Swanwick 2021

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to Fiona Park for the picture of me signing Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – August 2021. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

It has been a busy week with Creativity Matters: Finding Your Passion for Writing coming out on pre-order in paperback and ebook. (Out on 1st September 2021 so not long to wait). Book cover image from Wendy H. Jones.

It has been a joy to look back at Swanwick though and I hope my CFT post shares something of why it is special for writers.

Feature Image - Swanwick Writers Summer School - August 2021

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27th August
It’s that time of the week again – time to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week, I look back at Swanwick 2021. All of my CFT posts are a joy to write but some stand out as being really special and this one does as it brought back many happy memories of a wonderful week at Swanwick this year, and from previous ones I’d attended.

I look at a little of what the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School has to offer writers (and it can only be a little as otherwise the post would be far too long!). Can’t wait for the booking slot to be open again for Swanwick 2022!

And it was fabulous meeting up with another Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books author for a good chat. #LindaWPayne, I hope to get to see you again at the next Bridge House event!

Swanwick 2021

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Hope you have had a good day. Just sent off some blurb and an author headshot for an event I will be taking part in later on in the year. Loved the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group meeting last night. Great fun – I have a story to work on as a result which is good. Nice talk about markets as well, always useful that.

Meetings like this are wonderful places to exchange information. You never know when something someone says then suddenly is of direct relevance to you. That’s happened to me a lot.

I was told about Chandler’s Ford Today – and now write for it.

I was told CafeLit were issuing a 100-word challenge (and look what has led to – two published flash fiction collections).

I was told about Mom’s Favorite Reads – and now write for it. So if you ever wondered if there was any point to networking with other authors, there’s your answer – yes, there is!

And it is great fun. The support and encouragement along the way is appreciated too – it especially helps with things are not going so well. We all get writing ebbs and flows.


Nice to see some sunshine today and Lady was besides herself with glee. She got to play with her best friend, the Rhodesian Ridgeback today, and her other best pal, a Hungarian Vizler. All three dogs went home tired and very happy.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I look back at my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. What has going to that done for me? Well… (takes big intake of breath)…:-

1. Made lots of writing friends.
2. Had so much encouragement.
3. Learned so much from the courses and workshops.
4. Taken part in things I had not done prior to Swanwick, most notably the Open Prose Mic Night. Great fun.
5. Sold my books.
6. Bought even more books! It is one of my great joys to walk past my book shelf and see books by friends, signed by them naturally, on there.
7. Have a week just focused on writing and nothing else. Bliss!
8. Come out of my shell just a bit! Chatting with other authors helps you share what you do and they share with you about their work. You learn to speak about what you do much more naturally. I was a bundle of nerves when I first started doing this kind of thing.

Can’t wait for Swanwick 2022!

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My latest drabble (aka 100-worder) on #FridayFlashFiction is called The Turn Around and I look at how my characters David and Mary spend their tenth wedding anniversary. Does it turn out as either expect? Hope you enjoy reading the story to find out (and a huge thanks for the great comments in on this already. The feedback from this website is encouraging and useful.).


Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes

 

Repetition can work in flash fiction, funnily enough. You might think it would be the first thing to avoid given the limited word count flash has. But it has been useful, not all the time, but for when I want to produce particular effects.

I’ve sometimes used repetition in titles (Enough is Enough is one example from Tripping The Flash Fantastic).

But what works better, especially if I am writing a “circle” story is have the last line mirror the first line but with a slight tweak to the words so they’re not exactly the same but 90% of the words, say, do match.

Another thing I’ve sometimes done is to start a couple of sentences with the same starting phrase. In my Good to Go, I have two consecutive paragraphs start with “He looked at”.

My The Wish List has all but one line start with the words “I wish”. You can get a rhythm in the prose using this kind of repetition. It can be so effective for emphasis.

It’s not the kind of thing I want to do all the time (I don’t want it to look gimmicky) but repetition, every now and again, can be distinctive and help create the impact you want your story to have on the reader.

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I’m going to be talking about the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (link up on Friday). What has been so encouraging has been to see the development of flash fiction as a format over the many years I’ve been going to writing events. When I first started doing this, flash was not “on the radar” so to speak.

Now it is a recognizable form, with all sorts of competitions and markets catering for it. And the bigger established competitions such as The Bridport Prize have added it to their categories. I am sure the switch to more people reading on screens has helped fuel the growth in flash fiction as it is so easy to read on screen.

I would like to say onwards and upwards for flash fiction but it really should be onwards and watch the word count limit!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Writing from an Alternative Character’s Viewpoint

Writing from an alternative character’s viewpoint is great fun and it was how I found my way into print back in 2009. My story, A Helping Hand, was published in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing).

The idea was to take an alternative character from a fairytale and write their story up. I chose the youngest stepsister to Cinderella to write about. Great fun to do. I could make that character narky about Cinder’s success and so on. (And if you would like to check the book out you can do so here.

This kind of thing is a great writing exercise. It makes you think about the “bit part” players and explore their personalities. What stories do they have if they were allowed to take the starring role for once? Is there resentment against the well known one’s success or do they hope that some of that “luck” will rub off on them? Do they do anything to try to earn that “luck”?

Do they have success that surpasses the well known character’s new life? Are they reliant on magical help or do they make their own success? Could the well known character end up envying them? All great ideas to explore.

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This World and Others – Where Magic Is Normal, What Isn’t?

It’s a fair question I think. So your created world has magic as a normal thing. What else is normal that wouldn’t be considered normal here? Is there a price to be paid for magical usage (such as it draining the user so they have to be careful how they use it and ensure they don’t waste their own energy)?

What would your magical creations consider unusual about life here on Earth? They would see the absence of magic as abnormal but what would they make of science, for example? What would they make of technology and medical developments? Would they see them as almost magical?

I’ve mentioned before it is important to set parameters for magic. If everyone can use it, where is the story? Where is the conflict? But have certain species only able to do this kind of magic, others able to do everything, and you can set the scene for clashes (and interesting stories). If your magical world wants to spread its magic to other places, how will it deal with another setting which is resolutely opposed to it but can fight back using non-magical weapons?

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Back to Earth after Swanwick

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Had a fab time at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (and a huge thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books there recently), but also glad to be back home and at the old writing desk once again. (Lady went bananas on my return and in such a sweet way!). Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Have started work on my next author newsletter (to go out on 1st September – to sign up for this just head over to my website – landing page – at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). I share news, tips, exclusive stories etc here. I hope later that some of those stories will make it into future flash collections but newsletter readers get “first dibs” on reading these.

Am pleased to say most of my slots for Chandler’s Ford Today are full until towards the end of next month and that’s always a good sign. Plenty of fantastic interviews to come and I will be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh this coming week. Link up on Friday.

I will also be looking back at a wonderful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT soon too. (It’s a good way to celebrate the fact Swanwick happened at all and gives me a chance to share some of the benefits of going to it).

Writing Tip Time: One writing tip that has always stood me in good stead is to read work out loud, especially dialogue. What looks good on the page or screen does not always read well. If you stumble on something, your readers will too. I’ve made many an amendment to a story due to that alone. It is worth the time. That extra polishing up can make all the difference to whether a story is accepted or not.


Back to the usual writing week after a fab week at Swanwick. I’ll be drafting blogs later this evening but since coming home I have submitted a flash fiction piece for #FridayFlashFiction and I will be sharing a YouTube video of mine over on my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly.  See further down for the video. (I wrote the story for that video yesterday).

I like to have a good balance of non-fiction and fiction achieved over the course of a week and as long as I manage that, which I normally do, I’m happy. I am also carrying out editing work at the moment which is always interesting.

Funny day with the weather today. Think it’s still trying to make up its mind whether it’s summer or not…

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes use random word generators (nouns, adjectives, questions, numbers even) to trigger story ideas but another way to use them is simply to come up with say half a dozen words and ensure they are somewhere in your tale.

I tend to use the generators to trigger themes and/or title ideas, but the “have to use the words somewhere in the story” ploy is one I need to do more often. I’ve always had fun with this when doing these in the past. So I think it pays every now and then to look at prompt types you used to use and perhaps don’t write to so often now and have a creative trip down Memory Lane and revisit these.


