Guest Blogging, Intelligent Life, and Books For the Professions

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

My author picture taken by my other half, Adrian Symes.

Hope the weather is as okay as possible where you are – it has been rather cold here. There is a beauty about snow and ice but I prefer to admire it from indoors!

ice-crystal-64157_640

Facebook – General

Had some snow today but by mid-afternoon most had melted. Anyone else thinking no matter how many layers you do put on, it still isn’t enough? Okay, not just me then.

Looking forward to sharing Part 4 of Launches in Lockdown on Friday where I’ll be talking to the first batch of writers from CafeLit, Chapeltown Books, and Bridge House Publishing.

Again encouraging comments are coming in for this series so a big thanks for that. And I hope it does inspire writers who are wondering how on earth to hold their launches this year with ideas for just how they can!

There will be one part of this series on Friday week and after that I plan to write a round-up of what I’ve been doing as there have been developments over the last few weeks I’m longing to share. By the time this post is due, I should be able to share what I would like to share!

It is one of the oddities of the writing life that things tend to come in batches and often when you’re not expecting them. Still it all keeps me out of mischief and on my toes.

Most of my time at the moment is taken up with writing various non-fiction items which I’ll be sharing later in February and into March (and will be part of my round-up CFT post too). All good fun to do though.

I am enjoying making my short story videos for Youtube. They’re great adverts for my work and a fantastic way to share one and two line stories. (And all counts as part of my marketing of course!). See below for my most recent one, Intelligent Life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – Guest Blog Appearance

Many thanks to fellow Swanwicker, #ElizabethDucie, for hosting me on her blog today. Great fun to take part and I will have to get around to having the T-shirt made up (see the post itself for why!). It’s also appropriate for me when I’m wearing my editor’s hat (again see the post for why – come on, no spoilers here!).

I hope to meet up with Elizabeth again in August when hopefully Swanwick will be running again. She carries out sterling service running the Swanwick Book Room, something I know is much appreciated by everyone. (And it will be so nice having more than one book of mine there next time!).

No snow as yet here in my part of the world but the wind is building up in strength and it is so cold out there. Still nothing better than to settle down to my writing for this evening with a big mug of Options Hot Chocolate in my favourite Creme Egg mug alongside! (The irony here – the hot chocolate has far less calories in it than the Creme Egg!).

Fiction writers, what would you say was your favourite thing to write? For me it is either dialogue or a character’s internal thoughts and for the same reason – these show something of your character to your reader. These help your readers form judgments about those characters (and of course the fun then starts as your reader carries on with the story to find out if those thoughts were right or not!).

Managed to submit my short story today. Followed my own advice to take off a couple of weeks from the official deadline. Just as well I did too as I spotted an error in the way I’d titled my story. It has to be one of those which are submitted anonymously and I had missed something here so that was sorted out pronto and story then submitted.

It always pays to double and even triple check you’ve got your submission right for the requirements of the publisher or competition. That is never wasted time!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope Saturday has been okay. We actually had some sunshine today and Lady had a bonus surprise as she got to see her best buddie over at the park today. Both dogs thrilled to see each other. Never let anyone tell you dogs can’t feel emotions – they so do. (Still a right mudfest in the park, mind you).

Writing wise I’m preparing material which I can say more about in March. Yes, I know (!) though March will be here before we know it. Am champing at the bit to share the news but it will keep for now!

I’m hoping to submit a short story later this weekend (probably tomorrow I think). Very happy with my character – she makes me laugh and yes she is meant to so if she does this for me, hopefully she’ll do so for others though it will be a while before I know the result. Delighted to have two stories in CafeLit 10 for later this year too.

Am also preparing and editing future blog material.

Worst writing challenge? I think it is knowing when to say that’s it, get the story or article out there, and test the water. The way I gauge things here is looking to see if any other changes would really add anything to the story. If the answer is no, then it’s time to get the work out there.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the likes for my Intelligent Life short story video yesterday. Much appreciated.

And the videos are different ways of getting the stories across, which pleases me. They make me think laterally about what images would work best for the story. Sometimes there are direct links (as in the UFO in this one). Sometimes I find a plain landscape background works better especially if I haven’t set a story anywhere specific in time or space.

