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,[...]

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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.

BookBrushImage-2021-6-1-19-5015

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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.

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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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Sweet Dreams and Reading Acrostics

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Weather cooler again today – yippee! (Dog pleased too). Easier to concentrate and write too. Am preparing some blog pieces to send to various places in due course. As with the flash fiction, those are lovely to write during those pockets of time when I can only write for short bursts.

I forgot to share on this page the link for my latest Cafelit story, Sweet Dreams, (though I did share it on my book page). Hope you enjoy! This was a prompt from #GailAldwin in Gill James’ Prompts Book and it was good fun to write.

Now, without giving too much away, a favourite chocolate bar comes into this story. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

But it is useful to consider favourite and loathed things that your characters might have. Not only can you use those to add depth to your characterisation, you might be able to get short stories out of these things in and of themselves, as I’ve done here, thanks to Gail’s excellent prompt.

Oh and it’s a definite thumbs-up for writing to prompts set by others. They do make you think outside of your own writing box and that’s a good way to stretch yourself and what you can come up with as a result.

Happy writing!

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Hope you have had a good weekend and that the week to come is a productive and fun one. I did enjoy using the random noun generator (yes, there is such a thing!) to create a new flash story for my From Light to Dark and Back Again FB page yesterday. I will be using the noun generator again. NB.  The story I created, Misunderstood, will appear further down under the FLTDBA again section. Hope you enjoy it!

You can set as many nouns as you want and even choose the opening and finishing letters. I just went for two nouns at random and the great thing with that is you could use these as a title, the theme, or just work them into the story somehow.

I see all of the random generators I’ve used (word, phrase, question, noun, and even number!) as an alternative method of finding story prompts. And the great thing here? You’ve got an endless supply!

Give them a go and have fun. See what you can create. Playing with words and having fun in this manner is a wonderful trigger for creativity. And I’ve always found once you’ve got a creative spark going, you want to keep it going and you end up being more productive than you might have been otherwise.

Also the stories you draft here can be polished and edited and submitted later.

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I outline my characters as I’ve discussed before. What do I look for in said characters?

1. Basically a good reason for me to tell their story.
2. Go back to 1!

So what would count as a good reason then?

1. They have the qualities to overcome adversity even if they themselves don’t realise that to start with (and the best characters usually don’t). They don’t easily give up. They take good advice. They have the ability to recognise good advice when they hear it.

2. They are usually from a background that would make others consider them to be the underdog. I do love underdog winning through type stories and they are a mainstay of the classic fairytales too.

3. They have a moment of change they have got to see through, ensuring their lives can never be the same again. Stories like that are always fascinating.

4. They will often experience internal conflict as well as the obvious external type. Really gripping characters will have moments of self doubt (as we do) and that is what readers will identify with. It is then how the characters overcome that which will keep the readers reading!

 

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I’d thought I’d share some favourite moments in writing (and as ever this is not the be all and end all of lists. Am sure you can think of some things to add here).

1. Knowing I’ve picked exactly the right word for whatever it is I’m putting my poor characters through. I’m even more pleased if this is in dialogue. Good dialogue has emotional “whoomph” and shows a reader how the character is feeling.

2. Knowing my first draft is completed and I now have something to work with. This is where the work begins for me. It IS all in the edit(s) – and yes, there is always more than one! Sometimes considerably more than one!

3. Knowing my first edit has significantly improved my original story and I am getting glimmers of how it can be improved further. Out comes the trusted red pen and away I go…

4. Reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (and a big thanks to all who have reviewed it).

5. Having positive feedback on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts as that shows the piece has engaged with readers well.

So over to you then. What are some of your favourite writing moments?

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

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I’ve found a new random generator! I’ve sometimes used random word, phrase, question, and even number generators to trigger story ideas. And now I’ve found a random noun generator which could be fun. Let’s see what can be done.

I set the generator to trigger two random nouns for me. Nouns generated were “foundation” and “actor”. (Incidentally as well as choosing how many to generate, you can set the first and last letter of each noun as well if you wanted to but I like to keep things simple).

Now the nice thing with the generators is you can use what comes up as the theme of your story, the title, or ensure you use the words that are triggered in that story at some point. Or you can combine any/all of that. The important thing is to have fun with this!

So what can I do with foundation and actor then?

MISUNDERSTOOD
The actor frowned as he dug out the foundation for the new amateur theatre building. He’d been promised an audience. Sure he had one. They were all yelling unspeakable things along the lines of this being the hardest they’d ever seen HIM work. Not what he’d expected at all.

