Running Orders, Tech Issues, and One-Liners

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

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Have not long completed the first edit on my second collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic. It was good fun to do and eye opening too.

I had gone through my draft at least three times before submitting it and I still missed things! This is why it is important an outside eye does see your work. They will pick up on things you are too close to the work to be able to see.

Also if they come back with comments, it will help you to see if you really have got things across as clearly as you thought you had. (The answer to that one incidentally is sometimes no! And in those cases I rewrite. An editor’s eye can also help you realise what comes across as a bit clunky and therefore awkward for a reader to enjoy smoothly. So again rewrite time there),

There are no shortcuts but editing is what is going to make your work special so it is worth taking time over.

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It’s been a strange old week. I suspect next week will be stranger still. On the plus side, there is plenty of reading and writing to be cracking on with so I’ll focus on that. It is positive at least!

I’ve got a nice queue of items on my Kindle TBR list so will be trying to catch up on some of those.

Writing wise, I’m drafting a story for a competition which I need to finish. I also need to press on with my other major projects. And I do keep an eye out for interesting flash and short story competitions too. I like good writing competitions. They help me to “raise my game” which is never a bad thing.

Keep well, everyone.

 

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Apologies to anyone who is having trouble accessing the Chandler’s Ford Today sitetoday (16th March 2020). The technical side of things I leave to my lovely editor #JadeCloud and I have emailed her. Hopefully this will prove to be one of those irritating hiccups that can soon be sorted. I don’t know if it this is something at CFT’s end or whether it’s a browser issue. Will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, I will look ahead to my post this week. I will be talking about Mixing Things Up as a writer and share a few thoughts as to how you can do that. I also look at the advantages (and otherwise!) of competitions with set and open themes. Post up Friday.

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What are your favourite one-liners? Mine have to be:-

‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off.’
‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me.’
‘I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.’

(And if you want to play name the film, feel free!).

What do I like about one-liners in stories? Well, they pack a punch when well placed in a story. I sometimes use them to finish a flash fiction piece. They have emotional impact and a good story will have that, whether it makes you laugh or cry.

Great one-liners are memorable of course and it is always a pleasure to re-read them again when going back through favourite books. And you know those one-liners will have been through several edits as the author seeks to make every word carry its weight so what is left, well you know nothing could be added or taken out.

ALSO:-
Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for flagging up an access issue to Chandler’s Ford Today yesterday. Am glad to report the issue should now be resolved.

The auto renewal of the site’s SSL certificate did not happen. Goodness knows why. A big thanks to our technical guy for sorting that out and putting measures in place to hopefully prevent it happening again.

Meanwhile, I’m sharing the post Dawn Kentish Knox had wanted to comment on – the Local Author News spot I put up on behalf of #RichardHardie and #FrancescaTyer. Hopefully all well now!

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Don’t make the mistake of thinking because flash fiction is short, the editing of it won’t take long! Ahem…

Well, obviously it will take less time than editing a novel but you still need to apply care and precision, especially since the placing of a word in a flash fiction piece can turn the story round just on that alone.

My Calling the Doctor has the mood of the story changed by the last word (see trailer).

It’s also not just about editing for word count. You want to make sure your story works without all the bits you’ve put the red pen through. The story mustn’t feel as if there is anything missing.

The aim is for a reader to feel as if another word couldn’t be added to the story while, at the same time, being unable to think of anything that could’ve come out from the tale they’ve just read. Not an easy balance to get right but so worthwhile when you do!

 

One of my favourite stories in FLTDBA is Circle of Life because it is a poetic justice tale. I’ve always been fond of those.

It’s a theme I can turn to time and again as you never run out of dodgy characters who you can dole out suitable retribution to! You are just limited by your own imagination and if ever there was a challenge to keep stretching said imagination, that’s it, I think.

I’m also fond of funny poetic justice stories. You don’t necessarily have to kill off the miscreant though I suspect my crime writing colleagues would beg to differ!😆😆😆

One of the joys of fiction, of course, is you as the writer can always ensure justice is done to those deserving it. So go on, have some fun!

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If it hasn’t happened already, there will be loads of virus tales across all story formats soon! I won’t be writing any though. The market gets saturated very quickly.

It is far better to write what you would like to write to the best standards possible and find a suitable competition/market for it than to try to write to a trend. Trends are often gone by the time you get your story out anyway.