I use Book Brush to create the videos, I upload them to Youtube, and then edit that to include an audio track. Did I think I’d be doing things like this when I first started writing seriously? Absolutely not for the good reason the technology to do it simply wasn’t there! I am from the era where Pacman was the thing in computer graphics (younger readers, check out the picture! It really was like that).

video-game-1332694_640


Is there intelligent life on earth? Well, my latest flash fiction story video gives two views on that. Which do you agree with?!

Oh and I think I found the perfect soundtrack for this one – many thanks, Youtube!

Online marketing and social media became even more important for writers and publishers in 2020


Flash tales work well across the genres, which is one of the things I love most about it, but I also feel humour comes across especially well here.

As you are looking to impact your reader with an emotional response with your story, why not go for the laugh? I often use twist endings in my stories but a good punchline is fabulous to end a story on and I love reading such as well as writing them. (Couldn’t we all do with stories that make you feel good right now? And a giggie is a fab way to go here!).

Also if you have a funny scene from a longer story that you can’t justify keeping in there because it interrupts the flow, doesn’t really add anything to the tale etc., instead of just binning the material, could you take another look at it and turn it into a self-contained flash piece? Would be worth a go I would have thought. If it works, you’ve got a piece you can submit elsewhere.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


For my author FB page tonight, I mentioned that one of the worst challenges for a writer is knowing when a work is finished and it really is time to get the work out there somewhere. I judge this by asking honestly if any further changes really would do anything more for the story. When the answer is no, the story gets sent out. Now this does apply to flash fiction obviously though there is one more check I do and it specifically relates to the flash fiction format.

Why? Because I am thinking of two things with my flash tales – impact and word count (and in that order too).

So my last edit on a flash story is to check certain phrases to make sure I have used the best, strongest words to conjure up the image I want readers to see and that the story does have the impact I want it to have.

An odd tweak here and there can make all the difference but when you have got to this point, you know this will be the final edit and after that the story gets sent out.

If I end up with a choice between two words and both have the same kind of impact, I go for the one that my character is most likely to think or say. If I have a pompous character, say, then whatever they come up with is going to reflect that pomposity (and hopefully in a humorous way too!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog – Books for the Professions

At the end (almost) of a busy week, I thought I’d share books for the professions. Some of these may have been edited a little!

Plumbers – Leak House, David Copperpipe.

Lawyers – Pride and (Without) Prejudice

Postmen – Going Postal (no editing there!) and any of the old penny dreadfuls though for these good people they would naturally become the old penny blacks!

Tree Surgeons – Wind in the Willows (also a good one for weather forecasters), The (tree) House on Pooh Corner.

Writers – The War of the Words, James and the Giant Pen

Interior Decorators – Curtain (Agatha Christie’s last Poirot novel).

Dentists – White Teeth (what else?!).

I’m very fond of I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, which is on Radio 4, where the panellists will often have to come up with books or film titles for a specific profession. All good fun. Hope you enjoyed these and do send in your suggestions for suitable books for certain jobs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twitter Corner

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

CafeLit Publication News and News of a Poorly Paw!

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

What inventions populate your fictional world - image via Pixabay

Facebook – General and Publication News

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

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

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

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

Give the short form collections a try!

Cafelit books - Book Brush mock up

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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

 

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

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

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

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


I approach writing a flash fiction story in several ways.

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Twitter Corner

 

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Creosoting, Ideas, and Editing

How has my week gone? See the title of this post! (Oh and do look out for Part 3 of my CFT series The Writing Game – and What to Watch For – link up for Friday. The whole series has sparkled with great ideas and advice so don’t miss the last installment!).

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

Many thanks, everyone, for the cracking response to Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my current CFT series. All very encouraging (and most writers, certainly all the ones I know, always welcome encouragement!). Looking forward to sharing the equally cracking finale next Friday.

Have got another fence panel creosoted. (If you needed proof the writing life isn’t necessarily glamorous, I’ve just provided it! Lady was not at all happy I kept her indoors while I was working but I couldn’t risk her going back inside a different colour to when she came out! YOU try telling a dog they can’t “help”!).😆

Am enjoying some wonderful books on Kindle at the moment, though I have a long TBR list on there. Still I shall enjoy working my way through. DON’T send help, I shall be fine, thanks! (Am so grateful electronic book shelves cannot collapse under the weight!).