Hope you have had a good Sunday. I know every day this week I’ll be thinking back to what I was doing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this day last week! Swanwick gets to you like that but it is in a lovely way.

Just a quick heads up to say my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again – the paperback – is currently on offer at Amazon. (Sounds a bit like a film franchise, you know the kind of thing, when I put it like that. I promise not to name my eventual third collection XXX – This Time It’s Personal!).

Looking ahead this week, Part 2 of a fabulous interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Have blogs to put up and schedule too and there is always flash fiction to work on. I drafted some while at Swanwick and I need to give some thought as to where I’ll submit those. I have ideas for both. I have the nice task of deciding which I like best. And I am working on workshop material ready for events later in the year. I’m looking forward to sharing details nearer the time.

Learning to plan out what I write when has been a useful tip I have made good use of over the years and it is coming into its own for me now.

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Had a lovely afternoon and evening with family members I’ve not seen for months. Today was the first time in so long that we could have a proper chat and Lady was besides herself with excitement. She loves visitors. She thinks they all come to see her of course. (Oh and she did go bonkers on seeing Mum had returned from Swanwick yesterday. Naturally Lady had to make sure Mum really was back by giving big cuddles to said Mum. Mum did not mind in the slightest!).

Have plenty of blogs and stories to get on with but I will resume my usual writing routine from tomorrow. I always find I need a little bit of “come back to earth” time after Swanwick. Am also looking forward to reading the books I brought back with me though I have already made a start on those. One of my great “home treasures” are my book shelves, packed with signed books by writer pals.

Many thanks for the comments in on my It’s an Ill Wind (up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday). That was lovely to come home to!

Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Alliteration Always Advantageous – In titles for flash stories or collections? Not necessarily. (There’s some more alliteration for you!).

I am wary of anything that might come across as gimmicky so I use alliteration sparingly. It can work well but I think as something different to the overall “mix” in a collection. I also want to keep titles open to interpretation and/or mood so trying to dream up something with alliteration can mean I restrict myself unnecessarily here. You wouldn’t want a whole book of alliterative titles. I could see that becoming boring.

As with the stories themselves, your titles should have an interesting hook to them. I’ve used random generators (especially the question one) to come up with ideas for titles I can use directly or adapt. Often changing one word makes all the difference. And I want my titles to have impact. So anything gimmicky could reduce that impact.

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16th August
Pleased to share my latest YouTube video based on a story I wrote yesterday. Hope you enjoy Knowing the Basics though I am glad I do not have Sandra’s attitude to flying. I am even more glad pilots don’t have Sandra’s attitude. See the video for why!


I mix up the kind of prompts I use to produce flash fiction. I will often start with my favourite, an opening line, but have worked to a closing line. I like picture prompts too and random words (either to get into the story somewhere or to use as a title and/or theme) also work well for me.

Stories from viewpoints of alternative characters got me into print in the first place with my A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing) but are great fun to do. You do have to put considerable thought into which character you will use for this and why you have picked them.

On switching to Scrivener, I was delighted to discover it comes with character and setting templates in the short story format. I just adjust these to my own use as I don’t need all of the pre-set information given. But it makes a great starting point and thinking about your story before you write it works well for me.

I like to know I have got tracks to follow before getting on with the story. I guess it’s a reassurance to me I have got something to work up into a story in the first place.

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I was glad to take part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night again. I chose two stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again (Serving Up a Treat and Calling the Doctor). From Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I chose Judgement Day. See book trailer below for Calling the Doctor. I’ve always been proud of this one – I change the mood of the story with the very last word. Great fun to do.

You have a maximum of five minutes to read (and it is always better to come in a little under that time if possible) and the joy of flash here is you can easily do that with one longer piece or a couple of shorter ones.

It does pay to read your stories out loud and/or record yourself reading them and playing them back. I’ve found dialogue I think looks okay on the paper does not necessarily read well and if you trip over something, your reader will too. At least with flash this does not take long and it is a good thing to hear how your story comes across as that is how your reader will take it in.


Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events and Paperbacks

I’ve just come back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which has been my first live book and writing related event for well over a year. (It was fantastic catching up with old friends again and the array of courses and workshops was as amazing as ever).

Swanwick has its own Book Room for the duration of the school and it was lovely being able to put my two flash fiction collections in there and pick up books written by friends. (Naturally I got them to sign them during Swanwick week and it is always a thrill to be asked by others to sign your own books).

Is the paperback alive and well? They certainly went down well at the Swanwick Book Room! I think the paperback is still relevant as a format. After all, you can’t exactly put a Kindle out on a table for a book event! Nor can the writer be asked to sign a Kindle (well, I’m not aware of any way of doing this anyway).

From the writer’s viewpoint, paperbacks are relatively easy to transport to an event (note I only say relatively as it does depend on the size. Thankfully I am not writing a three volume epic so that helps a lot!). But people do still like physical books and I think it is healthy to have a wide range of formats as not one size suits all.

When I’m away I do take my Kindle to save luggage space but I would never want to be without physical books. There is something about the texture and feel of them too (and I still love that new book “smell”). And long may that continue!

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Writing Humour and My Swanwick Report


Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Images from the 2021 Swanwick Writers’ Summer School taken by me, Allison Symes.

Am learning so much at Swanwick and it was lovely catching up with a fellow Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books author, Linda W Payne, too. More below.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Firstly, it was a joy to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Oh how I have missed so many friends there.

Glad to meet up with most of them again (and I hope to catch up with the rest this time next year, God willing). As ever, the courses, workshops, and guest speakers were excellent.

And the quiz team I’m part of, Prosecco Queens aka this year as Prosecco Avenue(!😄😄), finished in medal position for the general knowledge and literary quizzes. (Silver and bronze respectively before you ask…☺). Great fun. Oh and Minnie the Minx turns out to be older than I thought. It is amazing what you can learn from these things!

Secondly, I am delighted to welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh, who write wonderfully funny books in very different ways. Naturally this two-part interview had to be called Writing Humour.

Fran and Ruth share fabulous insights into the joys and perils of writing humour. Hope you enjoy the post. Can’t wait to share the concluding part next week.

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The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour Part 1 – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh


Final part of the flash fiction course at Swanwick today (Thursday). Focus was on marketing and it was good to get plugs in for CafeLit and Friday Flash Fiction. Also sold another From Light to Dark and Back Again afterwards, which was unexpected and lovely.

Also enjoyed the Competitions course, which was packed to the brim with tips and useful advice.

And I’m pleased to say my Side Benefits of Writing article is now up on Mom’s Favorite Reads.

 

Had a fab Wednesday here at Swanwick. (This is the nearest I get to being a roving reporter by the way!😄).

Della Galton’s flash fiction course is engrossing and yes I have flash pieces from it. I’ve entered one of them for the flash competition here. And I will submit the other one after I get home. Have a few ideas where it would fit.
Also went to a non-fiction workshop which was packed full of useful info. I do have a long term project on the go here so this hour session was timely.

Also went to Diana Kimpton’s course on creating a series. Could I apply that to flash writing? Well, the course has triggered ideas.

Outside of Swanwick, Part 1 of a fab interview with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh on Writing Humour will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Looking forward to sharing that. (See above).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Was on way home from Swanwick as I drafted this. So good to be using Evernote again. Drafted some flash pieces for me to work on further and got on with editing a bigger project too so pleased with my efforts.

Thrilled to have had my best year at the Swanwick Book Room too. You can never know how these things will go. But I can say I waved the flag for flash fiction, which is something I love to do.

Delighted to come home and discover It’s An Ill Wind is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it.


Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes


Final day at Swanwick. The week flies by. Final part to the flash course was very good and looked at editing and marketing. Always useful topics.

Hope to get a piece in for Friday Flash Fiction over the weekend. I sent in a piece before Swanwick so hope to check if it made the cut for this week on my trip home tomorrow.

 

Glad to say all copies of Tripping The Flash Fantastic in the Swanwick Book Room have sold. Thank you, everyone.
Good to come across other flash authors here. I love the differing things you can do within the format. Don’t forget many a writing exercise can be turned into flash stories. Why not give that a go?

