Writing Prompts, Contract News, and An Artful Story

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images from the Share Your Story Writing Summit kindly supplied by the organisers. Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her.

Hope you have had a good week. Have had exciting contract news in the last couple of days which I share below. (Images of me signing said contract taken by Adrian Symes).

Thrilled to be taking part in a book about writing by Wendy H Jones

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Writing Prompts, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. I share a few differing kinds, discuss why prompts are useful, and why it is a good idea to practice them. Hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

A number of my published stories started life as responses to writing prompts so you now know why I am fond of them!

Oh and I’ll get a quick plug in for my monthly author newsletter too as I share writing prompts there too. If you would like to sign up for this, please head over to my landing page right here at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Contract News!

Big news! Thrilled to say I have just signed a contract to produce a chapter on flash fiction for a book #WendyHJones is editing on writing. Look forward to sharing more as and when possible but meanwhile here are the pics of one very happy author!

Don’t forget my Chandler’s Ford Today post is up tomorrow and is all about Writing Prompts. Hope you find it useful. Link up tomorrow. (See above!).

(I couldn’t tell you how many writing prompts I’ve used in my time but they are a fantastic way to kickstart some writing and I have had published stories as a result of using them. What’s not to like about that?!).

Am also thrilled to bits that a dear friend of mine has a piece of flash fiction up on CafeLit. Do check this wonderful online magazine out. There is a wonderful mix of stories and styles here. Yes, yes, I know. I am biased, I write for CafeLit, yes, of course I’m biased but that’s not the same as being wrong! And I’m not here – go on, pop over and have a good read. You really will find several things to suit you here. 

Happy to sign a contract


Sun turned up today – hooray – and Lady got to play with many of her best buddies including the loveliest Rhodesian Ridgeback, a cute mini Jack Russell, a Hungarian Vizler, and a new chum, a lovely Whippet called Sky. Lady went home shattered but happy. Job done there then!

Questions to ask your characters. Bear in mind also if you’re writing non-fiction, if you are using a narrative voice, you can treat that voice as a character, so some of these questions at least may also be worth trying. So what to ask then as part of your outline?

  1. What do you really want and why?
  2. What stops you getting what you really want?
  3. Why would your life be complete if you achieve what you want?
  4. How are you going to achieve your objectives?
  5. Have you got other characters to support you and, if so, how reliable are they?
  6. Are you making your life unnecessarily complicated? (Worth asking this one – any complications getting in the way of your character achieving what they want should be those that arise naturally out of the plot. There should be nothing that seems “faked” to increase the tension in the story. The tension should be genuine, the obstacles real and so on.
  7. For a non-fictional narrator, a good question to ask instead of this one is are you communicating as clearly as possible (i.e. go for clarity, not gobbledegook, don’t make your narration unnecessarily complicated? Are you conveying the facts reasonably? Are you backing the facts up with evidence? What are your sources?).
  8. What has driven you to decide this is what you really want?
  9. What if you’re wrong? (How would your character handle that? That could make for a really interesting story).
    Are there limits you won’t cross (and if so what are these? What is your thinking behind this?).
  10. Are there rules you are prepared to break? What would the consequences be? How are you going to limit your risk (or are you not worried about that? Some characters aren’t!).

Now if answering those questions doesn’t generate story ideas, I’d be very surprised!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to say I have another 100-word story on #FridayFlashFiction.
Assumptions is about Mary who thinks she is good at art but is she? Hope you like it.

BookBrushImage-2021-5-28-19-5636



I have very good cause to appreciate flash fiction. It has led to me having two books to my name (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic). It has led to me taking part in an international summit (the Share Your Story Writing Summit back in March).

It has led to me giving Zoom talks to a WI group and writing groups. It led to me having a book signing in a railway station (yes, really and obviously before You Know What).

It has led to me being on internet radion and being interviewed by the lovely #HannahKate for her Hannah’s Bookshelf show on North Manchester FM.

Then there is the podcast appearance on #WendyHJones’ The Writing and Marketing Show. I’ve also judged flash fiction writing.

Talking of Wendy though, the latest big news is I will be contributing a chapter to her book on writing and naturally I’ll be writing about flash fiction. Am thrilled to bits. Will share more news as and when I can but meanwhile here are the very happy author pics!

(I don’t know whether it is a case of my finding flash fiction or flash fiction finding me but I am truly not sorry for a form of writing I discovered by accident thanks to CafeLit!).

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I sometimes have flash pieces published in the CafeLit anthologies and my Humourless is an example of this in the current book, The Best of CafeLit 9.

It is especially nice to have a flash story published here given CafeLit introduced me to flash fiction in the first place (and I am looking forward to sharing details of The Best of CafeLit 10 later on in the year where again I will have work published).

Do check out the CafeLit site. CafeLit are great in publishing a wide range of fiction, flash and otherwise, and from a diverse group of authors. It is always a joy to see friends’ work on here too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Changes

No world or character should stay static. A story revolves around change. The character does this, then that happens, this is what happens after that and so on. Of course, some changes are far more welcome than others and interesting tales can be generated by working out how your characters would handle the less welcome developments.

