Aspects of the Writing Life

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This post comes almost live from the Winchester Writers’ Festival. What do you mean by almost, I hear you cry? Well I started drafting this on Evernote just after a fab lunch with the lovely Val Penny (writer of the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries starring DI Hunter Wilson). I swear we stuck to orange juice… whether you believe me is another matter!

So what do I find most useful about coming to Winchester? Difficult to know where to start but here goes.

Information from the courses. You find out information you knew you needed and equally things you hadn’t known you needed to know. Both are useful.

Networking with writer friends, old and new.

The opportunity to hear first hand from published authors, agents, editors, and publishers in keynote speeches and the like. These can be real eye openers.

Coming to events like this can be a confidence booster especially when starting your own writing journey. You start to feel as if you are a real writer. Rejections can knock you back. Events like this help pick you up again.

Already looking forward to next year’s Festival.

Val Penny and I having a selfie moment at Winchester last Saturday

Crime writer Val Penny and I having a selfie moment at the Winchester Writers’ Festival

Amongst the Murphy’s Laws that exist purely for writers must be the following:-

1. Time drags until it is time to write, then it flies by, leaving you wondering where on earth it went. Naturally you have not achieved as much as you would have liked either.

Incidentally that is okay. The big thing to ask yourself here is have you made progress on what you’re writing? Progress can include getting a certain number of words down, of course, but equally valid are things like changing scene orders, re-reading through, and being happy with how you’ve changed things. That all takes time but is as much writing as actual writing, if you see my meaning.

Don’t belittle yourself if “all” you managed to get done was some editing. As long as that editing is tightening up your work, improving it etc., it is a valid part of your writing and you are still making progress.

2. You may be a writer but you are still afflicted by the curse that says you can’t find a pen when you need one.

In public, this is embarrassing. Guess who, whenever she is due out at an event, makes absolutely sure she has pens in bags, pockets etc so she knows she has at least TWO on her person. It has to be two to prevent Murphy’s Law kicking in again by ensuring your solitary pen doesn’t work and if you only take one, it WILL fail on you.

3. Your toner cartridge runs out part way through a print run. It is never anywhere useful such as on the test print you do before you run out a lengthy story.

I use a laser jet so I have no indication of when it’s going to run out. Having said that, my lovely printer, which I call Old Faithful because I’ve had it for YEARS, has seen come and go at least three “cleverer” printers my better half has had, which DO say when their cartridges will run out, print in colour etc. On balance, I think I’ll stick with Old Faithful until it finally bites the dust.

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There are similarities to writing and trying to lose weight.

1. You can be guaranteed frustrations along the way but it is best to face up to that from the start so that when they do come, you’re not surprised/thrown by them. It is important to pick yourself up and dust yourself down and then see how far along the road you can get before the next one hits.
2. Success in either never comes as quickly as you’d like.
3. Persistence pays. The determination not to give up is crucial.
4. You can’t know for sure you will get to your end goal. You can only give it your best shot but your end goal may genuinely change. You may discover your writing skills suit short stories rather than novels, for example, and that’s fine.
5. You need to accept the rough with the smooth and take some comfort from the fact everyone has to come to terms with rejections (set backs on the weight loss) and you are definitely not alone on this.
6. When going well, both writing and losing weight sensibly and successfully make you feel good about yourself!
7. Keeping going is the only way to get to the end destination at all.

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Why does any writer need a decent amount of stamina?

1. The determination to keep going will help a lot when the rejections come in – and they will. Okay you may need to look at revamping what you’ve written or try other markets for it etc, but the important thing here is accepting rejections are par for the course. Everyone gets them. It’s how you react to them that matters. Sometimes you have to accept something isn’t working and move on to new work too. It can be tough to move on from a project you’ve loved but which just isn’t working.

2. There will be wonderful high moments such as when you receive your first acceptance, when you see your story or article in print etc., but the lows come too. All that comes into your inbox are rejections or you don’t hear anything at all. Stamina helps you accept all of this is the normal lot of the writer’s life, regardless of what you write.

3. Seeking out the markets and competitions that are right for what you write takes time and effort.

4. Submitting work to the appropriate outlet also takes time and effort.

5. Being aware there are charlatans out there who will happily take your money for precious little in return and researching who you can genuinely turn to for self publishing or other services which are legitimate etc again takes time and effort.