Fairytales with Bite – Five Things to Avoid

  1. Trying to be clever with magic you are not qualified in as this has never ended well.
  2. Annoying older folk. Just be aware they may not be all they appear. Many an arrogant idiot has discovered that nanoseconds before being turned into something ugly.
  3. Misreading a spell. It won’t be you in uncomfortable footwear but a heroine with feet cut to ribbons won’t do much for your career advancement.
  4. Annoying wildlife. In a magical world they will be more intelligent than you.
  5. Coveting gold. Not a good idea in any world as it could lead you into legal and other trouble. In a magical world, you could face being blasted away by a dragon. I know. I’ve written on the topic!

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This World and Others – Five Things to Include

  1. A sense of where your created world is in the overall scheme of things.
  2. Who lives in it, how they survive, and how the world is ruled.
  3. The similarities and differences between your created world and what we know here.
  4. How your created world gets on with others in its solar or equivalent system. Or not as the case may be.
  5. Does your world send out explorers or welcome any coming to it?

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Welcome Back, Chameleons

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

A HUGE thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for arranging access to pictures for me for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. So good to see you all back!

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

And I’m off to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School tomorrow (7th August) where I look to meet up in person with friends I’ve not seen for two years and to hopefully make new friends by the end of the week.

Thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for the two pictures of me reading at the Swanwick Open Prose Mic Night in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Images of the Swanwick grounds were taken by me, Allison Symes, in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with real pleasure I return to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group for Chandler’s Ford Today. I loved their show last week and my review gives a flavour of (a) their performance and (b) what the plays (Lockdown in Little Grimley and Bombshells) were about. It was a great evening out (and very well organised in relation to social distancing and so on).

Welcome Back, Chameleons – it is good to see you back.

Welcome Back, Chameleons

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Back to the walking books and lightweight mac for going out with Lady this evening… hmm… even she wasn’t that impressed.

Does music change what you write and, if so, how? I find listening to classical doesn’t. What it does do is relax me and when I am relaxed, I write more. So win-win there. I have listened to pop and rock in the past when writing but found that the mood of the song could affect the mood of what I was writing and I didn’t want that. (It’s difficult to write a killer scene, say, when you’ve got a sweetly sick love song playing!).

Talking of moods, I must say a huge thank you for the tremendous response to last week’s Chandler’s Ford Today on Wildflowers which celebrated the local wildflower meadow in the park where I exercise Lady. There have been some lovely comments in on this over the week (on my Facebook timeline) so that post clearly hit a chord.

Mind you, after what we have all gone through during the last year, a gentle post like that was probably overdue. And I am glad I wrote the post when I did. The rain has been pouring down today so I think I got the best of the pictures possible for that post. (I suspect when I take Lady out tomorrow that poor meadow is probably going to look a bit flattened).


Nice task today – packing for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! One or two last minute bits to add but I’m basically good to go. Looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones (this is one of the great joys of Swanwick). Can’t wait to explore the Book Room too – trust me, it is legendary.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is another great joy as it is my first review of a production by The Chameleon Theatre Group since their pantomime back in 2019. It was fantastic to see them back on the stage last week and I look forward to sharing my review on Friday. They staged Lockdown in Little Grimley and Bombshells. The latter was a series of five monologues from very different women and made for fascinating character studies. More details in the review but I liked this as I sometimes write character studies as they work well in flash fiction.

And the great joy of writing blog posts is being able to schedule them. Looking a little further ahead, I will be sharing a fascinating two part interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh about writing humour. Watch this space, as they say, for more details nearer the time.

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Story time once again. Am pleased to share Silence Is Less Damaging, my latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it. And if you ever wonder whether trying to understand nature could ever go too far, my story may well provide an answer to that!

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 18-35-29 Silence is Less Damaging, by Allison Symes


It took me a while to find my voice for both my fiction and non-fiction work. And that’s fine. I think it does take time for a writer to realise what their voice is and run with it – I know it did with me. For my flash tales, I like a direct “take you into the mindset of the character immediately” approach.

This is one reason I do use a lot of first person narrative here (I see that as hitting the ground running!). It was when I realised I needed to focus on one major character, whether I was writing a flash tale or a longer short story, that my pace increased, the waffle was a thing of the past (most writers have been guilty of this at some point), and I suddenly found myself having acceptances. I say suddenly. The reality is I’d been working to that point for years (as most writers do).

It’s no coincidence that successful writers will often tell you they’ve been working away for years before anything of theirs saw the light of day. Also that stamina and the ability to keep going and going are essential. Building up flash stories and submitting them regularly is a good way of building up a track record as I mentioned yesterday.

In producing those stories all the time, you’re building up your own writing stamina too. I also find it a useful weapon against the dreaded Imposter Syndrome. Why? Because I can tell myself I have written a story once, I can do it again and again and again. Then I sit down and do so.

The nice thing with flash is the potential is there to have the rewards (publication) in print and in online magazines more quickly than in many other forms. And if you can write short, you can write long. It is harder to write to 100 words than to 10,000 ironically.

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Will be happily waving the flag for flash fiction at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School from Saturday. So looking forward to that. Also looking forward to next Zoom meeting of the ACW Flash Fiction Group later this month. It’s always a good sign when meetings like that get everyone buzzing with ideas and people then get stories submitted. Win-win there. I like flash as it is a great way of building up a track record in being published too. It can be something to show a publisher or agent if you submit longer works to them later. All worth bearing in mind.

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fictionTime to Write

Fairytales With Bite – Magic – An Asset or a Pain?

Is magic an asset or a pain to your characters/your favourite characters to read about? Magic, as with any source of power, is open to misuse and abuse. The classic fairytales are full of examples of that.

Part of the reason I never understood all the fuss about Harry Potter was I saw the poor lad as someone suffering simply for who and what he is and that he needed to learn and use his skills to defend himself and others. Also, he was prepared to make sacrifices to help others. I had no problem whatsoever with any of that and I saw the stories as great examples of magic being misused, in the case of Voldemort and company, and that had to be stopped. Fire fighting fire and all that.

In the Discworld series from the late great Terry Pratchett, in Raising Steam, Moist von Lipwig wants the Patrician (Havelock, Lord Vetinari) to call in the wizards to help with building a railway in the time scale Lord Vetinari wants. The Patrician is having none of it, being all too aware of the damage caused to Ankh-Morpork before when magic ran riot. (See The Sorcerer for the full story of when magic alone did rule the city).

So I see a lot of the fairytales then as warning us of the misuse of power. Magic is something to be controlled and should be used for the greater good. So do your characters do this? Where magic is misused, who intervenes to stop that? Can the damage done be undone? There are classic and timeless stories to be had here because this is a great example of art imitating life. We have all known examples of abuses of power so stories reflecting that (and fantasy often does) will have great resonance.

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This World and Others – Who Lays Down The Rules?

Who does lay down the rules in your fictional world? Is it one universe with one ruler or a series of kingdoms and republics with monarchs and presidents/patricians/Lord Protectors etc? How long has your world been like this? Are the ruled over happy with the status quo or are they seeking change? If the latter, how will they do this and what do they want to see replace the old system?

If the rules are good (in a broad sense) and the government is accepted by most, then what challenges could your world face? Do threats come from another world or from malcontents who want to seize power for themselves? (They turn up anywhere!).

All great story ideas there.

If the rules are bad or have been misused, who would seek to change that? How? How would they garner popular support for change especially against a tyrant where most people would think at least twice about putting their own lives (and those of their families) at risk?

It is no coincidence that in past times, rebels would not only be executed by the king but their estates would be seized. The whole idea was to send out the message that not only would the rebel die, the family would be likely to do so as well (as there would be huge risks attached to helping the family of a proven rebel). With no estate or other support, the family at best would be likely to starve.

Looking into the history books to see how places were governed and how traitors were dealt with (one man’s traitor is another one’s freedom fighter) can also be a source of ideas for your own characters and stories.

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Talks, Stories, Mom’s Favorite Reads, and Swanwick

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

It has been an interesting few days what with my talk on flash fiction going down well with Byre Writers, some lovely comments on my writing and that talk on Twitter, and looking ahead to seeing friends I haven’t seen in person for two years at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Talking of Swanwick, the image of me reading at the Open Prose Mic Night was taken by the lovely Penny Blackburn. The side image of me reading was taken by the equally lovely Geoff Parkes. All other Swanwick images were taken by me.