Some pieces are coming together on one of my longer term projects so am pleased about that. I’ve learned over time that when you’re busy on something else, good ideas for other projects you’ve got in mind pop into your head.

I’ve also learned not to fight this. Grab a notebook, jot said ideas down, work on them when you get chance etc. Rome wasn’t built in a day etc…

I’ve yet to work out a way of having ideas occur to me in a more convenient fashion. I don’t think that will be happening any time soon!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Hope the week ahead proves to be a good one for everyone. I’ll be working on an interview for CFT to appear on 14th August after my current series.

All I’ll say now is it about a very special project and my guest author is the ONLY UK writer taking part in it. They will know who they are from that description! I look forward to sharing more about that in due course.

There will be further interviews later in the month too. There has been a lot of change of direction in the air recently, which has been my underlying theme for CFT this summer! And it is a joy and privilege to share some of those change of direction stories via CFT.

One of the great aspects to the writing life is it isn’t in a straight line. You can go off on this track for a while, come back to what you mainly do, then explore other forms of writing and so on. Enjoyment of what you do writing wise is crucial, whatever you write. If you don’t enjoy it, why would anyone else?

Enjoyed re-watching one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes tonight. Vincent and the Doctor (with Matt Smith as our hero) is wonderfully done. There is a lot of depth to this story. Hallmarks of a great story? When it can bear repeated re-readings/re-watchings etc.

Good challenge for me as a writer too!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Busy Monday as usual. Still one good thing about that was it meant I had no time to cresote our front fence today. I’ll be back on that tomorrow. I know – the giddy whirl and all that.

I’ve been reading a good old mixture of funny stories and dark fantasy recently. All have made me react. Sometimes in horror at the attitude of the characters – and that is the right reaction too. Other tales have made me laugh out loud. Still others make me wince but I can fathom where the character is coming from. And that is important.

For a reader to enjoy YOUR stories, they’ve got to be able to get behind your characters or at least understand that, in this character’s shoes, they might do the same. So the challenge then is to work out what you want your readers to feel about YOUR creations – and then write it!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another panel creosoted, one to go. And that’ll be my treat for Thursday! Talking of treats, which do you prefer that relate to words or writing in some way?

Mine are:-

1. Playing a Scrabble-like game on my phone (it’s one where the adverts are at the beginning and end of the game and do NOT interrupt the game. Would the makers of the “real” Scrabble please note that? Thank you!).

2. Dipping into a flash fiction or short story collection in between “day jobs” and just luxuriating in escaping the real world for ten minutes or so at a time. (I save my longer reads for my bedtime read and it is a lovely way to finish the day).

3. I used to like the alphabet sweets (not the jelly type, the harder sugar ones. Yes, I do have some teeth left!). Anyone remember them? These days I’d probably make anagrams out of them before scoffing them because I am just like that!😀😀I am partial to a good anagram and a good sweet!

4. I do like the occasional crossword/arrow word/wordsearch but much prefer Scrabble.

I don’t know if any of these sharpen the old brainbox but I do know they help me relax. I write better when feeling relaxed – and that will do!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve mentioned before that flash fiction is flexible when it comes to format within it. I’ve written acrostic flash tales, poetic flash stories etc., and recently have written some haiku ones. I also like the flexibility of word count within flash.

Unless I’m writing for #ParagraphPlanet (75 words all in!), or a competition which has set a specific word count, I will write to the story requirements. Sometimes a tale simply works better at 150 words rather than 100. That’s fine. I just find the right market or competition for it.

How do I judge what works best? I look at the impact of the story. If it can make the impact I want it to have at 100 words, fine. If it can’t, it stays at 150 or what have you.

Each piece of flash fiction needs to be a contained story with a proper beginning, middle, and end. Each needs to impact the reader because they’ve been gripped by what you’ve put your character(s) through.

But the single person story works well in flash, as does monologue. I’ve tended to use the first person a lot but have heard some wonderful monologues read out at events such as the Bridge House Publishing ones. So having a go at a flash fiction monologue is going to go on my list of things to do at some point.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sunday already?
The week flies by, as always.
Shame housework doesn’t!

