

There was lovely mix of stories read too and I read Progressing. This was my first winning story for the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition (and is in the new Transformations book too).

All great fun and we are all looking forward to next year’s events! Pics for this one are the Cafelit (BB) mock up, the tunnel one, my anthologies one, and the phone one plus the “sky” one for FLTDBA and TTFF.

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Delighted to share my latest story video on Youtube. This is one of my acrostic flash tales called Autumn. Let’s just say the video is apt for the tale and that no spades were harmed in the making of this story! Hope you enjoy.

 

As well as my own flash collections, I often contribute flash pieces to CafeLit. My Humourless in The Best of CafeLit 9 is one of my most recent and is on the darker side for me. The idea for this piece came to me when I asked one of my favourite writing questions – the old classic “what if”? What if someone had lost their sense of humour due to their job? What could that job be?

Finding a starting point for your stories is crucial and asking the “what if” question is an invaluable place to begin because it should trigger other questions and you will find yourself wanting to know what the answers are. If you can be hooked into finding out the answers, then hopefully a reader will be too.

Other useful starting points include using Kipling’s famous serving men – What, Where, How, Why, When, and Who? Anything that makes you ask questions to find out more about the character and what they’re facing is going to help you plot out the story in more depth.

The tricky bit is in working out what the most relevant points are and focusing only on those. This is why I find flash’s restricted word count useful. It makes me focus and that’s no bad thing.

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It was especially nice to talk to a fellow flash fiction writer, Dawn Knox, for Chandler’s Ford Today last week. Always good to advertise the form and to show what can be done with it.

Flash is a great vehicle for character studies. I find those work best when kept short (as is the case with monologues) and flash fiction is ideal – a match made in writing heaven perhaps.

When I’ve drafted a flash story I ask myself certain questions about it.

  • Does the story make the impact I thought it would before I wrote it?
  • How does the character make me react/feel? (No reaction = character not strong enough = no story).
  • Have I marked up my usual suspects of wasted words ready to take out for the second draft?
  • What phrases have I used that could be fine tuned into creating stronger images for the reader?

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Delighted to see another review come in for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks! Reviews really do help authors. Neither do reviews have to be lengthy. I use reviews myself when checking out potential books to read or when I’m wondering whether to try a new grocery product!

Had a fab time at the Bridge House Publishing event this afternoon. It is one of the highlights of my writing year. It was great to see a good turnout too. I did miss the actual getting together (and the splendid authors’ lunch that precedes it!) but I am sure we will make up for that next year!

But the biggest thing about Zoom is making events accessible and it was wonderful to see some of Bridge House’s more far flung authors able to take part in today’s event. When the nightmare of Covid is over, I want to see Zoom continuing. It has been one of the more positive things about this whole year.

Screenshot_2020-12-05 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

 

Goodreads Author Blog – New For Old?

New for old is a catchphrase from Aladdin of course but is this something that is appropriate for book lovers?

After all I love old books. I love new books. I just love books!

I think it is good to have a balance of old favourites. These are my comfort reads when I need that.

I also like to read new books, especially from contemporary writers. It is good to know what is being put out there now.

One handy side benefit to making writer friends is this does help ensure you do get plenty of contemporary reading in. I take great pleasure from the fact I have shelves which are packed full of fab books written by people I’ve come to know and count as friends. I always look forward to adding to my shelves in that regard. I can’t wait to get back to book events so I can pick up those books signed by said friends in person.

Naturally I’m looking forward to being able to hold some book events of my own in due course.

So have I got books on my Christmas list?

What do you think?!

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My Writing Journey

Image Credit:  If not otherwise stated, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay!

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I can’t say a particular story made me decide to write creatively. My journey into writing was a long one. I had always loved composition as it was known at school but I didn’t start writing seriously until I was 30.

It was one of those moments, having always loved books, that made me feel if I am going to have a go at storytelling myself, I had better get on with it then. So I did!

My only regret is not starting sooner as it takes far longer than you can anticipate to find your voice, develop confidence in submitting work, learning how to deal with the inevitable rejections etc. Then there’s the time needed for further development as you work out how to improve your work and so on (usually by trial and error and feedback), until that magical day when the first acceptance arrives. Well worth it though!

 

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One of the joys of writing my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is sourcing the pictures (take a bow, Pixabay).

But the funny thing is themes that seem to be open can often prove to be the most difficult to find suitable images for. I have no idea why that is but it is happening again this week with my topic of favourites. Yes, I know. You’d think I’d find loads for that.

