Swanwick Part 1

Image Credits-:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Many created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and Val Penny were taken by me, Allison Symes.  A huge thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for taking the photo of me at my Lift Up Your Pens session at Swanwick. Having a ball at Swanwick as usual. Hope to write a more detailed post for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course but meantime please see these as the edited highlights!

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Facebook – General – Swanwick Week Part 1

It was easy to choose which course I was going to today – it was the one I led! I talked about Editing – Both Side of the Fence. Many thanks, everyone, for the support. Much appreciated.

I was torn about which workshop to go to after that – there were two specifically I wanted to do but in the end I went to Hit Submit! This was led by Ingrid Jendrzejewksi and was great fun. Managed to draft a story and jot down other ideas to work up later. (I managed to do this in the Lift Up Your Pens session I led on Sunday. I deliberately did not do the exercises I set until on the day itself. I love live writing like that).

Tuesday is a quieter day at Swanwick. You generally need it too so I walked around the lovely grounds and then came back to work on two of my long term projects before the evening dinner and speaker.

 

I led the Lift Up Your Hearts session today. This is a short devotional time just before breakfast and I talked about favourite words of mine from the Bible. I also had a hymn to share one of my favourite lines. I love these quieter times ahead of a full day of workshops and courses. I know they do me good mentally, spiritually and physically.

I also try to take time out to walk around the grounds here at Swanwick. The exercise is helpful (they do look after you very well indeed here!) and the grounds are lovely.

As well as continuing with my specialist course, I also went to Promoting Your Work by Val Penny (who I will have the pleasure of interviewing again for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post).

Promoting is something all writers need to know more about – there is always plenty to learn here (and things you need to be reminded to do!).

 

I ran the pre-breakfast Lift Up Your Pens today. These sessions are to get the creative wheels turning and I used ideas from random generators for my session here. People seemed to enjoy it and I hope they go on to write up their stories and get them out into the big bad world somewhere.

For my specialist course which is run over a few days, I’ve opted for the Creative Non-Fiction one led by Simon Whaley. For the two part short course today, I’ve opted for the How to Write a How-To Book run by Bettina von Cossel. Both were fabulous and I learned a great deal from them.

Finally for today, I went to Social Media for Writers, the excellent one hour workshop run by Jennifer C Wilson. All good useful stuff and it pays writers to think about their social media options. Which are you going to focus on and why? I must admit I find the support from other writers on social media invaluable.

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It is so good to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School at The Hayes in Derbyshire once again. A huge thank you and shout to to the lovely #JuneWebber and her equally lovely husband,Mike, for being my chauffeurs today as I had to cancel my train tickets due to the strike.

I missed the train journey, as I do love travelling by train, but am just relieved to be here. And it was wonderful having a good chat on the way up! I can’t do that on the train! An equally big shout out to my lovely other half, Adrian, for being my chauffeur on Friday.

And what is there not to like when you arrive, go and unpack, drop off your books in the Book Room and then enjoy afternoon tea? That ticks a lot of writing boxes right there!

A fairly new addition to the Swanwick programme is what they call Birds of a Feather where writers in a genre can get together and chat. I can cover flash fiction, short stories, and blogging as my initial bases. So I will probably head off to that after the evening speaker. The lovely thing with Swanwick is you are made so welcome and you join in as and when you want to do so.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Beginning to cool a bit here at Swanwick. Nobody is sorry about that! Happily spreading the word about flash fiction where I can. Lovely to catch up with Linda Payne, a fellow Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit author here.

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes write the ending first. This works well for twist tales and funny ones. Occasionally I have ideas for what would make a great middle section of a tale. So I write them down. I don’t worry about necessarily writing in order. I can sort that out when editing.

Just get those ideas down – the nice thing with this thought is it applies to a 100 word tale every bit as much as a 100,000 word novel!

Fizzing with ideas - just get them down and then sharpen them up

There is no such thing as the perfect first line. This is good news funnily enough. It means every writer has to work on their stories and it takes time to come out with the lines you want your readers to enjoy. This is another reason why I think it is better to write your story first, then worry about editing. I see these as two separate and different creative tasks.

I get my first line down and then look at ways to strengthen it later. Often ideas for this will come as I finish the rest of the draft (or a bit annoyingly if I am working on something else) bit I just keep a note of these and come back to them later. Taking the pressure off myself helps a lot here.

Telling details matter in any story but they take on a greater significance for flash fiction writers simply due to the lower word count we have to work with. So it pays to take time out to work out what the reader needs to know and what telling detail can stress that point.