He expected the finest foundation all right. He expected it to be applied to his face as he gave the starring performance of his life, which naturally would then receive glowing reviews all over the country, and lead to bigger, better roles.

He guessed it served him right for daring to mention Macbeth on stage last week. HIs fellow actors told him it would bring him bad luck.

He’d laughed then. They laughed now.

Allison Symes – 15th August 2020

Hope you enjoyed that. I loved writing it.

 

Really loved using the random noun generator yesterday. Will definitely add that to my list of story prompt generators. You can never have too many of those! Okay, you need the time to write up all the ideas, I grant you that, but this is a dilemma every writer faces and has to find their own way of tackling.

Flash is an ideal vehicle for those lovely story ideas that are best shown quickly. My story yesterday, Misunderstood, worked best as a quick tale only. I often find my humorous tales work better that way. If flash has taught me anything (and it has taught me loads!), it is to never, ever pad your story out. If it works better at 100 words, keep it there. If it works best at 1000, keep it there and so on.

Have a good writing week!

 

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You’d think a flash fiction writer would have no problems coming up with the blurb for the cover of their book, wouldn’t you?!

Now, okay, the word count is not an issue for me here. What can be tricky is choosing what HAS to be on the cover and what would be nice to have but is not the end of the world if it doesn’t make it. Inevitably it won’t! Why?

As with the fiction itself, only the crucial details can go on. You want every word to hook in potential readers so there can be no preamble, waffle etc. You have to be realistic with yourself as to what could be seen as waffle and cut, cut, cut.

I change the way I lead into a story as this keeps things interesting for me (and I hope in due time readers as well!).

Sometimes I will use a character’s thoughts. At other times I will show you the character doing something.

I try to get into the scene quickly so a reader picks up where they are nigh on immediately and there must be something about the character to draw their interest to ensure they read on and find out what happens to them.

In She Did It Her Way, Kind Of, I start with the line “Jane Westbrook knew it was too late to do anything.” Now that sounds like it might kill a story right from the start but what I planned here was that readers would want to find out why she thought this and whether she was right or wrong.

Curiosity about a character is a really good hook and one I enjoy using.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Acrostics

R = Riveting
E = Entertaining
A = Alternative Worlds
D = Drama and Dialogue
I = Imagination
N = Narrative
G = Genre Fulfilling/Crossing

All of the above are what I look for in a good read.

Regardless of genre (and I have a soft spot for those books which cross genres), I want the book to be riveting, entertaining, and for the drama and dialogue to keep me gripped until I reach The End.

I want to be amazed (in a good way!) by the author’s imagination. There can’t be a dull moment in the narrative either.

And yet some people still think writing is easy!!

G = Gripping
E = Educational
N = Nuanced
R = Readability
E = Enchanting

And again, regardless of genres, I want whatever I read to be capable of the above. Yes, fiction can be educational. You can learn from the mistakes the characters make for a start!

For me, nuanced means the characters have to be balanced. Nobody is all evil or all good. The only over the top characters I accept are Mr Toad in The Wind of The Willows and Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmatians but they are written specifically that way and their characters wouldn’t work any other way. But those are rare exceptions to the general rule. Characters should be balanced.

At the end of a book I want to have experienced an enchanting time reading said book. I want something about it to transport me to its setting and to regret leaving it at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Why

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A huge thank you to Wendy H Jones for supplying images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is a real pleasure to welcome Scottish crime writer, Wendy H. Jones, back to Chandler’s Ford Today and for something very special indeed.

Wendy is the only UK author involved with The Power of Why, an inspirational book featuring 23 women who started their own businesses.

G capital

Wendy shares why the question of why matters. Below is a short extract from the blurb for The Power of Why.

The Power of Why

If you are not starting your business by asking yourself “Why?”, then you are starting in the wrong place.

Five main questions should be answered when contemplating starting a business – What, Why, How, When and Where? Often women entrepreneurs do not give thought to the order of these, yet research by top universities shows the most important is Why?

Compiled by Purvi Tantia, this book tells the stories of 23 powerful women from around the world, who share the fears and aspirations which led to their Why. This book should be the starting point for any woman wanting to understand the Power of Why in her life.

Wow! Now that is quite a statement but check out the interview for much, much more. You won’t look at “Why” in quite the same way again, I think.

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Despite not being at Swanwick as I should’ve been, today has been nice.

