Writing Challenge, Advice, Story Video and Interview News

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. It has been a busy few days but fun!

Picture below gives you an idea of what is coming up (and I am glad to report my recording for the international writing summit last week went very well. Am looking forward to sharing more on that as soon as I can).

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Facebook – General

I had an interesting writing challenge today. Some of you may know I’m the Membership Secretary of The Association of Christian Writers and on our Facebook page today, I was “thrown the gauntlet” by #WendyHJones to come up with a flash fiction piece involving certain words. Those words were “gentle, throat, print, chairs, church”. Now I often use all kinds of random generators to come up with story idea triggers (e.g. random words, numbers, questions even).

So did I meet Wendy’s challenge? But of course… here is the result.

A gentle clear of the throat was all I needed as I looked at my work. The print run was done. The service sheets were on all of the chairs. I checked that three times. I can’t wait until I resume my old task and welcome people back to church.
Allison Symes – 23rd February 2021 – approximately 9.30 am!

I don’t often get to write a piece of flash fiction before I get to take the dog out for her big playtime/walk! Lovely creative and fun start to a Tuesday. Many thanks, Wendy.

Hope your Monday has gone okay. A huge thanks for the great response to my new Book Brush adverts yesterday (see images in next post down). I was pleased with how they turned out.

Finally nailed down a longer flash piece I’d been working on for a while, polished it, and submitted it. Sometimes it goes like that. I know I needed to tighten the piece up but didn’t see immediately how to do it. Time away from the piece worked wonders (so I do take my own advice, at least some of the time!).

Am looking forward to sending my first author newsletter on 1st March. I’ve gone for the 1st as it’s an easy date to remember. It would not surprise me at all if 99.9% of all authors with a newsletter have also gone for the 1st for their chosen date! If you want to know more do check out my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/ – you go straight to the sign-up page here. (I’ve changed my original home page to this one as it makes more sense).

If you want to know more about my flash collections, do go to my website and then on to my Books page where you will find my trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Will repeat below too.

The plan with the newsletter is to share writing tips, news, and flash stories before they are published anywhere else. Hope to see you aboard (and many thanks to those who have signed up so far).

Newsletter advert

I’ve been having fun with Book Brush again creating a couple of adverts for my website and books. See below! I love this kind of thing but have to make sure I “play” like this once and only once I’ve got my writing done for the day. It’s too easy to lose lots of time with this kind of marketing as it is so much fun.

Seriously though, given every writer has to market their books, you do need to find ways that you can enjoy (and therefore keep going for the long term). I haven’t engaged with Instagram or Pinterest at all but am loving creating the videos for my Youtube channel. So that gives me a visual medium to enjoy working with (and when I add free to use music tracks it’s an audio one too).

You also need to decide what you’re going to try marketing/social media wise, what works for you and what doesn’t, but I must admit I find the hardest thing to get right is apportioning time to writing new material/revising draft material and marketing. It’s not an easy balancing act and every writer I know faces this dilemma.

When you have a new or relatively new book out, you know you’ve got to concentrate on the marketing for some time to give that book its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world. What’s tricky is working out when to stop and back pedal a bit so you can get on and produce new writing that will make it into another book for marketing later on.

I try to make sure some of my writing sessions during the week are for purely writing (though this post counts as both writing and marketing!). Others are for purely marketing or developing materials to use for marketing, If I can look back over the week and see I have managed a good amount on both, I’m happy. I can’t claim any scientific method to this, far from it, but it works for me. I’ve also accepted nobody ever gets this totally right. It is working out what is right for you.

Delighted to share another fab review for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Many thanks #MaggieFarran.

Reviews help authors more than non-writers, I think, might always realise. If you wonder whether it is worth doing, basically the answer to that is yes, it is! And Maggie’s great example shows a review does not have to be long (or take long).

In other news, I spent Friday night recording my presentation for the international writing summit I mentioned earlier this week. All went well. I loved doing it. Many thanks for all the support and prayers from writing friends. I was calmer than I thought I would be and that helped a lot. And I can really worry when I put my mind to it, trust me on that.

The ironic thing here is you do need a certain amount of adrenaline going here. It helps fuel your creativity funnily enough but if you have too much of it, it tips over into anxiety etc and that definitely does not help you come across well.

As for the summit itself, I hope to have links etc in early March and am looking forward to sharing those.

Next week, I’m due to be interviewed by #HannahKate for her North Manchester FM radio show so am busy getting ready for that. All great fun and I love to talk about writing, specifically flash fiction, so this will be huge fun to do. Will share links for that as and when I have them though it will be after the show goes out. The nice thing here is my publisher, Chapeltown Books, is Manchester based so a nice link there.

Screenshot_2021-02-20 Amazon co uk Customer reviews Tripping the Flash Fantastic

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my A Bad Day for A Fairy Godmother story video yesterday. See below. The Youtube videos are proving to be a great way to share one and two line flash tales. Those one and two liners in turn make great vehicles for humorous/slightly off the wall/both kind of stories, which I adore writing.

And it’s a sad day indeed when there isn’t time for a short, sharp, funny flash tale.