In such a tight word count you are likely to be able to have one or two telling details but make them count! I always say about going for impact but sometimes that impact doesn’t have to be a dramatic one. A character changing their mind about what direction they go in because the name of a street has resonance for them can be a minor telling detail or it can change the whole course of the story – entirely up to you but there is a lot of fun to be had here!

Flash Fiction Impact

Lovely to see From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic back in the Book Room at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Always a pleasure to wave the flag for flash fiction (writing and reading it) at events.

One of the joys of flash for me is having to invent characters all the time. Characters drive a story, I think, regardless of its length, and it is always characters who interest me the most in any story. Who are they? What do they want? Who is trying to stop them getting that and what are their motivations for doing this?

Practicing inventing characters will stand you in good stead whatever your preferred form of fiction writing is as it will show you that you can do this repeatedly (always a good defence against the dreaded Imposter Syndrome which strikes most writers at some point and often repeatedly).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Writers and Books

When this post goes live I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once again for a glorious week in the company of fellow writers and where we celebrate all things relating to writing. Books a plenty are in the Book Room and I am sure I’ll go home with additions to be To Be Read pile. (No writer worth their salt ever has a Be Be Read list. It has to be a pile – a huge one too! Don’t even ask about the electronic version of that pile!).

What draws writers into writing at all? Simply It is their own love of books and wanting to produce their own. We’re inspired by those authors we’ve read over the years and ideas will kick start from what we have enjoyed reading. Books and writers are inseparable then. The two things most writes are advised to do is to write regularly and to read widely and well. All of that is a complete joy to do.

What every writer I know would appreciate (and this goes for me too) are reviews of our books on sites like Goodreads. It helps more than you know. It is useful affirmation of our ability to write (ignoring the one star reviewers who are clearly just trying to knock the author down rather than give constructive criticism which might be useful).

For stories to be produced for entertainment there has to be the writers producing them. I can’t imagine a life without books. Neither do I wish to!

Screenshot 2022-08-13 at 22-44-51 Writers and Books


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In Fiction – Frameworks and Animals – and A Good Cause


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Somes images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you are all safe and well. UK currently experiencing Storm Eunice. Must admit I’m not impressed by her! Neither was the dog…

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today/Authors Electric

Authors Electric
Busy night on the old blogging front as I have two separate posts to share. First up is my Authors Electric post for this month where I talk about Animals in Fiction. This is something I talked about for Chandler’s Ford Today a few weeks ago but the topic bears repeating. I share my love of animal characters and talk about what I do when I write from the viewpoint of an animal character. I’ve written from the viewpoint of a mother dragon after all! Hope you enjoy the post.

Chandler’s Ford Today

And now time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I’m looking at Frameworks in Fiction. I look at why frameworks matter, share a few of the different ones I use (and why I like to mix them up), and what can be used as a framework, even when at first glance the device in question doesn’t appear to be a framework at all! I also ask if frameworks can be too constricting. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

Frameworks in Fiction

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Lull between the storms in the UK right now. Take care, everyone, with Storm Eunice due tomorrow.
On a happier note, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Frameworks in Fiction. I use a number of different ones for my flash tales and will be discussing these and why frameworks are so useful. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Don’t forget I send out an author newsletter on the first of each month with tips, news, prompts etc. If you’d like to sign up please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Currently busy on story judging and editing as well as my own writing so am staying out of mischief well enough!

It was lovely catching up with everyone on the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. We all ended up with a new story to work on thanks to a free writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles. I used a random name generator to come up with the name of a character to write about and there were excellent and different approaches taken. All good fun!

 

The wind is already getting stronger here in Hampshire – take care, everyone, over what promise to be a wild few days in the UK.

Now I don’t use the weather in fiction at all (too many cliches etc and It was a dark and stormy night has been done!). But you can use the elements to help set mood including landscape as well as weather. Think about the detail a reader needs to know. You won’t need to spell everything out. The joy of flash is so much is inferred and the reader fills in the gaps.

I’ve always loved doing that when reading longer works but for flash writing, it is crucial. I may need to know your character is on a moor. I don’t need to know how wet, boggy etc the moor is because I have my idea of what a moor is like and that will be what I visualise when I read the word “moor”. What is more important to know is the season. Is your character there in the summer or the winter? That will make a huge difference to the conditions they face.