The only thing I hope might come out of our current crisis is that people, if stuck at home, rediscover the joy of reading but I would really rather they did that without this horrid or any other virus contributing in any way. Books are fabulous and should be treasured and loved and read and re-read anyway!

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Getting the running order in a flash or short story collection isn’t always as straightforward as it might appear. I look for impact on a reader here as well as from the individual stories themselves.

I like to group themes together (I think there is a stronger overall impact) but, as with chilli powder, you CAN have too much of a good thing here. (I once made a chilli with too much powder in it. I could’ve sworn there wasn’t much in it. I was wrong! Oh I was SO wrong…😆😆). So I tend to group 2 or 3 stories with a similar theme together but no more than that.

I write a reasonable number of poetic justice tales, to name one example. I’d group a couple of those together, then have a couple of say funny fairytales together, then some historical ones, then back to the poetic justice ones again. (I do like to think of my collections as “mixed assortments”. I’ve always loved those!).

It does pay to give plenty of time and thought to think about how you want your running orders to be. It will make the impact of your book that bit stronger and that is always a good thing.

Goodreads Author Blog –

Are Books The Best Invention Ever?

Daft question time, I can hear you say in response to this blog title! And you’d be right. Of course books are the best invention ever but… well, without literacy and encouraging people to read, those wonderful books we all love are left literally on the shelf, aren’t they?

How do we get people to read who don’t currently do so? I wish I knew the answer to that. All you can do as a writer is put your works out there, spread the word about them (and this is where supportive writing friends are brilliant), and hope people will take a look between your covers (ooh…err…. Missus), whether they’re electronic covers or the lovely paperback variety.

I have wondered whether people have lost confidence in reading. You know they finish reading at school and then that’s it. They’re not reading another thing. They’ll get their stories via film, TV, audio even, but not from the printed page. This is why I think supporting children’s authors is so important. They play a vital role in developing a future reading audience and keeping that love of books going. (And I still like reading YA, even though it has been a long time indeed since I qualified!).

I loved the James Garner Support Your Local Sheriff type films. We need at least three more. Support Your Local Children’s Author. Support Your Local Writers. Support Your Local Libraries.

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My Writing Journey

Image Credit:  If not otherwise stated, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay!

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I can’t say a particular story made me decide to write creatively. My journey into writing was a long one. I had always loved composition as it was known at school but I didn’t start writing seriously until I was 30.

It was one of those moments, having always loved books, that made me feel if I am going to have a go at storytelling myself, I had better get on with it then. So I did!

My only regret is not starting sooner as it takes far longer than you can anticipate to find your voice, develop confidence in submitting work, learning how to deal with the inevitable rejections etc. Then there’s the time needed for further development as you work out how to improve your work and so on (usually by trial and error and feedback), until that magical day when the first acceptance arrives. Well worth it though!

 

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One of the joys of writing my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is sourcing the pictures (take a bow, Pixabay).

But the funny thing is themes that seem to be open can often prove to be the most difficult to find suitable images for. I have no idea why that is but it is happening again this week with my topic of favourites. Yes, I know. You’d think I’d find loads for that.

The great thing is I have learned to think laterally in looking for suitable pictures so know I will find images that can fit the post. And I suppose it is a good thing to make yourself think laterally too. (It can be annoying at times though!).

 

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Where do you find the most fun is in writing a story? For me, it’s when I go into a character’s head and show a reader their thoughts and attitudes.

Why? Because If I show you a character who’s irritated, you will conjure up your own mental image of what such an irritated person could look like. I don’t need to spell that out and it saves a lot on the word count, which for flash fiction is crucial.

It also means I get into what makes that character tick so much more quickly and I really love that. I then know what I can do with them, what triggers will really wind them up and that’s when the creative sparks really fly.

Also, it’s at that point when I know what the character’s major trait is (often shown through their thoughts and attitudes), I know whether I’m going to love this character or love to loathe them.

Either reaction is fine as long it is the reaction I want to generate from that character. A character that makes you react is one you want to read about, even if it is just to find out if they get their comeuppance or not. (Confession time: I have been known to cheer to myself when a character who deserves that comeuppance gets it! I had a hard time NOT cheering out loud when Molly Weasley “deals with” Bellatrix in the Harry Potter story. Doing so with the book was fine but I didn’t want to embarrass myself in the cinema!😃😃).