I plan to post as normal next week from Swanwick if I can but times are likely to be different. (Looking forward to having these two books in the Swanwick Book Room. Last time I went I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out).

Framed Flash Collections

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Stories – I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t care if they’re in written form, audio, film, or what have you, though I love them all. What I want is a good story well told which keeps me engrossed until those magic words The End. And for me that means being gripped by the characters and having to find out what happens to them.

The nice thing is stories come in all manner of styles and word counts. It has been a joy to discover flash fiction as a format (and especially since I’ve been published in it!). Styles and fashions in storytelling may come and go but the basic premise of having a story so good you have to finish reading it remains.

I look at some of the older novels I have on my shelves and the levels of description in them would almost certainly go above a flash fiction word count but most of these were written in pre-television and film days when most people, for example, would not have known what London looked like so did need a description to help them get their bearings in the story they were about to read.

The advantage we have as writers now is not having to do that. We can give a reader the salient details they have to know and they can fill in the rest themselves. Most will have an idea of what London looks like (and it is also easy enough to look things up now. Google Maps anyone?!). So we can focus on the things that will drive the story on (and our pace also increases as a result of that. Particularly useful for short form fiction writing of course).

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. (So looking forward to being at Swanwick next week!). Lovely to see Lady play with her pals this morning. Lady now happily curled up on sofa, snoozing.

Just to say the August 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out and I have a piece in there about Side Benefits of Writing. See link below for more. Have already submitted a piece for the next issue. It is great fun to write for MFR.
Hope to be sharing further publication news later this month too. Watch this space as they say.

Oh and to flag up Writing Magazine now have a Grand Flash Prize. I hope to have a crack at that one. (First prize is £1000, second prize is £250 and there are other prizes too – definitely worth a go).


Sorry I realised after it was too late yesterday I had sent out my author newsletter a day early. Oops! Mind you, I am finding it hard to believe it is August, given the recent bizarre weather. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!

On the plus side, this time next week I should be enjoying my first full day at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Can’t wait for that. Am hoping for good weather (and am looking forward to being out and about on the train again too).

A huge thank you to #JuliaPattison and, separately, #PeterMarshall for your wonderfully encouraging comments respectively about flash fiction and the Byre Writers workshop I ran yesterday. Feedback like this is always welcome but especially so when it comes out of the blue.

Also a huge thank you to the lovely people at The Chameleon Theatre Group for arranging access for me to pictures from their recent comeback production. I will be reviewing their show next week for Chandler’s Ford Today but as well as putting on great shows, The Chameleons take some great pictures too. And I hope The Chameleons have got off to a good start with their charity fundraising for this year which will be for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance Service.

Last but not least, thank you also for the great response to my recent CFT post about Wildflowers. It seems to have struck a chord with people but then maybe we all need to take time out to appreciate the natural world more often, especially after the last very trying year or so.


It was a great joy to talk about flash fiction writing to Byre Writers this morning. Many thanks to #KathrynHolme and to all who came to the talk via the wonders of Zoom for making me so welcome. It was great fun.

One of the nice things about flash fiction writing is it is easy to demonstrate and I usually read out a couple of my published works at talks like this to show what flash can do and be. I like to choose stories with contrasting moods to show this. And, while flash is short, its impact is all the greater on a reader because of that. A well-told flash story can “hit the reader in the guts” very quickly indeed!

I like to mix up whether I produce stories to make readers laugh, shudder, or what have you. I like a nice mix of moods in the stories that I read so I like to reflect that in what I write.

In further news, my author newsletter went out earlier today. If you’d like to sign up for this, please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

And a week from now I should be at the writing highlight of my year – the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I plan to put up my FB posts as normal but times will differ and I hope to write up a review of this year’s school for Chandler’s Ford Today later on in the summer to give a flavour of what goes on. What am I looking forward to most? Easy-peasy. Meeting up with friends in person whom I have not seen for two years! Can’t wait.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amongst the many things I’m looking forward to at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School is the Open Prose Mic Night. I’ve taken part in that a couple of times and hope to do so again. Flash fiction works wonderfully for this as, by its nature, it’s difficult to go on for too long (which is the besetting sin of any Open Prose Mic Night!).

And it is a joy to listen to the other participants. It is wonderful to be read to – doesn’t happen often enough for my liking – and the stories they come up with are amazing. I see that very much as an encouragement and Prose Nights are also a good way to test out material and get used to reading to an audience. That in turn is useful practice for book signings hopefully later on.

 

My latest YouTube video is called Not Taking Advice. It follows what can happen when someone doesn’t! Hope you enjoy it.

One of the joys of talking about flash fiction is it is very easy to demonstrate what it is by reading some examples. I did this yesterday for Byre Writers and deliberately mixed up the moods of the stories I read out to show just what flash can do and be.

Another nice thing about submitting regular work for #FridayFlashFiction is I get to read the other stories on there and can genuinely consider this market research! Market research in terms of seeing what other flash authors are doing, the kinds of stories the website likes and so on. That kind of research is never wasted. Best of all, it is great fun.

Oh and talking about flash fiction writing, the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out. I talk about the side benefits of writing in this issue. The theme I set for this issue for flash stories was coming out of your shell.

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Many thanks to the lovely people at Byre Writers for inviting me to talk to them about flash fiction writing this morning. It is always a joy to talk about flash. I shared some ways “in” to creating a flash story and the advantages of flash fiction writing. Even if you mainly write something else, there are still benefits to be had from flash writing.

Am looking forward to taking two books to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School’s Book Room next week. When I last went, I only had From Light to Dark and Back Again out. It will be really nice to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic in the Book Room this time as well. (I am also hoping to see some other books in there by Chapeltown writers).

Glad my Oddity, the latest tale on #FridayFlashFiction, is going down well. The feedback is much appreciated. And if you want to find out what flash fiction is out there, do check the website out. You’ll have a good read as well as get a good “feel” for the kind of stories you can produce for flash.


Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Goodreads Author Blog – What Do You Want To See in Your Favourite Books?

What I want to see in my favourite books are characters I can root for. Even when they’re villainous, I want to understand what drives them to be the way they are. Nobody says you have to like characters but you do need to be able to see where they’re coming from.

Stories can reflect on us. Unrealistic characters will not draw people in to read their stories. Yet a character you can understand, no matter how bizarre they and/or their setting might be, will draw people in to find out more.

I like crisp dialogue which gives me enough information to work some things out for myself. I like enough description so I can picture the scene but I don’t want too much of that. Again, I want there to be some gaps I can fill in for myself.

Above all, I want the “have got to keep reading to find out what happens next” to be there throughout the whole book or story. No dull bits. Life is too short for that.

And at the end of the story or book, I want to feel like I’ve been taken on a rollercoaster ride of emotions but for that to be a journey I would happily take again because I loved the story and book.

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Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

More publication news this week and Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, chats to me on her blog. More below.

Storytelling shows us so much about ourselves

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Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday where I’ll be chatting about Youtube for Authors. I’ll share how I use Youtube and why I am finding it useful, creative, and great fun. Going down this route was not something I anticipated doing even three years ago.

Don’t forget my author newsletter goes out on the first of the month so if would like to sign up please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com (landing page) – and a big welcome to those already aboard. You receive a welcome email on sign-up along with a link to a giveaway where I share flash fiction stories, a brief piece about flash fiction, amongst other things.

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Hope you have had a good day. Thunder coming in here. Lady okay with it, especially now we’re back at home, but I cannot think of an odder July, weather wise. Glad the weather is supposed to get better from tomorrow but I am not holding my breath!

Glad to say I will be giving a couple of Zoom talks later on in the month so am getting ready for those.

Looking forward to going back to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Will be wonderful to catch up in person with lovely friends I’ve not seen for two years, though am deeply saddened by news of those Swanwickers lost since we last met. The support from other writers here is amazing. It will be nice to be out and about on the train again too (and yes, I have renewed my railcard. I renewed it last year not long before the first lockdown…oops!).

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Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on my No More Miss Mousy story which is up on #FridayFlashFiction. Great feedback – much appreciated.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about YouTube for Authors and the idea came from Part 2 of my interview with #HelenMatthews shared here on Friday.