But changes shouldn’t be something that come out of nowhere. For example, if your change is where your character faces a magical disaster of some kind, there should be some hint early on in the story that magical disasters are a possibility here. For example if the build up of spare magical capacity can trigger earthquakes, your created world should have that as part of its history. Perhaps your story can then revolve around people not taking the necessary steps to prevent the disaster happening again. This means when your disaster happens your reader will not feel cheated. They know the possibility exists. The possibility happened.

Once the change has happened, there should be change in the characters too. Nobody remains unmoved by changes and that applies to characters too.

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This World and Others – Environments

What kind of environment is your story set in? Is it comparable to what we know here or something beyond the capabilities of our little planet?

Do your characters care about the environment they live in and how does that manifest itself?

Also think micro-environments – the immediate world around your characters. How does that impact on them? What are the threats they face? What are the nice things about their world they love?

Then there are things like political environments – dictatorships or democracy? How do your characters survive or thrive in these? Again, what is similar to here? It will be those things readers will latch on to – it is literally what we know and understand.

What dilemmas do your characters face as a result of their environment? The classic theme is survival in a hostile to life environment where the overall dilemma is to survive but there can be others. For example, if your character has to survive in their environment by killing something or someone, will they and how do they build themselves up to actually do that?

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Prompts, Story Collections, and Editing Flash Fiction

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

I hope my new story video, Acrostic, shared below, puts a smile on your face after what has, in the UK, been a wet and windy week. (It honestly feels more like November than May right now! Brrr…).

Oh and there is an offer currently on at Amazon for the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (as at 25th May 2021).

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Facebook – General

Okay, we did actually see some sunshine in my part of Hampshire today but the rain’s back. Not overly impressed as you may be able to tell!

I discuss Writing Prompts in my Chandler’s Ford Today post later this week. I share a few examples of prompts and look at why these are useful. I’ve also contributed to a couple of books of prompts produced by #GillJames – I find these so helpful in encouraging me to think outside of my usual imaginative box. And they’re great practice for when you go to writing conferences and the like where exercises are usually set. (These are often set on giving you a closing or opening line for example so practicing writing to these is a good idea). More on Friday.

Some of my published stories started life as a response to a writing prompt so, yes, I am biased in promoting using them. But you never know if you can write to a prompt if you don’t try, yes?

Occasionally I will jot down a line that I think could make a useful prompt but then end up using it as a theme (and even for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts on occasion, as my post on Friday will share). So there is a lot potentially to be gained from using these.

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What a day! Torrential rain, hailstones, glorious sunshine… I don’t think snow is on the agenda but there’s still a few hours left to the end of the day so who knows?

It was great to “go” to a Zoom event where two authors read from their latest works – #PaulaRCReadman (who has guested on Chandler’s Ford Today before) and #PinarTarhan. It is always lovely being read to but it was great being able to put questions directly to the writers afterwards.

Happily wrote another drabble and submitted it to #FridayFlashFiction. I love the way this site encourages you to produce more work for the following week. Great idea. (And yes there are other categories of flash here but they want you to have two 100-worders published with them first before you submit longer flash tales. Am having a ball writing the drabbles again though so I may be here for some time but that’s fine with me!).

My next author newsletter is due to go out on 1st June so if you would like to sign up please head over to my website (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). This time I will be sharing my responses to two writing prompts I set in May amongst other things. And I have set another writing prompt to have a go at too.


It was lovely being back in church today and seeing people I’ve not seen for months. Nice start to the day (though Lady found it odd. For the last few months services have been on Zoom and she has snuggled between us on the sofa while they were on. I suspect she missed that today!).

I’m sharing a post on Writing Prompts for Chandler’s Ford Today later in the week. Hopefully it will prove useful. I’m fond of a wide variety of such prompts. They are a great way to kick start your writing when needed and I am especially fond of opening and closing lines. Can do a lot with those. Link up on Friday.

Talking of blogging, it will be my turn on More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers next weekend and I will be sharing a lighthearted post about genres. Looking forward to sharing that.

What is the one writing habit you wish you could ditch forever? Mine is getting off to slow starts. I find when I do get started, I’m up and running and a great deal of useful writing gets done but it is the getting started that can sometimes be tricky for me.

(It’s worse if I’m tired or run down and that is when I will deliberately turn to only writing short pieces, fiction or otherwise. The great thing with doing that is there is still the sense of accomplishment at finishing a piece of work, even if it is only a 100-worder. I find feeling positive is the biggest boost to creativity for me and so completing small pieces of work makes me feel positive, that in turn encourages me to write more and so on).


Hope your Saturday has been okay. Glad the wild winds of yesterday have settled down. Looking forward to getting back to church tomorrow. (Okay still have to mask up etc but it will be so nice being there in person).

