Managing My Writing

Facebook – General

I’ve found getting into a regular time for writing has helped me get more work done but I sneak in writing as and when I can during the day. (Generally easier to do at weekends). I’ve learned over time that pockets of time mount up and of course flash fiction can be written as complete works in those pockets.

I tend to break longer projects into time slots – say 20 minutes on a longer short story, 30 on writing my CFT post for the week and so on. Inevitably I will find I overrun on a piece as it “grips” me and I carry on writing but that’s fine. I will “mine” that for all I can and then carry on with whatever else I was working on afterwards or the next night. I look at my writing over the course of a week and work out what I’d like to achieve over that time span.

So don’t give up just because you haven’t much time. It’s a question, I think, of working out what you time you have got and deciding how best to “spend” that time.

Looking forward to going to the ACW Writers’ Day in Bath on Saturday. What are the benefits of going to days like this/writing conferences in general?

1. You get to meet other writers and make friends.

2. You learn from the talks/courses.

3. Given most of the time you’re behind on the desk on your own writing, it is fantastic to meet up with others who know what the joys and problems of writing are and can sympathise!

4. Some writing conferences run competitions. Always worth a go.

5. My CFT post from last year talks about the benefits of a good writing conference. Many thanks to Geoff Parkes for the pictures of me reading at the Open Prose night.

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Reading and writing are great joys at any time but I think they come into their own the most when your own mood isn’t so great.

Books and stories can (and indeed should) take you out of yourself and into a new world where you can lose yourself for a while. The challenge for the writer, of course, is to create a world the reader will want to spend time in. How best to do that? By creating characters the reader will either love or love to hate and where they/you have got to find out what happens to them.

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Favourite characters beginning with the letter A:-

Aslan (Narnia)
Aragorn (LOTR)
Angua (Discworld – her bark really is worse than her bite!)
Adora (Belle Deerheart – Discworld. Feisty doesn’t begin to cover it for this character!).

All of these characters are memorable and stand out, not least because one of them is a lion! All overcome perils (and in Aslan’s case death as well. See The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe for more on that! I refuse to believe this is a plot spoiler after all this time. Having said that, much as I love the book, I think Prince Caspian is even better).

It is the characters that draw me into any story, regardless of its genre. Yes, an odd set-up can provoke my curiosity but unless the characters appeal in some way, I won’t stay with that story.

PS Am having difficulty posting images with this one. Don’t know why. Sorry!  This is true for my Facebook post but I can and will post images here!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When does a character come alive to you, their creator?

I think it is when you can put that character in any situation (outside of those in the story) and you would know immediately how they would react/deal with it. I sometimes know what my character’s favourite songs would be. I don’t always work thing out to that level of detail but I can hear a piece and think X would like that.

And yes it is perfectly possible to be irritated/annoyed with your characters as you get to know more about them. You need to look at why that is happening and ask yourself if this is an effect you want your readers to experience. If not, it’s time for amendments!

Flash fiction shines a spotlight on writing faults due to its word count limitation but that can be useful as you can then do something about said faults! It is so easy to repeat phrases or to use words that don’t add anything to your story so when I’m editing, these are the first things I look for and remove when I (inevitably) find them.

Often that edit in itself can be enough to get a story down to a required word count. Even when it isn’t, getting rid of the dross can then help you assess what you really need from what you’ve got left. And at that point, I’m looking for “does this move the story on?” or “if I cut this out, would it be missed?” I’ve found those two questions so useful for helping with edits and of course they work with longer fiction too.

I use the first person for a lot of my flash fiction as that immediacy of viewpoint suits the story form very well. It makes it easier for me to hit the ground running with my stories by showing you their viewpoint from the outset.

I often outline a character by just working out what their chief characteristic is and then deciding how far they will take that. You can have a lot of fun here if your character’s chief trait is stubbornness! Just what trouble can they land themselves/others in… and that of course can lead to a tragic tale or a funny one.

Flash fiction can be useful for generating story ideas for fleshing out into much longer pieces later on. I’ve sometimes taken a flash piece of mine and created a separate standard short story from it (circa 1500 to 2000 words).