Allison Symes – 2nd August 2020

The only good thing to be said about housework is once it’s done, it’s done. Oh and the thought of getting to my desk to write is a wonderful spur!

I had hoped the drudgery of housework would free up my mind to come up with some wonderful ideas for flash fiction whilst doing the ruddy work! Not a thing!

All I think when doing said housework is something along the lines of “can’t wait for this to be done” interspersed with “what is Lady barking at now?”. (Answer: usually the postman, sometimes the vacuum cleaner).

There is a kind of writing housework too. Now I don’t mind that kind at all. This is mainly things like:-

1. keeping an eye on what stories I send where (to ensure I don’t unwittingly send something to the same place twice);

2. backing up files regularly as I know I WILL regret it if I don’t!

3. Planning what I’m going to write when and marketing work too. Having a plan is the only way I’ve found to ensure I get this done. It helps me keep a proper balance.

So whatever your writing housework is this week, I hope it goes well!😀

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Triggers for story ideas can come from all over the place which, I know, on the face of it doesn’t seem to be all that helpful, does it? How on earth do you filter these out to find out what would work for you because surely not every trigger would suit?

Correct! It IS a question of having an open mind to those triggers. When I’m brainstorming ideas, I write down several. I never go with the first couple. They will be the obvious ideas that will occur to most writers. But dig deeper and hey, you might find something you can bring your unique take and voice to.

Using competition themes (whether or not you enter them) can be useful. I don’t write love stories so I know any love themed competition isn’t going to be for me. But that’s okay. There are plenty of other stories, including relationship ones, to tell.

It is a question of working out what you like to read, what you would LIKE TO read, and what you like to write. In that happy triangle is your writing ground. Have fun with it (oh and keep the weeds out!).😊

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When do I know if a story is ready for submission somewhere?

Basically when I cannot think of anything else to change without it taking away something from the character and/or the plot.

On editing, I usually spot several things I could re-phrase in a better way for the added “oomph” factor (and often to reduce the word count too. Less is more is SO true in flash fiction!).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog –

Stories You Wish Would Never End

Have you any stories you love so much you wish they would never end?

I remember when I first finished reading The Lord of the Rings being just stunned by the sheer scope of it and wanting to dive back into that world immediately.

On a very different front, the same applied to The Wind in the Willows!

Of course, it is good the stories end. A lot of the time it IS the ending that makes the book stand out. An incomplete story is NOT a story. A story has to have an ending.

So I guess it is the entertainment and enjoyment we have had from these favourite stories that we really wish would not end,

The good news is they don’t have to – you simply pick up your favourite book and re-read it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ups and Downs

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

Facebook – General

I love the buzz when I’m outlining a story idea and can’t wait to write it out properly. Always a good sign that. I find the same when preparing blog posts. I take the view if I like or dislike a piece, readers will have the same attitude so I make sure I darned well like the thing myself!😊

Am glad I tend to write in the evenings when it is cooler. That is really helping as I don’t cope with the heat well (I know, does anyone?). Lady is doing fine but she prefers the cooler temperatures. (And she is currently snoozing on the sofa – it’s a tough life and all that!).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It has been a good weekend. I’ve sent back what should be my final edit on Tripping the Flash Fantastic and I now have the fun task of thinking of material for the back cover etc.

I also want to start thinking ahead for a cyberlaunch much later on in the year. If there is one thing I have learned from the one held for From Light to Dark and Back Again, it is that it is never too soon to write and prepare good material for use on such things!

I’m starting to plan out my next short story competition entry and it is one of those where I know I need to have the ending right and then work backwards to the start. This technique works really well for twist ending stories (which this one will be in due course) and it ensures that your twist is reasonable and well thought out. All good fun to do.

I’ll also be looking at Changing Direction as my CFT topic for Friday. I’ll share a bit more about that during the week.

Have a fab writing week and a fun one (I intend to!)! Time flies etc etc.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Halfway point of the year already. Not that 2020 I think is going to be remembered with any great fondness once it is over. Still pressing on…

What is the most difficult aspect of writing for you?

For me, it’s getting started but once I’m up and going, it’s no holds barred until the finish. This is why I outline my character(s) as well as the story plot line. I’ve found that overcomes the hesitation in getting started scenario. So naturally I’m going to stick with doing this.