Now it is thought that Cinders’ glass slipper was a mis-translation. It was meant to be a fur slipper (though these days I would hope it would be a fake fur slipper and that’s as “political” as I get, folks). Having said that, the idea of it being the fairy godmother’s spell going wrong was fun to run with so I did! (Oh and no glass or any other kind of slipper was needed for me to do that!).

Am looking forward to being interviewed tomorrow afternoon by #HannahKate for North Manchester FM. Will share links as and when I get them but it will be good to wave the flag for flash fiction.

If you want proof anyone can have a bad day, check our my latest Youtube flash fiction video (made using Book Brush, uploading to Youtube, and then adding a free to use audio clip from Youtube’s audio library. A big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for putting me on to that. I’ve had a lot of fun picking music tracks for my stories – and music is wonderful for setting mood).

I’ve found over time (a lot of time!) my natural flash fiction “home” is the 100 to 500 words mark.

For the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition though, I had to write to 1000 words and for all three of my winning entries (Progressing, The Professional, and Books and the Barbarians), I came in at about the 990 mark.

Unless a competition or market says it has to be so many words, nothing more, nothing less, I always take off about ten words from the final count to allow for any changes to title and so on. There is always something at the last minute before you submit work that you need to change and you must factor that into your overall word count restriction and give yourself enough time to make any changes. No last minute submissions for me then. I like to know I am well within the date set for entries to be in by too.

Also bear in mind for the majority of these things, the word count is the maximum you write to and, unless the rules state otherwise, it is okay to come in at under that count. I like to do so to make absolutely sure there is no way I’m going over the limit. (In most competitions, going over by even one word is enough to instantly dismiss your entry because it is not fair to do otherwise on those who have stuck to the word count rules so it is worth making sure you do have this right).

For this competition, I felt an appropriate count for me, to give me word count room for changes etc., would be at about the 990 mark. I try to pitch these things so I am not far off the limit but am still under it. And it works!

A tip I’ve found useful is when you’re not sure what to write next, get some drafts done. In my case I draft flash fiction and blogs of course. When you haven’t got a lot of time but could draft something, do so (and the great thing with flash is with its short word count, this can be done in a relatively short period of time. I’ve drafted a 100 worder in 10 minutes for example). Why mention this?

It’s just that you get periods when you are busy marketing in some way so having the time to create something new can be difficult. You do run out of time but by having drafts to hand, I can pull one of those, work on it, ensure I’m happy with it and then get it out somewhere quite quickly. It means even when my main work has to be those other things, some new flash fiction is being created, based on those drafts written a few weeks back. It is worth having a stock of drafts like this.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Sells a Book to You

What would you say sells a book to you once you have read it? You’ve loved the cover, the blurb, and you’ve enjoyed the story but what was the stand out element for you?

For me, it is always about the characters. They have to grip me so I want to follow their story through. They don’t necessarily have to be likeable. They do have to be memorable. I have to understand where they are coming from, even if I disagree with the route they’ve taken. And if a character makes me want to shout at them or what have you, then that’s a good sign. It means they’ve engaged me, even if they’ve annoyed me! I then look further at why they’ve annoyed me too.

What I really dislike are insipid characters because you think what is the point of their story. No writer wants that one!

Twitter Corner

 

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CafeLit Publication News and News of a Poorly Paw!

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And the great thing with books and stories? They can take you anywhere in space and time. You just need to enjoy the journey!

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Publication News

Delighted to receive the list of all who will be in The Best of Cafelit 10 later this year. It is a big list too! Always lovely to spot my name in said list!

Congratulations everyone and many thanks to all who voted for my two stories, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of the Day Job, to be included. It will be lovely to be “between the CafeLit covers” with friends, old and new. And don’t forget you can always check out the previous CafeLit anthologies. They are a wonderful mixture of styles and moods with something to suit most.

And if you want to know more, I can do no better than take you to my Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent

I’ve had the joy of being published in several of these (the most recent being CafeLit 8 and 9). And they make perfect books for dipping into if you are between “big”reads and don’t know which will be your next one.

Give the short form collections a try!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

Am not sorry to see the back of January. Goes on for far too long but in positive news, Lady is going from strength to strength (see poorly paw story further down!), and my snowdrops are in bloom in the garden. That’s a positive for any time but especially for a Monday I think.

Many thanks for the wonderful responses to the Launches in Lockdown series so far on Chandler’s Ford Today. I’ll be sharing invaluable insights from two fab writers from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this Friday. What my guests and I all hope is that this series will be encouraging and helpful to those writers who are having their launches this year, when none of us can be certain about what will happen and when in terms of lockdown restrictions easing etc.

One thing I have learned as a writer of many years standing (and of course sitting!) is a little encouragement and good tips do go a very long way. I hope they do for you too.


Many thanks for your best wishes over Lady’s poorly paw. Am glad to report she is feeling much better and has cheered up considerably. The claw will grow back so the next time she might experience a little discomfort will be when that comes through again probably in a couple of weeks or so. (A bit like us with teeth really!).

Having said that, Lady is a young, highly active dog, and this is the kind of accident that does happen to dogs like her though Lady would be glad (as would I) if it didn’t happen again! The other good thing though is young active dogs do recover quickly which is a mercy.

Writing wise, I’m setting up interviews at the moment where I’m on the other side of the interview desk. Am looking forward to sharing more details as and when I can.