Sometimes I think an idea will work better at a longer length but it isn’t always the case! For example, a quirky character can work well in a short piece. In a longer one they may irritate a reader. Just not worth going there! So when I’m pondering whether or not to expand a flash fiction story, I look at whether the lead character is really up to a longer word count. And they have to have plenty going for them for the answer to that one to be “yes”! (Beware the one trick pony – they really are best off in flash fiction and staying there).

PS Sorry for lack of images. Just not loading on this or my author page today. Don’t know why. All that happens is my text vanishes and no picture appears eitther! This has occasionally happened before. Hopefully normal service with pics tomorrow…  Again, this is true for Facebook today but not here!

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Goodreads Author Programme Blog –

Saturday Night is Alright for Reading

As is every other day of the week, of course! I thought of this title (and by default Elton John’s hit Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting) because I recall Saturday night being THE night for TV viewing.

There would be something good on everyone would want to watch and, especially in the days before VCR, you’d have to catch the programme live or hope for a repeat.

I was reminded of that this week with the news of the sad passing of Andre Previn aka Andrew Preview on the Morecambe and Wise Show.

So given I think that kind of Saturday night viewing is a thing of the past, perhaps making it the Big Read Night is not such a bad thought.

It does surprise me a bit, given how many great novels and short stories there are out there, that more are not adapted for TV. I would love to see the Discworld novels brought to the small screen. The Vimes/Watch novels would work particularly well. And it would be very original material too!

So back to the books for entertainment then. That’s not a bad thing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Time

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post looks at time management (and oh I would love to be better at that!) and at time travel. Naturally a certain Doctor makes an appearance in the post and I also look at if time travel were to become possible, where would you go and why? What would you do while there? Comments as ever welcome on the CFT page.

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I discuss the art of time management and time travel in this week’s CFT post. (I suppose thinking about it further, you could say one of the earliest forms of time management in the UK was when the railways standardised time for us all).

On the assumption time travel ever becomes possible (and I’m not counting the gags that say something like travelling on XXX railway makes you feel as if you’ve gone back to the 1860s!), where would go and why?

Thinking heads on. Link goes up tomorrow. Comments welcome in the CFT comments box when post goes live. (If you’re really keen it goes live at just after midnight but you may have to wait to get a reply from me! Unlike Cinderella, I know where I’m going to be at midnight and it won’t be at my keyboard… ah the joys of middle age!).

One good thing about the dark nights coming in earlier is it does encourage reading and writing!

I don’t need much of an excuse to curl up with a good book or get on with various writing projects as it is but the lighter evenings during the summer months can make me feel a bit guilty about not getting more gardening done etc. Note the “a bit”. Easy enough to squash so I can get on with reading and writing! I just wish I could stop feeling the slightly guilty feeling at all!

I often prefer lighter reading and writing during the darker months too. Contrast in mood perhaps? Whatever, it’s definitely time to get on with some writing once again!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I often use lightning flashes in my photos for posts like this, given I think they reflect accurately how a flash fiction story illuminates and impacts on the reader. Very briefly and then over, but you don’t forget the impact.

A short story (say 1500 words+) to me is like shining a torch around – more light for a greater period of time but the impact can be diluted.

Sometimes you want that – you want the story as a whole to impact on your reader and you can only know if it‘s done that by reading and re-reading the whole thing.

The novel is like having a great big light on constantly. When you switch it off (stop reading it), that’s when you think about the impact it has made on you. Or that is how it has always seemed to be to me. I didn’t really appreciate the greatness of The Lord of the Rings until I’d finished reading it. You then take a mental step back and realise the huge scale of the trilogy.

Flash fiction makes you focus on the little details but the great thing with that is you can take this and use it to sharpen your longer works of fiction. No dull bits ever, thank you! The sections that are necessary to link the action should still carry the reader with them. The reader should be as keen to read those sections as they are the main scenes. Flash makes you tighten up your writing and this is enormously useful for ensuring your longer stories flow as they should.