What has been the most useful writing tip for you?

For me, it is to always edit on paper rather than on screen. You miss things on screen. Your mind fills in missing words in a way that doesn’t happen with paper.The gaps there are glaringly obvious and hit you between the eyes. Well they do for me anyway!

What is the most enjoyable aspect of writing for you?

For me, it’s having finished a piece of work and sent it off for a market or competition, knowing it is the best I can make it and, therefore, knowing it is in with a good chance.

Hope you’ve had a good start to your writing week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The writing life is full of ups and downs, of course. I’ve taken a lot of comfort from the fact that every writer experiences this. It is good to know it isn’t just you. It isn’t just me.

But I don’t know about you but every so often, a good “dollop” of encouragement is called for, so what have I found most helpful here?

This is not a definitive list and please add to it in the comments! What I hope is some of what follows is of use. I know it has been to me over the years.

1. EVERY WRITER FACES REJECTIONS

How you handle them though is up to you! My first reaction on getting them is to grimace and mutter a few naughty words. Later, if I’ve been lucky enough to have feedback, I study that for what I can learn from it.

If there is no feedback and it is a case I simply haven’t heard back from a competition or market (so know the piece is going nowhere fast), I look at the story again. Is there anything I can improve? Are there alternative competitions or markets where it might be worth trying the piece again?

I’ve done this a number of times over the years and have often, though not always, had a story accepted by one market where it had been rejected by another one. So this is always worth bearing in mind and I know I’m not the only writer who has found this.

2. CHECK OUT OTHER WRITERS’ TALES OF OVERCOMING REJECTIONS

You will find something to encourage you. And if you want somewhere to start here, I am going to recommend my Chandler’s Ford Today page at http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/ as I’ve had the great privilege of interviewing a number of writers and all of the have fascinating and encouraging insights.

Many of them talk about their road to publication and it can be a rocky one at times.

3. CHANGING DIRECTION

Changing direction and experimenting with different forms of writing is huge fun, often beneficial, and led me into flash fiction.

I’ll be talking more about this in my CFT post on Friday. So don’t feel bad if a change of direction seems the right thing for you to do. There is no one size fits all here.

In the depths of the “down” stage, I’ve found it helpful to recall the up moments. Publication is the obvious one but before that it was things like entering more competitions than I ever had before, getting feedback (and seeing more positive comments) and so on. Don’t discount things like that. They mount up.

I’ve found it helps to know that the ups and downs are normal. Having wonderful supportive writing friends is also a huge encouragement so thank you all. You know who you are!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

As well as the random question generator, I also use the random phrase type. These are useful for sparking ideas off for themes for stories. Sometimes they can be used as phrases to be planted somewhere in the story itself.

For example, one phrase that came up just now when I looked on this was “Let Her Rip”. Now what could be done with that?

Firstly, it could be used as a title.

Secondly, it could be a catchphrase your main character uses.

Thirdly, you can take the story two ways here. What would happen if your characters DOES “let her rip”? And again what would happen if they can’t? And what do they mean by the phrase anyway? (I’d also like to know why her and not him and yes you could get a story from exploring that idea).

Often it is the getting started on a story that can be problematic. You know you want to write but where to begin? Using the generators is a good way to overcome that. You should find something comes up that sparks your imagination and away you go! Good luck.

At the moment, I’m tending to have a session or two during the week specifically for flash fiction (and I’m often using the wonderful prompts in the Prompts book by Gill James as my story triggers). In the fullness of time, I hope I will get another book out of these.

The rest of the week is for my CFT post, any standard length short stories I’m preparing for competition entry, and my longer term projects. So never short of things to do then!

The lovely thing with flash though,and why I will always return to it regardless of what else I write, is that it is perfect for those writing sessions when I don’t have a lot of time.

For those 10 to 15 minute slots, I can draft a flash story or two (depending on word count length). Those time periods mount up over time and it is how I put From Light to Dark and Back Again together.

It was going back over how much I had written that I realised I had enough material to send to Chapeltown Books and, for me, the icing on the cake here was adding in some extra stories that I knew had not appeared anywhere else.