Many thanks for the great comments so far on my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, Sibling Surprise. It’s lovely and useful having feedback. Also welcome to those signing up to my website and/or newsletter. Good to have you aboard.
Will be drafting more flash pieces over the rest of the weekend, one to go to be a story video on Youtube.

I tend to write another piece for #FridayFlashFiction over the weekend and submit that. It’s great writing drabbles again on a regular basis. More recently I have either written the mini (under 50 words) tales for the videos or longer flash pieces of 500 words plus. So it is lovely to return to my first flash love here as it was the 100-word challenge from CafeLit that started the flash fiction ball rolling for me.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Many thanks for the great response to my story video Acrostic yesterday. (Link below). It was huge fun to write. Writing stories in acrostic form works well for flash fiction given, as with character studies, these things are best kept short.

Now when it comes to editing a flash story, you might be tempted to think because there are not a lot of words, there is less to do. Wrong!

As well as cutting repetition, typos etc., you do need to ask yourself whether the words you’ve chosen do have the maximum impact on a reader. Any weak words will show up horribly clearly in such a short form. I usually find a phrase I’ve used which is good can often be strengthened by a tweak here and there.

It is the tweaking – the paying attention to the fine details – that can take a good flash story and make it a truly great one. Yet another challenge to flash fiction writing here but trying to make your story the best it can be is something that engages me (and hopefully the finished result will be more likely to engage a reader. I believe most people who read regularly will be able to tell when a writer has poured heart and soul into their work, whether it is a 100,000 word masterpiece, or a 100-word drabble).

 

Story video time again. Hope you enjoy this one – Acrostic lives up to its name and I will say it is not based on fact, honest!

I do sometimes use acrostics to come up with a different form of flash story. They’re great fun to do but a fairly short word works best and it needs to be “open” enough to be able to taken in more than one direction.

 


I nearly always know the impact I want to make on a reader when I draft my flash fiction stories. I say nearly always as sometimes I do manage to surprise myself.

For Calling the Doctor, where the mood of the tale turns on the very last word, that did not come to me immediately but I did have the character fully pictured. I wanted readers to sympathise with a character who did not know the truth about the other person referred to in the piece. But it was only as I was drafting their story, the way of ending this tale came to me and I went with it.

It was then on reviewing the story I realised how much I had “upped the ante” on this story by having a dramatic twist like that. A sympathetic character study here would have worked well but twisting the mood on the last word lifted this story to greater heights and it remains a favourite story of mine.

It is also a good example of a dark tale without over-egging the darkness. So much is implied and that of course is the strength of flash fiction. I love it when I read a story or novel and I pick up on the implications by myself. That gets my imagination going and isn’t that part of the joy of a really good read?

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I sometimes use alliterative titles for my flash pieces. The most recent for these is Sibling Surprise which went up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. (See link given above). I try not to overdo this though as I don’t want titles to seem gimmicky so I like a mixture of alliterative, proverbs/well known sayings etc. For all of them I want something to conjure up the story mood and “advertise” the tale to come.

I usually do know the title first but sometimes a better idea comes along as I draft my tale so I just jot down the idea and switch titles later if the latter idea proves to have more of an impact. I find I have to have a “peg” to work to so I have to have some kind of title. But very little is set in stone so as long as I’ve got something to give me a starting point, that’s fine with me.

What I do know is that shorter titles work best. They’re easier to remember too which is handy when you’re coming up with titles for the next stories. I’ve only repeated once to the best of my knowledge but for both tales, I got very different stories from them so that was okay but it is not something I want to do often for obvious reasons. I do see a title as a story’s first advert so I want each one to be distinctive.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

As well as reading novels, I like to read short story and flash fiction collections. I often use these to help me decide which genre of novel I want to read next.

Now I’m not unbiased here, as I am the author of two published flash fiction collections and have been in a number of short story anthologies! But I am going to take the chance to wave the flag for both formats.

There are different challenges in writing short stories and flash fiction as opposed to novels, naturally, but the charm of the short form is in giving you a brief overview of a character’s life. In the case of flash fiction, it is a snapshot only but for things like character studies, which to my mind work best when kept short, this is an ideal format for that kind of story.

I like to mix up the type of story in terms of genre, length, and mood. It gives me a wide reading diet that in turn helps me with my writing. We are all inspired by things we have loved reading after all.

And sometimes less is more so do add short stories and flash fiction to your reading mix. I find them to be a wonderful “appetiser” ahead of the next “meal” of a novel!

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Moments, One Liners, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush, using Pixabay images.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots of my latest CafeLit story and latest Author Electric blog spot taken by me, Allison Symes. (But do go and check the links out – see posts below!).

Spring has finally turned up here in the UK – hooray!

 

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Loving the spring weather (now it is finally here!).

Don’t forget the ebook of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon for £0.99 for the next two days. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter. If you would like to sign up for a monthly newsletter, full of tips and stories, as well as news, please go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – and on sign up, you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

In other news, as they say, what do you make of writing prompts? I love them though I appreciate not everybody does. My favourite kind is the opening line. I like to rise to the challenge of them! I also like picture prompts though I find it easiest to use a prompt like that where the image is taken by someone else. I suppose with my own photos I’ve already got the links and stories in my head associated with those pictures.