The great thing is I have learned to think laterally in looking for suitable pictures so know I will find images that can fit the post. And I suppose it is a good thing to make yourself think laterally too. (It can be annoying at times though!).

 

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Where do you find the most fun is in writing a story? For me, it’s when I go into a character’s head and show a reader their thoughts and attitudes.

Why? Because If I show you a character who’s irritated, you will conjure up your own mental image of what such an irritated person could look like. I don’t need to spell that out and it saves a lot on the word count, which for flash fiction is crucial.

It also means I get into what makes that character tick so much more quickly and I really love that. I then know what I can do with them, what triggers will really wind them up and that’s when the creative sparks really fly.

Also, it’s at that point when I know what the character’s major trait is (often shown through their thoughts and attitudes), I know whether I’m going to love this character or love to loathe them.

Either reaction is fine as long it is the reaction I want to generate from that character. A character that makes you react is one you want to read about, even if it is just to find out if they get their comeuppance or not. (Confession time: I have been known to cheer to myself when a character who deserves that comeuppance gets it! I had a hard time NOT cheering out loud when Molly Weasley “deals with” Bellatrix in the Harry Potter story. Doing so with the book was fine but I didn’t want to embarrass myself in the cinema!😃😃).

I would far rather read (and write) about a character who I dislike but has purpose and I can kind of understand why they are the way they are than read or write about a character who does nothing for me whatsoever. I have got to react to the characters in some way. It doesn’t always have to be positive.

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The writing journey is not without its ups and downs, but (a) this is true for everyone, and (b) if you can get something out of the downs, great.

In my case, many years ago, I was almost caught out by a vanity publisher. What good came out of that?

Well, firstly I wasn’t caught out! Secondly I joined the Society of Authors as a result of the very helpful advice they gave me when I wasn’t a member. To begin with I joined as an Associate but became a Full Member later once I had enough short stories published.

If you’re ever in doubt about an agent or a publisher, don’t hesitate to check them out.

If you are going to spend money on self publishing, get all the advice you can first, and ensure your money is genuinely spent on self publishing! That does NOT include selling you your own books (which is effectively what vanity publishers do).

There are reputable service companies for self publishers out there. Never be afraid to ask pertinent questions. The decent ones won’t mind answering them (and will be expecting them). If you’re not sure what to ask, go to the Society of Authors or Alliance of Independent Authors for advice on what to look for and what to avoid.

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When I started writing, I was unaware of flash fiction as a form. Am very glad I discovered it though! Mind, I don’t think I would’ve tried the form even if I had been aware of its existence then. Why?

Partly because I really didn’t know what I wanted to write. I wrote a novel. I wrote short stories. I have written the odd script or two as well. All great fun. The short stories were published eventually after many a rewrite and edit! The novel I’m working on again now and I hope to do something with the scripts at some point.

The important thing is to enjoy your writing journey wherever it takes you and not to worry about experimenting with different forms of storytelling. You will find the one(s) that really suit you and which you love writing. The fun bit is finding all of this out!

 

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Most helpful tips I’ve used for flash fiction writing (and still do) include:-

1. Don’t have too many characters. One to two is best (especially for the 500 words or under type of story).

2. If a word adds impact, leave it in. Word count is important, obviously, but it is not the only thing that matters.

3. If a word does nothing for the story, take it out.

4. Be aware of what your wasted words are and cut them out on your first edit. You may not be able to stop yourself writing them (I can’t with mine) but they don’t have to go anywhere further than the first draft.

5. Always get your story down first and then edit.

6. Outline your character in as much detail or otherwise as you want before writing the story. You need to know enough about them to be able to write “their” tale convincingly. Only you can decide what is “enough”. For me, I have to know the major characteristic. Is the character brave, a wimp, humorous, as miserable as sin etc?

7. For open themed competitions, I’ve found it useful to set my own theme in advance and work to that. I find it helpful to set my own parameters here. It stops me going off at tangents that do nothing for the story or which could stop the story altogether.

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Do I always know in advance what will work best as an opening or closing line for a flash fiction story? The really good lines can be used for either and I have sometimes deliberately written two very different stories, using the same line like this.

I outline my character and often as I do that it will become apparent where the line is likely to work best.

Take, for example, the line is something like:-

She was a clumsy clot.

I would almost certainly put that at the start of a story and then shows what happens to my unfortunate character. It is, if you like, the obvious way to write that particular line into a story. I would also think of it as a negative way to finish a tale. (It sums up the character but there’s no space left to show any redeeming features, which is why I would consider this a negative ending). Sometimes you want that, of course.