I’m also working on something else which will end up on my website right here (!) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and again I look forward to sharing more details when I can. It’s been something I’ve been toying with doing for a while and something has cropped up that has told me, yes go for it, so I am!

The writing life is often like this. You make some developments, then you need to build on that so you end up doing more! But this is a good thing. The writing life is not meant to be static. What is lovely is looking back every so often and seeing where you’ve come from while looking ahead to further developments and seeing where they take you. And, as ever, the best thing is to enjoy the journey.

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Hope your Saturday has gone well. Now in dog news, I have to report Lady is recovering from a poorly paw.

Apologies in advance if you’re eating but she managed to rip a claw. Vet removed claw and sealed the wound. Claw will grow back. Not a great day yesterday, Lady understandably feeling sorry for herself, but much better today and is coming on leaps and bounds.

I just need to stop her doing literal leaps and bounds for a couple of days to make sure all is as well as it should be. Huge thanks to Lady’s bestie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her human mum for the fuss and cuddles you gave Lady yesterday. It was the only bright spot in her day yesterday!

Okay that’s the kind of drama no dog owner ever wants to have (but inevitably gets every so often. It’s why you insure your pets!). How about the kind of drama writers want?

I must admit I don’t like melodrama. Never have. It’s always struck me as being over the top but what I do want to see is actions and reactions that arise naturally from the characters and the situation they’re in. (So no aliens landing at Mansfield Park for me. I don’t really get the mash-ups. I understand either genre – sci-fi and classic here – but not the pair together).

I want to be able to feel that yes, this character could do this because they have shown they can be silly so to be silly again is not unexpected and, as a result, the situation they find themselves in has the potential to become very silly indeed. But that all ties up and I guess that is the point.

Character = situation = one develops from the other. For me, the character always comes first. Get them set up correctly and the situations will arise naturally. Even in fantasy with magical elements, this applies. You’ve established your character is in a magical world and what abilities they have or lack so the situation will arise from that.

And the situation will always involve conflict. If a character wants more powers than they’ve got, what will they do to achieve more? Do it the proper way and learn their skills or try to cheat their way to the top? But get your character set up and you can take them where you want to and more importantly take your readers with you.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say two of my flash tales, Breaking Out and Taking Time Out of The Day Job, will be in The Best of CafeLit 10 later this year. Nice start to February! Don’t forget to check out the Cafelit site for a wide range of stories, short and long, at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/

You can find my page at https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/search/label/Allison%20Symes

And of course it is CafeLit I have to thank for introducing me to the wonders of flash fiction so I am definitely going to plug them whenever I can!

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Hope you enjoy my new story video – The Dragon and The Clock. These shorts are great fun to do and a marvellous way to share one and two line flash tales!

 

I’ve always loved writing and reading dialogue and hearing characters speak. (Also in reading between the lines of what they’re saying so you get a sense of the real character behind what they say).

When I’m reviewing stories, I try to listen to my characters, that the words I’ve given them I can “hear” them saying, and nothing is inappropriate or out of kilter for them. I often speak work out loud, especially dialogue (and the great thing with flash is this is easy to do and doesn’t take long!).

Speaking dialogue out loud is the sure way to pick up any thing that does not ring true or if what looks right written down is tricky to say out loud. If you find it tricky, so will your readers. I try to stick to the Keep It Simple principle for writing (and especially for dialogue). It works.

Now with my flash fiction, I often have stories with only one character. So yes, I do get them to speak out loud. You can, of course, get them to speak into a phone. But much of what applies to dialogue writing can also apply to writing internal thoughts. After all that is the character talking to themselves so again the style of thought, what they’re coming up with, should be apt for the character you’ve created.


I approach writing a flash fiction story in several ways.

  • I have a prepared character I want to put in a situation and see what happens.
  • I have a theme I want to write to (or one I’m having a crack at for a competition, say) so I know what I’m writing about from the get go. It’s a question of picking the right character for this kind of story.
  • I brain storm ideas for titles, pick a few I like and then work out what kind of characters would work for these and then go with the ones I like the most.
  • I know the ending to a story (and this is almost always a twist tale) and it is just a question of working out how the story would get to that point. That almost inevitably leads to the kind of character who would end up in a twist like that.

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Goodreads Author Blog – What I Like to See In A Book

Hmm… this is a good statement, isn’t it? I could give chapter and verse here, appropriately, but for me one thing only is key to whether a book is good or not.

It’s all down to the characters. Do they grip me? Do they get me rooting for them to succeed or fail? (Funnily enough, either is fine, and I do love to see a “good” villain get their comeuppance eventually. I blame my love of fairytales for that one).

If a character does not grip me, I switch off. I love Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is a fabulous character and ahead of her time. She says what she thinks and I love that.

Conversely, I am not gripped by Mansfield Park as I think the heroine there is dull and, to my mind, not worth of being a heroine. Her happy ending does depend on the misfortunes of others, in my view, but Elizabeth had to work for hers and it was by no means certain it would happen until close to the end.

I wanted to see Miss Price do so much more to “earn” her happy ending but there you go. (I guess it’s a kind of warning to all writers that even the best can come up with characters who don’t engage with their readers and I know there are those who love Mansfield Park but it has never done anything for me because of this).