So it is the question of the telling detail then – select what readers have to know, what they cannot guess at, and let your readers fill in the gaps. We will – and it saves so much on the old word count! Nor do you irritate readers telling them what they can work out for themselves.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Now earlier this week, I shared my YouTube story called At Number 64  – see below – and I mentioned I had submitted a linked story to this for Friday Flash Fiction. Well, I am glad to say my second story on the same theme is now up on FFF and I am glad to share it here. Hope you enjoy A Good Cause (and many thanks for the fab comments in on it so far).

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 19-20-44 A Good Cause, by Allison Symes


In a month’s time I’ll be on my way to the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. Looking forward to that immensely. Never thought I’d be doing this kind of thing when I started out.

But I have a very soft spot for workshops anyway. You get to meet other writers. You get to learn something useful. And a good workshop should trigger ideas for you own stories too.

Best invention since sliced bread? The notebook and pen of course.

Still great for workshop/conference environments. And flash gives you potential for writing up your exercises from workshops etc into polished stories you can submit later. Every so often I will go back through my old notebooks and see if there is something I can polish up. Sometimes I will find something useful like that. Other times I’ll read something which will trigger other story ideas and that’s great too.


Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 20-54-40 Writing Workshops Conference 2020 Scottish Association of WritersI was talking about giving readers the telling details they need to know to make sense of your story over on my Facebook author page just now and I referred to the elements. But you need to think about telling details for your characters too.

I’ve mentioned before I like to know the character’s major trait as all sorts of things can come from that which you can use to bring your character to life (e.g. the character is brave, they have a tendency to be reckless because of it and that’s where the story is – in what that recklessness leads to).

So work out what you need to know to make the character work for you. (If the character works for you, they’ll work for a reader). If a character is poor, do you need to know if they have become poor or have always been less well off? What is their attitude towards it? Can that attitude be where your story is – if your character is bitter, do they do something against anyone they hold to blame for their situation?

Ask yourself questions about what you need to know. I’ve found doing that sparks ideas and soon an outline for a possible story emerges. I like that – a lot!

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 20-57-33 (2) Allison Symes Facebook

Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

And they all lived happily ever after has to be one of the most famous endings to any story. Though it should be added the original versions of fairytales often did not have a happy ending or gruesome things occurred before the happy ever after bit.

I understand it being in the classic tales for children but it is not one I am comfortable with myself. I like most of my stories to have a positive, upbeat ending where you can see things would continue to be okay for my deserving characters long after the story has finished. But sometimes I write stories with poignant endings because that is appropriate for the characters I’ve come up with.

And that is what I am really after in the stories I read and write – appropriate endings for the characters.

One thing I do get from my love of fairytales is the wish for the villains to get their well deserved comeuppance. I’m actually more interested in seeing how that pans out rather than the happy bit (because with the comeuppance bit achieved, the rest will follow).

I also like to see happy ever afters “earned” by the characters concerned – it seems more realistic to me the characters (a) deserve to get their happy ever after ending and (b) contribute to achieving that significantly themselves.

So give some thought to how you want your stories to end. When it is a happy ending, have your characters be worthy of it. You want your readers cheering them on to the happy conclusion after all.

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This World and Others – Living In Peace

Does your fictional world live in peace with other creations around it? Do the inhabitants of your created world get along with each other? How many species live in your world and is there any “history” between them? Do they live in peace now after centuries of not doing so? Is your world one of those where peace is a rarity or where war is unknown and disputes have to be resolved in other ways?

What would your fictional world make of our real one? Answering something like that can give you insight into how and why your people behave and act the way they do. Could they live in peace with us? What do they make of our warlike ways? Some would despise that (and possibly because we’re not warlike enough in their view). Some would hate it because they cannot understand violence. Some would love it, possibly seeing possibilities of exploiting that quality against us.

Living in peace takes effort. How much effort are your characters prepared to make? What is the incentive for them to be at peace especially if their culture is one of war?

Good story possibilities there I think especially since there is always someone who is prepared for various reasons to go against the status quo.

 

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Reading Debts and Colours

Image Credit:  As ever all images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

It’s colourful out in the garden at the moment with the laburnum in bloom and my favourite, the lilac, out too. I wouldn’t wear the combination of yellow and purple but for garden plants, they work beautifully!

Colours are a good way to work in a bit more detail into your fiction for few words. For example, instead of saying something was red, say it was crimson or scarlet. Be specific.

And if you want some inspiration do a search for colour charts. The paint companies have loads online and there are other lists of colours available including nail polish shades. So think pink (to quote the Pink Panther), think blush, think hot pink etc etc.