But my gut feel here would be to write a humorous tale that ends on a positive note, such as something useful coming out of my character’s mishaps which helps another character.

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Writing exercise time… how about some lines to work on? But unlike the ones you might have been set at school, these should be fun, honest!

It’s up to you whether you use them as opening or closing lines. You could see if you can manage both. Good luck and have fun with these.

1. He would be extinguished if he didn’t get out before the candle burned out.

2. There were rats everywhere.

3. The temptation to go through the portal was just too much.

4. Less is more, she fumed, well I’ll show them.

5. The glittering gold couldn’t tempt him away from the mission but there was something that would.

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Goodreads Author Programme Blog The TBR Pile

How large is your To Be Read pile?

Mine hasn’t quite got to the point where I need scaffolding to keep the TBR pile upright but give me time…

I also have a considerable reading list waiting for me on my Kindle too.

The positives with this are:-

(a) I’m never going to be short of things to read;
(b) I have different things to read to suit my moods;
(c) It doesn’t matter if I want to catch up with reading at home or away – the Kindle takes care of the latter nicely enough.

The negatives with this are:-

(a) Being only too aware of the finiteness of time! There will never be enough time to read every book I want to!
(b) Having to get the scaffolding out in due course to prop up my TBR pile!
(c) It’s going to take me a while to update what I’ve read here on Goodreads!

I read most just before settling to sleep or, on a long train journey and I’ve finished what writing I want to do, I then switch to reading.

However large your TBR pile is, happy reading! Whittle it down gradually and then you’ll have room for more lovely books…!

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Objectives

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Looking forward to seeing the Chameleons’ production of Blackadder later this week. Should be a very good night out. The last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth is one of those sublime moments of writing where comedy meets tragedy and both are done superbly. Definitely not an easy thing to do.

Blackadder clearly had one objective in mind in Goes Forth – to get out of the war and go back home. Totally understandable.

What is your character’s overriding objective in your story? What will they do to achieve it? What gets in their way? In those three lines, you have a plot outline!

Pleased to have sent off some flash fiction stories last night. Plan to get more out later this week, there is one particular website I’m keen to try out, and finally want to get around to doing so!

One of the trickiest things to handle is time. (And yes I think Doctor Who showed that brilliantly in the Rosa Parks episode). How much time do you spend working on new stories and ideas? How much time do you spend marketing?

As with so much in life, there has to be a balance. I’ve found it helpful to look at the week as a whole. By the end of it, I want to have written some new material, be editing older work ready for submission, have my next CFT post up and ready to go, and have carried out at least some marketing. Okay life does not always go according to plan but whatever I’ve not quite done enough of writing wise in one week is what gets the focus of my attention during the following one. It does all balance out eventually.

Acronyms featured in this morning’s church service sermon and of course they’re a common feature in writing. KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid is probably the best known one. Very much the antidote to “purple prose” – the days of the long descriptive passages are behind us!

I suspect that is due to everyone being used to films etc where you get into the action quickly but it is not a bad thing. I like descriptions in stories to be to the point and to feel as if they are a seamless part of the narrative and not a “bolt on”.

All parts of the story must feel to the reader as if they have to be there and the tale would fall down without them. If you’re not sure if something should be cut, ask yourself how your story works without that something in it and that should indicate quickly enough whether it is needed or not.

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Had a fabulous time at the Writers’ Day run by the Association of Christian Writers today. The topic was on writing for children and YA but there was discussion on crossover fiction and contracts, all very useful stuff. From my viewpoint, it is lovely to meet some of the membership face to face given I usually only meet them via emails!

The importance of networking came out as well during the day and I lost my own fear of this when I realised it meant chatting naturally about books, what I’m writing and so on. I have no problem going on at length about that topic!

(Oh and a quick reminder: if you’re offered a publishing contract, always get it checked out. The Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors are the places to go for that. Both I believe issue guides which are free to members. There’s a small fee charged to non-members. Never be afraid to ask).

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A = Alliteration. Can be useful for titles in flash fiction (though I don’t use it much) but as with any story, it can grab the attention and help set the mood. Best not overused I think. You want each title to set the tone for what it is to come and a variety of methods for doing that is best. Keeps it fresh for you as the writer too.

B = Backstory. Not a lot of room for that in flash fiction! Best to hint at it through one or two vital details the reader has to know and leave it at that.