Spot the theme emerging!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

If anyone tells you writing short fiction has to be easier than writing longer works, don’t believe them! Both have their challenges and joys. Both forms should be celebrated and treasured.

What flash fiction writing has taught me is how to pick words and phrases which will have the maximum impact on readers. The great thing with that is it is a transferable skill, useful for any and every form of writing.

 

I’m on a theme tonight – Murphy’s Law for writers (see my Allison Symes author page for more) – but let’s look at some specifically for flash fiction writers.

1. You’ve set your heart on entering a story for a 100-word comp. No matter what you do, your story stubbornly persists in coming in at 101 words.

Take out the additional word, I hear you say? Ha! It’ll either muck up your grammar (so spoiling your chances in the competition anyway) or it takes out something that adds depth to your character and is a crucial point in the story. Yes, one word can make a huge difference here. For example:-

She was dressed in velvet.
She was dressed in moth-eaten velvet.

2. You love writing flash fiction on a particular theme or in a certain genre say. Murphy’s Law will dictate the perfect competition with a short deadline will crop up when you’re away or ill. You will discover this when you are back at your desk. You will also discover you have missed that deadline or have a snowflake’s chances in hell of meeting it. You will not be a happy bunny. You will be a distinctly irritated bunny. No prizes for guessing how I know…

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There is something about writing that transforms writers. You can be the sweetest soul imaginable to all around you, but at the drop of a pen, be utterly ruthless as you dump your characters into absolute hell and see how they get out of it, if they do at all. And that’s how it should be!

Your characters sink or swim and it is the hook of finding out which way your characters go that will keep your readers with you. So go on, you know you want to, drop your characters right in the mire and see what happens!

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Flash fiction writers are living proof that great stories do not have to run to thousands of words and pages. A great story is one that keeps a reader gripped, whether it is a 50-word tale, or an epic saga like The Lord of the Rings.

Short writing takes effort. It is so easy to fill your writing with words you don’t really need – and really is one of those words that usually gets the automatic red pen through it when I write it. I wish I could stop myself writing words I know will only be cut later but the next best thing is to know what your weak words are and DO cut them later.

Can there be a genuine use for words such as really? Yes. The only time I use it is is in dialogue when I might want a character to be sarcastic. You can get a lot of emphasis into “really”!

Really!

Goodreads Author Blog – Planning Your Reading

Do you plan your reading time? Over a week, I like to make sure I’ve had a good balance of magazine, short story, flash fiction, non-fiction, and novel reading. I like to mix Kindle and paper reading too.

Whether it is better to read one thing before moving on to the next, or reading slices of different forms is best, is down to personal preference, of course. What is good is changing what you read whether you do this sequentially or not.

I’ve gone for the “slices” approach because some evenings I really do just want to read a novel. The next evening I’ll want to read short stories. I don’t want to feel obliged to finish one thing first.

Having said that, a fantastic book will keep me gripped as a reader so I have to complete it. The challenge for a writer is to produce that effect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Out and About

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Had a wonderful time at the ACW Writers’ Day in Bath (on 9th March 2019). It is lovely meeting many writers I normally only “talk to” via the ACW Facebook Group or email! Hope everyone had a safe journey home.

Am not planning to do much writing tonight as feeling “buzzed out” (and I didn’t!), but yes, I did use my time on the train trips productively. Managed to write two new flash fiction stories and some notes for a CFT post I’m currently working on so am pleased with that.

There are so many benefits in going to a good writing conference, whether it is for a day, a weekend, or a week.

As well as learning from the courses and talks, you get to meet with other writers. There is nobody but nobody like another writer who will fully understand the joys and heartaches of the writing journey.

Also it is the most natural thing to discuss with each other what you are writing (which ends up being a great way to practice your pitch for your book with nobody minding! The golden rule is never ever just talk about your own work. The idea is to engage with others so being a good listener comes into its own here! The great irony is that being a good listener encourages others to find out what YOU write and so a good conversation gets going).

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One nice thing I have found about having more than one project on the go is, if I’m struggling with a section, say, on some fiction, I don’t struggle with the non-fiction post I’m also working on.

And inevitably ideas to sort out the problem I’m having with my fiction work crop up as I’m drafting the non-fiction. Naturally I pause, write down some notes, carry on with what I’m working on and then happily get back to the fiction afterwards. And it works the other way round of course.

I’m not convinced about writer’s block. I DO believe any creative type is going to have days where the words, the music or what have you, do not flow as well as said creative type would like them to do. I also see that as being perfectly normal! We are human after all… bound to get days like that. What matters is not giving up.