Do you schedule your writing over the course of a week? I have a rough outline of what I want to see done by the end of the week but I can adjust this (and do) as and when the need arises. Friday of course is always CFT day, Sundays are usually when I prepare a flash tale to put up on YouTube and submit something to #FridayFlashFiction. For the rest of the week, I like to write a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and if I manage to do that, I feel it has been a week well spent.

Screenshot 2021-07-09 at 18-40-02 No More Miss Mousy, by Allison Symes


Two posts today as lots to share. I’ll start by saying a huge thanks to the lovely #ValPenny for hosting me once again on her website. Back in March I was talking about my writing journey and today’s post is an update. A lot has happened since March, mainly involving Zoom.

Am also looking forward to catching up with Val in person when we get back to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later on in the summer. (I know – summer, she says laughingly but officially it is summer anyway). Will there be enough prosecco to go around I wonder… I’m sure we’ll manage!

Screenshot 2021-07-13 at 20-12-36 Zooming Around by Allison Symes


Secondly, I am delighted to say the July 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now up on Amazon. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing. I am their flasher queen after all! Hope you enjoy the magazine. It has a lovely combination of features. Best of all it is free – what’s not to like about that?

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I cover a wide range of emotions in my flash tales and I hope that range shows the depths flash can reach, even with its limited word count. I believe the limitation on word count encourages creativity rather than stifles it because I have to think of better ways of getting something across to a reader to make the most of whatever word count I have chosen to write to for that story. My usual word count range is between 100 and 500 for the shorter pieces and 500 to about 750 for the longer ones. I do write right up to the 1000 words maximum allowed but don’t do this often. The fun for me with flash is keeping the story as short as I can while still having the maximum impact on a reader.


I always enjoy preparing my videos on YouTube but this one gave me extra enjoyment and I hope it does for you too. My favourite form of writing is what I call fairytales with bite which are often humorous and/or come with a twist in the tale.

Hope you enjoy Getting The Workmen In.


E = Editing is something writing flash fiction has taught me not to fear.
D = Driving me on to make my flash story as perfect as I can make it at the time.
I = Imagination comes into play even here as I work out how to show a reader what they need to see in as few words as possible.
T = Time – allow plenty of it for this, a good edit is not something to be rushed even in a 100-word story.
I = Instincts will kick in as you realise over time what your wasted words are and you start spotting your repetitions quicker – you know to cut these immediately and will get better at doing so.
N = Naming your weaknesses helps you to spot them and overcome them – I have to watch myself for my wasted words and unnecessary punctuation (am a sucker for brackets – see!).
G = Great editing will strengthen your story and help your flash writing have more “oomph” to it which will go down well with readers.


It is a joy to be talking about flash again in the July 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. I set the theme for flash stories for them and write a post around the topic I’ve chosen. Do check the magazine out. It is free and there is a wide range of lovely articles in there.

This time I’m talking about patience. It has taken me time to learn different techniques for writing flash. Also I can get my characters to show just how patient or otherwise they are so it is a good open topic. And I like those – it means stories can be taken in any one of several different directions and I love the freedom of choice there.

And I’m getting to wave the flag for flash fiction. Am always glad to do that!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Balancing Fiction and Non-Fiction

I like to read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction though I suspect my reading “see-saw” is tilted more to the fiction side of things. I am reading more non-fiction than I ever have and hope to keep doing this, especially as I am now writing more non-fiction than before too.

My non-fiction reading side is tilted towards history where I’ve always had an interest and I’ve loved many of the Ben Macintyre books. I love the development where non-fiction is using some of the techinques used in fiction writing to grab the reader.

Gone are the days are boring old big reference books. In are non-fiction books which have speed and pace and make you wonder what will happen next. I hope that development encourages more people to read more non-fiction. I know it has worked for me!

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Summer (finally!), The Author Voice, and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Summer weather now finally here in the UK and I have publication news too – for non-fiction this time and something I hope will be now be a new “regular” for me, Mom’s Favorite Reads. Screenshot of cover image of MFR taken by me, Allison Symes, as was snippet of my piece on flash fiction.

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Another glorious day. For once the swimming pool water felt refreshing rather than like a blast from the icy North. (Am sure it is a ploy to make you start swimming quickly and to be fair it is an effective ploy!).

Sent out author newsletter today. Hope those of you who have signed up to it enjoy it. I love putting them together.

Delighted to say I am now in Mom’s Favourite Reads and this time I have a feature article about flash fiction (Flash Fiction and Sharks) in there along with a flash story called Dressed to Kill. Looking forward to contributing more to Mom’s Favourite Reads in due course.

It has been a gloriously sunny and warm Bank Holiday Monday in my part of the world today. This is more like it!

Looking forward to taking part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival later this year. (Also lovely that many of my writer pals are also going – it will be a blast!). More details as and when.

Also looking forward to giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction at the end of July. Can’t wait to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August too. So a promising summer and autumn lies ahead.

Now I’ve mentioned before that when I have odd pockets of time, I will jot down one or two liners which I will then write up into flash or short stories. Sometimes the ideas I jot down can become blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, or More Than Writers. (From next month, I’ll be jotting down regularly ideas for articles for Mom’s Favorite Reads too).

It really does pay to to do this. I was feeling especially tired yesterday, the old imaginative tank was definitely running on low, so I went back over a couple of old ideas and wrote them up. One is a flash story which has become a story video (see my book page at https://www.facebook.com/fairytaleladyallisonsymes for the link to this – going up shortly after I post this!). Also see further down!

The other story has become a 100-word story I submitted to #FridayFlashFiction. (And I can let you know on Friday whether or not they took it!). I ended up finishing my writing session feeling considerably more cheerful than when I began it because I had something I could work with immediately and so off I went.

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Hope you have had a good Sunday. Lovely to see some “proper” May weather – nice sunshine, decent temperatures etc. Lady relished it when having her usual playtime in the park.

I guess I should’ve known the weather would perk up because my Chandler’s Ford Today post for later this week is called Summer Here, Maybe? There really is a Murphy’s Law for Writers!

On the plus side I do share some good news that has lately come to my attention in this post, discuss holiday reading, and anticipate returning to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year.

Mind you, I could easily have written 1000 words on the vagaries of the recent weather!

New newsletter from me out on Tuesday (1st June) so if you want to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I’ve been having great fun with Book Brush recently for a lot of my blog work as it has been great creating images I can use with the captions already in them, captions I invent. The images are still from those marvellous people at Pixabay but prior to discovering Book Brush, I had to add captions in under the image itself which, for me, was not as clear. And, of course, I’m using the same program to create my short story videos – all good fun. (Talking of which I will be sharing two exclusive short story videos in my newsletter on 1st June).

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers

I look at why it matters we hear from your characters, and not from you the writer, in my turn on the ACW blog, More Than Writers, this month. When we tell stories, we are showing readers what happens to our “people”. It is “their” story. We just create their roles for them. So let them speak, act, think etc. It is the characters that grip readers, the characters who keep people reading.

Now to ensure I get my characters to do the talking and acting, rather than have my author voice butting in, I outline those people first. I use a simple template so I know enough about my characters before I start writing them up.

If they don’t grip me at that stage by showing me, yes, these characters could do this, do that, really impact a reader this way, then I don’t write those characters up. If they don’t engage with me, they won’t for anyone else. I share a simple template I use a lot to help me get my characters “fit for purpose”. Hope you find this useful.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon. See link for more info.

Also sharing the link for Mom’s Favorite Reads as I have an article on flash fiction and my story Dressed to Kill in there. Will be writing more for MFR in due course.

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Delighted to share my latest story video on Youtube – Mirror, Mirror On The Wall. (Yes, I do love using fairytales and nursery rhymes for story ideas. They can make great themes – and I’ll be talking about finding themes for Chandler’s Ford Today in a couple of weeks’ time). Hope you enjoy!

 

If you like inventing characters, flash fiction is for you. It has always been my favourite aspect to creating stories so this is a win-win situation for me. My favourite kind of character is the quirky type (and my heroine, Mary, from my story Assumptions which is on #FridayFlashFiction, is a good example. Let’s just say nobody is going to con or otherwise hoodwink my older heroines. I once came across the term CroneLit for heroines of a certain age and upwards. I like that).