Firstly, I had my first swim since the lockdown. It was lovely and, yes, I was slow! Second question – correct, I don’t care! I will improve…! But it was so nice to be back and the centre I go to had laid everything out perfectly and the one-way system was easy to use.

Secondly, I was delighted at #PaulaReadman‘s post earlier about her excitement at discovering her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow, is on Waterstones website. Huge congratulations to her. I thought I’d put my own name in the search bar and see below for what emerged!

SCREENSHOT - Allison Books on Waterstones online

Absolutely thrilled at this. Many thanks to Paula as, without her post, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to look. So this came as a nice surprise. Alternative Renditions, the other book shown, is where I had my first story in print published – A Helping Hand. I will always have a very soft spot for that particular tale!

I know that Paula and I would want to give a huge shout-out to our fantastic publisher, #GillJames, for all of her support at Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books.

Oh and finally the temperature has come down a bit in Hampshire. Thunder and rain this afternoon though it looks like there is more to come.

And I’ll be meeting up with some fab Swanwick ladies online shortly so, all in all, a great Thursday! Hope yours was a good one too. (It was so good to chat online with #ValPenny, #BeatriceFishback, #JenWilson,#JuneWebber, and #PennyBlackburn. See you good ladies another time!).

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My CFT post this week will be a wonderful interview with Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. She’ll be talking about a very special anthology called The Power of Why and showing why matters, especially to women. Very much looking forward to sharing the link for that on Friday.

(Oh and kudos alert: Wendy is the ONLY UK author featured in this book. Find out more about her involvement with this later in the week).

One of the joys of interviews is being able to set questions in such a way they encourage a discussion. The best author interviews I love reading always do that. What you want to avoid are the straight Yes/No answers so I try to never ask questions where that could be given as a response.

Now here’s a thought for the fiction writers. I outline my characters and work out what I need to know about them before I write “their” story.

So when quizzing your characters to find out more about them and what drives them, use some techniques from non-fiction interviews here.

Again avoid having a character be able to tell you a simple yes/no answer. You want to know why! The answer to why is where you’ll get the “gold” to work with in your story. That is what will show you what makes your characters “tick”.

I said why was important. And Wendy will confirm this on Friday! (Images of The Power of Why and Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by Wendy, all others from Pixabay).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Publication News – Cafelit – Flash Fiction

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

chocolate-2202151_640

An appropriate image to go with my flash fiction tale, Sweet Dreams, on Cafelit. Pixabay image.

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Delighted to discover FLTDBA is on the Waterstones website. See the link. Nice to say you can get my book at Waterstones. Most authors dream of being able to say that… I know I have.

I found this out thanks to #PaulaReadman spotting her single author collection, Days Pass Like a Shadow (Chapeltown Books), was on there and I thought I’d just put my name in the search bar and see what happened. So glad I did.

I guess it shows another aspect to making writing friends. They can and do show you aspects to this business you might not have thought of. No one author can know it all after all. And that is something I learned a long time ago!

Mind you, the upside to that and it is a HUGE upside, is that there is always something to learn in writing, whether it is on the creative and/or marketing sides. This in turn keeps you on your toes and that is good.

Well, you wouldn’t want to become stale now, would you?

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

Alternative Renditions Small

A very special book in my memory! My first printed story, A Helping Hand, was in here!

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

What I love to see in flash fiction:-

1. Characters that intrigue me.

2. Characters I could see working well in other flash tales.

3. A punchy funny ending which makes me laugh (where appropriate of course).

4. A “killer” finishing line which wraps up the story and you just know it was the perfect ending for that tale.

5. An equally “killer” opening line which means you just HAVE to read on and until you’ve finished the story (which at least with flash is not going to take too long!).

6. A fabulous twist which I can either see coming (but I am looking for it to be delivered WELL here) OR one where I am wrongfooted by the author. (Always a good hat tip to anyone who can do that to me!).

7. A moment of illumination and reflection in quieter stories which have an impact long after that initial first reading. It is often this type of story I come back to again later when I want reading to soothe or reassure me.

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Fairytales With Bite – Fantastic Settings

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

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This World and Others – 

What Matters to Your Character(s) and Why

Answering that one phrase gives you THE reason for writing the character’s story! From a world building viewpoint, what matters to your character is not the same as what the reader needs to know.

For example, if your character lives on a world where they don’t breathe oxygen but something else entirely, early on in the story the reader will need to know that.

The trick here is not to “tell” the reader this but to show them so they draw their own conclusions.

