Word Games

Image Credit: As ever Pixabay/Pexels, unless I say otherwise.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I set some anagrams and other word puzzles in this week’s CFT post, Book Games.

I also share some memories of word games played on car journeys when I was a kid (and most of them you could still do now, once we’re out and about again).

I also look at why word games can be helpful to a writer. Having fun with the language is a good thing! And for flash fiction writers like myself where I often want more than one meaning to words for punchline endings and the like, playing with words and exploiting those meanings is vital.

I’ll be putting up the answers mid-next week. No prizes but kudos to anyone getting them all.

Hope you enjoy.

Feature Image - Book Games

It was great fun setting some word puzzles for this week’s CFT post. I used to invent word searches for the church magazine when I was in my teens. (The last T-Rex had just left the planet. You get the idea of how long ago it was!).

I love playing with words and will often unwind by playing these after a writing session. Of course with the likes of Scrabble, you can get a side benefit of improving your vocabulary as you look up what those strange two and three letter words that ARE valid actually mean!

Looking forward to sharing a new Cafelit story from me which is due on site tomorrow. Have just submitted a short story to a competition. Need to pick on another one to have a crack at. I like writing to themes set by others. It’s a good discipline and makes me up my game here, which is never a bad thing.

Am also looking ahead with prepping material I know I’m going to need later in the year so busy, busy.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend writing/reading/both wise, have fun! Writing is hard work but it should be fun, most of the time anyway.

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W = Wonderful characters created by you.
R = Realistic or fantastical worlds? It’s entirely up to you.
I = Imagination stretched – yours and your readers!
T = Tension increasing as all manner of obstacles get in your lead character’s way but it is fun to drop them right in it!
I = Inventiveness is a great trait in your lead character(s) as they overcome what you’ve thrown at them.
N = Nearing the end of the story, the tension should not let up. There must be a proper and satisfactory resolution. It doesn’t have to be a happy one necessarily!
G = Genre – there are so many of these to write in but what will you choose and why?

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I’m sharing some anagrams and book title puzzles in my CFT post this week. I’ll also be looking at word games in general, how they’ve long been a part of my life, and why I think they’re good for writers. Link up on Friday. (Will post the answers in the comments box on this post at about this time next week. No prizes but plenty of kudos if you get them all).

Lady had a lovely day playing with a border collie lad and then went on to have a “girlie” party in the park with her best buddie, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, and a golden retriever friend. Fab time had by all. It was great to watch them “at work”. None of them were sorry the temperature has dropped! Must admit though it felt more like autumn at times out there today.

Do you find it easier to write in the summer months or when the nights draw in? I try to be fairly consistent but it is easier to focus at your desk when there isn’t the temptation to stay outdoors so I guess that says something positive about autumnal like weather after all!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve been talking about word games this week in CFT. So how do they help me when I write flash fiction?

Firstly, for my punchline ending tales, I’m often reliant on a humorous one-liner and for those to work best, double meanins of words come into their own. So I have to know ALL of the meanings of the particular words to come up with something suitable for my character/story.

Secondly, I’ve found that playing around with words via crosswords, Scrabble etc., can trigger story ideas and I’m never sorry to have plenty of those to work with!

 

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A = Always think of flash as being focused on the most important character, the most important situation they have to face.
C = Characters make a story so what is special about yours?
R = Reactions to your flash tale – what are you seeking to achieve here? Think about impact on your readers. What would be appropriate for this character and this situation?
O = Originality – it is said there are seven basic plots but what you bring to the mix which is unique is your writing voice. The more you write, the sooner you will discover what that voice is and then you can use it to great effect.
S = Story, story, story. What will keep your readers with you to the end of your flash tales?
T = Tension is even more important in flash fiction. You have ground to cover in fewer words. How can you use these to maximum effect? The tension should not let up until the resolution.
I = Imagination. As flash needs to be character led, flesh out your characters a bit before you write their stories. Make sure you know what they’re capable of and then have fun putting them in situations they have to resolve. Do or die? Literally maybe but not always. There are other ways a character has to overcome something and it is still absolutely vital. What can you explore here?
C = Change. Stories are about the most significant point of change in your character’s life. That literally is their story. So what matters to your character? What has to change and why? Does your character react well to that?

Happy writing!

 

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I suppose the biggest thing getting in the way of writing for me is if I’m really tired. One thing I do when I’m “buzzing and raring to go” is draft blog posts and flash fiction pieces so I have something to post fairly quickly. It makes me feel better (which in itself can help lift some of the tiredness. Feeling down because you’re shattered – well, it doesn’t help).

On days when I’ve been particularly busy, it’s a case of being kind to myself and not expecting too much. This is where having material good to go helps. A bit of polishing finishes the material off nicely and I feel as if I have done something positive. And THAT is always a good thing.

 

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Triggered Your Love of Fairytales?

I have the nagging feeling I really should have asked this question a long time ago!
For me, the trigger for my life-long love of fairytales comes from The Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales which came in two volumes. Both are hefty hardbacks and you wouldn’t want to drop them on your foot!

I loved the stories and beautiful illustrations. These books were given to me by my late parents. I still have the books. The spine on Volume 1 in particular has been bound up by tape! I’m probably going to leave the building long before these books do!

The stories are those collected by Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, as well as originals by Hans Christen Andersen etc. I remember the shock at discovering fairytales didn’t necessarily have to have happy endings when I first read The Little Mermaid.

My favourite overall fairytale is Cinderella. Mind, my first published story was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I look at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the younger stepsister who is not best pleased with the fairy godmother turns up again. Great fun to write and, being my first published story, it will always have a special place in my heart. I still love writing fairytales from different viewpoints. It’s good fun!

Looking at why you love stories can help inspire you write your own (and do so better!).

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This World and Others – 

Putting a Fictional World Together

The basic building blocks for putting a fictional world together are, for me, as follows:-

Species – Who will live in this fictional world? One species, a couple, many? If more than one, how do they interact with each other and if they don’t interact at all, what is the reason for that? If you have only one species, how are they sub-divided? Do you have the majority of the species living in an area and a minority live elsewhere? What are the reasons behind this?

Government and Society – This ties in with 1. How are your species governed and by whom? Are they governed well or badly? Can governments be changed? How is society organised? What is expected of everyone and does that vary from species to species? If so, what are the differences and why do they exist? What happens to rebels? (You can pretty much guarantee there will be those who do not like the status quo and won’t accept it so what happens to those who do this?).

Survival – How do the species survive? What do they eat/drink? Is their world an agricultural one and what shape does this take? Do they farm crops as we would know them or farm something very different? Climate and weather and their impact can come into this category too. How much do your readers need to know?

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Interviews and Good Stories

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated otherwise.

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Well, okay, I grant you, the weather HAS cooled down a lot since my last post but it has been a bit of an odd day here. Squally rain and blustery winds. What season are we in again?! It is June! Having said that, I am grateful for the temperature drop, as is Lady.