I love the telling detail in a story. I don’t need lots of description. Writing flash fiction also means I haven’t room for it anyway. But I can picture a crimson chaise longue better than if the colour isn’t in there.

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Submitted a short story for a competition today and have picked out the next one to have try at so am pleased with that.

I try to ensure I have a story “out there”, one I’m drafting, and a completed one I’m “resting” so I can come back and edit it later.

I need sufficient distance away from a story before I can edit it. I’ve found if I don’t do that, I have one of two responses to the story. One is it is total rubbish. The other it is the best thing I’ve ever written! Neither is true!

What IS true is there is a potential great story here but it needs the dross editing away from it, turns of phrase sharpened up etc. Nobody ever writes a perfect first draft and that’s fine.

I love Terry Pratchett’s quote that a first draft is “you telling yourself the story”. And that does sum it up brilliantly. It is then a question of making that story as good as you can make it before sending it out to the market/competitions. But you have to be able to realistically assess the strengths and weaknesses of your first draft and time away from the story does help enormously with that.

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What proverbs could be adapted for writers?

1. If at first you don’t succeed…. rewrite.

2. Try, try, try again and don’t be afraid to change writing direction if you need to do so. If you find novel writing is not for you, go for short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction writing etc. Try the different forms out and have fun with them. It should become apparent which other forms take your fancy. Run with them!

3. Never say… no to a good edit. We all need them!

4. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Have this thought in mind when you editing. Look for the weak points in narrative or characterisation. Think about what a reader might consider weak. Put your work aside for a while so you can read it as a reader would. It can help to record a piece of work and play it back so you hear it as a reader would.

5. A little bird told me that networking with other writers will bring you friends who understand your compulsion to write. The writing community is generous with its advice and support and we all need that! And in time you will be able to share advice and support based on what you’ve learned. What goes around really does come around here but it is generally beneficial. I’ve had cause to be grateful for good writing advice which has come my way and I’ve no doubt I will be again!

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One event I was looking forward to going to was the Waterloo Arts Festival but that is now being held online and I will share more details about that a bit nearer the time. Meanwhile my social life on Zoom continues to blossom…!

Have submitted another story for a competition so am well pleased with that and have picked another one to try. The lovely thing about this is even if the stories don’t do anything in these competitions, I can always revamp the tales and try them again in other competitions later on.

Very little is wasted in writing. You may not get to use something immediately but that’s okay. You may find it useful later on. And you can always learn from what worked, what didn’t and so on. A number of times a story that didn’t work out in one environment found a home in one that suited it better.

Persistence, the willingness to relook at and rewrite stories, and stamina – all underrated qualities but oh so necessary!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was talking about colours in my author page spot earlier this evening and looked back at how often I have used colour in my flash tales. There is the odd mention in From Light to Dark and Back Again but I do have some linked flash tales which revolve around a colour coming up in my follow-up book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic.

Telling details that are useful for flash fiction precisely because they don’t take up a lot of room include:-

1. Colour

2. Noise/Sound (I don’t want to know something was noisy in a story. I want to know the kind of noise. For example, I would rather read Martina dropped the saucepan lid for the third time as opposed to Martina was being clumsy in the kitchen. The first version gives me more detail as to HOW Martina is being clumsy for a start and I can picture it. Being clumsy could mean almost anything here. I’ve found it has paid to have specific details which a reader can visualise, even if it means a few extra words, than something general that they can’t imagine).

3. State of decoration When a story calls for the action to take place in a “set”, a brief indication of the state of decoration of that set helps make a greater impact. For example, if I told you poor old Martina’s kitchen was dimly lit though you could still see the peeling paintwork, that will conjure up a stronger image than if I said Martina’s kitchen was shabby and dark. The peeling paintwork is a specific detail a reader can hone in on.

So think specifics. A reader literally doesn’t need chapter and verse here but well planted details do make a big impact.