I would far rather read (and write) about a character who I dislike but has purpose and I can kind of understand why they are the way they are than read or write about a character who does nothing for me whatsoever. I have got to react to the characters in some way. It doesn’t always have to be positive.

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The writing journey is not without its ups and downs, but (a) this is true for everyone, and (b) if you can get something out of the downs, great.

In my case, many years ago, I was almost caught out by a vanity publisher. What good came out of that?

Well, firstly I wasn’t caught out! Secondly I joined the Society of Authors as a result of the very helpful advice they gave me when I wasn’t a member. To begin with I joined as an Associate but became a Full Member later once I had enough short stories published.

If you’re ever in doubt about an agent or a publisher, don’t hesitate to check them out.

If you are going to spend money on self publishing, get all the advice you can first, and ensure your money is genuinely spent on self publishing! That does NOT include selling you your own books (which is effectively what vanity publishers do).

There are reputable service companies for self publishers out there. Never be afraid to ask pertinent questions. The decent ones won’t mind answering them (and will be expecting them). If you’re not sure what to ask, go to the Society of Authors or Alliance of Independent Authors for advice on what to look for and what to avoid.

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When I started writing, I was unaware of flash fiction as a form. Am very glad I discovered it though! Mind, I don’t think I would’ve tried the form even if I had been aware of its existence then. Why?

Partly because I really didn’t know what I wanted to write. I wrote a novel. I wrote short stories. I have written the odd script or two as well. All great fun. The short stories were published eventually after many a rewrite and edit! The novel I’m working on again now and I hope to do something with the scripts at some point.

The important thing is to enjoy your writing journey wherever it takes you and not to worry about experimenting with different forms of storytelling. You will find the one(s) that really suit you and which you love writing. The fun bit is finding all of this out!

 

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Most helpful tips I’ve used for flash fiction writing (and still do) include:-

1. Don’t have too many characters. One to two is best (especially for the 500 words or under type of story).

2. If a word adds impact, leave it in. Word count is important, obviously, but it is not the only thing that matters.

3. If a word does nothing for the story, take it out.

4. Be aware of what your wasted words are and cut them out on your first edit. You may not be able to stop yourself writing them (I can’t with mine) but they don’t have to go anywhere further than the first draft.

5. Always get your story down first and then edit.

6. Outline your character in as much detail or otherwise as you want before writing the story. You need to know enough about them to be able to write “their” tale convincingly. Only you can decide what is “enough”. For me, I have to know the major characteristic. Is the character brave, a wimp, humorous, as miserable as sin etc?

7. For open themed competitions, I’ve found it useful to set my own theme in advance and work to that. I find it helpful to set my own parameters here. It stops me going off at tangents that do nothing for the story or which could stop the story altogether.

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Do I always know in advance what will work best as an opening or closing line for a flash fiction story? The really good lines can be used for either and I have sometimes deliberately written two very different stories, using the same line like this.

I outline my character and often as I do that it will become apparent where the line is likely to work best.

Take, for example, the line is something like:-

She was a clumsy clot.

I would almost certainly put that at the start of a story and then shows what happens to my unfortunate character. It is, if you like, the obvious way to write that particular line into a story. I would also think of it as a negative way to finish a tale. (It sums up the character but there’s no space left to show any redeeming features, which is why I would consider this a negative ending). Sometimes you want that, of course.

But my gut feel here would be to write a humorous tale that ends on a positive note, such as something useful coming out of my character’s mishaps which helps another character.

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Writing exercise time… how about some lines to work on? But unlike the ones you might have been set at school, these should be fun, honest!

It’s up to you whether you use them as opening or closing lines. You could see if you can manage both. Good luck and have fun with these.

1. He would be extinguished if he didn’t get out before the candle burned out.

2. There were rats everywhere.

3. The temptation to go through the portal was just too much.

4. Less is more, she fumed, well I’ll show them.

5. The glittering gold couldn’t tempt him away from the mission but there was something that would.

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Goodreads Author Programme Blog The TBR Pile

How large is your To Be Read pile?

Mine hasn’t quite got to the point where I need scaffolding to keep the TBR pile upright but give me time…

I also have a considerable reading list waiting for me on my Kindle too.

