Storms, Flashes, and Podcast News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images come from the magnificent Pixabay.

Podcast News

I’m delighted to say I am the guest on Wendy H. JonesThe Writing and Marketing Show talking about flash fiction tomorrow, Wednesday, 12th February. Wendy is a Scottish crime writer of the DI Shona McKenzie series and also writes about Bertie the Buffalo for children. Do check her website out for more information.

The podcast was a wonderful opportunity to chat about why all writers should write flash fiction, even if is not their main work. More on the show and I look forward to sharing the link on the next post on Friday.

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And In Other News…

Am very pleased to say my website links are now included on:-

  1.  Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Swanwick Connections page.
  2.  The Association of Christian Writers’ Members’ Website page.

Facebook – General

I’ve set up a page on my website where from time to time I share some flash fiction stories and look at how I wrote them. I hope this will be useful for other flash fiction writers and entertaining anyway!

I had great fun yesterday evening putting together a simple video for Putting My Face On and think it works well. (See below and on the link too).

Hope you enjoy!

 

Horrible day weather wise with the storm (Sunday, 9th February in the UK – Storm Ciara). Hope and trust everyone is okay. Did like seeing the full moon rising tonight and the way it lights up the clouds though. The clouds DID have a silver lining tonight! (One sign to confirm the weather is truly awful is when Lady wants to finish her walkies quickly and she did today).

Good day today. I’ve finished drafting a standard length short story which gave ME the creeps (and yes it is meant to!) and I’m looking forward to polishing that and submitting it later this week. Will have more news on the publication front fairly soon too.

Have a good week and I hope the weather soon calms down.

 

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I can hardly believe it is the 80th anniversary of the first Tom and Jerry cartoon. Always loved those two (but then I’ve always been a fan of the kind of story where the underdog clearly has the upper hand of the “master”. The Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse are the sublime prose example of those).

Never despise “light” entertainment whether it is in the form of a cartoon or book. Escapism is invaluable and something I think most of us need, for one thing. For another, this kind of thing is harder than it looks to write. If anyone makes anything look easy, you can bet they’ve been working quietly away for years to get to that point.

I do take some comfort in knowing there are no shortcuts in writing (it means it’s not just me taking the scenic route!), but I take even more from knowing very little is ever wasted. Even rejections can teach you something you can use to improve your writing. And I’ve lost count of how many stories of mine didn’t get placed somewhere, I’ve looked at them again, reworked them, submitted them elsewhere and, as a result, got them into print/on to screen (sometimes both).

Persistence is a virtue when it comes to writing but a better one is being open to looking at your writing and thinking well, I could do this bit better… Time away from the piece is crucial here for being able to give yourself distance but it does pay off.

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I was delighted to find this picture on Pixabay (and you wonder why I like them so much!). Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

What is your inner vision and are you making progress towards it

What is your reaction when you come across a book you don’t like? Do you carry on reading? Do you abandon it and maybe try it again at a later date?

In my time, I’ve done both. The latter has been more successful. For example, I tried reading The Hobbit when I was at junior school but I just couldn’t get into it. Now, of course, I have no problems with it. Sometimes it is a case of timing. YOU sometimes have to be “ready” for a book.

Very rarely do I abandon a book altogether. Even then I feel a sense of failure. I do wonder if it’s just me. What is useful though is to analyse what it is was you didn’t like and make sure nobody can say the same of your books and stories! So even a book that, for whatever reason you couldn’t get on with, has its uses for a writer!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do I know a flash fiction piece is going to work?

When the story makes me feel the way I want it to make a reader feel, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or, on occasion, scream!

One of the joys of flash is its almost instant impact but there definitely has to BE an impact! Incidentally slice of life studies can work well here too because the impact there is to make you care for the character you’ve just read about.

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Today was the perfect day, weather wise, to stay in and write and/or read! It’s about the only good thing to say about the horrible weather… I trust things are calming down where you are. Trees down here but it looks like damage is limited.

I don’t use the weather a lot in any of my stories partly because, with flash, there is limited room for description, and I always think the character is far more important anyway. I would rather show you a character battling through the elements than focus on the elements themselves. I’m also determined not to be caught out by the “dark and stormy night” cliche!

 

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How to spot a writer Part 1:-

1. They mutter and probably swear at spotting yet another typo in whatever it is they’re reading. (Guilty here: last one that really annoyed me was the ITV news report online which had Isle of White instead of Isle of Wight. Someone didn’t check the place names there…).

2. Their other half has to drag them out of bookshops OR plot a route around any area that is lucky enough to still have said bookshops. This is particularly important if they have an appointment in two hours time or less as it will be the only way to ensure that appointment isn’t missed. If you tell me you couldn’t possibly spend two hours in a bookshop, then I’ll know you’re not a writer!