If you ask a writer to name their favourite book or story, they’ll usually reel you off a considerable list. (I am also guilty of this).

Ask us to name a book or story we don’t like and we might come up with a few but there won’t be so many. Part of that will be due to the stories in question being forgettable for us. We move on to what we hope will prove to be a more enjoyable read next time (and we do move on. Life is too short to do otherwise).

We want to remember good stories. We want our stories to be good stories people don’t forget.

Yet at the same time any negative reviews for our books and stories stick stubbornly in our heads like glue and those are the ones we SHOULD forget!

Funny old weather again today, though at least Lady and I didn’t get hot on our walk. Good to catch up with family in NZ on Zoom this morning (UK time). Then Zoom church which was lovely.

Also good to meet up with family yesterday for natter and nosh in the great outdoors. Lady had a wonderful time “hoovering” up. For someone who loathes the vacuum, she does do an excellent hoover impersonation. 😀😀

Writing wise, I’ll have a story up on Cafelit again soon and look forward to sharing the link to that in due course. I look at interviews in my spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More Than Writers blog this month. Hope to share link on that tomorrow. I’m going to be setting some puzzles in my CFT post later this week too.

Drafting more flash fiction and am pleased with how the edit on my short story (1500 worder) worked out. Hope to give that story another read through and final polish before submitting later this week.

Have a good writing/reading/both week!😊

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Facebook – General – 

and Association of Christian Writers –

More Than Writers – Interviews

It’s always a pleasure to write my monthly post for More than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers’ blog. This time I talk about interviews.

I look at what I enjoy about them and how you can use them to outline your characters.

I also discuss using open questions for my Chandler’s Ford Today interviews and share some advice for those not yet published or who are just beginning their writing journey. Interviews are useful to think about NOW.

Hope you enjoy.

 

No chance of Lady and I being too hot today – rain for most of the day! Still, the park will look a lot nicer for it tomorrow. And my roses are blooming lovely. A friend gave me the ones I have at the front as the variety is called Allison. They smell nice too (and I do usually as well! 😀😀😆😆!).

Have got a few things coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today which I look forward to sharing when I can. Will be brimming with useful information. That’s about all I can say for now.

Plans for the week including prepping the above things for CFT, giving an edited short story the final read through and then submitting it for a competition, and continuing to work on my longer term projects.

Also plan to write more flash of course. The nice thing with that is when I’m really pushed for time and I know I’ve only got 10 minutes, that’s when I jot down a very rough draft of a flash tale, knowing I can finalise it later. Those 10 minute slots add up over the course of the week and you can get a fair bit done in them. So if you only have little slots of time, use them!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do I want my flash stories to do?

Chiefly to entertain of course. Books and stories are wonderful forms of escapism.

While I have nothing against “real life” writing, far from it, I do want stories to amuse, entertain, and/or inform me, but not depress me about the state of the world. I can get that from watching the news.

I do want to be able to identify with the character, whether or not I agree with what they’re doing and/or their attitudes. I want them to be able to make me react, whether it is to inspire pity, make me laugh, or what have you.

The difference with flash is all of that has to be done in a compressed word count but it does make you focus on what matters to your character. You should have no doubt that this story has to be told “by” this character and that what they have to reveal is vital to your readers.

Sometimes that vital element is to make your readers laugh! Both P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett did rather well out of that though neither were up for the Booker or anything like that. I am all for the laughter makers, always have been, always will be.

In between the laughter, that is when I will look for a story to move me in a different way so I come back to the lighter hearted forms of fiction, ready to enjoy that all over again.

But a story that doesn’t make me react in any form is not something I’m going to read again. Indeed it is highly likely I won’t get beyond the first paragraph.

And that serves as a useful pointer for me with my writing. What impact do I want my story to have on others? It is a good thought to keep in mind.

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I’ve just listened to the wonderful Pachelbel’s Canon in D on Classic FM and it made me think of repetition as its theme is repeated throughout.

Repetition can be a useful device in a story though for flash it has to be used sparingly. I don’t use it often because I want to use my restricted word counts in better ways but sometimes it IS the thing to do when the type of story or character needs/would come out with the kind of emphasis repetition gives you.

For this kind of story, I tend to repeat an odd word in close succession to build a “beat”. I used this technique in my story Why Stop Now by repeating the word “here” in the opening sentence (and more than once too!).

I did it for emphasis and it also shows something of the character who is doing the repeating. (Clue: this is one of my tales where it even gave me the creeps so I hope it does the same for you if you read it – it is meant to!).

I think it is true for any writing device that you need to think carefully about why you want to use it and why it is the best thing for your particular tale/character. If you can tick the boxes on those two thoughts, go ahead. It will be the right thing to do.

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I’ve been talking about interviews tonight as it was the topic of my ACW blog spot this month for More Than Writers. I’ve also interviewed my own characters from time to time.

I work out what it is I want to know and then ask a series of questions. Good questions to consider include the following but I’m sure you can think of loads. It really is up to you to work out what you need to know and frame the questions around that.

1. What do YOU think is your best quality? (You can use this one as a test as to whether your character is deceiving themselves or not).

2. What is your biggest weakness? (Again, you can use this to test how honest your character is).

3. What do YOU think others think of you? (You can also get an indicator of how much your character is likely to care about this depending on their response!).

4. What is your biggest fear? (Naturally as author you will make them face up to it too!).

Now for the shorter flash fiction stories, I tend to look at what my characters’ main traits are and how these are likely to land them right in it. (Such good fun that!). And for longer stories, you might want to ask more questions. But I have found, regardless of length of story, for that tale to work I’ve got to know my character inside out and questions like this help a lot with that.

 

I was watching one of the old Ealing comedies late last week (The Lavender Hill Mob starring Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway). Great story, fab acting, and all packed into about 75 minutes or so. (Flash film, anyone?!).

My overall favourite Ealing comedy is The Ladykillers which, if you’ve not seen it, is dark with its comedy and worth checking out. Again stars Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers. We probably wouldn’t think much of dark comedy being such a “thing” now but back when it came out, I think it may have been a different matter.

What these films have in common is a tightly controlled storyline. Not a thing is out of place. Not a thing could be taken out without the films losing something important. Good lessons for story writers there, regardless of what word count you work to!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Habits That Annoy!

Aside from the obvious one of people turning down corners of books (which is even more irritating when they’ve borrowed the book from you!), what annoying book habits “get” you?

1. Feeling yourself about to nod off when you’ve been looking forward to reading all day and you’ve managed to read about two minutes’ worth of glorious prose. Yet you know if you make yourself keep reading, you will wake yourself up and then not be able to sleep properly when the time does come for lights out.

2. Not being to make up your mind about reading from your Kindle or paperback bookshelf and by the time you’ve decided, guess what? It’s lights out time again.

3. Looking for THE one book you’re longing to read, knowing you’ve got it somewhere, but can you find it when you want it to hand? Surprise, surprise – no!