C = Character. The kingpin of fiction I think. Get the character right and the plot will come from them. Know your character inside and out – I find it useful to know their chief trait (and I piece together a mental picture of what they are like from there). Find the appropriate starting point for you but it is worth taking the time to know your character well before you start. Your writing will flow better because you write with that knowledge. It does come through in what you write.

There was talk at the ACW Writers’ Day today of how boundaries, far from restricting creativity, help it to flourish. This is SO true for flash fiction as well. The limited word count means you have to dig deeper to come up with those original ideas that make flash fiction stand out and have the most impact on a reader. It is worth the effort!

I usually know what impact I want a story of mine to have on a reader before I write it. This is to help me choose my words with precision. However, sometimes a story (more accurately the lead character) surprises me and the tale ends up being funnier, darker, sadder than I’d originally thought. This is no bad thing. It means the character has life and if they surprise me, they’ll surprise the reader too.

It may also indicate I hadn’t outlined enough but the great thing is ideas that come to you as you write a piece are not wasted. Jot them down, step back and take a look at where they can fit in. Are they better than your original thoughts? Do they add depth to your original thoughts?

 

Back to working my way through the alphabet again then…

D = Drama. Even the shortest flash fiction has to have some drama in it! But it is also true that serious drama doesn’t necessarily have to have lots of words to make it so! There is drama and anguish in Hemingway’s famous example of For Sale: One pair Baby Shoes. The drama should suit the story though (and be to the right length for that tale).

E = Editing. Every story needs this and I don’t think it should be something a writer dreads. I always feel a sensible amount of relief when I’ve drafted a story as it means I’ve then got something to work with. Editing improves a story and, as a result, increases its chances of success. Take your time over the process though.

F = Fun! Writing should be fun. You are creating something new for others to enjoy. The first person to enjoy said tale should be you!

So marching on then:-

G = Genre. One of my favourite things about flash fiction is because it has to be character led, due to the word count restrictions, you can set those characters anywhere. So, if you’ll pardon the pun here, you do have an open book when it comes to genre in the stories you write. Have fun with that, I do!

H = Humour. Can work well in flash fiction as you can end the story with what is effectively a punchline. Also when you have a very short funny piece, look at turning it into flash fiction. It can be an ideal vehicle for those pieces which would be spoiled if you added anything more (and this often goes for humorous pieces).

I = Imagination. True for any form of fiction, but I find with flash fiction I’m using my imaginative muscles far more. Why? Because I try not to come up with the obvious idea from a theme or title. I dig deep and see what else I can come up with, something that will make a greater impact on the reader.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog –

After the End, What Next?

If you’ve enjoyed a really good book, what do you do when you finish it? Go on to read more books by the same author, or read more in the same genre, or do you go for something that is completely different in mood and style?

I have done all three of these (though obviously not at the same time!) and it very much depends on my mood at the end of the story. If I’ve loved a gory crime thriller, I may well want something humorous to show the lighter side of life, albeit a fictional one!

With short stories especially, I tend to read a few by the same author before moving on. With novels, if the book has really gripped me, I’ve got to check out what else the author has done, even if I decide I’ll come back to those later.

The important thing though is that whatever you read, you enjoy it so much, you keep on reading, no matter what author, genre, style etc you choose next. Happy reading!

The Best and the Worst

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My CFT post this week looks at some of the best (and worst!) decisions I’ve made in writing! I also share some thoughts on where to get good advice. Hope this proves helpful.

The writing journey is precisely that – and there are bound to be things like potholes, wrong turnings etc along the way. Doesn’t mean your particular journey has to come to a grinding halt though. I’ve found offen things that were not great at the time, I’ve (a) learned from that experience and (b) gone on to do much better.

What is your favourite one liner?

Mine is an Eric Morecambe classic – “He’s not going to sell much ice cream going at that speed, is he?”. Surreal and very, very funny. (Oh and correct too – nobody sells ice cream at speed!)

In fiction, I love Jane Austen’s, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”. Delicious irony here and a great foretaste of what is to come from Pride and Prejudice.

I don’t know how often Eddie Braben wrote and rewrote that line for Eric Morecambe or how often Jane Austen wrote and rewrote her classic opener – but definitely worth the effort in both cases!

On a sadder note, I was sorry to hear of the death of Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan from Blake’s 7 – great acting and a fantastic character to play).

My CFT post this week will be about The Best and The Worst. I take a look at some of the best and worst decisions I’ve made as a writer. (There will be tears before bedtime… mine!). Link will go up on Friday but what I hope will come from this will be a few thoughts on where to go for advice and not being afraid to say no to something that is not good for you or your writing. You’ve got to to see yourself as being in this for the long haul – the VERY long haul!