And flash works brilliantly for those “one-off” situations which you couldn’t justify stretching to a full length short story (1500 words + generally). It also works well for quirky characters. Now to get on and invent some more!

 

Thanks for a great response to my story, Assumptions, on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. Also thanks for the fabulous response to my contract news the other day. Am looking forward to writing up my chapter on flash fiction in due course.

Now I remain convinced one of the things that has helped flash take off so well in the last few years is technology and a change in reading habits. More of us are reading on screen (and I do so whenever print books are a little less convenient such as if I’m away somewhere – there are only so many books you can pack in a case and the Kindle does get around that issue!).

And something that is easy to read on screen is ideal – flash is perfect for that of course. It is also great to share on social media as a way of entertaining (hopefully!) your readers. It is great here as an advert for your writing work overall and to give something of value to your followers.

Less is more really could be the anthem for all flash fiction writers!

Goodreads Author Blog – What Puts You Off Reading a Book?

I know this is a bit of an odd question for a book blog spot but I think it a valid one. So is there anything which would put you off reading a book?

For me, hype tends to do it. I want to decide for myself what to read and I am always suspicious when a book is hyped. Lots of good reviews is another matter. People say what they think, I do so myself, and that’s fine. It’s when you get the “you’ve got to read this – everyone else is reading it” that tends to make me pause and think “well not everyone”. I don’t want to be told what to read while I am always happy with recommendations.

I still haven’t read Fifty Shades. Really not my style of book. The hype for it wasn’t going to make me change my mind either (if anything, it made me more determined not to do so).

I have got around to reading The Thursday Murder Club and loved that. I had word of mouth recommendations on this one (always the best kind to get) plus I checked out the reviews. (I still think the book was let down by poor proofreading though, always a disappointment and even more so when a big publisher is guilty of it).

So what would put you off reading a book? Is it a question that you know the genres you like and you stick with those no matter what? Comments welcome!

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Late Running, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, and Why Books are Special to Me

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay pictures.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her. Many thanks to Janet Williams (my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today) for the image of me reading at a book signing at our local railway station (yes, really!). Also to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for their images of me reading at various Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night events. All great fun.

And I think I’ve finally cracked the “most unusual title for a blog post” category! Read on to find out how the inside of a ping pong ball is relevant for my flash fiction writing this week. If you had asked me last week whether I would anticipate such a thing, the answer would have been a firm “no”! How much can change in a week?!

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A huge thanks to the #DundeeCityWriters – I was talking to them over Zoom last night on the topic of flash fiction (naturally!) and it was such fun. Many thanks for hosting me.

(Also one of the best ways to show what flash fiction is to read some out and I always enjoy doing that. I’m hoping the Open Prose Mic Night will be on again at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year. Flash works well for this kind of thing. You can’t go on for too long for one thing!).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is on the subject of Favourite Lines. I’ve touched on this topic before but for this post I will also be looking at how catchphrases and repetition can help us form said favourite lines. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday.


Many thanks for the wonderful responses to my rather unusual tale, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which I posted yesterday (see below) in reply to a writing challenge set by #WendyHJones on Wordy Chat. (The latter is a Facebook group set up by fellow Association of Christian Writers member, Maressa Mortimer – lots of giggles and chats about the writing world – naturally we meet on Zoom).

I have two standard ways of getting into a story. By far my favourite is working out who the character Is, what their main trait is etc as that usually gives a pretty good idea of the kind of story in which such a creation would appear. But my other way into a story is with a promising title and that was the take I took on this one.

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball not only gave me my title, it set the tone (with a title like that it had to be a humorous tale), and therefore the kind of character likely to be in it.


As promised yesterday, here is the flash fiction tale I wrote in response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat the other night. The story title says it all!

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball

Look, don’t blame me. I have to travel in whatever vessel I can find and blend in with my surroundings. I am in what you humans call a sports hall doing various horrid things with balls and bats and making yourself all sweaty. So gross!

But it means I am currently curled up inside a ping pong ball. It’s cramped in here. I’ve had to shrink my normal size down by well over 80% to get in here. Trust me that is not a comfortable experience.

I am here to study you lot on the order of the big bosses. Personally, I would far rather have gone to the seaside.

But I have to go where the bosses tell me to go. (Would so love to tell them where they can go but they’re not forgiving of any kind of insubordination and I do like living so that rules this out).

To be honest with you, I think they’re preparing for an invasion.

I’m going to tell them not to bother.

I’ve seen the way you treat other ping pong balls. Smash them about with absolutely no thought. What would you do to the likes of an alien invader?

I tell you it is terrifying to think about.

So you lot have won. And I must get out of this ball before…

Arggh! Too late.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 2nd May 2021

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Hope you have had a good Saturday.

New author newsletter from me went out earlier today. See https://www.facebook.com/501180463318271/posts/3429068970529391/ if you missed this.

If you would like to receive the newsletter regularly, please sign up at my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – on receipt of the welcome email, you’ll get a link to a giveaway as well.

I’m enjoying putting the newsletters together and, unless there is some specific time urgent news, will keep these to monthly send outs.

In other news, as they say, the next couple of topics for Chandler’s Ford Today will be on Favourite Lines and Understanding. I look forward to sharing those blogs as it is always a joy to talk about favourite lines from books and I make the case for how reading encourages empathy in the latter post.

Am currently drafting a flash fiction story based on what is probably the most unusual location I’ve chosen to date. Well, I say chosen. It’s a response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat last night, where a group of writers from the Association of Christian Writers get together for a good giggle and lots of talk about writing related topics. Those who were at Wordy Chat last night will know what the location is but will share the story tomorrow! (See above – and I hope you enjoy it. I loved writing it).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the lovely responses to my story video Late Running. (See below for video). Also to The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball. (See above for story).

One lovely thing that came up with the latter was I used it in my talk to the #DundeeCityWriters group I spoke to via Zoom yesterday about flash fiction. I used it to prove my point that flash fiction lends itself beautifully to being able to set characters anywhere!

And the great thing? Dundee City Writers is led by #WendyHJones who set the topic of The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball at last week’s Wordy Chat!

What goes around etc etc!

Still, I think I am going to have to try very hard to think of a more unusual setting for a flash fiction story!

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Pleased to share my latest story video. Hope you enjoy Late Running. Pun intentional (and indeed for a lot of my flash fiction it is a case of no pun knowingly overlooked! Why the fondness for puns? I love them anyway but for flash, having words and phrases that can carry double meanings helps with (a) impact and (b) keeping that old word count nice and trim!).

Over on my author page at https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50 I’ve shared a flash fiction story, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which was written in response to a writing challenge set by Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. It is certainly a top runner for the most unusual writing challenge I’ve responded to (!) but it was great fun to do.

And it is important to have fun with your writing. Okay, there are times when it won’t feel that way. I find being over-tired can sap the joy out of writing (and everything else come to that) so I try to avoid getting into that state.
But one lovely thing about flash fiction, especially if you’re working on a longer project and it is proving to be a slog-fest, drafting a very short story can be a refreshing break from your main writing work and you have something else to submit elsewhere later.

And when I am tired, just jotting down a couple of hundred words, whether it is a full flash tale or will end up being part of a longer one, still makes me feel connected to the creative process. That in itself makes me feel better.

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One of the best ways to demonstrate flash fiction to people is to read some to them! I’ve done this a few times now at things like the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic and even at book signings. (That led to sales -win-win there!). I’ve found the 100-word stories (aka the drabble) work best for this. They don’t take too long to read and demonstrates the capacity of flash fiction well, especially for impact on a reader.

I’ve mentioned before here and on my author page that reading work out loud is great for literally hearing whether your dialogue is as smooth as you think it is. What looks good written down doesn’t always work so well when spoken out loud. But this technique also works for the rest of your prose. If you stumble over something, you can be sure your readers will too. And again with flash it is easy to read a piece out loud and hear whether or not something is working.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Why Books are Special to Me

I could write chapter and verse on this week’s topic, appropriately enough. So where to start on why books are special to me?