4. Managing to pick up that hardback you’ve been looking forward to reading and end up dropping it on your foot. Some of these big beasties hurt when they land on your toes!

5. Having two books come out at about the same time by your favourite authors and not being able to decide which one to read first.

Of course, all of the above COULD just be me but I don’t think so!

Over to you then. Can you add to the list?

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Waterloo Arts Festival Online and Story News

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels generally unless stated otherwise.

Plenty going on over the last few days… phew!

Facebook – General

Had a wonderful time at the online Waterloo Arts Festival launch for Transforming Communities last night (Friday, 12th June 2020). Great to see many friends there and the readings were fantastic. Well done, everyone.

I’ll be sharing a book trailer for Transforming Communities later in the week but meantime I thought I would share this…

Hope you enjoy. Video also below.

As well as my video being here (with a taster of my story, Books and The Barbarians), there is a great intro for #MaxineChurchman too.

There is a series of these Meet the Winners posts, each combining a video with a short text from two winners. These will give you a good flavour of the wonderful mix that has gone into this ebook. Do check it out.

 

I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend. This one has been really nice for me. I

Loved being part of the Waterloo Arts Festival online on Friday. It was good fun and it was great to see everyone. I always love hearing extracts from stories. What’s not to like about that?

For the first time since lockdown, my sister and her partner came over for tea and cakes in the garden and a lovely time was had by all. Amazing how the simple things can boost your morale the most at times.

And I’m reading some smashing short story collections on Kindle at the moment so my reading drought is over. Hope to review in due course.

I’m preparing interview material where I’m on the receiving end of the questions AND where I’m setting them. Watch this space as they say!

And the ebook of Transforming Communities is now on my Amazon Author Central page. It is lovely to see the number of books increasing here! I can’t wait to be able to see Tripping the Flash Fantastic up on here too!

Hope you have a fabulous week.

Facebook – General – Further Publication News!

Lovely start to the week. My story It Is Time will be published in Bridge House Publishing’s Mulling It Over anthology later this year. Always a pleasure to return a signed contract to a publisher! I could do with more Mondays like this…

Many congratulations to all of the other wonderful writers in the collection. Good to see some familiar names here and equally great to see names that are new to me in this anthology.

I am very much looking forward to reading the collection in due course. What can be guaranteed is a fantastic mix of stories in terms of style and mood.

 

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Many thanks for the good wishes and congratulations yesterday on my recent publication news. Very much appreciated!

My CFT post this week is going to be a look back at how the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition Event worked as a purely online Zoom affair. It is the first time I’ve taken part in a festival in this way. All good experience! (And for the WAF running it too I should think!).

On to other issues and question of the day is what it is about stories you love the most?

For me, it is always about the characters. I’ve got to be intrigued enough by them to want to read what they get up to but how about you?

My big problem with books, though it is a lovely one to have, is having too many I want to read and not enough time. Doesn’t matter if they’re paperback or ebook, I have the same dilemma. Still I’m never short of a good read! How about you?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The Waterloo Arts Festival ebook launch for Transforming Communities went very well last night. Great mixture of styles and stories. Was lovely to hear the extracts and I enjoyed reading mine too.

If you want to check the stories out in full, see the link above or my Amazon Author Central page (link further up this blog post)!

Transforming Communities Full

 

I was having some fun with the random word generator tonight and selected choosing four words at a time. The ones that came up were:-

Experience, Elect, Rebellion, and Uranium.

Now there’s an explosive mix for you!!

So how could you use these in a story?

1. You could try getting all four words into your story in any order.

2. If you want to make your life a bit more difficult, get them into the story in the order in which they were generated.

3. Pick one of them as your theme and/or title but get the others into the story itself.

4. Ensure your first paragraph contains the four words.

5. Or finish your story with your last paragraph containing the four words.

The nice thing with the generator is you can choose the number of words you go for. So play around with things like this and see them as a generator for story ideas. The fact you don’t know what will come up forces you to think creatively around what DOES emerge.

Have fun!

 

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Great start to the week with my It Is Time being accepted for the annual BHP anthology. That will be called Mulling It Over and will be released later this year.

One joy of writing both flash fiction and short stories is while nobody should underestimate the time taken to produce these and edit them etc., because you are writing so many more of them, publication news can come in much more frequently than if say you were writing a novel a year.

That is one aspect to writing in the short form I like a lot! And I highly recommend it!

One thing I learned years ago was that if writing appears to read easily, regardless of whether that work is a novel, a play, a 100-word story or what have you, the guarantee is that the author worked hard for years to get to that point. And continues to work hard!

On that particular piece of work they will have edited, put aside for while, edited again and again.

I do find deadlines useful here. It can be easy to put off submitting something because you’re not quite happy with your story. Having a deadline (even if it is one you impose on yourself) is a great way of making yourself submit work.

I can’t recommend enough getting into the habit of regularly submitting work. It makes you produce more stories. The more you write, the more you will learn, the more chances you have of one of your pieces or more being “out there” and therefore in with a chance of being acepted.

I found it helped a lot when I recognised rejections were nothing personal, that every writer has them and keeps getting them, but you learn from what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!

Many thanks for all the support after yesterday’s publication news. It has been a good couple of weeks! 😆😆

Of course the reality is I wrote those stories a while ago. You can’t know if your work is going to be accepted or not. And stories I’m writing now or have done in the last few weeks… well it is likely to be at least a couple of months before I know anything about those.

I do know a couple of competition entries haven’t been placed (no hear basically!) so I will be looking at those again at some point and seeing what else can be done. There is always room for improvement in these things!

But taking the long view, having work nearly always out there or on the point of being about to be out there, ARE good things and I’ve found both very useful. No time to mope over no hears or rejections for a start! On to the next story. Allow a little time to go by. Look at the old story and see if it can be revamped or whether it is worth trying a different competition with it.

Always things to be working on!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Ebook -v- Paperback

Now I must declare an interest in this topic. I’ve been published in both formats and so, naturally, I love both. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

My trusty old Kindle goes with me whenever I’m away at events or holiday (not that this is happening right now!). But when I want some comfort reading, I will nearly always turn to a trusty paperback.

Flash fiction and short story collections I nearly always have on the Kindle. Most of the novels I read are in paperback.

I have a nice mixture of ebook and paperback for non-fiction books. (And yes I do take advantage of special offers on ebooks. It can and does make the difference as to whether I buy a book at all at times and this is another reason why I have no problems with book format. I also don’t mind at all if my book and the anthologies my work has appeared in sell well in either format! Naturally, ideally I’d like them to do well in both!).

So however you read, enjoy.

Whatever you read, enjoy!

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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!).

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Books On The Radio

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about the links between books and radio. I also share the radio interview links for YA author #RichardHardie and myself when we were on #ChatandSpin radio recently.