I find writing prompts are a great “go to” as a warm-up writing exercise but the most important thing about them is to have fun with them. If they take you out of your comfort zone, then you’re being stretched as a writer and it is only by being stretched like that, you will find out what you are capable of and it may well prove to be more than you think.

Definitely worth a go I think!

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CafeLit – Publication News

Pleased to share a new CafeLit story from me – Smashing Sally. This is a long piece (by my standards!) but I hope you enjoy it. I was rooting for Sally all the way through – and I don’t always do that for my characters as it depends on how I’ve portrayed them! – and hope you do too. (Also nice to have a longer piece published again. Makes for a nice balance with my recent drabbles on Friday Flash Fiction!).

 

Facebook – General and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my latest post for Authors Electric. This time I talk about editing. I look at when to edit and discuss whether you can edit too much. I always feel a sense of relief when I’ve got my first draft down because I then know I’ve got something to work with and improve and it will improve after a decent edit.

I can’t edit as I go. I have to reassure myself it is okay to write total rubbish to begin with because it is not going to stay in and that nobody but nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft. That’s definitely not going to change with me!

However you write and edit, what matters is you do and it helps enormously to get as much creative joy out of both processes (if only for your own sake!).

Hope you enjoy.

Thought the funeral service for HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was beautifully done. Felt so sorry for the Queen sitting alone. (And for anyone who has had to do that this past year).

Looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric blog tomorrow and there will be a new CafeLit story from me up on that website on Monday.

Oh and a quick shout out for #ValPenny who kindly gave me a mention on her blog today.

Friday night is often Zoom night for me and it was lovely catching up with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. To think just over a year ago, if someone mentioned Zoom to me, all I would think of was that it is a fabulous ice lolly and a great word to get out in a game of Scrabble, especially if you can get it out on the triple word score! Yet since then, I’ve attended various writing events on Zoom, given a talk on Zoom, and been part of an international writing summit (the Share Your Story Writing one) all thanks to it. I wonder where we’ll be a year from now!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my new story video, Fear. (See below for link to it). Some aspects of life never change and my character’s attitude and actions in this prove that!

It has been a joy to find a way of using my mini-tales (the one and two sentence kind) as a way of flagging up (a) what I do and (b) what flash fiction can be. I never anticipated having my own Youtube channel only a year or so ago.

I adore writing the mini tales because they are an excellent challenge (and would also work well on Twitter incidentally which reminded me to just put Fear on there!).

I like writing across the range for flash. The form has more flexibility than it might at first appear. Not only can you set your characters in different genres and times etc., you can choose the word count to write to as long as you don’t go above the 1000 maximum allowed. I’ve written across the word count range though my natural home is under 500 words. Have fun with the format!

 

Time for a new mini-story video again. This one is called Fear. Hope you enjoy it though it will have more meaning I suspect for the cat owners out there! (Also like to think of this as a kind of tribute to the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Absolutely adore those though clearly Jerry was the intelligent one. Being small myself, I like that!).

 

 


One reason I like to start my stories with a character I know well enough to write for is that stories encourage empathy and understanding. Therefore I think it crucial to understand your character and where they are coming from so you understand (as will your reader) their actions and attitudes. It is that which I think keeps readers reading. Readers will follow a character they can get behind.

The great thing is you don’t have to like the character. You don’t have to approve of their actions either but you do need to understand why they are the way they are. Interviewing your characters is something I’ve mentioned before but it is a useful way of making sure you know what you need to know before getting that first draft down.

It is also my belief it will save you a great deal of time later. I know I’ve stopped myself going off on unhelpful tangents by simply using an outline of my character so I know what they are likely to do. It doesn’t stop them surprising me but when the surprise comes, my reaction should be one of “yes, that’s possible because they’re capable of this, that, and that, so doing this ties in with that”.

If something comes completely out of the blue, I need to look at my character again because I want to know where that surprise came from. There is always a trigger. And it flags up to me I didn’t know my character as well as I thought I did.

Oh and a quick bit of promotional – the Kindle version of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently available on Amazon at the bargain price of £0.99 so do grab a copy. Offer lasts for four days.

Little moments can have a powerful impact and that is something flash fiction brings out so well. I mention this as I was moved at seeing the late Prince Philip’s hat and gloves on the seat of the horse drawn carriage today. (17th April 2021 – for the royal funeral).  (Also loved seeing the sugar lump pot for his horses). Things like that mean a great deal.

Another item that brings things home are shoes. If you ever go to the Imperial War Museum or the Mary Rose Exhibition when such things are possible again, there are a collection of shoes there, which brings home to you the people they’re telling you about were real. And, for me, there is a link forged between the past and the present.

So when it comes to our storytelling, what are your characters’ little moments? The things that mean the most to them? Why do these things mean so much? What it is about them that will convince your readers about the truth of your character portrayal?