The joys of writing include:-

1. Coming up with a story that is uniquely yours.

2. Having a ball coming up with that story! The fun of inventing your own world and characters can’t be overstated.

3. Managing to sell that story and seeing it published.

4. Doing steps 1 to 3 all over again and again etc.

The woes of writing include:-

1. Rejections (but take some comfort from the fact everyone gets them and, if turned down in one place, go on and try another suitable market!).

2. Those days when it is a struggle to get the words out. (I find having more than one project on the go helps here. I’ve never struggled on everything I’m working on and often when working on something else, an idea to resolve my problem on Project A occurs, as mentioned earlier this week.).

3. Critics.

4. Steps 1 to 3 will happen more than once!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Two new flash fiction stories produced by yours truly while travelling by train today. (Also wrote some notes for my CFT post on both legs of the journey too, so well pleased). I found myself smiling at some of what I’d written and had to repress the urge to laugh.

I think it can be forgotten the first reader of a writer’s work is you, the writer. If the story doesn’t impact on you, you can forget it doing so for anyone else! That doesn’t mean the piece is perfect. It WILL need editing as sure as day follows night but if the overall impact of the story is entertainment, then great. It’s a question of polishing that story to as good a standard as you can get it (and then test the market with it. Good luck!).

All stories should reveal something about character and what can make someone change (for better or worse. A character’s journey doesn’t necessarily have to be a good one!).

What flash fiction does is show a much shorter journey for that character and so the pivotal change is more intense.

So the best kind of flash fiction story then is where you want to highlight one particular point of change in a character. It is all about the focus!

BOOK NEWS:

Amazon have a special offer on FLTDBA at the moment. The Kindle version is on offer at £2.33 and the paperback at £2.10. I don’t know how long they’ll have this offer on for but thought I would flag it up!  NB:  The link takes you to the paperback offer and it is cheaper than when I first put this up on FB.  Grab a bargain, go on, you know you want to!

Can I also put in a gentle plea for reviews on the usual sites if you have read FLTDBA? Reviews help authors and the nice thing is it doesn’t have to be a long review either. A one-liner is absolutely fine. I DO read reviews when I’m thinking of trying a new product (or one that’s new to me anyway) and generally find them helpful. This is so true for books too.

On to other things…

One of the issues I have with a flash fiction idea is deciding which word count to go for. It isn’t always clear cut. Some ideas are tailor-made to be 50 or 100 words or what have you.

Others I could write up as a very short piece or extend. For those I often draft both versions and then go with the one I like best. It isn’t always the short version. Sometimes I am after a greater depth of characterisation so the longer version wins out.

But flash fiction is wonderful for allowing you to experiment like that. And you could use it to work out what it is you do want to write as your main interest. If the very short form grabs you, great. If it doesn’t and you find you work better consistently at the 1500+ word mark, then equally fine.

And good luck!

Goodreads Author Blog – When Do You Read?

Apologies for being a day late. Had a wonderful time at the Association of Christian Writers’ Day in Bath yesterday. I was too “buzzed out” to write much yesterday though I did write flash fiction and some notes for a blog post on a phone app while on the train!

I did, however, give myself plenty of time to read in bed last night. I indulged in magazines, books, and the Kindle. It was the perfect way to wind down after a busy but most enjoyable day.

I never feel as if the day has ended properly without my bedtime read. The only time I really get to read outside of that time is usually when I’m on holiday. Even on train trips I want to spend that time writing though it was good to see there were books in evidence on the train. Let nobody tell you the paperback is dead! It isn’t!

I would love to find a way of being able to read more in the day but I just know I’d be too conscious of all the other things I should be doing to allow myself to enjoy that read properly. So maybe at the end of the day is the best time to read after all.

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Managing My Writing

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stand Alones, Flash Fiction and Fairytales

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Many thanks again to Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, #AnneWan, Wendy Jones, and Richard Hardie for their further insights into the joys and challenges of writing series fiction. Amongst tonight’s topics is how to ensure each book in a series works as a stand-alone, given our series writers can never know which book a reader will actually start with. It isn’t necessarily book 1!

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What five things do I like to see in a character? Ideally they have all of the traits I list below but as long as a character has the majority of them, I’m likely to enjoy spending time in the company of that character as I read their story.