(I also share the link with Wendy H. Jones‘ marvellous podcast The Writing and Marketing Show where I discussed, well what else, flash fiction!). This is a post you can read AND listen to! Hope you enjoy.

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It was good fun to take part in the Chat and Spin radio interview, as well as being a guest on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show.

(For more see my CFT post this week called Books on the Radio – https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/books-on-the-radio-local-a…).

Now I’ve mentioned before that preparation is key and it is. I prepared too much material for both shows but (a) I know I can use that material at some point and (b) it settled my nerves a bit knowing I had material to hand. I can’t overstate the importance of (b) there!

I hope to put some of that material on my website at some point (but you can still check out my website anyway meantime!!). See https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/

I also hope after the Waterloo Arts Festival event I’ll be involved in on 12th June to put the video I made for that on my website too.

And yes preparing material for future website usage is also a good idea and helps to keep that fresh and keep followers interested.

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Am at the very happy stage of the second edit on my Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due out later this year. Also planning my blurb and cover material. All good fun to do!

(Will be following my own advice on a recent CFT post in that I hope to have a cyberlaunch in due course and I will be preparing material for that too. It is always better to have too much material and not use all of it than be in a panic on the night because you haven’t got enough!).

Have also selected another writing competition to have a crack at. Deadline is not until July but that gives me plenty of thinking time. (I will set my own deadline for this to be the end of June so I make sure the story is in well ahead of time and I have time for that extra polish which can make all the difference beween a piece being accepted or not).

When I don’t have a lot of time to write, I draft blog pieces and build up a stock of these. It means I’ve got something ready to edit and send off where appropriate as I blog for the Association of Christian Writers and sometimes have pieces appear in their journal, Christian Writer.

I also like to have pieces to hand that I can adjust and turn into articles for Chandler’s Ford Today.

So always something to do then and that’s just how I like it!

 

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How do you feel when you get to the end of a first draft?

Relieved that part is over?
Sorry that part is over?
Dreading the edit(s) (especially as you know there’ll be more than one!)?
Wishing it hadn’t taken so long?

For me, it is a combination of the first and last ones! So over to you then. What is your reaction the moment you write The End for the first time?

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Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers –

Honest Writing

A busy night for me this evening as it is my turn on the More than Writers blog spot. This is the Association of Christian Writers’ blog and my piece this time is called Honest Writing. Hope you enjoy.

 

Twitter News – @AllisonSymes1

I’m slowly learning to use Twitter more and I thought I’d share something here which is also a good piece of marketing (and great fun to take part in!).

The only book I couldn’t get into the above tweet was Magnetism where I have a short story. This book was produced by Gill James and features the work of Cafelit and Bridge House authors.  It is very much meant to give a flavour of what we do. To get a FREE COPY of this book, you just need to sign up to Books, Books, Books.

Magnetism Small

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The “oomph” moment in a flash fiction story can take different forms and be in varying places in the tale.

The whole mood of my story Calling the Doctor (see book trailer below!) changes on the very last word. This is why it is one of my own favourite pieces.

One of the challenges of flash is to find the right “oomph” moment for your character and to place it in exactly the right place in the story.

In this case, had I placed that particular word earlier in the story, the impact of the story would have been severely diluted.

But sometimes I start a story with a powerful moment where you know from that point onwards, something has got to change and quickly. The fun of those stories is in finding out what that change is and what its consequences are – and there are always some! – and it is just as much fun finding that out when you’re writing the tales!

My CFT post this week is about Books on the Radio and I’ll be sharing links to radio interviews on Chat and Spin Radio which YA author, #RichardHardie, and I took part in recently. I’ll also be looking at the general role of books on the airwaves. Link up on Friday.

Naturally for the radio interview I was waving the flag for flash fiction and books being a perfect form of escapism. And whether you write them or read them or do both, that escapism is so welcome right now!

My favourite flash stories are the ones that make me smile or laugh though. I do like the emotional ones where you really want the character to do well and they can’t/don’t but, for me, you can’t beat a good laugh.

Flash lends itself well to humorous stories because they often work so well when kept short. Flash helps a lot there!

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Fairytales With Bite – Making Space

I believe fairytales and fantasy fills the spaces between reality and chaos. Why? Because so many tales in these genres reflect what we can be like, while others give strong moral messages. Why do we need such things?

  • To guide us as to what our behaviour should/should not be;
  • To show us what life could be like without kindness, gratitude etc. Would you really not want things to come right for Cinderella, for example?

As writers, we also need to give our characters space to develop in themselves and as part of the plot development. A character who doesn’t change will be of little interest to readers.

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This World and Others –

How Do You Know When A World Is Going To Work?

I would say that a fictional world has worked for me when I can:-

  • Spot connections between the fictional world and the real one we know here.
  • See what is better on the fictional world and wish we had it here. (Flying carpets anyone? No emissions but I’ve always thought the landing on those things must be on the rough side and there is definitely no in flight entertainment. You’d be hanging on for grim life, yes?).
  • See what is worse on the fictional world and be glad it’s not coming here.
  • Can understand what the lead character has to contend with and how the setting helps/hinders them.
  • Can see further stories being set in that world, even if it is not with the same characters. That is always a good sign. For me, the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett really took off when it could “host” the Rincewind stories, the Vimes ones, the witches ones and so on. I also liked looking for the connections between the different series. For example a character would refer to another one not appearing in the story. It wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the other story. Referring to other characters like that implies a life above and beyond the immediate world of the story you are reading and that is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown Effects on Writing

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

RADIO NEWS – CHAT AND SPIN RADIO

photo of a copper audio mixer

Photo by Dmitry Demidov on Pexels.com

RADIO NEWS:

I’m thrilled to say I was on Chat and Spin Radio on Tuesday, 19th May at about 9.35 pm (UK time) talking about my great writing love – flash fiction – and From Light to Dark and Back Again. See www.chatandspinradio.com

AND if you like their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/chatandspin, you’re in with a chance of winning a £20 shopping voucher too.

I’ll be talking more about this later in the week, especially when I have a link to share! (See below)

Now for actors you say “break a leg” as a kind of good luck thing (though I know it sounds anything but!). What do you say for this? Don’t lose your voice, I guess!😀

 

sound speaker radio microphone

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RADIO INTERVIEW LINK

A big thank you, everyone, for your support following  my interview on Chat and Spin Radio. It was good fun to do and I’m now thrilled to be able to share the link.

I appear at the 27 minute in stage. Appropriately for a flash fiction writer, I’m brief (!) but it was a fun experience to take part in and I hope to do it again at some point.

Hope you enjoy. Also see their website.

The first link given above takes you to their Facebook Groups page. The second one takes you to where the show starts playing. And if you’re a fan of 1980s music, you are in for a treat there too.  My favourite genre is classical  but I have fond memories of 1980s pop and what I heard as I was waiting to go on the show brought back good recollections!

It was also great to put in a good plug for Cafelit as well! I also got to talk about how I got into flash fiction writing in the first place.