My love of books and stories comes from my late mother who encouraged my love of reading and taught me to read before I started school. Books were regularly given as presents. I would often buy books with pocket money and money gifts sent by my relatives for Christmas etc. I went to the library a lot.

Best of all, Mum had a lovely collection of books herself, which I now have. And I so wanted to have a collection of my own (which I have). As well as being read to as a child, which is so important, I saw Mum read for pleasure herself more often than I could say. It sent the unspoken message that this was definitely an okay thing to do – and it is!

Then there are the books with particular meaning. I treasure the Bibles given to me by my late parents and the one given to me by my son.

I love The Reader’s Digest of Classic Fairytales two volume set. I spent hours reading those and loving the beautiful illustrations. I remember the shock I first had on reading The Little Mermaid in here and discovering fairytales didn’t always have happy ever after endings. I identified with the way The Ugly Duckling felt and cheered when all did work out well in the end. (You know full well as a kid it doesn’t always work that way in life, You know it even more as an adult).

I treasure my paperback of The Lord of The Rings and my copy of Pride and Prejudice.

For me, there is absolutely nothing about a book to dislike.

I like my paperbacks, my hardbacks, my audio and ebooks. The format doesn’t matter. The fact it is a book does!

Happy reading!

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Introducing Elizabeth Hurst – History, Romance, Ghosts, and Strong Female Characters

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of Elizabeth Hurst and her book covers for Siren Spirit and A Friend In Need were kindly supplied by Elizabeth Hurst.

Images of me signing Tripping The Flash Fantastic were taken by Adrian Symes.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m delighted to welcome fellow Swanwicker, Elizabeth Hurst, to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Feature Image - Introducing Elizabeth Hurst

We discuss her Lost Souls series and her love of history. Her stories take history and combine it with romance, ghosts, and strong female characters. Plenty to keep the pages turning there I think!

(And I have a soft spot for cross-genre stories. They work so well – and it never did the Harry Potter series any harm now, did it?).

Elizabeth also discusses the challenges she faces in writing her stories, including the issue of research, and how she came into writing late.

This is one thing I adore about the writing world. Age is no barrier (and nor should it ever be. Also think about Mary Wesley who broke through with The Camomile Lawn very late in life).

Siren Spirit by Liz Hurst

Elizabeth also shares her three top tips and what she loves about the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Both of us are very much hoping to be back there in August 2021.

It was a joy to chat with Elizabeth. I always learn something useful from every author I interview for CFT and it reminds me of what a big writing world it is out there.

It also reminds me of what a supportive world it is and that is so encouraging to us all I think.

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How would you describe good writing? For me, good writing is material that moves me and makes me feel something (usually sympathy for the character in the story I’ve read or glee they’ve got their comeuppance – there is no middle ground with me here!).

I love witty turns of phrase and relish, in humorous prose, those lovely “in-gags” which are a delight to “get” but which do not spoil the story if you don’t get the other meaning. Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse both excelled at these as well as the more obvious “in your face” humour.

Good writing leaves you with a feeling you are glad to have read it. For fab books, it is a case of putting said book down with reluctance when duty calls. (In some cases, duty has been known to yell at me to put the book down and get on with what I’m supposed to be doing).

Am posting early tonight as I’ll be “going” to a couple of Zoom events this evening. One is a book launch and the other is a Bookbrush seminar. Looking forward to both. And am looking forward to a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals tomorrow night too. I might not be going out anywhere much right now (unless it is with the dog) but the diary still gets full – with good things and I do consider myself blessed for that.

Hope to continue with good progress on my non-fiction project after the Zoom sessions. Happy with how it is going but plenty still to do. But then writing is a marathon and not a sprint so that’s okay. It is a question of pacing yourself.

Happy writing!

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11th November – Remembrance

 

Many thanks, everyone, for the great response to my post yesterday about TTFF being on Barnes and Noble. I like nice surprises like that!

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I will be interviewing #ElizabethHurst, author of the Lost Souls series. Link up on Friday.

Looking forward to sharing that as she shares some wonderful insights into what drew her into writing romance with history – and with a twist too. Let’s just say there’s plenty to keep the pages turning but more in the post on Friday.

Other items on the horizon are the Brechin/Angus Book Festival taking place online on 21st and 22nd November. Looking forward to being part of that. Naturally there will be a CFT post about it!

Very happy with progress on my non-fiction project. Is coming along nicely. My goal for the end of November is to have a first draft down though I know it is going to need several good edits before I even think of submitting it anywhere. But that’s fine. Am enjoying the challenge of writing something different to what I usually do too.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction has an advantage for writers whose main work is elsewhere. How come?

Simply because a flash fiction story makes a good warm-up writing exercise and, with good editing and polishing, those pieces could find a home somewhere. And that is a great way to build up a track record of publication credits.

Just a thought… never waste a writing exercise again!

I also think writing flash can help with producing a blurb and synopsis. After all, anything over 500 words is lengthy to me (!) but most blurbs etc do have to be under that.

It also helps to work with what the ending is and then put in the most relevant things that lead to this point. Of course deciding what the most relevant things are can be the problem (!) but flash writing makes you focus and it is that focus you want for this kind of writing too.

And if time is tight, as it so often is, drafting a flash story or even a flash article (yes, there is flash non-fiction now), you are still getting writing done.

You can expand on this or not, as you choose, later on, but you will at least have something to work with. As has been said, it’s impossible to edit a blank page.

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Hope you enjoyed The Best Laid Plans yesterday. This is a good example of taking a well known phrase and writing to its theme. I don’t often write all dialogue stories though they can be fun to do. Generally I do need to put in a little bit of “action” which is not speech for most of what I do.

But it is an interesting technique to try as it means you have to get your characters showing you the story. What they actually say also has to be what you would expect characters to say in “real” conversation so absolutely no author speak. No sense of the author pulling the strings either.

A good test for whether dialogue works is to read it out loud. If you stumble over it, a reader will. Also you can literally listen to how your dialogue sounds.

Does it sound natural to your own ears? Recording it and playing it back can also help enormously here.

Ask yourself always if the story situation was real, would your characters really speak in the way you’ve depicted? You want a firm “yes” for that one!

Stories have to read naturally so the characters have to act and speak naturally. (The only over the top characters I can think of that work are Mr Toad from Wind In The Willows and Cruella de Ville in The 101 Dalmatians. That’s because both of these are set up as OTT characters early on so readers know what to expect).

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Hope your Wednesday has been okay. Time for a story I think. This is one of my all dialogue ones. I find these work best when kept short and I prefer the 100 mark or under for these. Hope you enjoy.

THE BEST LAID PLANS

‘I never forget a face, sunshine. I wish I could make an exception for you. You never liked soap and water.’
‘Where has keeping squeaky clean got you, Mister? I know where the money is. Give me the key and I’ll reveal what you want to know. Then you need never see me again. That suits us both.’
‘The key is in Maisie.’
‘What?’
‘My spaniel ate the key this morning. See you this time tomorrow.’

Allison Symes – 11th November 2020

Fairytales With Bite – The Biter Bit

This is a common theme in classic fairytales. The villains getting their comeuppance has always been one of the most satisfying aspects to fairytales with me. Even as a kid, I knew the world was far from fair. In the pages of a book, it can be fair! And I loved (and still love) that.

What interests me far more now is understanding where both the villain and the hero come from. I’ve got to understand their motivations, even if I don’t agree with them. I’m always torn when there’s a villain I can understand but the hero is priggish. Who should I support there?!

So for the biter bit to work effectively, you need to show why the villain should have their comeuppance at all. The comeuppance should be in proportion too. There has to be a sense of fairness about it.

I dislike over the top reactions in life, yet alone in fiction, and readers see right through it. You run the risk of turning your story into melodrama. For me, stories work best when they keep to the point.

A good tip for this kind of story is to work out what the ending is first. Write that wonderful comeuppance scene and then work out what would have led to it. There will almost certainly be more than one possible starting point but in working out different possibilities, you can more easily spot the strongest one and go for that.

The lovely thing with biter bit stories is both the biter and the one biting back have to be strong characters. They’ve got to draw your reader in so they will be anxious to find out what happens.