1. Courage.
2. Sense of Humour.
3. Loyalty.
4. They, at the very least, respect books; at best they have their own library!
5. Kindness.

Does that rule out the villains? No! Even villains can be kind to their pet cat, have a decent library etc.

Looking at that list, it’s what I like to see in myself and, before you ask, I’m working on the personal library bit! (It’s nowhere near as grand as the one in the pictures below though!).

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One of the things I love about going to writing conferences is that I always learn something pertinent to what I write. And it is not always an obvious link.

I’m off to the Association of Christian Writers’ Day on Saturday, the topic is Writing for Children and Young Adults, which is not directly what I do, but I just know I will pick up useful tips that I can apply directly.

And you never know – looking at what other writers do can help you re-examine whether you are working in the best way you can. It may also inspire a new direction of writing too! What I do know is it will be fun finding out if it does or not and what useful tips I’ll bring home with me.

The great thing with writing is you never stop learning how to improve what you do and that is so good for your brain!

(And networking is always fun!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A = Alliteration. Can be useful for titles in flash fiction (though I don’t use it much) but as with any story, it can grab the attention and help set the mood. Best not overused I think. You want each title to set the tone for what it is to come and a variety of methods for doing that is best. Keeps it fresh for you as the writer too.

B = Backstory. Not a lot of room for that in flash fiction! Best to hint at it through one or two vital details the reader has to know and leave it at that.

C = Character. The kingpin of fiction I think. Get the character right and the plot will come from them. Know your character inside and out – I find it useful to know their chief trait (and I piece together a mental picture of what they are like from there). Find the appropriate starting point for you but it is worth taking the time to know your character well before you start. Your writing will flow better because you write with that knowledge. It does come through in what you write.

As ever, am planning to write flash fiction on the train journey to and from London on Saturday as I head off to a writing day run by the Association of Christian Writers. It’s amazing what you can get done on a smartphone with no interruptions! (Daren’t do this on the Tube though. Always worried I’ll miss my stop! I do think the Tube is a wonderful invention and you never get cold down there either…).

I also sometimes draft non-fiction articles and future blog posts when out and about. I just need a long enough train journey to draft a novel now. 😉😁Hmm….

 

When planning your story (you do, yes?), I find it useful to work out what the obvious ideas might be from a title I’ve thought of, and then work out what could come from those. I don’t plump for the first ideas that come to me. I try to make myself dig that bit deeper to come up with something that fits the theme, makes sense, but is also different precisely because I haven’t gone for the obvious ideas!

Spider diagrams or flowcharts can be useful here. I find I must have a title to kick start the process with, even if I do end up changing it for something better later. It is always a tad annoying that a better title idea crops up when you are writing the story and NOT before you get started, but that is one of those quirks of writing!

Picture of me reading was taken by the lovely #DawnKentishKnox at last year’s Bridge House event. Am very much looking forward to this year’s one too!

 

Gill talks with Dawn and I at the BH event, image taken by Paula Readman

Gill James talks with Dawn Knox and I at a networking event held by Bridge House Publishing last December. Am glad to report Dawn will also be in the Waterloo Festival Anthology. Image from Paula Readman and thanks to her for permission to use it.

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

Paula Readman, Dawn Knox and I at the recent Bridge House celebration event. Many thanks to Paula for the image. Also Paula is another winning entry for the Waterloo Festival.

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Dawn Kentish Knox, fellow flash fiction writer, reads some work from her excellent book, The Great War. Image by Allison Symes

Lovely having an appreciative audience, pic taken by Dawn Kentish Knox

I read three stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture!

Book Buying News!

From Light to Dark and Back Again is available from The Book DepositoryDelivery time on the paperback is 1 to 3 business days.  As ever, reviews are always welcome in the usual places.  The great thing is reviews do not need to be long but they all help the writer, even the indifferent ones!

Fairytales with Bite – Flash Fiction and Fairytales

Flash fiction is an ideal vehicle for fairytales.  Why?  Because the best fairytales set up their world quickly, have a definite conclusion, and often pack a powerful punch.  Flash fiction does this too so to my mind flash and fairytales are a match made in writing heaven.

Flash fiction has to be character led due to its limited word count but you can set that character wherever and whenever you wish.  A few telling details can set up a magical world quickly.  For example from my George Changes His Mind (in From Light to Dark and Back Again), I set up a magical world with the opening line “He refused to kill the dragon.”  The telling detail there is in one word – dragon! The story goes on to show what happens and that is the important bit of the story after all.  I don’t need to use thousands of words setting up the magical world in which this is set.  This is not crucial to this story.  What matters is it IS in a magical world and what George goes on to do or not do.