3. Flash fiction writers are easy to spot. They will get their smartphone out at every opportunity and will tap away on it. Some of them might even use a stylus (Guilty as charged). If desperate, they will grab a napkin and draft something on the back of that. (Before you ask, not yet, but I suspect I will do this at some point!).

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How to spot a writer Part 2:-

1. You can’t move for them in stationery shops. (We are all suckers for lovely pens, notebooks etc). Guilty as charged on this one.

2. In coffee shops, they are likely to be in a corner, phone or laptop plugged in, and they’ve made one drink last at least an hour so they can get some writing done. (Not quite guilty on this one. I always buy a hot drink and at least one other cold drink if I know I’m going to be there for a while).

3. The flash fiction writer will be keen to explain what their genre is to anyone who will listen so it is more of a case of them spotting you. On the plus side they will know the importance of Less is More for their genre and will keep their talk short and to the point. (Another clue as to who the flash writers are is in their speech. If they seem to cut out all adverbs even when talking, you know you’ve found one). Ahem…

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Read Then?

Strange question to put on Goodreads, isn’t it? We all love books and stories. Reading is a way of life.

Celebrating books at literary festivals and/or writing conferences is a lovely part of life too!

But it is easy to forget reading isn’t a way of life for everyone. Books have to compete with other forms of entertainment for people’s attention. Sadly, books don’t always win.

I was deeply saddened once, when on a book stall with some other local authors, I heard someone walk by and loudly exclaim “I don’t do books”. Hmm… I wonder why that is? Nervousness about reading? Too many associations with bad experiences at school? I thought the comment was so sad, and I still think that.

I read to:-

1. Escape the world for a bit. (It is beyond me people don’t latch on to this more. The great thing books are legal, they won’t make you put on weight, or give you a hangover).

2. Be entertained in a way that suits me. I don’t have to commit to reading for three hours at a time (though chance would be a fine thing!). If you’re in the cinema and it’s a long film, you really do have to love it otherwise you’re in for a dull evening.

3. Discover different worlds in a way that I choose. I vary my reading. I’ll read crime books for a while, then historical fiction, then short story collections etc. But I choose which worlds to explore and when and I like that.

What I don’t want to see is books being seen as “elitist” or anything like that.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

 

Stories and Storms

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

Facebook – General

My favourite adaptation of stories are:-

1. The Lord of the Ring films.

2. A Muppet Christmas Carol.

3. War of the Worlds – the album by Jeff Wayne. (We still have it. Richard Burton was the narrator/lead. He had a lovely voice).

I’d like to sneak in a mention for The Daughter of Time on radio but it’s not really an adaptation. It’s a wonderfully produced reading of a great book set against some evocative music (The Princes in the Tower by William Walton). It is repeated every so often on Radio 4 Extra. Well worth checking out if you like history, detective fiction, or, if you are like me, you love both!

Adaptations are just great ways to enjoy stories in other formats but the ones that work for me are the ones where you sense the people behind them really do love the originals.

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I don’t know about you but it already seems to me as if January has been here forever and we’re still under the halfway point! What is it about January that makes it seem to drag…?!

Making good progress on one story I’ve got in mind for a competition. Have got an idea for another competition but that needs fleshing out.

I have found it to be true the more you write the more ideas you generate (and reading well boosts that further). I will often have ideas for stories pop into my head while drafting my Chandler’s Ford Today posts (and other blogs) so I just make a note of these and come back to them later.

Yes, I do get ideas for non-fiction articles while drafting stories! I think it must be an unspoken rule of writing that, when you write more than one type of thing, you will get ideas for whatever it is at the time you are NOT working on! Again I just make a note of these. Can you have too many notebooks? Definitely not!

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Lady set a new world record for quickest and shortest evening walkies this evening, encouraged by her owners! She’s not fazed by storms, thankfully, but we can be! (It truly is a night for writing “It was a dark and stormy night”!😀). Hope all is as okay as possible wherever you are. If I knew where my hatches were, I’d be battening them down.

Still I guess it is the perfect night for settling in with writing to be getting on with and reading to enjoy later on.

My CFT post this week will be Numbers into Writing Will Go. Sometimes a post proves to be more fun to write than I anticipated and this was one such. I enjoy writing all my posts of course but I love it when one just “takes off” and this one has. Link up on Friday as usual.

The image of Lady I would caption as “There’s a dog in here somewhere!” (All other images from Pixabay).

 

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I’ve sometimes talked about writing tips I’ve found useful but what have you come across in the writing world which is anything but helpful?

1. No publishers will take work unless you have an agent. Not true. There are plenty of indie publishers who will! It is a question of seeking these out and following their submission guidelines to the letter. Yes, the very big publishers will want you to have an agent but always look out for submission windows. Some of the big publishers have imprints which have these windows so it is worth keeping an eye out for these too.