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Goodreads Author Blog – One Liners

What are your favourite one liners from stories etc?

I love the opening to Pride and Prejudice.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Sets the scene and the tone. Beautifully done.

I also love this one, by complete contrast, from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.


“Many phenomena – wars, plagues, sudden audits – have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for exhibit A.”

Hard to argue with that one! It certainly explains the queues…

A good one-liner usually makes me smile or laugh out loud. A really good one-liner will make me pause, read it again and enjoy it again, before moving on to the rest of the story.

And there are far too many from P.G. Wodehouse to quote here but that in itself is a tribute to his wonderful ability to come up with lines that just “hit” you and make you laugh out loud.

As you will gather from this, my favourite one-liners are of the humorous variety. Which are yours?

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Sweet Dreams and Reading Acrostics

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Weather cooler again today – yippee! (Dog pleased too). Easier to concentrate and write too. Am preparing some blog pieces to send to various places in due course. As with the flash fiction, those are lovely to write during those pockets of time when I can only write for short bursts.

I forgot to share on this page the link for my latest Cafelit story, Sweet Dreams, (though I did share it on my book page). Hope you enjoy! This was a prompt from #GailAldwin in Gill James’ Prompts Book and it was good fun to write.

Now, without giving too much away, a favourite chocolate bar comes into this story. You’ll have to read it to find out why!

But it is useful to consider favourite and loathed things that your characters might have. Not only can you use those to add depth to your characterisation, you might be able to get short stories out of these things in and of themselves, as I’ve done here, thanks to Gail’s excellent prompt.

Oh and it’s a definite thumbs-up for writing to prompts set by others. They do make you think outside of your own writing box and that’s a good way to stretch yourself and what you can come up with as a result.

Happy writing!

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Hope you have had a good weekend and that the week to come is a productive and fun one. I did enjoy using the random noun generator (yes, there is such a thing!) to create a new flash story for my From Light to Dark and Back Again FB page yesterday. I will be using the noun generator again. NB.  The story I created, Misunderstood, will appear further down under the FLTDBA again section. Hope you enjoy it!

You can set as many nouns as you want and even choose the opening and finishing letters. I just went for two nouns at random and the great thing with that is you could use these as a title, the theme, or just work them into the story somehow.

I see all of the random generators I’ve used (word, phrase, question, noun, and even number!) as an alternative method of finding story prompts. And the great thing here? You’ve got an endless supply!

Give them a go and have fun. See what you can create. Playing with words and having fun in this manner is a wonderful trigger for creativity. And I’ve always found once you’ve got a creative spark going, you want to keep it going and you end up being more productive than you might have been otherwise.

Also the stories you draft here can be polished and edited and submitted later.

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I outline my characters as I’ve discussed before. What do I look for in said characters?

1. Basically a good reason for me to tell their story.
2. Go back to 1!

So what would count as a good reason then?

1. They have the qualities to overcome adversity even if they themselves don’t realise that to start with (and the best characters usually don’t). They don’t easily give up. They take good advice. They have the ability to recognise good advice when they hear it.

2. They are usually from a background that would make others consider them to be the underdog. I do love underdog winning through type stories and they are a mainstay of the classic fairytales too.

3. They have a moment of change they have got to see through, ensuring their lives can never be the same again. Stories like that are always fascinating.

4. They will often experience internal conflict as well as the obvious external type. Really gripping characters will have moments of self doubt (as we do) and that is what readers will identify with. It is then how the characters overcome that which will keep the readers reading!

 

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I’d thought I’d share some favourite moments in writing (and as ever this is not the be all and end all of lists. Am sure you can think of some things to add here).

1. Knowing I’ve picked exactly the right word for whatever it is I’m putting my poor characters through. I’m even more pleased if this is in dialogue. Good dialogue has emotional “whoomph” and shows a reader how the character is feeling.

2. Knowing my first draft is completed and I now have something to work with. This is where the work begins for me. It IS all in the edit(s) – and yes, there is always more than one! Sometimes considerably more than one!

3. Knowing my first edit has significantly improved my original story and I am getting glimmers of how it can be improved further. Out comes the trusted red pen and away I go…

4. Reviews for From Light to Dark and Back Again (and a big thanks to all who have reviewed it).

5. Having positive feedback on my Chandler’s Ford Today posts as that shows the piece has engaged with readers well.

So over to you then. What are some of your favourite writing moments?

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Well, the weather certainly lived up to “from light to dark and back again” yesterday! There was one storm but it was cleared by about 6 pm with drizzle for the evening. Having said that, it has been a lot cooler today for which I am most thankful (as is the dog).

LOVED meeting via Facetime some of my Swanwick pals yesterday evening. Great fun. Better still will be when we can meet in person at Swanwick, God willing, next year. (I’ve never been one to take things for granted anyway, life can have a habit of getting in the way at times, but if there is one HUGE life lesson to come out of 2020, that is it I think).