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C = Creating your own people is great fun.
H = Have a ball outlining their flaws as well as their virtues. Nobody’s perfect after all.
A = Attitudes reveal a lot about characters so what will yours be? Why have your characters got the attitudes they have? Think backstory here.
R = Reality. Readers identify with characters who ring true. Their attitudes, motivations and actions should be understandable, no matter how bizarre a setting you might put them in.
A = Actions can include inaction funnily enough. A character not acting at all or quickly enough can turn a story as well as a character taking direct action.
C = Compassionate or Completely Selfish? What will your people be? What are the consequences for your characters here?
T = Tension. There is no story with conflict/tension and some of the best is between characters with either different attitudes OR where they both want the same goal but cannot agree on the way to achieve it. Up the ante here! The tension should be something readers can identify with and have sympathy over.
E = Energy. A well outlined character will have an energy of their own and seem to come to life on the page. It will be a joy (most of the time anyway) to write their story. It really does pay to think your characters out.
R = Reason. Your characters should have good reasons for being the way they are/for seeking the goal that they are. It doesn’t mean other characters/your readers/you yourself have to agree with those reasons! But there should be a sense of understanding where your villains, as well as your heroes, are coming from and why.
S = Story, story, story = characters, characters, characters.

Have fun planning your next lot of people out!

 

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What topics/genres have I covered in flash fiction? This is not a definitive list but gives a good idea of the flexibility of the form when it comes to genre. I have:-

1. Given an insight into historical events from either an outsider viewpoint or from a historical character one. This will feature in my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, due out later this year.

2. Given individual flash fiction stories to Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy in From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used first person for both of them

3. Killed some very nasty characters off in my flash crime tales. Now that is always fun to do.

4. Ensured poetic justice was dished out in appropriate ways for characters who deserved it.

5. Shown viewpoints from other worlds/fairytales.

6. “Flipped” legends particularly the tale of St. George and the Dragon. For more see FLTDBA.

All good fun to write. And I think the flexibility of genre probably is the single most important reason why I love flash fiction, reading it and writing it.

What has helped me the most when writing flash fiction? I would say it was the following tips:-

1. Don’t have too many characters in your stories.

2. Focus on THE most important part of your tale. What IS the story?

3. Work out what it is the reader HAS to know so you ensure that goes in. Work out what can be inferred and infer it! (I must admit I love being left to deduce things when I read other authors and it is a real strong point of flash fiction for me).

4. When editing, look for your wasted words. Don’t worry you seem to be unable to stop writing them at all. It is what the edit is for after all.

5. Put your story away for a while, get on with more flash fiction, and then come back to your tale so you read it with a fresh eye. Ask yourself what is the impact on YOU now you’re reading it as a reader would? Is it the impact you planned?

And good luck!

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Goodreads Author BlogReading Debts

Do you remember how you developed a love of reading?

I remember being read to regularly when I was a child and my late mother taught me to read before I started school back in the 1970s. She was told off for doing it too. Apparently she’d done it the wrong way! (These days I think she’d be given a medal!).

Not that I felt anything was amiss. I owe Mum a huge debt for giving me a love of books and stories and I’m sure she’d be pleased with the end results for yours truly.

I also spent a lot of time in local libraries in my teenage years. They were a great place to go for someone who loves books, who didn’t have any money, and it was a great way to explore genres and authors which were not represented on the book shelves at home.

Mind you, that was a tough call. Mum had almost everything on her shelves from science fiction (H.G.Wells) to thrillers (Ian Fleming) to classic (Dickens and Shakespeare).

Her one blind spot was humorous prose. It completely bypassed her so on my shelves are works by Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse. It was a kind of joke amongst us that Mum would read Terry Brooks (The Shannara series) while I’d read Terry Pratchett (Discworld)!

The best way of repaying any reading debt is, of course, to read and keep reading! So on that note…

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HOW STORIES SOUND, DESCRIPTIONS AND CLARITY

Facebook – General

I’ve read my stories aloud at times to literally hear how they sound (and have sometimes recorded them so I can play them back too. This is particularly useful if you need to time a story). If you trip over your dialogue, your readers will too so definitely time to get the editing pen out again.

It is an oddity that what looks okay written down suddenly isn’t okay when you read it out loud. You can hear where the text sounds awkward. My More than Writers post, due up on the Association of Christian Writers blog tomorrow, talks about clarity. (Link to come tomorrow). One thing I discovered a while ago is that simple, clear writing is a joy to read and it can take several rewrites for an author to get it to that stage. It is worth the effort though.

I’ve forgotten who said that the professional writer is the amateur who didn’t quit, but there is a lot of truth in that.

Facebook – General

I don’t necessarily choose the mood of the story (or the main character) before I start writing. Often the theme can mean the mood of the story can go in a couple of different directions and my job then is to pick the outline that seems to have the most promising characters that I can do something with!

I like it when one character clearly stands out. You find yourself rooting for that character to succeed (usually). It is their story so it’s my job to let “them” tell their story their way. That disguises a lot of editing and ensuring that all the information you’ve given the reader marries up, is only what they absolutely need to know etc.