2. Blogging will open doors in the publishing world. Ahem. Blog because YOU want to. I like blogging as it is a great way to share thoughts and advice. I am not expecting it to pave my way to fame and fortune. That really is not the point of it. It is an outlet, a place where you can share publishing news etc. See it first and foremost as a useful tool for you. Also see it as a way of engaging with potential readers and potentially building up an audience. It is important to be consistent so people know when to expect your posts. Think about what audience you would like to reach and tailor your posts so these will be of interest to them.

3. Short stories have no market. A big no to that one. Yes, they do. Magazines are still the main one but there are indie publishers who cater for short story and flash fiction collections. There are online markets too (and these can be a great way to raise your profile). It is true you have to be a big name to have a big publisher bring out a book of your short stories. But there is always room for good quality anthologies out there. I know, much as I love the novel, I like to read story collections too and I refuse to believe I’m the only one!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t always set out to write flash fiction. I know that sounds odd coming from me but occasionally I will set out to write a standard length short story (1500 words) and realise it has far more impact if I leave it at 150!

But that’s fine. It is the impact on the reader that matters the most and I try to have the needs of the reader in the back of my mind all the time. Yes, I write what I love to write but I also want to get it to an audience if I can so the happy situation here is to write something you love that is likely to have others liking it too.

Easier said than done I know but what I have found has helped enormously:-

1. Is knowing there’s no time limit on practising your craft and trying to hone it. I’m not in a race with other writers. I need to get to a point where my voice shines through in what I write at the pace that I can manage. If it takes two years rather than two months, so be it. I have found trying to submit work regularly means I’m getting that practice in regularly. It mounts up.

2. The really important thing is to enjoy your writing. If you enjoy it, someone else will too. From your viewpoint, if you enjoy it, you will be able to sustain your writing.

3. By thinking about what I want to read and why I have the preferences I do, I can use that to inspire the creation of my characters. It is nearly always characters that fascinate me enough to make me want to find out what happens to them. So I spend time in getting my characters as right as I can manage in terms of being able to see how they would appeal to readers. I find the Scrivener character templates really useful here but you can create your own. Think about what you need to know about your characters. Think about what you like about other writers’ characters. Story analysis is worth doing.

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What I love about flash fiction is being able to glimpse into a character’s life for a brief period and still being able to work out a great deal about them, when that is not part of the story. (It’s a sign of a great flash tale when you can do that. So much has to be implied but there should be plenty of implications for you to pick up on).

Flash fiction is like a mirror held up briefly. You get one glimpse and that’s it until you pick up the mirror again. Repeated readings of a flash tale should enable you to pick up on clues and inferences you missed on the first read. (A good book or film is always worth re-reading or re-watching for precisely that reason. You are focused on finding out what happens on the first reading/viewing.You pick up more on nuances on repeated reads/views).

 

There was an impressive flash of lightning tonight, while I was out with the dog, that lit up the whole sky. (Naturally these things would happen while I was out as opposed to being nicely cosy indoors but this is Rule 1 for the Murphy’s Law for Dog Owners. You WILL get a soaking every time the heavens even think of opening! Rule 2 is you can never have enough towels for drying the dog).

The ideal flash fiction story should also show an impressive amount of information even if at first read it doesn’t appear to do so. I usually find on subsequent re-readings, there’s more to a character than I first thought and I love that. I also love picking up on the little details that add “oomph” to the story which I may not have given enough attention to on the first read. (I’m too busy trying to find out what happened!).

But I have found it always pays to re-read stories, your own and others, as you will pick up something new. You can then look at what you could add to your own stories to give your own “oomph” factor.

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Am re-reading my Tripping the Flash Fantastic and looking forward to sharing more news on that as and when I can.

I am planning to change the title of this Facebook page later on when I know roughly when my second flash fiction collection will be out.

I have thought for a while that, given I focus on flash fiction advice and tips here, that a title based on that would be preferable anyway. Will let you know more on that later in the year. (It is lovely having plans like this though!).

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Preferences

My reading preferences depend on what mood I’m in. I will go through a spate of only wanting to read humorous prose, then go through another where I’m on a diet of crime stories, before moving on again.

I often find the spark for moving on to a different genre for a while will come from something I’ve read in a writing magazine. An interview with an author can lead me to checking their work out but also going on to read more in their genre once I’ve read their book.

One thing I will try and do better on during this year is posting reviews. I do appreciate receiving reviews myself. It’s remembering to post them that’s the issue and not just for me I suspect.

As for where I prefer to read, that’s easy enough – in bed at the end of the day. It’s the perfect way to relax before sleeping.

Do I ever dream about what I’ve read? Not usually though I occasionally get strange dreams where it’s clear something of what I’ve read has seeped in. The problem with those kind of dreams is they are disjointed and I’m not sorry I can’t remember them!

My overall reading preference is to keep on reading widely and well. I’d like to read more non-fiction this year too. Have you set any reading goals this year?

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