One thing I did forget to do yesterday, but which gives me great pleasure to do now, is to share my latest flash fiction story, Sweet Dreams. This appeared on Cafelit yesterday afternoon but I hope you enjoy! A story to finish the working week with is always a good idea, is it not?!

I loved writing this. It was a result of a prompt idea in the Prompts book by Gill James with the prompt itself coming from #GailAldwin.

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I’ve found a new random generator! I’ve sometimes used random word, phrase, question, and even number generators to trigger story ideas. And now I’ve found a random noun generator which could be fun. Let’s see what can be done.

I set the generator to trigger two random nouns for me. Nouns generated were “foundation” and “actor”. (Incidentally as well as choosing how many to generate, you can set the first and last letter of each noun as well if you wanted to but I like to keep things simple).

Now the nice thing with the generators is you can use what comes up as the theme of your story, the title, or ensure you use the words that are triggered in that story at some point. Or you can combine any/all of that. The important thing is to have fun with this!

So what can I do with foundation and actor then?

MISUNDERSTOOD
The actor frowned as he dug out the foundation for the new amateur theatre building. He’d been promised an audience. Sure he had one. They were all yelling unspeakable things along the lines of this being the hardest they’d ever seen HIM work. Not what he’d expected at all.

He expected the finest foundation all right. He expected it to be applied to his face as he gave the starring performance of his life, which naturally would then receive glowing reviews all over the country, and lead to bigger, better roles.

He guessed it served him right for daring to mention Macbeth on stage last week. HIs fellow actors told him it would bring him bad luck.

He’d laughed then. They laughed now.

Allison Symes – 15th August 2020

Hope you enjoyed that. I loved writing it.

 

Really loved using the random noun generator yesterday. Will definitely add that to my list of story prompt generators. You can never have too many of those! Okay, you need the time to write up all the ideas, I grant you that, but this is a dilemma every writer faces and has to find their own way of tackling.

Flash is an ideal vehicle for those lovely story ideas that are best shown quickly. My story yesterday, Misunderstood, worked best as a quick tale only. I often find my humorous tales work better that way. If flash has taught me anything (and it has taught me loads!), it is to never, ever pad your story out. If it works better at 100 words, keep it there. If it works best at 1000, keep it there and so on.

Have a good writing week!

 

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You’d think a flash fiction writer would have no problems coming up with the blurb for the cover of their book, wouldn’t you?!

Now, okay, the word count is not an issue for me here. What can be tricky is choosing what HAS to be on the cover and what would be nice to have but is not the end of the world if it doesn’t make it. Inevitably it won’t! Why?

As with the fiction itself, only the crucial details can go on. You want every word to hook in potential readers so there can be no preamble, waffle etc. You have to be realistic with yourself as to what could be seen as waffle and cut, cut, cut.

I change the way I lead into a story as this keeps things interesting for me (and I hope in due time readers as well!).

Sometimes I will use a character’s thoughts. At other times I will show you the character doing something.

I try to get into the scene quickly so a reader picks up where they are nigh on immediately and there must be something about the character to draw their interest to ensure they read on and find out what happens to them.

In She Did It Her Way, Kind Of, I start with the line “Jane Westbrook knew it was too late to do anything.” Now that sounds like it might kill a story right from the start but what I planned here was that readers would want to find out why she thought this and whether she was right or wrong.

Curiosity about a character is a really good hook and one I enjoy using.

 

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Goodreads Author Blog –Reading Acrostics

R = Riveting
E = Entertaining
A = Alternative Worlds
D = Drama and Dialogue
I = Imagination
N = Narrative
G = Genre Fulfilling/Crossing

All of the above are what I look for in a good read.

Regardless of genre (and I have a soft spot for those books which cross genres), I want the book to be riveting, entertaining, and for the drama and dialogue to keep me gripped until I reach The End.

I want to be amazed (in a good way!) by the author’s imagination. There can’t be a dull moment in the narrative either.

And yet some people still think writing is easy!!

G = Gripping
E = Educational
N = Nuanced
R = Readability
E = Enchanting

And again, regardless of genres, I want whatever I read to be capable of the above. Yes, fiction can be educational. You can learn from the mistakes the characters make for a start!

For me, nuanced means the characters have to be balanced. Nobody is all evil or all good. The only over the top characters I accept are Mr Toad in The Wind of The Willows and Cruella de Ville in 101 Dalmatians but they are written specifically that way and their characters wouldn’t work any other way. But those are rare exceptions to the general rule. Characters should be balanced.

At the end of a book I want to have experienced an enchanting time reading said book. I want something about it to transport me to its setting and to regret leaving it at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storylines, Dialogue, and Publication News

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and Publication News:  Cafelit

Am pleased to share one of my humorous fairytales with bite, Rotten Day, which is now up on Cafelit.

See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you enjoy!

This kind of story is always great fun to write!

This story came about as a result of an idea suggested in the Prompts book by Gill James. I am slowly working my way through the ideas in here, some of which I contributed.