A lot of my stories are either reflections of a fairytale world or set in it and they are great fun to write but I always focus on what the lead character is like.  That is the crucial point of any story I think but in flash where every word must work hard to earn its place to stay there, it is even more so.

This World and Others – Stand Alone

Part 2 of my CFT mini series on The Joys and Challenges of Writing Series Novels looks at, amongst other topics, how to ensure a book stands alone given no series novelist can know at which point a reader will discover their writing.  It is highly unlikely to be book 1.  Indeed I’ve discovered series at the mid point! Many thanks again to my marvellous panellists – Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, Anne Wan, Wendy H Jones, and Richard Hardie – for some great insights.  Very happy to recommend their books to you too.  Great reads one and all albeit for different audiences!

It is true that every writer stands alone, even those that collaborate as they have to go off to write “their bits” before coming back and swapping notes with the other one(s) in the project.  We have to judge whether our work is strong enough to submit and, if there is a choice of places to submit to, which is the best one.  We have to judge whether we have edited a piece enough or if it still needs work.  The call is with us and we are going to get it wrong.  The joy, of course, is when we get it right and a piece is published.

This is where meeting other writers, whether at conferences, online, at courses etc., is invaluable.  There is nobody like another writer to know exactly how it feels when you’re struggling to get the words out or who knows the joy of the words pouring out and work going well.  You do have to share this sometimes for the sake of your own sanity!

I learned a long time ago no writer is a competitor to me.  I write as I write.  I cannot write as you would.  We all bring our unique perspectives to what we write – and that is the great thing about it!

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WRITING NIGGLES, CONFERENCES AND A REVIEW OF THE FAIR

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I take a look back at the recent Hursley Park Book Fair for this week’s CFT post.

There are many things non-writer friends/family can do to support the writer in their life and one is to go to their events and show some moral support. Trust me, it is appreciated!

The biggest nightmare for all writers is being at an event where nobody turns up.

Helping to distribute flyers etc is also something that will go down well with your writer. (And plentiful supplies of tea/coffee/chocolate etc though in fairness those go down well with practically everyone!).

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Managed to get caught in some rain while walking the dog this evening. Came home to find it hadn’t rained here at all. Better half and I had only gone a couple of miles up the road to one of our favourite walks! Talk about localised weather… (it was also ironic that, for once, I had hoped for more rain).

On to writing niggles then….

How to Irritate a Writer Part 10001….. (I may be exaggerating)

1. Tell them you like books but much prefer films. (Grrrr….)

2. Tell them you think books are expensive. (Double Grrrr… – books are relatively cheap when you consider you can read them over and over. A really good book will make you want to have repeat reads. It’s exactly like revisiting an old friend).

3. Tell them you think the paperback is on its way out. (If by this time the writer has refrained from throwing something at you, count your blessings for you have done very well).

4. Ask the writer of How to Irritate a Writer Part 10001 where the other 10000 posts are on the topic!😉

5. Tell them you’ll wait until they hit bestseller status and then you might get a copy of their book. They want to know it is really popular first. The writer by this time is using every inch of self control they’ve got not to grab the nearest bit of 4 x 2 and hit you with it….

6. Tell them you can’t possibly leave a review for them, they’re not well known enough. It is almost certainly a waste of breath telling such like that everyone has to start somewhere and reviews help everybody, no matter where they are on their writing journey.

7. Tell them you think notebooks and pens are outdated. Surely everyone writes to screen these days. The writer by this time is already thinking of the perfect crime story where an irritating “friend” is done to death by an angry author and have already made plans for dumping the body. There may be wistful thoughts as to why they can’t do this for real….

My fellow writers, feel free to add your own thoughts here!

 

My CFT post this week will be a review of the Hursley Park Book Fair from a couple of weeks ago. Link to go up on Friday.

And to all my fellow authors taking part in festivals etc, hope they all go well.

Am looking forward to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in mid-August. Always good fun. Lovely to catch up with friends who for the rest of the year I’m in contact with via Facebook etc.

I remember being dreadfully nervous going to my first writing conference years ago (and set on the lovely Isle of Wight – and run by Felicity Fair Thompson.  It was great to catch up with her again at the recent Hursley Park Book Fair.). The nerves went when I realised networking was talking about something I absolutely love (writing and, associated with it, reading).