Yes, you can use description to show the point but an even better way is to have someone else observe it. The main character will not mention they’re breathing Gas X because they do it all the time, obviously, and so why would they draw attention to it?

An outside observer could do so. Say your character is being visited by someone who lives on a different part of the planet. Maybe the quality of their Gas X at home is not as good as it is here. They could comment on that to your main character. Job done. You can also show something of your character’s attitude by how they respond to their visitor.

Regardless of how strange the created world is, what matters to your character is something we should all be able to identify with and sympathise over. All species will need the basics – food, shelter, etc – but think beyond that too.

What is driving your character? Why does their story matter? Why should a reader want to find out? Don’t be afraid to dig deep. Your character has to be emotionally invested in the outcome of the story for your reader to care.

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Hot Weather, Reading, and Missing Swanwick

Image Credit:  All images via Pixabay and/or Pexels unless stated otherwise.

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Today has felt odd. Why? It’s because I should’ve been at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for the next few days, catching up with old friends, learning so much from the talks and after dinner speakers etc. Am missing everyone but can’t wait to be back there next year. It really can’t come around quickly enough!

Meanwhile, back in very, very hot Hampshire, I am cracking on with editing work and CFT interviews. I’m also working on my long term non-fiction project. Though I have the nasty feeling my laptop with its wonderful fan is probably feeling cooler than I am right now!😀😀

 

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Another night where my laptop (with its fab stand and inbuilt fan) is far cooler than I am. Mind you, not that I have ever had any claims to be cool!

I was chatting earlier with a writing chum via email about backing up your work at regular intervals. I lost an evening’s work once thanks to a power cut! I was about to back everything up and shut the PC down for the night when the cut happened and I just wanted to scream.

Fortunately, with power back on, I could recall a lot of what I’d written and typed up as much as I could remember as quickly as possible. I took the view that whatever I could not recall, I would at least get the gist of from what I had typed up and so it proved.

Lesson learned! I now back up every 20/25 minutes or so to memory stick, hard disk, and cloud. I’m not getting caught that way again.

Worth the hassle of backing up nigh on continuously? Oh yes! For the peace of mind alone, it’s worth it.

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Still sweltering in sunny Hampshire. Am grateful Lady is not frightened of thunder. That may come in useful later in the week. Dilemmas of a middle-aged woman Part 1: am I having a hot flush or is it just the ruddy temperature outside? Hmm…

Hope you had a fab weekend. Saw family which was lovely. Glad to be at my desk after a hectic Monday. Now have second fan in the office going at full tilt so, what with my laptop having its own (via its stand), and my other one, some fresh air is being generated. But will be very grateful when the weather cools down (as will Lady). Can’t say the hot weather does much for my productivity though I do find myself singing “Just One Cornetto” to the tune of O Sole Mio when the latter is played on Classic FM! Those of you of a certain age will know why!

Looking forward to sharing a very special interview on Friday. Will have a humorous piece up on Cafelit later in the week too. Flash fiction is great to read at Open Prose Mic Nights as I did last year at Swanwick. Doesn’t take long and a punchline ending usually goes down well at events like that. Hope to do this again next year. (Many thanks to #PennyBlackburn for taking the pic of me reading at last year’s Swanwick. The others were taken by me last year).

Many congratulations to #PaulaReadman on her launch of her debut novel, Stone Angels, today.

Publication day is always a very special moment. It’s just a pity you can’t bottle up the way it makes you feel so you can uncork it again at times when you need a bit of a boost!

Behind the scenes of any publication, there is a lot of hard work. There is a quote about swans which says they look serene but underneath the water their legs are paddling hard to keep them going. Well, pretty much the same is true for writers!

We paddle hard when we write our first drafts, edit them, send those stories out in to the big, bad world, and then cope with rejections. Does it end there? No! You look at your story again, improve what can be improved and submit to more publishers. You always seek to improve what you do. You keep on writing. You keep on editing.

So yes there’s an awful lot of paddling going on!

But publication day? That’s the well earned serene bit (and so richly deserved by the author too!). (The first two images below are of Paula and her debut novel and kindly supplied by Paula for my recent CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For).

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Phew, it’s hot! I don’t use the weather much in any of my stories, partly because I would find it hard to avoid cliche. (It was a dark and stormy night, anyone? Mind you, I do love the Peanuts cartoons that have Snoopy writing and using that as one of “his” lines!).