So never despair of not having enough writing time. Do any of us really ever feel we have enough time? But learning to write to the slots you do have available is a really useful thing to do and will help make you more productive.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As flash is, if you like, “concentrated” fiction, the emotional impact of it can be huge. The emotional reactions generated cannot be diluted by extra prose because there simply isn’t the room to have that extra prose.

There should be no extra prose whatever fiction you write incidentally. All that goes into the story should be relevant to the tale but with flash, because of the restricted word count, you do have to be more selective when choosing what details HAVE to be included. You haven’t got the room for sub-plots etc.

So how to go about ensuring that emotional impact is as powerful as you’d like it to be?

The best way I know, and this applies to other fiction too, is:-

Your character desperately needs or wants something.

You, being the thoughtful author that you are, stop them from getting that something!

Your character, being well thought out, will strive to overcome those obstacles and has some success until…

You, as ever thoughtful author, put a bigger obstacle in their way OR the character HAS to meet their objective within a certain time span and the clock is ticking…

Feel that tension ratchet up!

And if you feel the tension ratchet up as you write your story, a reader will too on reading it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How do I judge when to write a flash fiction story from start to end or to begin with the finishing line and work backwards?

It all depends on the line I’ve come up with. Some are obvious endings to a story, especially the twist ones. Others I could place at either end of the story because they would make a cracking start or a fabulous finish (I hope!).

When I have lines like that, I work out a few ideas and I go for the one that I like best, almost certainly because it makes the most impact on me (and therefore would the most impact on a reader). That usually tells me where my first line should be placed.

I find spider diagrams useful here for helping me to jot out ideas and then work out what could come from those threads.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Blog –

Recovering From a Reading Drought

Occasionally I have a reading drought and I am glad it is a rare occurrence. It nearly always happens when I’m over-tired or stressed etc and it just means I can’t face reading anything for a while. I’m just getting over one now (and by something that is definitely not a coincidence, it started a week or so into lockdown here in the UK).

Now this is not the usual me by any means. I DO read all the notices on the fish and chip shop walls (when we’re allowed to go back there) and yes I read the back of the cornflakes packet eons ago!

I’ve learned just to bear with this drought because I know it will pass and it is only temporary. How do I get out of it again?

I turn to humorous prose, which is one of my great loves anyway. It rarely fails to cheer me and, once I’ve started reading again, the lure of books keeps me hooked, which is what I want of course.

I’ve had no problem writing during this lockdown. I do wonder if it is my subsconcious telling me “you can do one creative activity, Madam, but you’re not doing two!”

Any thoughts on how to tell my subsconcious to shut up and leave me alone so I can carry on reading would be welcomed!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collaboration, Picture Books, and Characters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is an interview with local children’s writer, Anne Wan. For her latest book, Manners Fit for the Queen, she teams up with local illustrator, Sally Goodden.

The interview looks at the colloborative process needed to produce a picture book and why picture books matter.

For most of us, one of our first introductions to the wonderful world of stories would have been through a picture book. I still love a well illustrated book. (The maps in the Lord of the Rings are fab!).

NB.  I love it when a title for a post just “comes” to me and I particularly like this week’s one.  Picture Books and Other Hooks has a good rhythm to it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking forward to having a go at the writing prompt for this week from my diary. The prompt is to show the groundhog’s point of view as it prepares to meet his/her public for Groundhog Day (great film incidentally)!

Will have a crack at that challenge over the weekend. Should be fun! I can categorically state I’ve never created a groundhog character before! Am probably unlikely to do so again but it will be fun to find out what comes from this.

Later in the year, there‘s another prompt asking me to list 10 words associated with a train journey. People could have a lot of fun with that depending on which train operator they use regularly! (I think there should have been a comment in the prompt to “keep it clean” but that’s just me!).

As you will have gathered, I love this writing diary!

 

My CFT post this week will be an interview with children’s writer, Anne Wan, and illustrator, Sally Goodden. They recently had a story and craft event at Chandler’s Ford Library based on Anne’s most recent book, Manners Fit for the Queen, which is a picture book.

The ladies discuss how they worked collaboratively and how they met. Picture books look “easy” but are notoriously difficult to get right. The pictures need to convey enough of the story but without giving it all away. The text needs to be pitched right for the age range.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When did you first come across flash fiction? I ask as my latest CFT post looks at picture books and interviews Anne Wan/Sally Goodden on their colloborative work here. It made me realise that my way into reading, as it would have been for many of us, was via well cherished picture books. So on to my great love now – flash fiction – how did I get into that?