Also it is easy to get a conversation going with a writer – ask them what they’re writing! They in turn should ask you and before you know it, you are chatting away as if you’ve known each other all your lives. And that is how it should be.

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What do you like to see in a good flash fiction story? Some of my thoughts include:-

1. The story has to be the right length. Whether that’s 100, 250, or 500 words, it has got to be appropriate and right to that particular story. You want the reader to feel that nothing else could be added to the story, nor could there be anything taken away.

2. A strong lead character. Without that any flash fiction piece falls flat. The great thing is that strength can come in different forms – physical strength, mental strength etc. How your character shows their inner strength is up to you but it has to be there somewhere. Else why are they the lead?

3. There has to be a good ending (though not necessarily a happy one). The story has to “follow through”. Okay, sometimes that will be a twist ending, sometimes it can be a character coming to a conclusion about what they’ve just done or have been through. But the ending has to be right for all that has come before it.

The big challenge of flash is not so much the word count but having a complete story which has a proper beginning, middle and end in that word count limit. It is too easy to just write “truncated prose” but that does not come across as a proper story and rightly so. It can leave your reader feeling cheated.

At the end of a flash piece, your reader must not be left wondering where the rest of the story is! You want them thinking the story could not have ended any other way. I see flash as short, sharp looks into a character’s life. Look, write down what you see, and stop there.

What do I look for in flash fiction, whether I’m reading or writing it?

I look for a strong character and an ending I don’t see coming but which is entirely appropriate for the story.

I do enjoy playing “guess the ending”, sometimes I’m right, more often I’m not, and I always like that.

This is where I find writing the ending first can be helpful. If I’ve got something that makes a powerful impact which is what I want my readers to finish with, then I’ll work backwards from that point to see how the story could start. I find it a useful technique.

When I brainstorm ideas for new flash fiction, I’ll sometimes come up with something that will make the perfect ending, so leave it at that. I will be looking for what “threads” could come from what I’ve written and if it seems to be linear, then I’ll write the story in the traditional way from start to end.

But it doesn’t always work like that. The threads can sometimes lead away from what I’ve written back to a start point and that’s generally when I know I’ve got something that will make a wonderful ending to the story. I know enough now to NOT force something to be a start when it really isn’t suitable for that.

I also think it a good thing to mix up how I write here. It helps keep things “fresh” for me as a writer, and that will hopefully show through in the stories.

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Themes

If you’re looking for themes for your stories, analyse some fairytales and ideas will leap out at you!

After all, what is the theme of Cinderella?  Never giving up?  Justice will “out” in the end?  Whatever you think the theme is, you can use that for your stories.

Themes such as anti-bullying emerge from stories like The Ugly Duckling.  (Also beauty is only skin deep and transformation is always possible!  Lots of themes from this one).

The lovely thing is that the themes from fairytales are timeless.  It is one major reason we still love these old stories.  They still resonate.  I think they always will.  They reflect on our nature.  There will always be jealousy (Snow White), a need for sensible building materials (The Three Little Pigs!), and  greed (Goldilocks – I always have sympathised with the three bears here). That is to name just a few examples.

And there’s nothing to stop you combining themes either.  After all your lead character may have the virtues of, say, Puss in Boots and the villain the qualities of The Big Bad Wolf.  Set up the conflict and away you go!

Generating the writing ideas maybe - image via Pixabay

Generating the writing ideas. Image via Pixabay.

Lost in a good book - image via Pixabay

Lost in a good book. Image via Pixabay.

Books create their own sense of space - image via Pixabay

Books have their own sense of time and space. Image via Pixabay.

Books are wonderful whatever their format - image via Pixabay

Books are fabulous, whatever the format. Image via Pixabay.

CLARITY POST - Editing is vital to help you be as clear as possible - image via Pixabay - Copy

Editing – the crucial part to getting a story right. Image via Pixabay.

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

Books are the keys to knowledge. Image via Pixabay

Printers would have fun trying to print this - image via Pixabay

Let the ideas flow and let journeys encourage that! Image via Pixabay

Use review questions to find out more about your characters, image via Pixabay

Use personal reviews to help you generate character and story outlines. Image via Pixabay.

Creation is good for us, image via Pixabay

Well, let’s do so by writing lots of stories! Image via Pixabay.

This World and Others – Character Virtues -v- Vices

I thought I’d list a few character virtues and vices to look at how these can be used in storytelling.