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Time is the theme of my CFT post this week (time management and time travel. If the latter ever becomes possible, you will have to be really good at the former to make said travelling work well for you!). I’ve used time as a theme for a few of my flash fiction pieces – Telling the Time (there’s a clue somewhere here!) and Time Waits for No Man (likewise!).

My main use of time though for flash fiction is deciding on when I’m setting the story. Am I going to tell it as it “happens” to the character or will I get the character to look back on an event? I use both regularly and usually it is clear which would work better. So much depends on the character A reflective type would be best suited to looking back at something that had happened (which I do in They Don’t Understand). An active “go get them” kind would probably be better off telling the story AS it happens, implying the passing of time as we go through the events with them.

What do I look for in an opening line for flash fiction? I don’t necessarily need to know who the lead character is funnily enough, but I DO need to know the setting, the attitude of the narrator (especially if this is a first person piece), and some indication of what the problem is. That problem and how it is overcome IS the story of course.

Something about the narrator/lead character has got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read on. A great piece of flash fiction will make you ponder whether YOU would have acted in the same way as the character you’ve just read about!

Fairytales with Bite – Favourite Times

What are your characters’ favourite times? Curling up with a good book? Lazing in the bath? Going for a good walk with the dog?

Use questions like this to help you establish your character. The answers may not appear in your story but knowing something about the character before you start writing about them will be enormously helpful. You don’t need to know each and every little detail. What you want is enough information that you can write clearly for them, knowing how they would react to a situation and why. The reader will pick up on the fact you really do know your character (even if they do this subconciously, in many ways it is better if they do pick up on this that way) and the writing will flow better as a result.

Of course, working out what your characters’ favourite times will tell you so much about them. Do they curl up with a good book because they can’t face what is their real life? Why can’t they face it? Dig deep. Maybe you will surprise yourself with what your characters show you about themselves. Use that.

This World and Others – Time

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week talks about time management and time travel.  Guess which one I want to get better at!  Joking aside, this led me to think about how we use time in stories.

A lot of my flash fiction stories are set within a very short time period (appropriately) and are written in the first person, precisely because I want to achieve a sense of “immediacy”.  For other pieces I have the lead character looking back at their lives and being reflective so the time within stories like that is longer, “stretched” if you like, and the pace of the story is slower.  What grabs you with those kinds of tale is the character – something about them intrigues you enough to make you want to find out more.

Time in itself can make a useful theme for stories (too little of it, too much of it etc) but I’ve found it helpful to think about the kind of story I want to tell and then work out what the best time frame for that tale would be.  In my Pressing the Flesh the opening line is “It was 3 am”.  The impact of that is to make you wonder (a) why the time is important and (b) to assume the character concerned is unlikely to be up to any good at that time of night.  (Quite right too – see my From Light to Dark and Back Again for the whole story!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I write fairytales with bite as flash fiction and short stories in particular. Image via Pixabay.

Curses and Blessings

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I look at curses and blessings in tonight’s post.  Who has the authority/power to carry these out in your world?  Does it have to be the most powerful witch/wizard?  Equally are curses and blessings the preserve of the religious community in your world and how do they handle this responsbility?  I share some pictures taken by me of the Roman Baths showing some ancient curses. Let’s just say they hadn’t heard of the concept of forgiveness!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

In Time Management, I ask if your characters can manage time well enough or if they  need constant supervision by characters who can manage it.  I also look at how time itself is organized in your world and how this affects what your characters can and cannot do.

ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN WRITERS – MORE THAN WRITERS

Once a month, on the 29th, I blog for ACW’s More than Writers blog spot.  This month’s topic from me is all about gratitude, something some of my characters know very little about!

FACEBOOK – GENERAL

I talk about the advantages of writing flash fiction tonight.  Well they do say you should write about what you know…

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FACEBOOK – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I talk about my love of writing fairytales with bite and the fact that the scariest things are often the everyday items/situations you run into.

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A way into the magical realm, perhaps? Image via Pixabay.

The way to the magical realm, maybe?  Image via Pixabay.