The positives with this are:-

(a) I’m never going to be short of things to read;
(b) I have different things to read to suit my moods;
(c) It doesn’t matter if I want to catch up with reading at home or away – the Kindle takes care of the latter nicely enough.

The negatives with this are:-

(a) Being only too aware of the finiteness of time! There will never be enough time to read every book I want to!
(b) Having to get the scaffolding out in due course to prop up my TBR pile!
(c) It’s going to take me a while to update what I’ve read here on Goodreads!

I read most just before settling to sleep or, on a long train journey and I’ve finished what writing I want to do, I then switch to reading.

However large your TBR pile is, happy reading! Whittle it down gradually and then you’ll have room for more lovely books…!

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FANTASICAL AND REALITY WRITING

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My CFT post this week looks at how “fantastic” and “reality” writing feed off each other. No matter how fantastic the world setting, there still have to be elements about it and the characters that readers can identify with. So there has to be some system of government, some rulers and some ruled, some system of food gathering etc etc to help make the story itself believable.

In a well written fantasy story, these elements are hardly noticeable. They are what I call the necessary background structure to make the whole story work. Not only that, literature would be much the poorer without fantasy stories. It would also be much the poorer without good quality non-fiction. And that’s the way it should be.

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What slogan would sum up your writing style? I think mine would be something like “quirky, sometimes twisted, and often humorous”. Before anyone says that sums ME up quite well, I know!!

Questions never to ask a writer (unless you want to run the risk of having something thrown at you) include:-

1. How IS the writing going? (We want to give you chapter and verse, literally. You want a quick one line answer. No winners here).

2. But editing is the easy bit, surely? After all, you’ve got the writing done. Tidying it up a bit can’t take long, can it?

3. Have you given up the day job yet? (Is there any way of answering this politely and still remain friends with whoever dared ask this? Answers on a postcard….).

4. You don’t mind if I borrow your book from the library, do you? (Actually, no. We want to support the libraries. However, we would prefer it if you bought the book – bills to pay and all that).

5. It can’t take you long to write flash fiction/short stories/novellas (delete as appropriate) as they’re all much shorter than a novel. That’s where the hard work is, isn’t it?

(Many thanks to all who sent in wonderful comments on my Facebook page and to those pages where I shared this.  Glad to know I’m not alone on this topic!).

 

Delighted to say I will be a guest speaker at the Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting at the University of Winchester next Tuesday, 9th October. It will be nice to be back at Winchester again as I’m normally there for the Winchester Writers’ Festival and it is a long time until next June when it is on again!

I’ll be speaking about flash fiction (and why I think every writer should try it).

(I know I put up this post last time but can’t resist doing so again!  Am looking forward to next Tuesday’s event.  Am nervous and excited about it all at the same time!).

POSTER SHOWING ALLISON AS GUEST SPEAKER AT HWS OCTOBER 2018

Many thanks to Maggie Farran for the poster

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Flash fiction writing has taught me so much about editing, but it has also shown me the joy of choosing the right word to make maximum impact. I’ve found that spills over into other writing I do (especially my Chandler’s Ford Today posts), which is no bad thing.

We all know we should put work aside for a bit before coming back to re-read it with fresh eyes but I have found that doing so means you also look at a story and think “I could have expressed that better”. I then go on and do so!

It is true your best ideas and expressions sometimes have to be “teased” out of you. But the great thing is that the more writing you do, the more you’ll be ready for the “well actually this works better than what I had done originally” moment and won’t think twice about changing something.

The latter I think can be a confidence thing sometimes. You do have to have confidence in your own writing ability but also to trust the process – that as you work, better thoughts will come, all of which will help you improve your story and increase its chances of being published.

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It’s important to mix up the moods in a flash fiction collection. I love volumes of stories to dip into as and when I fancy and what I like to find are tales for all occasions. I will always have a very soft spot for the humorous tale but a well written tragic flash story will move me in a way a funny one can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t).

Also given flash fiction has to be character led, and characters all face different challenges, it is not unreasonable to portray said characters in very different moods, which will also affect how you write their stories.

Even in a book which is meant to be sombre, there can be different shades of sombreness in the tales within it. You don’t want to come across in a monotone style. Nor is levity appropriate but I want to see Character A handling a bad situation in this way, Character B reacting differently etc. I will then be intrigued by what makes A and B tick.