Patience/Impatience
Patience doesn’t always come across well in fiction. Much as I love Little Women, I did find the very patient Beth to be a little too much of a goody goody for my tastes.  I think patience translates better when it is shown as a character actively trying to seek a goal, is at a point where they need to wait for a very good reason before taking further action, and that they do so.  There is a point to the patience then.  It is also an “active patience”, an act of will.  I find I want to read to find out if they CAN see that patience out and have the reward for doing so.

Impatience, of course, can be shown as a character’s weak point, causing them more problems than they needed to have (which adds to the conflicts and drama of the story).  Sometimes impatience can be used more positively in that it can be the trigger for change.  Someone is impatient with the lack of education, say, in their village and actively seeks to change that.  Again, the impatience at the status quo here can be a good catalyst for the story.  There are bound to be those who want the status quo continued.  Is there a reason why they don’t want the villagers to be educated?

Calmness/Anger
Calmness I think is easier to show in a story as there are always characters who are needed to calm other characters down and make them see sense.  What effect would that have on the tale?  If they failed to calm the other one down, what would the consequences be?  Keeping calm can be a crucial need in a thriller where that virtue gives the character time to think, time to work out a way of escape etc.  (Less likely to think of this if the character is panicking, getting worked up etc).

Anger can be shown as a character’s downfall – their temper alienates anyone who might help them.  It can be used to show a character’s sense of justice.  (You’ve got to question why anyone wouldn’t be angry at abuse, violence etc).  It can also be shown as part of a character’s development.  At the start of the story they’re hotheaded, at the end they’ve learned to temper their temper, so to speak.

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MAKING TIME AND WRITING CONFERENCES

Facebook – General

Why is it you never have as much time as you’d like for reading and/or writing? Time flies when I write, it drags when I’m doing the housework! There’s probably some natural law about this somewhere…

It’s important then to make the most of the time you do have. Never despise the fact you might only write or read for 15 minutes a day because those pockets of time mount up. At the of a week, you would have had 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes) and you can complete a short story, some flash fiction etc.

 

Books paperback and ebooks via Pixabay

Books – love them, don’t mind the format. Image via Pixabay

REAL WRITING POST - Books take us to the heights

Great characters = great books. Image via Pixabay.

REAL WRITING POST - Let your characters live

Books should keep you gripped and that is down to the characters. Image via Pixabay

pexels-photo-757855.jpeg

A huge but lovely library. Image via Pexels

Even in the heart of a big city, books are a great form of escape - image via Pixabay

Books are a fantasic form of escapism. Image via Pixabay

Facebook – General

What do I like most about going to writing conferences? Difficult to say but I love the interaction with other writers and it is always good to know it’s not just you that’s faced rejections countless times. Also great to be able to celebrate any good publishing news with others and for them to do the same back. It is vital, I think, to know others do know the same frustrations with writing you feel and experience the same joys with it too.

Naturally, there is what you learn from the courses too, but I think you can’t beat the “buzz” of inspiration that comes from these things. You go home again looking forward to drafting out those new thoughts and ideas that came to you, maybe even try a new style of writing. The encouragement that comes from a good writing conference is invaluable for those times when writing doesn’t come easily or for whatever other reason, you’re not able to write as much as you’d like to.

Facebook – General

Will be off out on the train again this coming weekend so am automatically seeing it as “draft some more flash fiction stories” time! The great thing about writing is you are never short of things to create, edit, edit again, submit, receive rejections on, submit, receive acceptances on etc.

I must try and get some more work off to competitions this year. I have been shortlisted in a couple, which always gives me a buzz, but need to get back to this again. One great thing about competitions is having different themes to work to – I never mind a set theme. The challenge there is in coming up with something which meets the criteria but is engaging and different enough to hook the judge. (If you’ve hooked them, you’ve hooked potential readers).

Golden rules of competitions?

1. Make sure it is a genuine competition. Check out the background of it first.

2. Assuming it is a genuine competition, follow the rules. Stories ARE dismissed if rules are broken. (To do otherwise isn’t fair on other entrants who have stuck to them).

Oh and if you’re entering writing competitions, have fun, good luck and remember if nothing happens this time, you have still written a story that may suit a publication elsewhere. Waste nothing (but be prepared to rewrite).

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the great things about flash fiction is that a few telling details can conjure up a whole world very quickly. It really is a question of feeding your reader the right information so they put two and two together. (Sometimes of course you throw in the odd red herring!).