It was interesting trying to work out what I considered the best and worst decisions I’ve made (to date at least) when it comes to writing/publishing.

You can see my list on my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (I’ll put up the link tomorrow). It took me a while to figure these out and even then when it comes to the worst decisions, something positive has come out of those. So, overall, that is okay!

As with so much in life, you can only make the best decision you can at the time, but I found out early on it DOES pay to be as informed as possible. This is why bodies like the Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors are vital.

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Time for some six-word stories then:-

1. While the light lasted, danger abated.

2. “Help me”, he screamed to silence.

3. When the going gets tough, tough!

4. The planet destroyer was wheeled out.

5. So near to the Sun now.

6. I never forget a face, sunshine.

I thought it would be appropriate to have six of those!

 

What are the most important points any flash fiction writer needs to bear in mind?

1. The story has to be character led – and that character has to grab the reader’s interest from the very first words. (No waffling here!).

2. The story’s ending must be appropriate for the tale and be a satisfactory conclusion. Doesn’t mean it has to be happy though!

3. The opening line, in any form of writing, is crucial to hook interest but in flash fiction, where there is no such thing as spare word count, that line must grab your reader immediately. (Does your opening line make you think YOU would want to read this story if it had been written by someone else?).

4. Use the title to set the scene or mood of the story for you. (This is particularly useful for those competitions where the title is NOT included in the word count permitted. Do make the most of that).

5. Whether you’re writing a character study, a crime story, or writing for laughs, each word must contribute to the tale. There must be no wasted words.

6. Have fun with your stories. I love the fact flash fiction has to be character led. It gives you so much scope.

The cat sat on the mat
(Waiting for the postie)
All ready to surprise
While feeling all toastie.
Why should the household dog
Have all the games and fun
The cat, ready to roar,
And see postie was “done”
Would be Number 1 pet
With a prank, the best yet.
Postie duly obliged
With screams to wake the dead
No-one had told him the “cat”
Was a lion instead.

Allison Symes – 6th September 2018

If my regular postman reads this, I’ve only got a pet dog, okay!

Each flash fiction story is its own little world, of course, but the flash of illumination (in terms of what drives a character to act the way they do) can be taken and developed further for longer stories.

I don’t do this as often as I once thought I might because I’m generally moving on to the next idea, the one after that etc., but I have managed to write flash pieces and then get standard length short stories out of the same idea. Double whammy! Different markets and competitions are available to you too doing this. Something to consider…

What I am doing with the book I’m currently working on is having a few flash pieces with the same characters in, showing different aspects to what is happening with them. Am really enjoying that.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Moments

Some of my favourite moments in a book come when a character has to face up to something they would never anticipate and find a way of dealing with it.

For example, my favourite Agatha Christie novel is Murder on the Orient Express, because Poirot has to deal with a situation he would not have guessed at and which in many ways should never have been able to happen. The David Suchet TV adaptation particularly plays on this element. (Not going to say more than that – no spoilers here! But if you’ve not read the book and/or watched the TV adaptation, try and do so. It really is a great story).

This element works especially well with a series character like Poirot when you have already come to know a lot about how they operate and think. To have that all thrown up in the air keeps the character and you, the reader, on your toes. Always a good thing, I think.

It confirms to me that what makes a really good story is the strength of the character, whether they’re a hero or a villain. Plots are fine but you need well rounded characters to carry them out!

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale A to Z Part 5

M = Myth/Mythology. 
So many of the classic fairytales are based on old legends and myths.  The Brothers Grimm collected German ones. Hans Christen Andersen also collected (and embellished!) and of course went on to write superb tales of his own.  So look into your country’s myths and legends.  Look at the themes emerging from those and write your own fairytales around that.  I do wish people wouldn’t just dismiss something as “just a fairytale”.  There’s no “just” about a fairytale.  There is so much truth in them – and that should be reflected in our own stories too.  Honest writing = characters that grip people because they can identify with them.

N = Numpties
I love this Scottish word for idiot.  And fairytales do need their idiots (especially if they themselves don’t think they’re idiots or realise they are). There is great comic potential here for one thing. The Emperor’s New Clothes is a great example of a numpty in power!  Even the rich and powerful can be taken in by clever conmen.  One of the things I love about Puss in Boots is the miller’s son knows and accepts the cat is cleverer than he is!