As well as mixing the moods of my stories for a flash fiction collection, I like to vary the word counts I use. The majority will be at about the 100 word mark as it is my favourite and the one I seem to gravitate to, but I like to ensure there are some 250, 500 and 750 word stories in there too. For the book I’m currently writing I am also including one line stories.

I love flash fiction collections (not just mine, honestly!), because of their variety. There are wonderful collections out there based on a specific type of flash fiction (usually the 100 or 140 word stories). There are collections with a mixture of length of stories, like mine, but focussed on one theme.

When you’ve not got as much time for reading as you’d like, these books are perfect to dip into. If you like your books electronically, I think flash fiction is wonderful for that. So very easy to read on a screen. And easy to slip into a stocking for that well known festival coming up in December….! (Get the word in early, that’s what I say!!).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – The TBR Pile

Confession time. I have a large TBR pile in paperbacks AND on the Kindle. There really isn’t enough time in the day, though it is nice to know I won’t be running out of good reading material any time soon.

Does that mean I won’t want any books bought for me for Christmas or book tokens/cards? Don’t be silly, of course I will!

Okay, I may need to figure out a way of making sure my TBR pile (paperbacks) doesn’t topple over and crush someone (probably me). Or that my Kindle doesn’t explode with the effort of containing all those ebooks for me. But I’ll manage those!

The lovely thing about being a reader and a writer is you’re never stuck for gift ideas, whether you’re dropping hints to your nearest and dearest, or buying for other readers and writers.

As for my TBR pile, back to reducing it a bit at a time (before I inevitably top it up again!).

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Fairytales with Bite – A Good Fairytale…

A good fairytale should have:-

1.  Believable characters (no matter how magical they are.  There should be something about them that resonates with a reader, which is why magic is NOT the be all and end all situation to your characters’ problems.  There should be things for them to work out without magic.  There should be things about their character which engage the reader so if the old fairy godmother turns up and does work magic for them, your readers are going to be pleased for them rather than see it as a plot device to get your character out of trouble!).

2.  Emotional impact.  Whether this is where your reader ends up screaming at your character to stop being so stupid or laughs with them or cheers when they get their happy ever after, as long as there is some emotional impact, your story is “getting through”.  People will want to read more.

3.  Justice will out somehow.  This is true most of the time.  Stories where the villains win always make me feel uncomfortable.  It just doesn’t seem right.  This is why I love the cliffhanger ending in The Italian Job with Michael Caine.  Even where the villain does seem to get away with it, I like to see some hint that in the future their success may come back to haunt them or they would have done even better had they acted better.  I suppose one reason why I like to see justice of some sort being done is because in life, it so often isn’t like that.  One appeal of stories overall is that they can reflect life as it should be at times – the underdog does win out, wrongs are put right etc etc.  (The other thought here is that perhaps the villain does have cause so are they so much of a villain after all?  Food for thought here I think).

This World and Others – Things You Need to Know about World Building

This is definitely not a comprehensive guide but I list below some useful pointers for you to consider when building your fictional world.

1.  Identifiable Elements
There has to be something about the world you create your readers will identify with, no matter how fantastical the setting.  Worlds have to be governed.  How is that done?  Every living creature needs to eat so how do the characters in your world do this and what is their food?  How are their societies organised?  (There must be some sort of organisation – could anyone survive sustained anarchy?).  These things are what I like to refer to as necessary background structure.  They may not be the main point of your stories but you need to know this information so you can write with confidence about your setting (it is a character in many ways) and that confidence will come through in your writing to your reader.

2.  How things change
A living world adapts and changes due to new technologies, diseases forcing change on society, wars changing the political landscape and so on.  Again these things may not be the main point of your stories but there should be a sense of your world changing and developing as your characters do within it.  It gives the sense that your world really is a live one and therefore infinitely more believable.

3.  Roles
What are the major roles in your world?  How are genders dealt with (and is there any difference in the roles each play?).  What happens to those who won’t accept the roles they’ve been assigned?  (There is always at least one who does this and some fantastic stories emerge from that).

It would pay to outline your thoughts on these three points before committing to major writing (especially if it’s a novel you’ve got in mind).  Work things out early.  It will save you a lot of time later on.  Good luck!