The Truth in FLTDBA is a good example of the right detail being a pivotal part of the story. I don’t directly tell you this is an aliens from another world story. I tell you the name of the spaceship the alien flies in and you take the rest from there.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use a variety of methods to generate stories including setting myself an opening line and taking the tale from there. I sometimes set myself a closing line and work out the story from a “backwards” point of view. Agatha Christie did this too.

What I’ve not done, and I guess I should give it a go at some point, is set myself an “in the middle” line and work either side of it! I do know of one competition a year at least that does set a middle line like that and I should imagine it’s an interesting challenge.

I’ve been brainstorming ideas for a third flash fiction collection and some of the lines I’ve come up with I will definitely save as closing lines. I’ll have a go at setting one or two as middle lines and see how I do!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction can be used to reflect moods (your own and that of your characters). My story, They Don’t Understand, is an example of that. It is a poignant piece about an older man looking back at the life shared with his wife. I would also describe this as a character sketch.

I do sometimes write pieces that would never make a standard length short story (1500 words or so) but make ideal reflections on character (circa 100 to 300 words) and make an interesting sideline to my “standard” flash fiction stories.

I like character pieces as a good one will make you reflect on what the “star” has shared with you in the story and make you ponder as to whether you would do the same.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

I write flash fiction so my first priority is to tell an entertaining story yet keep the word count down.

One great way of doing this is to give the reader the information what they need to know, but no more than that. They are the ones who put two and two together. For example in one of my stories I mention the name of the spacecraft the alien narrator flies. It is all you need to know to get the gist of the story.

Great books across the genres have been doing this for years, long before flash came on to the scene (though I think flash, as a format, is the “flagbearer” for this now).

I love Agatha Christie, as I’ve mentioned before, for the puzzle element to her stories. I like authors who give me space to work things out (and later in the story I find out whether I was right with my conclusions or not). I also think those books are more memorable because you and me, as readers, are taking an active part in those books as we read them.

I also like P.G. Wodehouse for the details he seemingly without effort puts into his story. He sometimes refers to the meals being offered. I think that’s a great way to draw people into the story, it also gives an idea of the wealth and status of the characters.

 

 

 

 

 

If there were such a thing as a conference for fairy godmothers, maybe one workshop would discuss how to ensure a good supply of ingredients (to definitely include pumpkins!). Image via Pixabay.

FAIRY (AND OTHER) CONFERENCES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I returned from a wonderful day at the Association of Christian Writers’ conference in London on Saturday 8th October.  The theme of conferences is on my brain for all my posts tonight but the FWB one is a fun look at what would be available if fairies had their own conferences. See what you think!  Do you agree with me?  What workshops would the magical beings in your fictional world have?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Here I talk about what I like about writing days/conferences.  Again do you agree with me? Can you add to my list?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss my hope to do some more print reading this week.  I nearly always read from my Kindle just before settling for the night (and love this) but I like to read traditional print  too and always wish I had more time.  Now granted I could make more time if I didn’t write as much as I do but the problem is I don’t want to give that up either!  Oh well.  I do hope to do better in that regard this week.

And I’m looking forward to carrying out an interview later this week with someone who has done so much to help writers over many years.  This in time is due to appear on Chandler’s Ford Today.  I also discuss the current CFT post I’m working on, which is about a special creative writing project.

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Brainstorming ideas, just one of many good things to come from well run writing conferences and the exercises set there. Image via Pixabay

Brainstorming ideas, just one of many good things to come from well run writing conferences and the exercises set there. Image via Pixabay.

Come sunrise the fairies must vanish. Image via Pixabay.

IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA BUT…

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

My post Fairytale Hints and Tips shares advice on not judging others by their species or their size.  It also stresses the importance of knowing where your fruit comes from and what exactly has gone into your food and drink.  In a magical world, you really cannot be too careful!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

My post Ideas that seemed good at the time but… lives up to its title and shares examples from well known fairytales.  Why Little Red Riding Hood never thought to question the whole idea of a wolf talking to her remains a mystery…

FACEBOOK PAGE

A little bit of advance notice for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post which will be about what I look for in a good writing conference.  I also look forward to what will hopefully be a great day at the Association of Christian Writers Day in London on Saturday.

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The way into the magical realm perhaps? Image via Pixabay.

The way into the magical realm perhaps? Image via Pixabay.