So think about how you can show the best and worst sides of both of them. Give your readers dilemmas here. They know they should support the hero but they can understand the villain… On the other hand the villain did this, this, and this so they really should be brought down.

And humour is a possibility here too. The biter bit works well for characters who are pompous who need bringing down several pegs or so.

Above all, have fun with what you write here. It should be fun!

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This World and Others – Identification

How do your characters see themselves? Are they right to do so or are they fooling themselves? What does identify mean to them? Are names used as we do or are your characters identified another way? Is there such a thing as fingerprints?

Identification ties in closely with class/social status so how does that work in your world?

No matter how strange your world or how odd your characters look, sound etc., there has to be something about all of this that readers can identify with. Certain struggles are the same no matter what the universe. Beings need to eat, drink, find shelter etc., so how is all of that done?

And the possibility of conflict, the driving force of stories, is always there. Envy is not just confined to human beings!

And then there’s ambition. We know it can make people do all kinds of things. This can be true for your fictional world too so how does this manifest itself?

What would your characters do to defend their identification and how they are seen by others? How does your fictional government identify its citizens?

What do you want your readers to see?

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Surprises, Titles, Barnes and Noble, and Youtube

Nice combination for a title I think!

Image Credit

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Facebook – General

Had a nice surprise today. Discovered I’m on Barnes and Noble. See link and screenshot further down.

Why the surprise? Well, I guess it is because I hadn’t really thought I could be on there! Nice way to finish a Tuesday having said that! Also note to self: you really should check these things out sooner!

Very happy with progress on my kind of NaNoWriMo project too. So not a bad start to the writing week.

One thing I find about my Chandler’s Ford Today posts at times is picture finding. All hail the mighty Pixabay and all of that because they are brilliant but sometimes I will write a post where I think I will find loads of excellent images to go with it.

What do I find? Precious few.

Using Pixabay has taught me to think laterally and that will often resolve my problem but not always. For example my post on board and card games proved surprisingly difficult to find the right images for and I did think I would have a surfeit of richness there.

Still no such problem this week when I chat to #LizHurst! (Another advantage to interviewing authors – as well as being huge fun to do, you can always rely on them for book cover images, author pics etc!!).

Screenshot_2020-11-10 Tripping the Flash Fantastic PaperbackHope you have had a good start to your week. Lady and I had a wet start to the week…not that she worried. Mind you, she was pleased to see her best buddy, who is the sweetest Rhodesian Ridgeback ever. And the news about a possible Covid vaccine is fantastic news. Definitely need a lift right now.

Looking forward to sharing an interview with #LizHurst later this week on Chandler’s Ford Today. Liz and I are big fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. So looking forward to being back there hopefully in August 2021.

One of the biggest things about the lockdown is missing being able to meet up with people in the way we used to do. Mind you, I love Zoom and like the way that has made events accessible. We want the best of both worlds here.

Had the delightful task yesterday of going through a proof of a short story that will be appearing later in the year in an anthology. More news later of course but this kind of writing work I’m always going to enjoy!

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As promised yesterday, here’s the link to the video for Being Yourself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic, which I uploaded to Youtube yesterday. Hope you enjoy.

I also talk a little about what inspired me to write this story. I love this kind of thing when other authors do this as I always learn something useful that I can apply to my own writing.

In other news, I’m making good progress on my non-fiction book which is my “kind of” NaNoWriMo project so am happy with that. Looking forward to getting back on to that shortly. And for another story here is the book trailer for Tripping The Flash Fantastic.

Have just scheduled another video to go up on my Youtube channel. I’ll be putting up my story, Being Yourself, which I created a video for as part of my cyberlaunch for Tripping The Flash Fantastic. Link in above post!

The story is due to go live a little later on this evening (and I will share the specific link tomorrow) but I am impressed at how easy it is to upload videos on to Youtube.

I’ve been creating videos for the first time this year for both my website and things like the launch so it makes sense for me to develop this side of things further.

Flash fiction works very well for this as it isn’t too long (so download times etc are also good). Hope to have more fun with this and create new stories specifically for the Youtube channel in due course.

Screenshot_2020-10-31 Allison Symes - YouTube

From Light to Dark and Back Again

I tend to keep my titles short for my flash stories. This is partly because some markets/competitions do include the title as part of their word count so that’s all the incentive I need to keep the title short!

But it also pays to do so simply because shorter titles are easier to remember. That in turn makes it easier for that title to impact on the reader.

It is also important for a writer to be able to keep tabs of what they wrote and where it was (hopefully) published so again make your life easier here and keep the titles short!

Most of my titles are from one to five words, though I occasionally use a six or seven worder. In Tripping The Flash Fantastic, my story Time Is For Others To Worry About is deliberately at that length as it intrigues (I hope!). If I’m using a proverb or well known saying as my title, then I will use it in full but again that phrase will be designed to spark curiosity in the reader as to what the story is all about.

So as well as outlining my lead character and story line, I do give thought to the impact I want my titles to have. It pays.

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Had a wonderful catch-up chat with Swanwick pals on Friday night via Zoom. I don’t know if this is just me but I do find Zoom easier to use than Skype.

Good to also catch up with listening to a couple of writer pals who’ve been on Chat and Spin Radio recently too. And one thing that came out of a good old chat on Friday night was the joy of flipping through the latest copy of Writing Magazine and spotting the names of writers you know in there. What is lovely is these days I feel a bit disappointed if I don’t spot the names of at least three people I know in there!

And do bear in mind that some of the magazine’s competitions would count as flash fiction. I’ve seen a 750-word competition in there, a 500 words one and so on. They may not be labelled flash fiction but they are all the same!

And online magazines like Cafelit have a lovely mixture of flash fiction and standard length short stories so bear them in mind too.

My story page on Cafelit can be found here and I deliberately have a mixture of flash and standard length short stories on there.

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Both of my book titles have reflected either the mood of the stories within them (From Light to Dark and Back Again) or the overall genre, flash fiction (Tripping The Flash Fantastic).

A good book title should draw potential readers in and the best way of doing that is for the title to spark their curiosity. Otherwise known as the “I’ve got to find out what that’s about” effect!

I didn’t know either of the titles for my collections until late in the writing stage. I DID have working titles (I do need to have something to “peg” my stories to) but also knew these would not be the final versions (but that was okay as I still had my “security blanket peg” so to speak).

It also pays to jot down ideas for titles as they come to you (and it’s often when you’re not expecting them!). Having a shortlist of possibles is reassuring and there is bound to be at least one that really grabs you (and hopefully would also grab other readers).

 

One good exercise to do is to give yourself five minutes to come up with opening lines. Don’t edit what you’ve come up with either.

Just jot down the ideas and work with those.

I have fun here with coming up with seemingly impossible scenarios that I am going to have to find a way for my character(s) to overcome. The best kind of opening line is open to interpretation and can be taken in different directions. See what you can do with these.

1. The postman may have rung twice but he wasn’t going to do so again.

2. When your living room lights up with blue sparkling fairy lights even though it is nowhere near Christmas, you know you’ve got a problem.

3. The dog was never wrong.

Allison Symes – 7th November 2020

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Non-Fiction Books

I must admit my favourite non-fiction books tend to be the writing guides. I’m especially fond of Stephen King’s On Writing (which is also a great memoir. There aren’t many writing books which can claim that).

I also like How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman is packed with great advice and is very funny.

I also like the Jane Wenham-Jones books Wanna Be a Writer? and Wanna Be a Writer We’ve Heard Of? Again lots of useful information given in a chatty and funny way. I adore that kind of thing.

I suspect I’m not the only one here but I do take information in better (and retain it) if I’ve enjoyed the books said information is in!

No pressure on the non-fiction writers then!

I also love the Ben Macintyre books – again history presented in an entertaining way. I am glad the days of non-fiction being confined to serious and literally heavy tomes have now gone.

And it is a good idea for any writer to mix up their reading material. Inspiration for our own stories can come from a variety of places so it makes sense to read widely and to include non-fiction in that. You just need to read one fascinating fact and ideas for working that into a story can come.

I’m currently reading on my Kindle Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall and loving it. It is non-fiction because Milligan did serve in the war. It is humorous (as you would expect from him) and it draws you in and is a real pleasure to read.

And that’s what a good read should be after all!

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