In my flash fiction, with the limited word count, I have to work out what is vital for readers to know. The weather is rarely amongst vital details! I can imply it though. If I get a character to wear a raincoat, that would be enough for a reader to realise the weather was likely to be wet without me spelling it out further.

And this is one of the things I love about flash. It encourages the writer to use implication and I know as a reader I love being able to work things out for myself.

 

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I hope to share a cover reveal for Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course. Will keep you posted.

As with From Light to Dark and Back Again, I hope to have a cyberlaunch and again will flag up details. I’ve “been” to a few cyberlaunches now and they are all great fun. You do feel drained afterwards but in a good way!

Best ways to support author friends then – no real surprises here but all of these things ARE appreciated!

1. Pop along to their cyber (or other kinds) of book launch and be the friendly face offering support.

2. If you’ve read the book concerned, please, please, please review it on Amazon and Goodreads. It doesn’t have to be a long review either.

3. For a cyberlaunch, someone asking useful questions helps get the discussions going. and encourages others to join in. Think along the lines of helping the author to talk about what made them write the book, what inspired their characters etc. Writers love talking about that kind of thing.

4. Share their posts/tweets etc.

And when launches are possible again in book shops etc., standing your author friend a cup of tea after the event will always go down well!😊

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When I’m reading stories, what am I looking for first and foremost? Well no surprises here when I say the character has got to grip me. If they don’t, I’m unlikely to be reading their story to its conclusion.

But how can you make a character grip an unknown reader? There is no single answer to that but what helps is:-

1. Ensuring your character has an absolute right to have their story told. What do I mean by that? From a reading viewpoint, a reader shouldn’t be able to imagine the story WITHOUT your character.

2. As well as having a reason for being, the character has to have an understandable and strong enough motivation to see the challenges of the story through to a satisfactory conclusion. (Doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy one. The character’s motivation doesn’t necessarily need to be entirely virtuous either. I can understand a character who steals to provide for someone else, say. It doesn’t mean I approve of stealing – I don’t! – but you get the gist).

3. There has to be a point of change. Something has GOT to happen and it has to be vitally important to the character.

4. There have to be obstacles in the character’s way, including other characters who have got good reasons of their own to block Character A.

Getting that right takes time and practice but makes for cracking stories!

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The fan in the office is probably working harder than I am right now… I may’ve mentioned I don’t like the heat much!😀😀

(Lady is fine and keeping cool. For a young dog, who is generally as daft as the proverbial brush, she’s sensible on this which has come as a relief to us and fortunately we are surrounded by trees so lots of shade).

One thing I like about flash is I can draft a story (100 to 250 words, my favourite) in about 15 minutes. It will need a lot of editing to get it into shape, but that’s okay. What’s nice about this is on those days when I know I haven’t got a lot of time, I know exactly how I’ll be spending those pockets of time which might otherwise go to waste.

Yep, drafting flash fiction stories ready for submission later on. And knowing I’ve got a story down ready for working on later always makes me feel better. (Unlike this wretched heat…!).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading In Hot Weather

Currently in the UK as I write this (8th August 2020), most of the country is experiencing a heatwave (30+degrees C).

Yes, yes, I know! I can think of several places where that would be considered to be on the cold side!).

But give me the fact most of us here are finding it hot!

So do you find it easier to read in hot weather, given most of us are not going to feel like doing that much?

Or do you find it harder to read because what you really want is to cool off and reading in itself isn’t going to do that?

Or do you welcome reading because it’s a great distraction from feeling too hot?

I find it easier to read magazines and the shorter form of fiction when I’m finding the weather a bit much. Now is not the time to tackle War and Peace I think!

So over to you then! What do you prefer to read when the thermometer is on the crazy side? What would you recommend?

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Cyberlaunches, The End, and Flash Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay, unless otherwise stated. (Images of The Hayes, Swanwick were taken by Allison Symes)

It has been a fun few days as I was one of the co-hosts for Patricia M Osborne’s cyberlaunch of her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son. What follows is a kind of a report on that. Many thanks to Patricia for inviting me to take part. It was great fun – as a good launch should be!

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I’m looking forward to taking part in #PatriciaMOsborne‘s cyberlaunch for her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son, tomorrow evening. (I interviewed Patricia as part of my CFT series on What Books Mean To Me a while back and I have guested on her website as part of her blog and her 100 word challenge. We are both also huge fans of Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, not least because we met there).

This is the follow up to her debut book, House of Grace. Obviously more on that tomorrow but very best of luck, Patricia, and hope you have an absolute ball with your launch.