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Facebook – General

Am glad to share the link to my monthly spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog. I talk about clarity this time.

I discovered the Plain English campaign have a gobbledygook generator. Yes, really! Had lots of fun clicking the box and seeing what garbage emerged… all based on real examples too. It’s a great example of how NOT to write!

CLARITY POST - Clarity - image via Pixabay

Should clarity, rather than cleanliness, be next to godliness?  I think so!  Image via Pixabay.

CLARITY POST - Clarity of thought should lead to clarity of expression - image via Pixabay - Copy

Clarity of thought should lead to clarity of expression.  Image via Pixabay

Feature Image - Part 5 101Things to Put into Room 101

A recent CFT post of mine but the questions can help you ensure your writing is beautifully clear.  Image via Pixabay.

The basic kit for a writer - image via Pixabay

The writer’s basic toolkit – image via Pixabay

Some of the tools of the scrivener's trade here - image via Pixabay

The tools of the scrivener’s trade. We’ve come on a bit since then! Image via Pixabay

Electronically or by print, both face publishing frustrations - image via Pixabay

Ebooks and print – both have their own frustrations when it comes to publishing. Image via Pixabay

Books can be one major key to knowledge - image via Pixabay

Books are the keys to knowledge. Image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

News just in, as they say! Two of my stories will be on Cafelit – one on 5th May and the other on 5th June. Will share links on the days. Very pleased. Don’t think I’ll ever tire of hearing something I’ve written has been accepted!

Having acceptances is obviously one of the highlights of writing, but what about the downside? Yes, the rejections would come into that category but, for me, I’m more despondent when the writing simply isn’t going as well as I’d like. Rejections I see as par for the course and I try to learn from them and see where it is where I may have gone wrong. If it is just down to editorial taste, then I can submit the story elsewhere. So generally I can get something positive out of this.

But when you are keen to write and it seems like a struggle (and it happens to us all), that is more of a challenge to deal with. I tend to have a break away from whatever it was I was working on to write something else or brainstorm ideas for future projects. I’m not sure why it is but whenever I write something else, ideas come to me for the original thing I was struggling with. Distraction therapy perhaps? All I know is that it works.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve been enjoying the different flash fiction collections put out by Chapeltown Books and this has proved to be a great way of ensuring I read plenty of contemporary fiction. (Reading enough classic fiction is never an issue!).

A good reading “diet” should include contemporary and classic works and non-fiction. I see all of this as feeding the mind as you never know when reading something triggers ideas for your own stories. The more you read, the more you cast your “net”, and the more likely it is you will have those “sparks”.

So happy writing – and happy reading!

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My flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books!

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Mandy’s flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books. Image kindly supplied by her.

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Gail’s flash fiction collection from Chapeltown Books. Image supplied by Gail Aldwin. Also note the Chapeltown Books branding of a frame around an image. Simple but effective

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Gill James reading from her January Stones collection. Image by Allison Symes

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and Allison Symes and books - with kind permission from Paula Readman

Paula Readman, Dawn Kentish Knox and I celebrate where our stories have appeared! Many thanks to Paula Readman for the picture.!

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Some of the books I’ve appeared in and FLTDBA of course. Image by Allison Symes

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Given flash fiction makes its readers fill in the gaps due to the word count restrictions, it is also a great way to conjure up other worlds which reflect on our own.

A reference here, a name of a character there etc will carry weight based on what we know of that reference and name. The world might be strange but the reference or name are not and it makes filling in the gaps easier. What is really nice is when you know that reference or name will make the reader smile because you know what they will associate it with.

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Descriptions can be tricky. Too much information and you switch the reader off. Too little and you can’t conjure up enough of an image for your reader to “hook into” so they can get right into your story’s world.

Flash fiction, of course, by its nature means you have to be sparing with the details so the trick is to find the most powerful image in the shortest number of words. (Well, it IS meant to be a challenge!).

I ask myself what are the images I want my reader to definitely pick up from my story. This is where outlining your thoughts before writing the story is so helpful. It makes it easier to select the telling details that absolutely have to be in the tale.

You can also mark those others that would be useful to have in if you have sufficient word count spare but would not spoil the story if they weren’t included. It has been my experience there usually isn’t the word count spare (unless I am writing right at the upper range for flash). Focusing on what HAS to be in is, I find, the best place to start. Anything after that is a bonus but should still only be included if it does something useful such as giving depth to your tale.