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Twitter Corner

 

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An Electric Author and Podcast News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones, podcaster extraordinaire, kindly supplied by her.

Snowy garden image taken by me, Allison Symes, on the rare event of a decent amount of snowfall in Southern England.

And where will your writing and reading take you this week? Some possibilities below!

It's amazing what worlds can be created on paper - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

Thoroughly enjoyed being quizzed by Wendy H Jones this afternoon for her podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show. We were chatting about writing regular columns, as I do for Chandler’s Ford Today. Plan to share the link tomorrow when the podcast goes out.

Lady was pretty good throughout though she did let out one bark towards the end – our postman was later than normal! And you can’t expect a dog not to woof at a postie… especially one she knows!

Good to see a quick report earlier to say book sales have reached an eight year high. Not too surprised. Books are a wonderful form of escapism, regardless of what format you pick. Hope the upward turn continues. Though I must admit I would love to be able to browse in a bookshop again… it’s funny the things you miss.

My Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today continues with contributions from authors from the Association of Christian Writers this week. More details later in the week and link up on Friday.

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Wendy H Jones, author and podcaster

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)

Plenty going on so far this week (yes, I know it’s only Monday!).

Firstly, I now have an About the Author spot on the Authors Electric website. Many thanks to #DebbieBennett for ensuring this ended up in the right place. I use Blogger for a few things I write but I’m not an admin on it so am just used to posting on the posts “bit”.

Having said that, I am looking forward to sharing my first post here on 18th February. It’s also great to see some familiar faces on this site and I am relishing reading more of the posts. (Tip: to make sure you don’t miss any, subscribe to the blog itself. I know it sounds obvious but it is easy to forget to do this. Let’s just say it’s not a mistake I make now! Incidentally because I do blog, I like to keep up to date with what is out there in my field and while it is impossible to keep up with everything, I do follow as well as contribute to blogs. I see both the reading and writing of blogs as vital research).

Secondly, I am being interviewed by Wendy H Jones tomorrow afternoon for her podcast due “out” on Wednesday. I have two sides to my writing life (I know – as if one wasn’t enough but in fairness it often isn’t for writers!), and last time I was on Wendy’s The Writing and Marketing Show I talked about flash fiction. This time I’ll be talking about my blogging work and generating ideas for a weekly column.

I’ve written a weekly column for online magazine, Chandler’s Ford Today, for some time now and one great thing about doing this is it keeps me on my toes. I have to write something every week and to a deadline. I’m looking forward to talking more about this with Wendy and to sharing the link on Wednesday.

And if you pop over to my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page in a moment, I have further news! Phew… I think it is going to be one of those fun but mightily busy weeks!  (See below for this!).

The snow did turn up! The view below is taken by yours truly from my back window and, before you ask, Lady does love the snow. It’s only the second time she has been able to play in some. On the plus side it did mean I didn’t have to take her water bottle out with me today – I knew she’d eat the snow. Is there any dog that doesn’t do that? (I will pretend I am not hearing all of my cat owning friends laughing at this point, given this is an issue they’re unlikely to face!).

News: I’ve been invited to take part in a monthly blog for Authors Electric. Excited about this and looking forward to sharing my first post on the 18th. Brief: blog has to be book/story/writing related in some way. Yes, I tick the boxes there well enough!

I prepare my blogs in advance (trust me, it pays!) and when I can I draft “spares” and save them for those times when I’m away or struck down with the dreaded lurgy (not that one, to date at least, thankfully) so I can just schedule these and that’s all done.

I love scheduling. Aside from Scrivener, it is probably one of the most useful things I’ve finally worked out how to do properly! I sometimes use it for Twitter too and I need to make more use of that. You may have noticed I often put a Twitter Corner spot in my twice weekly blog spot for my website. This is to encourage me to make more use of Twitter and the use of graphics with my tweets makes a nice addition to my blog round-up as well. I like a good balance of text and graphics and it seems to go down well with my followers here (thank you, everyone).

Snow View as at 24th January 2021

Brrr…. a cold one today. No snow where I am in Hampshire though some is forecast tomorrow. We’ll see. (I did – see above! Murphy’s Law is working well – had I not said anything, would there have been the teeniest, weeniest snowflake? Course not!).

At least I’m not going anywhere other than by foot (which in turn is powered by sturdy walking boot with a decent grip!)!

Many thanks for the great response to Part 1 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. I learn so much from chatting to other authors and it always a pleasure to interview them here. Hopefully the series will prove to be encouraging to those who are wondering what they should do with their launches this year, given this will still be an issue for some time. Even when normality does return, it is highly unlikely to be “all at once” (and it wouldn’t be a good idea I think even if that did somehow prove possible).

Now on to another favourite topic. Story time! Did you have such a thing at school? I did at primary school (roughly aged 5 to 7 years). It was for about the last 15 or 20 minutes before going home and I found it then a great way to unwind and relax. I still do though my own story time these days tends to be at bedtime!

I much preferred school story time to the free milk we used to get in the third-of-a-pint bottles. I love milk, don’t get me wrong, but the bottles were either left by the radiators and I just can’t stand warm/hot milk or, especially at this time of year, the milk in the bottles had frozen and nobody was going to risk breaking their teeth trying to drink it! Oh and you can imagine what it was like during a hot summer… Funnily enough, I do love yogurt now!