For me, it was via the 100-word challenge issued by Cafelit. Prior to that, I’d not heard of the form, yet alone had a go at it! I think part of the “not hearing” about it was due to the term used. I HAD heard about micro fiction but had not been clear about what that meant. I know now!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A good story will always make you react in some way. I’ve read (and written) stories that are meant to make you laugh or chill you to the bone.

So if a story isn’t working for you as you draft and edit it, look at what impact it is making on you as you read it. Is there an impact at all? If not, there is where the problem is! So think about what impact do you want it to have? How can the characters generate that impact?

If a character isn’t strong enough, ask why. Are they the right character for this story? Do you need to outline them in more depth to get right into their soul and really find out what makes them tick and react?

I’ve found a good way to get started is think of an extreme situation and look at how your character responds to it. For example, a fire breaks out in the character’s house so what do they do? What do they HAVE to save before they get out and why?

One of the nice sides to writing is you never lose the joy of hearing when something has been accepted! One huge advantage to writing flash fiction and short stories is being able to produce work and, hopefully, get it out there, building up publication credits, while working on a longer project.

Everyone knows how difficult it can be to get a novel out there but that doesn’t mean flash fiction and short stories should be considered “easy”. They’re not! You still need to craft the stories very well in order for them to have a chance of being accepted. You still need to pitch them to the right competitions/markets. They should also be recognised as a joy to write in their own right.

Ironically, it can be harder to write short than it is to write long. I always overwrite my stories but the advantage to that is I get off to a flying start with my editing pen! I find it a good acid test of whether a story is strong enough that I need to cut it back. If I’m having to pad (and I’ve only done this rarely), then the story idea isn’t strong enough in the first place (and I’ve always ended up either abandoning the idea altogether or finding ways of improving it. It never stays as it was).

Fairytales With Bite – What Matters to Your Characters?

What matters most to your characters and why? Get your characters to face losing what matters to them most and that will increase the tensions in your story considerably.

The nice things with this is whatever it is that matters most can vary considerably. For one character, it could be a life or death situation. Another character could be terribly worked up because they’re late back with their library book. The potential for humour is here too.

The one proviso is that your characters have to have very good reasons for why these things matter. A life or death scenario has an obvious “why it matters” inherent in it. In the case of the library book scenario, could it be that your character has never been late in their life for anything and fears losing control over their neat little life if they ARE late at all? Maybe they worry about what the librarian will think – other people’s opinions matter to this character. You get the idea.

Have fun and play with this. Work out what could make your character lose what matters most. For someone with a controlled life, what on earth has happened to make the possibility of being late back with their library book happen at all? Something catastrophic (to them) must have occurred. Hopefully it will be very entertaining for a reader!

This World and Others – Collaboration

Collaboration is vital when producing picture books, as discussed by local writer, Anne Wan, and illustrator, Sally Goodden in this week’s CFT post. (I must admit I was pleased with the title for this one – Picture Books and Other Hooks!).

Working in partnership matters even when you write on your own!  How and why?

For me, this means seeing writing as two distinct processes.  One is the fun creative side of getting everything down on paper or on screen.  The second is the editing process where you tighten your story up and really give it muscle by getting rid of anything and everything that does not contribute to moving your tale onwards and upwards to its conclusion.  I love editing.  I love the sense of the story improving as I spot repetitions etc I didn’t see in the giddy delight of creating new characters etc.  I love the sense of getting rid of what isn’t helping the story.

So where does the collaboration come in?  By accepting these are two distinct processes and not trying to do both at the same time.

Give your creative side free rein and enjoy the ride. Don’t let your inner editor spoil that.  It’s not time for them to come in yet.  Once that side is finished, then recognise the fact that all stories are improved (and therefore stand a better chance of publication) by good editing.

See editing as what gives your stories the wings to fly!  I do and find this side of things fun as a result.  Nothing is going to beat the heady thrill of creating something new but it helps enormously to know nobody has ever produced a truly terrific story in one go!  Everyone needs at least a second draft!  Good luck.