Is it odd I’m writing a story to my own initial prompt? A bit but still good fun. And I didn’t make my opening lines, my favourite form of prompt, too easy either! There’s no fun in that. You have to rise to the challenge of the prompt but that means it does have to be challenging!

Oh and before you ask I deliberately sent the prompts in without having written the stories for them first. I wanted to come to these prompts “fresh” and tackle them as if they had been written by someone else.

Now that’s not a bad idea for those odd times when you’ve got a few minutes. Jot down ideas. Put them away for a while. Come back to them later and then see what you can do with them. Above all, have fun!

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Hope you’ve had a good weekend. Blustery here, most unseasonable, but Lady’s had plenty of exercise and is now napping on the sofa. I know… ahhh….

I was watching one of my favourite films earlier – The Ladykillers with Alec Guinness and a very young Peter Sellers in it. (Possibly his first movie too as this came out in 1955). It is a masterclass in tight storywriting and seamless editing. The storyline is excellent and there is a lovely twist at the end. All of my favourite ingredients in a story basically.

Important point: not a word out of place. No scene felt unnecessary either. And that I can apply to whatever writing I do too.

So I’m not going to call it taking time out to watch a film. I’m going to call it visual research into storytelling techniques – and that IS my story and I’m sticking to it!😆😆

(I took the image of Lady, of course, the rest are from Pixabay).

 

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Lady played with her best pal, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback, this morning so both of them got their Mondays off to a great start! Why is it when dogs play together they feel the absolute need to run into their owners when they’ve got all the space of the park around them? Answers on a postcard…

You do develop quick reflexes to dart out of the way though!

Writing wise, I’m working on material I will need for later on but can’t say any more than that at the moment.

I’m looking forward to sharing a new CFT series later in the month which will, I hope, prove particularly useful to writers, especially those starting out on their writing journey. More details later in the month though I will say a big thank you now to those authors who’ve already sent wonderful contributions for this. I’m looking forward to putting this together in due course.

I try to write a couple of series a year for CFT where I invite guest contributions, alongside author interviews etc. I find there is always something to learn from these.

One of the great aspects of writing that I love is, no matter where you are in your journey, that learning process is ongoing. You don’t want to stop developing as a writer. There is never a point where you can feel “well, that’s it now”. What you aim for is to be the best you can be in what you do and seek to refine and hone your skills in those areas.

What do you like about writing dialogue the most?

I love it when I’ve got two characters talking and it is apparent to me that, other than the odd he said/she said tag every now and then, it is clear who is speaking and what their attitude is!

To me this shows this is a “live” dialogue and, while it will need editing later (everything does!), it will have the benefit of not being clunky or awkward to read out loud.

When you know how your characters would speak, what kind of words they would use, which phrases they would never use and so on, that’s great. It means you know your characters well and I’ve found when I’ve outlined mine properly, when they are in “conversation”, it almost feels as if I’m taking dictation from them.

Moments like that are lovely because it nearly always means I can’t get the words down quickly enough and my characters and I are on a roll!

I occasionally give a character a pet phrase though I prefer to get them to use a particular word and repeat that every so often. It flags up to the reader when there are no tags this must be Character A speaking because they’ve used the word carbuncle again or what have you! Not that I’ve used carbuncle in a story yet…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A new flash fiction story, Rotten Day, is now up on Cafelit. See http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/…/07/rotten-day.html – hope you pop over and enjoy the tale. Let’s just say I think many of us may identify with the way my lead character feels in the closing line! I know I’ve felt this way especially when particularly busy.

Now the problem with any kind of humorous writing is it has to be subjective. People’s sense of humour varies of course. So I am more than happy if a tale like Rotten Day makes one person laugh and another one smile broadly. Absolutely fine with me, that!

What I do when writing these is ensure that the humour arises naturally out of the situation I’ve dumped my character in. That is far more likely to make people smile. It also won’t come across as forced humour, which I loathe.

If someone tells me I have to laugh at this, well often I don’t. I decide what I find funny, thanks very much!

But a situation where I can see the predicament the character is in and empathise with them, then I am much more likely to cry, laugh, scream, or whatever the appropriate response to the story is and which the author intended to be the reaction.

Nothing forced about that at all and that is exactly how I like it in stories whether I read them or write them.

Stamping on an adverb until it is dead is not the problem it once was for me. Turning to flash fiction writing cured me of any addiction to these. If it can be cut out, I cut it. Just as well I didn’t go into medicine I think!😊

Wanting to achieve the maximum impact on a reader has also helped me with editing my own work. It IS a question of cutting to the chase here. Ironically I was going to put in the word “really” in that last sentence but cut it as it wasn’t going to add any extra to what I was trying to say.

And that’s the whole point. I’ve learned over time to not add words which don’t serve a purpose and/or to cut them when editing. Nobody writes the perfect first draft but adverbs are amongst the first things I look for when I’m brandishing my red pen.