At junior school level (roughly ages 8 to 11), we used to have something called SRA cards where there was a story on one side and questions about the story on the others. These were colour coded and you worked your way through the system. Adored that. (Often used when the English teacher wanted to catch up with marking. Excellent idea all around I think!).

At secondary school level (ages about 11 to 16), if you wanted to read a book, you did it on your own, unless in English Literature, but the school library was a good one so I spent a lot of time in there.

Encouraging people of all ages to read though remains a very good thing indeed. And great storytelling which draws people in is a great way to achieve that. No pressure then! Back off to the writing!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One form of flash writing is to base it on the Twitter character count. Gill James has done with this with her 140 x 140 flash fiction collection. I suspect my one-line stories, the type I often use for my videos, would probably count for this though I ought to give it a go “officially” at some point and put these on my Twitter feed. That’s a good thing to put on my To Do List and another way of writing and advertising flash fiction! (Ernest Hemingway with his famous For Sale: One Pair of Baby Shoes would be well under the character count here!).

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One ongoing thing for most writers with books out is to try and get reviews (and please do review, it helps more than you know. Also a one or two line review is absolutely fine – five minutes and you’re done). Anyway, while I was working on this, I discovered something I had not known. It is possible to put videos on your Goodreads Author Profile page.

Now I expect I’m late to the party here (I can hear you going “yeah, yeah, yeah, knew that ages ago”) but I was pleased to discover it. Naturally I’ve added the book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic to my page. See the link. Worth doing I think if you’ve not done this already.

Screenshot_2021-01-26 Allison Symes

 

Delighted to share another story video with you. Dress Sense shows Red Riding Hood’s attitude to life and the big bad wolf beautifully I think! Fans of quirky tales will like this one. Hope you enjoy.

Dress Sense Video Link

There is no such thing as the perfect character so it is a question of getting the character “perfect” from your, the writer’s, viewpoint. If you need your character to be a pain in the neck, then have you created the perfect example? Do all aspects of that character fit in to create that type?

The “perfect” character then has to be fit for the purpose you’ve created them for. Are they portrayed strongly enough to carry out what you want them to do? The reader has to believe the character is at least capable of behaving the way you’ve set them out to do without there being any “jarring notes” that would make that open to question.

The way the character speaks, even the way they dress, their minor traits etc should all add up to create a composite picture and it should be the one you want to show. Have your characters ever surprised you with what they’ve come up with? Mine have!

It’s a good thing – it shows there is life to them but it can also show you needed to get to know them better before writing for/about them! This is why I now I do spend some time outlining a character as well as their story so I can be sure I know my person really well. It saves time later on in the editing too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading/Writing Guides

Do you find reading and/or writing guides helpful? For reading, I still like the BBC’s Big Read Book of Books compilation of books that made it into their top 100. They produced a series of programmes to discuss the books chosen too and if I remember correctly there was a celebrity who would champion a particular book or author. (Some authors have more than one entry here. I’m not giving away anything major by saying Dickens was amongst these!).

The compilation book is beautifully illustrated, gives you a precis of what each book is about, and details about the author. Lovely book and a good way to fill in gaps in your knowledge and add to your TBR list of course! The latter of course was the whole idea behind the Big Read.

Maybe it is time for an update? I would welcome one. Would much change? We’d still have the classics in there (and rightly so, they’re classics for a reason) but the contemporary novels would change and it would be interesting to compare what would come in now as opposed to when this programme and book first came out in the early 2000s.

For writing guides, I like those which are down to earth and full of practical advice. My favourite here is On Writing by Stephen King but I am also fond of books such as Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. Lots of practical tips and I love the layout too. (You also can’t beat a good index for books like this so let’s hear it for the indexers!).

Naturally I like The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and the Mslexia Indie Press Guide. Information all in one place – let’s hear it for the well thought out book! And the good news? There will always be plenty of room on the bookshelves for books like this.

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Twitter Corner

 

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Living Up To A Name and Writing Challenges

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of The Writer’s Diary taken by me, Allison Symes, as this fab book was one of my Christmas presents!

Facebook – General

Brrr…. Another chilly day today, not that Lady seemed to notice.

My writing diary has a wonderful template for outlining characters and one aspect to that is talking about a character’s needs. These range from the basic needs (food, drink, shelter etc) to psychological needs (needing to be loved etc). But there is another aspect to this.

What does the character think they need? This will often not be the same as actual needs (basic, psychological or otherwise). The character may or may not be right to think they need these things. But what makes them think that they do?

This is a useful thing to consider when outlining your villains especially. Why does a villain think they need to dominate the world (and generally they so do!), for example? What drives them? Yes, the obvious reason will be the drive for power but what’s the reason behind that? That will colour how you outline your character so well worth giving further thought about.

If they honestly believe their actions are the only way to secure their own safety, that will drive them to keep going no matter what. It would also make their attitude understandable to a reader.

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Just to flag up Amazon have the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic on offer right now. See http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more.

Have also just sent off a blog piece where I’ll be the guest sometime in March. Have another one to prepare. All great fun.