 

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And now on to other things!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week, Lockdown Effects on Writing, is one of the few things I’ll write about coronavirus. I look at how the lockdown has affected my reading and writing. I also talk about the first video I’ve made for the Waterloo Arts Festival, given that has had to go online only this year.

The upside to all of this is having to learn new things and develop other ways of reaching out to people.

The great thing is that, regardless of format, books and stories remain wonderful entertainment, whether you write them, read them or, ideally, do both.

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I’ve deliberately chosen not to write much about the coronavirus so my CFT post this week and one other item will be about the sum of it for me.

There are various reasons for this, not least of which is that when life gets grim, I automatically turn to the lighter side of things. I feel the need for balance. I can see me “using” coronavirus in future stories but mainly as a way of giving a period setting! There will be excellent stories and articles directly about the virus but it just isn’t me to specifically write about it.

And I’ll always wave the flag for books and stories that “only” strive to entertain. These things may be easy to read but I can tell you their authors would have worked phenomenally hard to get to that point. I learned a long time ago if someone makes something look easy, they worked hard for years to get to that!

Mind you, the Feature Image I’ve used for CFT this week is probably my favourite Covid-19 related photo (and as ever is from Pixabay).

Feature Image - Lockdown Effects on Writing

What a week it has been! A lot of learning, a new writing experience (radio interview), and a flash piece submitted (tonight).

My CFT piece this week will be Lockdown Effects on Writing and I also talk a bit about my video production and why it was done too. Link up on Friday.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It has been quite a week what with my first radio appearance and in my CFT post tonight I also talk about why I made my first video recently. Both of these are waving the flag for flash fiction as well as for FLTDBA specifically. Plus I’ve learned so much about Zoom and Skype recently.

I’ll also have publication news next week so look forward to sharing that and I’m working on my Edit 2 of what will be my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, as well. Glad to say that’s going well though it is lovely to be at the “almost there” stage.

Plans for the weekend are to continue the editing and I hope to batch write some 100-worders. I find it useful to do that as I can then choose where and when to send them over a month or so. It’s always good to know you’ve got something to send out when you want too!

Happy reading and writing!

Pleased to have sent off another 100 worder tonight. I often batch write these and hope to have another good writing session on this over the weekend. (Is it just me or will it simply not feel like a bank holiday again?).

I often use first person for my drabbles as it gives a sense of immediacy and that is so useful for the shorter flashes.

 

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Fairytales with Bite – Characters With Bite!

My favourite types of character are those with bite (and I’m not a vampire fan either!). So what does with bite mean here?

I adore characters who:-

1. Say what they mean and follow up on what they say they will do (equally applies to villains!).

2. Are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in (and can apply to villains too!).

3. Have good, understandable reasons for their actions, even if you don’t agree with them.

4. Are memorable. Some will have distinctive phrases but for me the most memorable ones are the ones with attitudes I remember and agree with or loathe. Whatever way it is, they stick in the mind, which is precisely what you want your characters to achieve.

5. I love characters with a sense of humour (and even more so if they can laugh at themselves).

6. I adore characters with courage. (Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee and a host of others).

7. I love characters who fight for their own happy ever after, even if they fail. I loathe wishy-washy characters. I’ve got to feel the character has done something and that the story would be incomplete without them. If I feel why is this character in here then there’s something amiss.

What would you list as the attributes your characters must have? And how do you go about showing those in your stories?

By far the best method is to get your character demonstrating cowardice or courage or whatever the attribute is and then readers will pick up on that without you needing to spell it out.  What can be both funny and tragic is when a character thinks they’re brave but their actions show otherwise so do bear that in mind as a possibility as well. Actions speak louder for characters as well as for “real people”!

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This World and Others – What Books Mean To Me

What do books mean to your characters? Is their world a literate one or is the oral storytelling tradition the strongest influence? Are stories welcomed or do your characters have to stick strictly to the facts and imagination is discouraged, punished even?

Can your characters read any books they like or do they have to stick to an official list? Is there a secret underground world of books where banned items can be read?

Do your characters treasure books themselves or do they leave that to others? If so, why?

Attitudes to books and stories can reveal so much about characters and their world settings. There are stories to be written here – lots of them ideally!

 

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Murphy’s Law For Readers

Time for some lightheartedness I think… hence my CFT post. More in a moment.

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I thought a lighthearted post would be useful for my slot on Chandler’s Ford Today this week – hence Murphy’s Law for Readers! Hope you enjoy this and do send in your own Murphy’s Law suggestions for Readers via the CFT comments box.

The post takes in readers and books, readers and libraries, and readers and book events etc and so I’ve taken a broad approach here! Hope you enjoy.

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It is always good fun to write humorous posts for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope the Murphy’s Law For Readers which is this week’s piece amuses you! It amused me when I wrote it so I hope that’s a good sign! (I wrote a piece on Murphy’s Law for Writers a year or so ago so that is everyone on the reading and writing fence covered now I think).

Many thanks to our church for sending a Good Friday service sheet for us to use at home today. It was great but must admit to missing seeing everyone and I hope it is not too long before we meet again. It really does not feel like Easter to me. Mind you, the weekends don’t really feel like weekends either at the moment.

I would be glad to have a writing routine anyway as I am one of life’s planners (as much as possible at the moment anyway) but am finding having this routine now to be incredibly useful. It’s a bit of normality in what is an abnormal situation for us all.

Nice lot of cheering in my neck of the words for the frontline workers. Well done all. (This is happening ever Thursday night at 8 pm in the UK for the duration of the lockdown here – I don’t know whether anything similar is happening elsewhere but I do think this show of appreciation is a very good thing indeed).

Looking forward to hearing where my choices for the Classic FM Hall of Fame come in this year’s chart. They count this down over the Easter weekend. My choices were:-

1. Jupiter (from the Planet Suite) by Holst
2. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams.
3. Danse Macabre by Saint Saens (and used as the theme for Jonathan Creek and the book trailer for my From Light to Dark and Back Again – see below! So this music will always have special meaning for me!).

Need a sort out of my writing desk so that is on the cards for me to do tomorrow. Yes, have been putting it off. I refuse to believe I’m the only writer who does that.😆😆

Have resumed playing tennis on the old Nintendo Wii to help with my exercise levels. Well I say playing… let’s say I give it a go! Lady doesn’t like it though and goes and hides while I “strut my stuff” here. Of course it won’t help she can’t possibly get the ball here and no collie will like that.

Writing wise, am working on a book proposal for my non-fiction idea but that will take a while to do. Am also fleshing out ideas for a flash piece for a competition so plenty to be getting on with.

My CFT post this week will be a lighthearted one about Murphy’s Law for Readers. I wrote one about a year ago for writers so it is only fair readers get their turn! Link up on Friday.

Am slowly getting back to reading again which is good. I’ve had no problems writing but think my focus has been on ONE creative activity rather than two.