O = Origins
This ties in with M above.  Look at the origins of fairytales.  Think about the origins of your characters.  What made you want to write about them?  How do their origins impact on their lives and the stories you are going to write about them?

This World and Others – The Best and the Worst

It is appropriate to come full circle on this tonight!

Following on from my Reflections post last week, I’ve been busily reflecting too this week!  My CFT post looks at The Best and the Worst decisions I’ve made with regard to writing/publishing and I hope this will prove useful.  A faulty step or two does not derail the whole writing journey and I think sometimes that needs to be said out loud.

What would be the best and worst decisions that your characters have made, especially your lead ones?  Do they learn from their mistakes?  How do they handle the fallout?

Often with decisions, it is a question of making the best judgement possible based on available knowledge at the time.  Sometimes the best decisions come as a result of taking time out to take stock and reflect (that word again!), and/or seeking advice from others.  Do your characters do this?  If so, what is the impact on them and your story?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KNOWING WHAT I DO NOW…

Facebook – General

Are there things connected with writing that you are glad you know now? This is definitely the case for me and my list would be:-

1. When offered a contract, get it checked out by the Society of Authors. I did and it stopped me entering into something that would’ve been a vanity publishing contract. I’ve never regretted not going for that (though at the time I wasn’t published elsewhere nor was there anything in the pipeline). Talking of which:-

2. Don’t be afraid to turn things down. You have got to be happy with what you are doing writing wise. And, as with so much in life, if it seems too good to be true, it is. There’s no shame in walking away from such a thing.

3. You really do need to edit on paper and not on screen. You WILL miss typos, grammatical errors etc on screen. I’m sure there must be a logical reason to this, probably based on how the brain interprets things on screen as opposed to paper. All I know for sure is when I edit on paper, I pick up far more that needs correcting (and so save myself a great deal of embarrassment in NOT submitting something with errors because I’ve not seen the wretched things and dealt with them!). It IS worth taking the time here.

What would you list here?

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Facebook – General

New story from me coming up on Cafelit on Tuesday (5th June), will share the link then. If you like dragons, it will be for you!

Am sorry to be missing the Winchester Writers’ Festival this year. Hope all who go have a wonderful time. Likewise all going to the Waterloo Arts Festival and to all of the winning authors who will be reading their stories out here, have a great time and good luck!

Am looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair later in June and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Much later in the year will be the annual Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Books get-together in London.

Immediate writing plans are to get more stories out to Cafelit and press on with my third flash fiction book (though I am happy with how that is going). I would like to write more non-fiction and a long term goal is to do something more with that.

Am also pleased to say a new mini-series will be coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today shortly which is about art by Graham MacLean. I was the series editor on it and it was lovely to work on. Some wonderful pictures by Graham illustrate the three part series. These will be appearing on 7th, 14th and 21st June.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Does the mood of your characters match your mood as you’re writing their stories?

Definitely not in my case and this is just as well given a lot of my flash fiction has themes of murder, revenge, poetic justice and so on! When I’m not writing on those topics, I often write about magical beings you would not want to meet, yet alone cross, or I’m writing about poignant situations.

So is all human life then in From Light to Dark and Back Again? Quite a bit of it is, yes – and a fair amount of non-human life too!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the most difficult things about writing flash is ensuring that it is a “proper” story and not just a piece of prose cut abruptly short. The need for a beginning, middle and end applies to whatever length of fiction you’re writing, though I suppose it is more obvious for things like novels and short stories.

This is where twist endings help a lot as you can’t go beyond that without spoiling the effect. I’ve occasionally written a flash piece as a letter (Punish the Innocent is a good example of this) and the great thing with that as a device it it has GOT to end with the sign-off (or possibly a PS at most!).

I think of the middle of the story as the “pivot point”. It is where the problem in the tale has been set out, it has got to be resolved, and your reader can see that being done in at least two different ways. (You’ve got to keep them guessing!).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Holiday Reading

I’ve recently picked up three lovely paperbacks which will be part of my holiday reading. Many thanks to generous friends and family for the book shop gift cards. I’ve finally had a chance to go and use them on:-

1. Double Cross by Ben McIntyre
2. London by Peter Ackroyd
3. View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

I love history of all sorts (and am intrigued by the idea of having a biography of a city!). The Neil Gaiman book is a collection of his non-fiction pieces and I’m really looking forward to reading that.

As ever, my trusty Kindle will also be with me on my holidays this year. I love both ebooks and paperbacks and switching between the two formats is another joy to reading as far as I’m concerned.

Now all I need to do is catch up on my reviewing!