Am drafting a short story for submission later this month/early February. I have totally fallen for my lead character. It is a wonderful moment when you know you’ve got right under the skin of your character so accurately. It’s also nice this character is someone I wouldn’t mind having coffee with if they were for real. I can’t say that for all of my “people”. Some are definitely meant to chill you! Some are historical figures and long gone…!

Chilly one over at the park today though at least Lady got to have a good run around with her best buddie, the loveliest Ridgeback in these parts. Another doggy pal of them both came over and the three were very happy and above all warm, unlike their owners! Stamping life back into your feet can take a while…


I always find the time between Christmas and just after New Year a strange one. For a start, it can be tricky working out which day of the week it is (and not helped at all by the pandemic with most people being at home and again losing track of the days of the week). I guess this shows I need structure and I’m not surprised by that.

I have a structure to my writing after all, not just in terms of outlining my stories and characters, but also in terms of what I’ll be doing and when. For example, my CFT post for this coming Friday is already up and scheduled but I am working on the one after that and hope to get that sorted out probably by Wednesday or so.

I finish my day’s writing either by writing flash fiction, working on my non-fiction book or another longer term project. By the time I look back at the week that has just gone, I will have wriitten several thousand words and made good progress on my project. You build up on what you do. And I find that structure works for me.

I just can’t wing it though I have no problem doing that when I am set writing exercises say at places like Swanwick, I guess I know I’m going to be set those so subconsciously I’m ready for them even though I won’t know the topic.

The tricky thing is finding time to do the “housekeeping” (for example, updating the website and so on). These tasks I try to do at least once every couple of weeks (though with my twice weekly round up, I am adding fresh material to the website all the time).

Does a structure work for you? I find I do get more done than if I didn’t have one. Why? Simply because I tick things off my list as I go and it always makes me feel better to see that list go down a bit.

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Hope your Saturday has been okay. Nice quiet one here though appreciating the central heating right now! One good thing about the cold, dark nights is that it does mean an evening at the desk writing is even more appealing than it usually is!

Writing challenges that always need to be met:-

1. Getting started!

2. Committing time to write. (And if you only do have 10 minutes, commit to that. Over the course of a week, a month etc, those pockets of 10 minutes build up. And it’s a good time slot for drafting a piece of flash fiction say or trying out a writing exercise you’ve come across. I hope to be talking about writing exercises in a future CFT post. Watch this space!).

3. Silencing your inner editor. There is a time for your inner editor to get on and do some decent work but it’s never while you’re trying to get the first draft down. Just get your ideas and thoughts down. What needs to come out will come out in the edit later on. Don’t let your inner editor stump your efforts to get any work down at all. It can happen.

4. Convincing yourself you can write. Confidence is an issue for most writers. And most of us have had to fight (and keep fighting) Imposter Syndrome regularly. See that as part of the writing life. Rejections are part of the writing life too. These things are obstacles to be overcome. You can write. You can improve what you write (and therefore up your chances of being published). This takes time. It is not a race. Willingness to learn and improve what you do is what matters here. You can write. Nobody but nobody writes perfect prose at the first go. You do get better over time at avoiding the basic mistakes (as you’ve learned what to look for and avoid!).

5. Avoiding the scammers and vanity presses. There is always someone out there waiting to trip up the unwary writer. Always ask for advice from the Society of Authors and/or Alliance of Independent Authors.

Happy writing! (I appreciate happy editing is possibly not for everyone though I like editing, as you would hope!).


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my story video yesterday (see post below). One/two line stories like Living Up To A Name, my story from yesterday, work wonderfully for this kind of thing.

Writing such stories is also great practice for writing a blurb for books etc given they usually have to be one to two lines only. The more I write flash fiction, the more I appreciate (a) the beauty of the short form and (b) the shorter the form, the more difficult it is to do well (so a big shout out to all poets here as well by the way!).

Flash fiction to my mind is precision writing. You do have to think about whether each word is really punching its weight in your piece or whether a better word would have more impact. (This is something that all poets do too).

But it is huge fun to do – and a good challenge. Challenges keep you as a writer on your toes and that’s no bad thing.

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Story time – and a timely one too given it has been so cold throughout most of the UK. Hope you enjoy.

Living Up To A Name
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BHYEO8Cv98


My new writing diary comes with plenty of prompts and I hope to get around to do at least some of this year. Flash fiction is perfect for this kind of writing because often you’re asked to write 500 words on this or that or you find the topic given is best suited to a short piece. So using prompts as a way of practicing your flash fiction writing is a good idea. And if you can polish those prompts up and get work submitted and accepted as a result even better! Definitely worth a go!


One of my goals for this year is to get a third flash fiction collection together. I’ve written a reasonable amount on this already but it will be what I return to when I’m resting my other big project, a non-fiction one.

Getting a collection together is an interesting process. As well as looking at the individual stories I’m looking at how well the collection will work as a whole. Does every one of my selected stories help enhance that theme in some way? If they don’t, well those are stories I save for another collection and another time.

What has been fascinating is seeing what my editors have picked up on for both of my books and it has always been a lightbulb moment for me of “oh yes”. That’s a good sign. It means the editors have picked up on things I’m too close to see as the author. You need an editor to point these things out. Do see your editor as your best ally in helping you to get your work as good as possible. It is what we are here for!