Reading is a creative activity in its own right in that, for fiction, you should be able to engage with the characters. For non-fiction, you should be gripped by what you are discovering and hopefully go on to find out more about the topic you’re engrossed with.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am happily drafting a flash fiction piece for a competition at the moment. Have got the character and her voice as I like it. But she’s spouting on a little bit too much for the word count requirement so she is going to be shortened! It is one of those cases where I know she can be shortened without losing her style and indeed her style will come through better at the reduced count.

This is where I need to work out what is VITAL for the reader to know. Anything that is not something I could honestly call vital comes out.

This is why I do like writing the longer flash fiction stories too as those give you a bit more room to play with and there you can have characterisation that adds depth and strengthens the story. This is where you can have that “little bit more” which adds flavour to a story.

I think it is a good thing to write a mixture of word count stories so you get a real feel for writing short and spare tales and longer ones with added “value” that you simply can’t put into a shorter story. But what I do know is when I’ve got my character and their voice right, the word count has to suit that. I know I can simplify what I’ve drafted for my current story and I should do that anyway. It should take me to the required count but there are times I really can’t get a story down any further without losing something important – so I don’t! You do get better over time I think at working out when to call it a day.

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One thing I have found useful with regard to having an Amazon Author Central page is having my book trailer on it for FLTDBA. I very much hope later in the year when hopefully Tripping the Flash Fantastic is out that a book trailer for this will also appear.

I have had some fun on my website with book trailers too. (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com/book-trailers/)

As well as the ones for FLTDBA and the Bridge House/Cafelit/Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competition collections I’ve been involved in, I have created a basic trailer for one of my stories from FLTDBA. I hope to do more of this as and when but I mention it because flash fiction is ideal for this kind of thing! You want something nice and short that is easy to read on a screen… hmm… on to a winner there I think!

 

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What do I like best about story and flash fiction collections?

I like the range of moods that can be contained in one book (which directly inspired the title for my own From Light to Dark and Back Again of course).

I love being able to dip in and out of such a book, whether I read it in paperback or via the Kindle.

I love them as they are brilliant for those times when I don’t have time to read or don’t feel like reading a huge amount. Indeed it is often the collections that get me out of the latter mood and into reading novels and non-fiction again.

I also just love the whole idea of reading a book full of little self-contained worlds with a host of characters. They are just fun!

They’re huge fun to write too!

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Fairytales With Bite – 

What Fairytales Have Done For Me

I’ve loved fairytales for more years than I care to remember, encouraged no doubt by my parents buying me The Reader’s Digest Complete Collection of Fairytales. This is a two volume set which I still have. (One of the books is bound up with tape to keep the spine together!). I spent hours reading the stories and admiring the wonderful illustrations. So what have fairytales done for me as a writer then?

  1. Fairytales have a strong message which they get across without lecturing and in an entertaining way.  I find that inspirational (and a challenge to always “raise my game” here).
  2. Fairytales don’t shy away from calling something evil that is evil. There is no mistaking the goodies and baddies here. The characters are clear cut and their actions and thoughts are consistent. That’s all useful stuff for writers.
  3. Fairytales have endings which are appropriate. Generally these are happy ones but there are exceptions and that’s  okay too. What matters is the ending is appropriate to the story.
  4. When magic is used in a fairytale, it is always used to assist and it is rarely the first resort. Characters still have to use their intelligence and take advantage of others forms of help coming to them.

 

This World and Others – The Arts

What place do the arts have in your fictional “other world”? Is there music? Painting? Creative writing? Are these things valued or despised? Does everyone have access to them or only the privileged few?

For your characters, what do the arts mean to them? What role can the arts play in their story?

When fleshing out your creation, think of the arts as a way of adding culture and depth to your created world. You can always use things like statues as well known landmarks your character has to reach to meet someone etc. That tells a reader there is sculpture in your world at least (and therefore likely to be other art forms too. It also reveals there is at least some appreciation of these things and this is a good indicator of likely intelligence levels too).

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Writing – and Multiple Projects

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay

Facebook – General

Full of cold at the moment. Not a happy bunny though booking my place for this year’s Swanwick Writers’ Summer School HAS cheered me up no end!

Also looking forward to the next edition of Writing Magazine because I love turning to the letters page, the subscribers’ news etc and see how many friends have got a mention in there! It’s nice to see the numbers going up!

Writing wise, I’m focusing on non-fiction at the moment though I have got short stories “brewing” ready for me to look at them again with a fresh eye. I find the time away from stories really useful, as when I do go back to them, I will see their strengths and weaknesses with an unjaundiced eye, but I hope to get back to these sometime next week. One I want to submit within the next couple of weeks.

Writing takes you away from the world for a bit. Just a pity it can’t get rid of the sniffles as well…

 

The advantages of having more than one project on the go:-

1. You never get bored.
2. If you get stuck on one thing, work on the other. Ideas for resolving the problem(s) on the first will come to you while you work on something else. One of the chief Murphy’s Laws for Writers, I think. I do know that this has always been the case for me.
3. You can work on smaller projects and see (hopefully) submission successes while still working away on a longer project you know will take longer to place even when you’ve finished writing and editing it.
4. You can try different kinds of writing and see what you like best.
5. When work has been submitted, you’ve always got something else to work on.

I’ll look at the disadvantages tomorrow.

 

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Following on from yesterday’s post, now it’s time to look at the disadvantages of having more than one project on the go.

1. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed. (My advice here is to plan things out as much as you can. When you know you haven’t got much writing time, use what you’ve got to get little pieces done. It makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something – you have! – and the great thing is you can polish these pieces up and submit them later. Also remember if you only have time for say a writing exercise or two, do them because you will get some useful material from them for later, which could feed directly into the projects you’re working on. Likewise, if you can only write a page or two for one of your projects, get it done. Those pages or two mount up over time.).

2. You can feel torn as to which project you should be working on. (It can help to set yourself deadlines here but be realistic. If you’re working on a novel, and say a collection of short stories or flash fiction, it simply IS going to take you longer to complete both but that’s okay. Work out when you would like to get these projects done by in an ideal world, then add time on given it isn’t an ideal world (!), and work to that timetable. Also accept life will get in the way sometimes so don’t beat yourself up if that happens. It does happen to everybody including those who do only work on one project at a time).

3. I can’t help but sneak in another advantage here in that I’m working on big projects which I know will take ages to complete but that’s okay. Meanwhile I’m getting short pieces written and out and building up publication credits etc. All of that will add to my writing CV when I am ready to submit the big projects later.

But deciding what works for you writing wise, and what YOU feel you can sustain long term, whether you work on one or more projects at a time, is key here. Key to getting things done. Key to you being happy with your output. Good luck!