I had a great deal of fun with mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. Cyberlaunches are a fab opportunity to celebrate books and support writer friends. Always worth dropping by!

One of the loveliest things about the writing community is it is so supportive and launches, cyber or otherwise, bring that out. And best of all they are fun!

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Many thanks to #PatriciaMOsborne for inviting me to take part in her launch of her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son. This follows her debut novel, The House of Grace.

A very good time was had by all at the launch and the lovely thing about online launches is that the calories in the cakes and drinks provided simply don’t count!😆

I am planning to hold a cyberlaunch for my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, when that is out later this year. Preparation is crucial for you as the writer to get the most out of it I think. It helped me to relax into the event and get a real party feel going.

(And it WAS a wonderful party at Patricia’s launch tonight too!).

Launches are important for the obvious reason of getting the news of our books out there, but they also help a writer to have fun with their book after all their hard work in writing and editing it.

Cheers to that!

And congratulations, #PatriciaMOsborne, for a wonderful launch for The Coal Miner’s Son. (I love that cover! Do check out the link to Patricia’s Amazon page, given above, to find out why I love it!).

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I always feel a sense of relief when I write The End for a flash fiction or short story. (I should imagine the sense of relief for a novelist is proportionately larger depending on their text length!).

I do know the hard work is shortly going to begin with the editing but there is that moment when you know you’ve got something to work with and that’s nice. It shouldn’t be unappreciated either. You have finished the first draft.

The great thing is nobody but you has to ever see that first draft. I know from mine what a good thing that is!

For competition entries, I always take at least a week (and usually a fortnight) off the official deadline to ensure I have time for any final tweaks and still get the piece off in good time.

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Hope to draft some flash pieces on my train trip to Birmingham today for an Association of Christian Writers’ event. It is a great form to draft on a smartphone!

The only thing I make sure of is to put plenty of story prompts on Evernote before I travel so I have more than enough to write up.

If I ever forget to do that, I brainstorm opening lines and then write them up. Of course sometimes what I think will be opening lines make far better closing ones, but it’s fun to find that out!

When I started writing short stories, I nearly always used the third person. For flash fiction, I still use that, but I’ve developed a great love for using first person. I love its immediacy. I can tak you right into a character’s head and I have my narrator for the story literally to hand.

Flash, due to its brevity, means you can’t have too many characters as you’d quickly fall foul of word count requirements.

For example, if you want three characters in the story, you’ve got to have at least one good reason for all three to be in there. How many words will you use to get those good reasons in?! And even if you manage that well enough, what room have you got left for the actual story after all of that?

So using the first person is a handy technique but that is all it should be. I make myself mix up first and third person usage to avoid falling into the trap of all of my stories sounding the same.

Good reasons to get a writing event if you can and that includes online events (so travel is not a problem!):-

1. You will make writing friends who will totally understand your addiction to writing (and it IS an addiction). They also celebrate your successes and commiserate with your woes and that is vital. The writing community is precisely that, a community. We take the “no man is an island” bit seriously!

2. Said writing pals will tell you about competitions and markets you had not heard of as no one person can know everything that’s out there. You will also share useful news on similar lines to them.

3. You will get a lot from the courses and talks you go to as well!

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Book trailers were completely new to me until Chapeltown Books produced the excellent one for From Light to Dark and Back Again. Yes, I know I’m biased… (am not sorry, so there!).

Flash is a great vehicle for book trailers since as a form it can fit into a trailer beautifully and give a useful free sample to potential readers. I prefer using the 100 words or under for this.

A sample of my flash fiction work. Job Satisfaction was first published in From Light to Dark and Back Again by Chapeltown Books in 2017.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Stalls at Writing Events

I love writing events anyway but I particularly enjoy having a good nose around book stalls/book rooms at these things. Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away and all that…

It’s always a joy to see works by friends, as well as my own, on these stalls too. But they also prove to be good opportunities to have a look at works and authors new to you.

So go on, at the next event you go to as a writer, put your reader’s hat on too and see what you can find. Explore reading avenues new to you as well as enjoying favourite genres.

And for non-writers, one of the best ways to support author friends is to go to their events. The great thing is you are likely to come back with your next good read too! And that is always a good thing!😊

 

Storms, Flashes, and Podcast News

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

Podcast News

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

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

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And In Other News…

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

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

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

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

Hope you enjoy!

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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How to spot a writer Part 1:-

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

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

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

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