Oh and I am probably going to leave the name of this page as it is because (a) I like it and it’s a nice nod to my first book, (b), it is different, and (c) the link to flash fiction is apparent as you read through a post or two!

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Goodreads Author Blog – BOOKS Acrostic

B = Beautiful, bindings to suit (paperback or hardback or chapbook, brilliant at taking you into other worlds.

O = Original thoughts from writers and can make you look at our own world in a different light while reading fantasy and science fiction

O = Overdosing on books is fine. The worst you will be is well read and short on book shelf space.

K = Kindle. One way around the shelf storage problem and you don’t have to limit books to take away with you on holiday, when we can do such things again.

S = Stories in so many forms including non-fiction because that tells factual stories.

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Twitter Corner

 

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O Tidings…

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

O Tidings is the title for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and of course it comes from one of the lines from the carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. That carol always puts me in mind of Dickens, A Christmas Carol etc. It just “takes me back in time” to that period every time I hear it.

I look at how tidings and the way we receive them has changed so much but I also long for a better balance between bad and good news, especially in a year when the tidings have been unremittingly grim. (And then in the next news report talk almost inevitably goes to people’s mental health declining and is it any wonder? I think we do need some good news in amongst the bad. I know we can’t avoid the latter but balance I think is important).

On a more positive note, and doing my bit to provide some balance,I also share some Christmassy flash fiction and micro stories which I hope do put a smile on your face.

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Had a wonderful time at the Christmas Book Hub online party on Facebook last night. Many thanks to the organisers, #AnnaMariaShenton and #PatriciaMOsborne. It was great fun.

It was lovely to “see” familiar faces there and make new online friends.

It was also a joy today to send a signed copy of Tripping The Flash Fantastic to #FrancescaCapaldiBurgess who won from my post on the Hub yesterday. Hope you enjoy the book, Francesca!

I shared a Christmassy story, The Help, from TTFF and that went down well. I am delighted to share it again here. Hope you enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxtiAzRVOes&t=4s

Looking forward to taking part in the Christmas Book Hub event on Facebook later tonight, hence this early post from yours truly. I’ll be sharing a story from Tripping The Flash Fantastic and am looking forward to following all of the lovely and entertaining posts that will make for such a fun event later on. Given all of the live events have been cancelled, events like this one do much to cheer writers and readers up alike so three cheers for that!

My CFT post this week will, appropriately enough, be called O Tidings. I’ll be talking about how tidings have been shared, a little on how much communication has changed over the last twenty years, although I think it is fair to say an angelic visitation would still come as something of a surprise to most people! I’ll also be sharing some Christmassy flash fiction and some micro stories as part of this post. (I define micro stories as one/two-liners).

No post from me the following Friday!!! (I hope to have something up in the run up to New Year but Christmas Day is one of the few days of the year where I won’t be writing at all. I hope to do plenty of “story intake” though via favourite Christmas films and reading my gifts from Santa later on in the day. Christmas, for me, would not be the same without at least one book-shaped present under the tree but that is hardly a surprise and it does mean I am easy to buy for!).

And remember the best thing you can do for the writers in your life is (a) buy their books and (b) review them in the usual places! I can’t think of any writer who’d turn down those gifts!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good week. I’ve created a new flash fiction story called The Fairy’s Viewpoint which will, shortly, be on my website (right here, this is the only issue with preparing a post for Facebook and then putting it in my round-up here – sometimes things like this happen!) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

N.B.  The Fairy’s Viewpoint is further down under the Fairytales with Bite section. Hope you enjoy it!

Great fun to write though I don’t know what cat owners will make of it! I hope that has intrigued you enough to pop over to my site later on and have a look. You will find the story under my Fairytales with Bite section for tonight’s round-up of my posts and blogs.

Just so you know, I do a twice weekly round up on the Blog section of my website and it is effectively a twice weekly mini-magazine. Good fun to do and it means I keep my website and blog up to date with fresh material on a regular basis. (N.B. As you good people who follow me already know but this is very much my marketing exercise for today and I hope the initial post on Facebook will draw people to this very website! I can but try!).

Hope to share the link to the radio broadcast of Up to Scratch either later this weekend or early next week. Well now is the time for Christmas stories after all!

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It was great fun taking part in the Christmas Book Hub Facebook event last night. My story video, The Help, went down well which was lovely (flash fiction is perfect for story videos!), but my night was made by being a prize winner in one of the events. I’ve already received my copy of the ebook but a parcel of other goodies is on its way to me. And yes I am a big kid here. Who doesn’t like a parcel full of goodies? A big thanks to #KatrinaHart and I am looking forward to reading her Lost Town of Man’s Crossing over the Christmas break.

Next week will be a little different obviously. There will be no Chandler’s Ford Today post from me on the 25th (even I like a day off now and again!) and I will collate my usual twice-weekly blog and posts round up into one edition on Tuesday, 22nd December with the next one to be on the following Tuesday, 29th December (and that will be a bumper edition). After that it will be back to business as usual.

I am hoping to have the first draft of my big project written by the end of the year and while that is resting for a while, I will be working on a third flash collection. I must admit though I am itching to get back to author events though and hope that will be possible from the spring/summer onwards.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to my story, Up to Scratch, being broadcast on Hannah’s Bookshelf on North Manchester FM (hosted by Hannah Kate) this coming Saturday, 19th December between 2 pm and 4 pm. I hope to share the link to the broadcast later this week/early next week. Is it going to be odd hearing my story read by someone else? Yes, but in a very good way and it is a great way to wind down my writing year.