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W = When you get to invent worlds and people for fiction or present interesting information for non-fiction.
R = Really get to understand why characters are the way they are and, for non-fiction, discovering more about your topic.
I = Imagination fires up and triggers more story ideas and, for non-fiction, imagination helps you see connections that can trigger further blog posts, articles etc.
T = Time – there’s never enough!
I = Insist on carving out writing time for yourself, whether it’s for a short period or longer; you will feel better in yourself for having that time and others will benefit from your having the benefit of the writing buzz for a while too.
N = Never running out of ideas to work up as stories or blogs or articles.
G = Genre – plenty to choose from; there’s bound to be at least one to suit you.

Just some of the many things I love about writing!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My two favourite kinds of flash fiction stories are those which end on a punchline and make me laugh, or where the twist is so good, the ending take my breath away. Neither are easy to write but are so worthwhile to do. They’re the stories you remember the longest.

I’ve found when writing funny tales, it pays to start with the punchline and then work out what could lead to that coming out “naturally” from the character. It is far more convincing doing it that way. You don’t want the punchline to seem like it is a set-up.

 

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One of the joys of flash fiction is the word count limit means having to leave the reader to infer things.

Now I have always loved “filling in the gaps” in novels and the longer short stories where I’ve become attached to the characters. You know the kind of thing – wondering what other adventures they might have had after the main story is over. On those grounds, I understand fan fiction, though I don’t write it. Nor have any plans to do so.

But where a story has real emotional impact, I find that impact is stronger precisely because the writer has not had the space to spell it all out. I can and do work that out for myself – and love doing so. The challenge for me as the writer is working out what a reader must know to be able to fill in the gaps successfully for themselves.

 

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One of the things I love best about flash fiction is creating characters. I always like to look at what a character’s main trait is as that can be very useful for dropping them right in the mire from a great height should I wish to do so!

For example, if I have a character who believes they are brave, I could then put them in a situation where they have to prove they are (or discover they really are not! The latter especially could have comic potential).

It is when I nail down the main trait(s), I start to have a feel for the character’s voice. Someone who thinks they’re brave is likely to be boastful (well, they’ve got to tell someone else haven’t they? It”s no good thinking you’re brave if you can’t show off about it!). That in turn gives me ideas on how they are likely to speak and the kind of language they are likely to use.

There are many different ways in to character creation but I do like this one.

Creating a Flash Fiction Story

INGREDIENTS

A strong character you can identify with and want to write about (readers will identify with them and will want to read their tale).

An idea as to what impact you want your story to have on a reader. This will affect the story mood and how you craft it.

Simmering in the back of your mind, an idea of which competition/publisher you will submit the work to and, of course, already know what their submission requirements/deadlines are.

METHOD

1. Get the story drafted. (To paraphrase P.G. Wodehouse, it’s time to apply seat of pants to seat of chair).

2. Put aside a for a while and start drafting another!

3. Come back to your original story, read it through (and where possible out loud too so you can literally hear how dialogue etc sounds), and then edit.

4. When you’re happy with the story THEN worry about the word count. Check to ensure there are no wasted words in your tale (cut out things like very, actually etc).

5. Once done, if your story has a strong impact at 250 words but it would be weakened if you tried to get it down to 100, then leave it at 250 and submit it to a suitable competition/market.

6. Apply steps 2 to 6 to the second story!

Have fun!

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Goodreads Author Programme – First Books

Do you remember the first books you read or had read to you?

I can’t honestly say I do though the Reader’s Digest Collection of Classic Fairytales does rank very highly in this list. I still have this two volume set, though the spines are “taped up” thanks to years of use!

The illustrations in these books are lovely and I spent many a happy hour poring over them as a kid. The stories are the originals from Grimm, Perrault, Andersen etc.

I do remember collecting the Famous Five series. Southern TV, as it was then in our ITV region, had adapted the series and paperbacks were reissued to link in with this. Have no idea what happened to those books. Do know they’re not with me now. I recall going to our local newsagent to buy the paperbacks (in the days when you did have independent newsagents!).

The first books I chose for my home after getting married came to me via the old Odhams collections. You paid a subscription and received one new book every month. I collected Agatha Christie novels (and collections of short stories), which I still have.

What is important though is those first books were never last books!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Started and Genre Fiction

Image Credit

Unless otherwise stated all images are from the brilliant Pixabay.

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Regardless of what I write where, the hard part is getting started. Once I’m away, I’m away. But I have learned over time to trust the instinct that something will come which I can work up into a story or a blog post. The great thing is it’s going to be a first draft and the only person seeing that is me.

I never worry about getting the writing right first go. I know I won’t. What matters is getting started and putting something down on paper or on screen. You can only work with what you’ve put down to work with after all!

So ways to get started on a piece of writing then?

1. Look through any brainstorming notes and see if ideas jotted down there take your fancy now. If so, away you go.

2. Have another brainstorming session and write anything down that occurs to you. I’d do this for about five minutes. Then look through the ideas. Did one in particular stand out? If so, great, off you go. If not, what was the idea you like the best and why do you think that is? Then still write it up. There will be a reason why you like this particular idea so go with it.

I’ve found that once you start writing, the ideas continue to flow. It is a bit like turning on a creative tap. Stronger and better ideas come as you write too. Jot them down. Come back to them. But just get writing and have fun. Nobody has to see this work but you.

Out of what you jot down, there may come ideas to write up fully. Even if you seem to draw a blank, you are clearing away some creative clutter from your brain in getting these ideas down and out of your system. Just put them away for a bit. Come back to them later. You might see potential in them THEN.

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Am forging away with my CFT post for this coming Friday – and it will include a quiz too. No prizes – just bask in the glow of getting the questions right! More details later in the week.

Revamping a website always takes longer than you think. I’m adding pages to my work on Cafelit and Bridge House Publishing/Chapeltown Books. I also hope to have a page on writing tips etc. Looking forward to sharing more details when all done. Do explore the rest of the site. There will be more goodies to come in due course. The site is now known as allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Next big event for me will probably be the Bridge House celebration event in December. Looking forward to that a lot. So good to meet up with fellow writers that, for the rest of the year, I meet courtesy of Facebook! Incidentally, I do think that is one of the nicest aspects of social media – writers being able to encourage one another even if they can’t meet in person.

More immediately, I’ve got short stories to draft and non-fiction ideas to work on too. Why is it that it can take ages to get started on a piece of work, you get into your stride with it and THEN the time whizzes by and you have to stop? Oh well. The one comfort there is I know I’m not alone on that one!

Allison Symes and published works

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Glad to say Staying In is my latest story on Cafelit. It ties in with my last story, Humourless. I’ve been working on some linked flash fiction this year and hope to write more of these.

Definitely on the darker side of my particular writing scale but I hope you enjoy them both.

 

Catching up with reading on the Kindle at the moment. I’m also re-reading my novel on there too (I do love the Send to Kindle function!) and am trying to read it as a reader would.

I tend to save using the Save to Kindle function for my big projects. I think I might try batching my short stories and flash fiction in one document so I can review them like this too.

When I put the Kindle on, I am straight into reader mode which is precisely what I want to achieve here. The inner editor has been told to go away somewhat forcefully and I can relax and read.

Ironically, I’ve found on the novel it has made me spot things I can improve but that is because I’m reading it in a relaxed way. I’m not at this stage trying specifically to do anything to it. I think state of mind as you read is key here.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to write flash fiction in a variety of moods. My absolute favourite are the humorous kind but that’s because I’ve always had a very soft spot for funny writing. I also think it’s under-estimated. (Anything that looks easy to write, you can bet the writer has worked very hard for years to get to that point).

Humour, I think, is the most difficult to get right in any form because it is so subjective. You have to accept not everyone might “get” your sense of irony.

My dear late mum loved a wide range of books but just didn’t “get” funny writing at all. I suspect that’s one reason I DO love it. Well, I guess it is one way of rebelling… albeit very tamely. (She would have been delighted though about From Light to Dark and Back Again and my other published stories).

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I’ve mentioned using random word and phrase generators before as good triggers for story ideas. I thought I’d take a look at the random phrase generator and again and came up with:-

Two Down, One To Go
Down for the Count
On the Ropes

All of those would make great titles and/or themes for stories. May well have a crack at some of these myself. The nice thing is you can keep clicking until you come to a phrase you like the sound of and, also, how about combining phrases?

Two Down, One to Go could make a great title while On the Ropes could be the theme of that same story.

Happy writing!

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Are there themes that really resonate with you whether you’re writing the stories, reading them, or both? I think I’d list mine as:-

1. Seeing the tables turned on superiors by a character who has been underrated or rejected.

2. Injustice put right, especially if someone has been falsely accused. (This is why Azkaban remains my favourite Harry Potter story).

3. A quest carried out by someone who is assumed will never fulfil it but they do. Take a bow, Frodo Baggins!

4. Where someone technically inferior is clearly far superior to their boss (but their boss knows it and acknowledges it) – Jeeves and Wooster are the top men here.

For flash fiction, of course, you would need to show a “brief taste” of these themes but there is nothing to stop you fleshing our a short piece into something much longer if you wanted to do so later.

That is one aspect of flash fiction I love – you CAN have a second bite of the cherry here. It’s just that the second bite is going to go much deeper (and go on for longer) than the first one!

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Am having great fun revamping my website at the moment. Am planning to put on an All About Flash Fiction page with hints and tips. Will share once it’s ready. Plan is to update it regularly. I’ll also use it to compile some of the advice I’ve shared here and I hope to share thoughts on writing exercises too.

I love flash fiction for the way it shines a sharp light on one moment in a character’s life. There is something about the intensity of flash that really appeals to me. And I love getting to create so many different characters too.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Genre Fiction

I’ve never understood snobbery around genre fiction. Genre fiction encourages people to read according to their tastes and isn’t the idea to get people into books in the first place?

My favourite genres include:-

1. Fantasy
2. Crime
3. Historical

(And yes you can combine those. Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes novels in his Discworld series combines 1 and 2 and I’m sure you can think of others that blend genres).

I suppose the only “properly literary” fiction I’ve read is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which I adored, but my go-to-for-a-good-read first is always something which is genre based.

Yes, I know what to expect from, say, a crime novel, but what is fascinating is seeing how different crime writers handle their material. (As a writer, I can pick up tips there myself so win-win!).

I’m always fascinated as well by character creation and different writers take varying approaches to this. So reading widely across genres opens my eyes to different ways that this can be done.

So reading books then is a good idea then? Well of course it is!

Now to decide which genre I’m going to go for next…

Happy reading!

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Time, Heat, and Random Generators

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I wrote this while in the car on the way to a family do (on Saturday 24th August). Looking forward to seeing everyone again. Glad of the air con though.

I remember when that first came to the UK thinking it was a daft idea. With the exception of rare very hot summers, we’d never need that here, I thought. The States, yes; Australia, yes, but here?

Just how wrong can you be?! Very, as it turns out!

Where I am glad not to be wrong is in taking up writing seriously. My only regret is not starting sooner. It does take far longer than you anticipate finding out what it is you want to write and to develop your voice.

Give yourself plenty of time then and ensure you enjoy the journey, at least most of the time!😊

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Must admit I’m not enjoying the heat much (neither is the dog) and it’s hard to believe we’re almost into September. My plans for the last quarter of the year then?

1. To continue submitting work to competitions. I’ve entered more at this stage than I had done for the same period last year so I am pleased with that. I’m waiting to hear on some but will presume no luck if I don’t hear by the end of September. The good thing with that? I’ll have another look at the stories, do any further work on them, and submit them elsewhere.

2. To continue submitting flash fiction to publishers.

3. To hopefully get my novel out into the submissions process.

4. To complete and edit another major project I’m working on with the idea of looking to submit it early in the New Year.

5. To continue with my blogs on CFT and Goodreads. Am hoping to do more with blogging in terms of being a guest on others’ blogs and inviting more on to mine. That is a long term ongoing goal.

6. To revamp my website.

So definitely not stuck for things to do! And I’ve written my goals down too… (much more likely to achieve them or make progress towards achieving them writing them down).

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Just a Minute famously doesn’t allow repetition (except for the subject on the card) in its rounds. Do you find repetition creeping in with your writing?

I find favourite phrases tend to be repeated. I watch for these and limit my use of them. I might’ve written them down six times in my draft but they’ll only appear twice at most in the piece of work that goes “out there” (and that’s assuming I need the second one for emphasis or because it is a phrase my character would use like that).

Most of the time the repetition is not deliberate but I have learned over time not to worry about this when I’m drafting a story. The most important thing is just to get the words down and then tidy things up in the edit.

 

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Glad the weather is supposed to be cooler from tomorrow. Lady and I have drunk gallons (spread out over the day obviously), stayed in the shade etc, and followed all the sensible advice but we still feel more ragged than a ragged cloth that once belonged to a ragged man who lived in a ragged house on a ragged street in a ragged town. I tell you, a used teabag has more life in it than me right now!

Am so glad writing is something you can do sitting down! Moans about the temperature aside, I don’t find writing in high heat a problem. Writing takes me out of myself and I forget everything else and that helps a LOT!

Getting engrossed with characters or the latest blog post is a great situation to be in. It means you know you’ve got something viable. So back to it then….

 

Images:  Those of Lady were taken by Allison Symes. Thankfully side on face shots of dogs can work quite well. Just as well really…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Getting out and about during the summer can be fun, especially when you catch up with family and friends.

It can also be hell if transport is not all you”d like it to be – and it so often isn’t! If you want to test if your deodorant works, go on the Tube during the summer!

How easy do your characters find their journeys? Is their journey the story or just an important component? What difficulties are you throwing in their way?

In flash fiction, of course, the story is usually the character’s journey in terms of their development and/or how they change in some way. What it should always be is interesting.