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Flash fiction is useful for events such as the Christmas Book Hub Facebook event I’ll be taking part in later on today. It’s easy to record on a phone and videos don’t take long to upload as a result. A short story to hopefully entertain people is just the ticket. So even if you don’t write flash fiction as a regular thing but write it occasionally, bear in mind the idea of using it as a way of drawing people in to see what else you write.

I don’t always produce videos for these. I sometimes just put the text up in posts like this one as you know but I must admit that now being hooked on Book Brush, the temptation to create something for the story is too much to resist! (And it’s another way of sharing stories too as proven below!).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHdm95OBhmg

Fairytales with Bite – The Fairy’s Viewpoint

I thought I’d share a flash tale in the run up to Christmas for Fairytales With Bite and I think my character in this has plenty of bite to her! Hope you enjoy.

The Fairy’s Viewpoint
It’s that time of year again, is it? I swear it was only five minutes ago you put me back in the box for another year. Oh look at the dust on this dress. I don’t suppose there’s any chance of a new outfit? I wouldn’t mind a nice green number, perhaps with some gold stars on it. Still festive and it’s bound to be warmer than this silly tutu.
Oh you’re just going to shove me on top of the Christmas tree again, are you?
I wish I could say I was surprised.
I wish I was allowed to grant my own wishes. I’d conjure up my own outfits! Have a new one for each Christmas. Not much for a girl to ask for, is it?
At least the view from up here is good and I am well away from your perishing cat. I’ve never liked the way it looks at me. Trust me, Puss, if I could conjure up a spell or two, you would be showing me more respect and you can stop hissing. I know you know I’m talking to you. Bad luck, your human owners won’t understand you. Even if they did, they wouldn’t believe you!
Hmm… I do believe the humans have splashed out on new Christmas lights this year. Not before time to be honest. The last set were ancient. I like the blue and white motif. Hmm… maybe not the green dress then. Maybe a blue and white dress to fit in.
Puss, if you come any nearer this tree, I will kick the baubles off and they will hit you on the head. I always had a good aim when I was at fairy school. You are not coming up here to “nab” me.
Oh good, the human mum has grabbed you and put you in your cat basket. I hope she keeps you there. Still at least they don’t leave you alone with me in here. I think they don’t trust you with the tree. I don’t trust you with me!
Right, time to put on a good show. I do have a little magic still. I know how to make my hair, eyes, and silly tutu shine. Yes, there I go. The little girl is clapping and saying she likes my pretty dress. Hmm… let’s see. I’ll close my eyes and wish hard. Yes, done it. There’s a new present tucked under the tree. The cat is hissing. Tough, Puss, you’re not wearing the dress. She will be. Okay the parents are going to try and work out who sent it and probably have a row over it but their little girl will be happy. And she’s okay, unlike you, wretched cat.
I suppose I’d better conjure something up for the boy. He’s not bad. He can have a Lego kit. He likes the stuff and has got a knack with it. And his parents can row over that too… unless.
The fairy smiled despite feeling more tired in years. It has been a long time since I performed so much magic but this family have had a tough year and if ever there was the time to bring them some cheer, this year is it.
Under the tree now, were two bottle shaped presents. The parents will appreciate that at the end of Christmas Day, I’m sure.
The fairy peered into the cat basket. Oh all right, Puss. One more wish. And don’t wreck the toy mouse all at once. It would be nice if it could see Boxing Day.
The fairy chuckled quietly. There was no chance of that wish coming true… none whatsoever.

Allison Symes – 17th December 2020

Hope you enjoyed that! It was great fun to write. And if you’d like to explore of my flash fiction, please check out both of my flash collections at:-

http://mybook.to/FromLightDarkBackAgai
http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

BookBrushImage-2020-11-14-19-1939BB - blue poster for books

This World and Others – Music

What role does music play in your fictional world? I can’t imagine a world without some kind of music. Nor do I wish to! Along with the gift of literacy, I think music is one of the most important things we have as a species. And I write listening to classical music. It relaxes me and I write better (and more) when I’m in that state!

So in your fictional work, which kinds of music do your characters enjoy listening to or is music saved for the elite? What instruments exist? Are there choirs? Is singing encouraged or frowned on? (I like the idea of underground choirs – those who defy the rules to sing though they would have to keep the volume down!).

I’ve been singing along to the carols on Classic FM and glad to do so. I always enjoy this but never more than this year when singing is restricted at best. (As I write this in December 2020, I still can’t sing in church though I can listen to live music).

And if singing and music is “normal” in your fictional world, what could take it away from your characters? I personally can’t write about the pandemic much, I want to escape with my stories and blogs. There is likely to be a spate of pandemic stories so I think it would be useful to come up with something different which takes music and things like that away from your fictional people.

Spider diagrams can be useful when roughing out ideas. You can then follow the thread of the most promising line of thought. Incidentally if music is taken away in your creation, it won’t be the only thing removed. And whoever or whatever does the removing should have good reasons for doing so.