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Some of the tips I’ve found most useful for writing flash fiction include:-

  1. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy. I use the Compact Oxford which covers both nicely. You will want alternative words and to check on meanings, especially if you’re writing humorous tales, which are often dependent on double meanings to work.
  2. Learn what words can be hyphenated. They count as one word for flash fiction! I’m sure you can make good use of that!
  3. Always think about impact on your reader. You want them to respond to your story, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream, or what have you. When you read your story through after a break away from it, ask yourself what impact the tale has on you? Is it what you intended?

I love flash fiction collections, not just because I write them (honest!), but I’ve always been a big fan of books where I can dip into stories as and when I want to. I can read those stories individually, as well as read the whole collection reasonably quickly. Just love having that flexibility.

I also like reading short forms in between reading novels. I like to think of this as the equivalent of having an appetiser before enjoying the main course! There is much to be said for appetisers like that. They can make a meal. Sometimes they can be the best bit of it!

So what do I want my flash fiction appetisers to do then?

I’d say whet a reader’s appetite so they look forward to the next collection but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?! But it is a good thing to aim for. Always leave your audience wanting more and then they’ll be pleased to see you again!

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reactions to Stories

How do you react to stories? I know, I know, what kind of question is that? So much depends on the story you’re reading, right?

Yes, fair comment and all that, but what I am getting at here is do you react to a story in the way the author intended?

Now I must admit if someone tells me “oh, Allison, you’ve got to laugh at this”, a lot of the time I won’t! I want to decide what I find funny, thanks!

But it is true that in whatever story I read, if the situation and the characters come across as natural to me, I am much more likely to react in the way the author wants.

Puppet on a string here? Perhaps. But I want the author to put in the work to set up a situation and character so I will want to react the appropriate way. I see that as part of the “deal”.

The author has set up a funny situation (though it often isn’t to the character, which makes a situation even more funny a lot of the time) and I will react to it. What I don’t want is something coming across as forced.

Even in the most fantastical worlds and situations, there has to be something that I as a reader can empathise with and react to – as the author would want, of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Prompts and Publication News

Image Credit

As ever, images are from the fantastic Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

Facebook – General – and

Association of Christian Writers  – More Than Writers

My turn on the Association of Christian Writers’ blog spot, More Than Writers.

I’m on the 29th so that means I get every three Februaries off! 😆😆

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful. Mixing up how you write stories is fun and keeps you on your toes too!

I talked about writing prompts in my monthly slot for the Association of Christian Writers today. As well as sharing some tips, I share a story I produced using one of the tips. Annoyed librarians may well like it… hmm… go on have a look then!😊

What I’ll add here is that I’ve found it useful to mix up how I approach writing a story. It keeps things interesting for me. It keeps me on my literary toes too.

By mixing up the methods, I avoid the dangers of becoming formulaic too. I don’t want any of my stories to sound the same to a reader after all. What I do want is someone to read my stories and spot my voice through them all, but to also enjoy each tale for its uniqueness. My characters are very different people after all. The way I tell their stories should reflect those differences too.

 

Facebook – General

Loved the finale to Doctor Who but that’s all I’m saying about that. It is nigh on impossible to say anything else without unwittingly revealing a spoiler so best not, I think. Give it a week and then I should be all right on that!

Well portrayed characters, for good or evil, will keep you glued, whether they’re on the page or on the screen. The challenge as a writer is to ensure the characters you create have that quality to keep a reader hooked. How do you make the readers care about what happens to your people?

Firstly, YOU’VE got to care what happens! Thankfully this happens rarely but I have come across instances where I’m bored with a character portrayal and I suspect the author became bored too.

Secondly, your character has got to have a problem that must be resolved somehow. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death problem, though that is obviously a great one for winding up the tension in a tale, but the issue your character HAS to resolve must be something they can’t run away from. Their situation won’t improve until they DO do something etc.

Thirdly, your character mustn’t give up easily. When their initial attempt(s) to get out of their situation fail, how do they react? Do they learn from their failures? What gives them the break through to success?

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Facebook – General and From Light to Dark and Back Again and Publication News

Story time again. Hope you enjoy. A little humour at the end of a busy Monday is never a bad thing!

Taking Time Out From the Day Job is my latest tale on Cafelit. (I’ve written flash fiction tales with fewer words than the title for this one in my time but there you go!). I have every sympathy for my lead in this one.

It’s lovely having one of my humorous fairytales with bite up on Cafelit.

Taking Time Out From the Day Job shows what happens when a fairy decides to do just that.

Hope you enjoy reading it. I loved writing it but then I do adore characters like this one.

It is a real contrast in mood from my recent linked stories on Cafelit but now you know why my collection is called From Light to Dark and Back Again. It sums up what I write!

Just to say that #ParagraphPlanet archive stories at the end of each month and the February 2020 “lot” are now available. See the link.My Time Is Everything is amongst the collection here. #flashfiction #amwriting #75wordstories

Is it easier to write to a specific word count or write the story first and then work out what the word count would suit it best?

Hmm… I’ve done both. The discipline of working to a specified word count is a great one and keeps you on your toes. It really does force you to check that each and every word has to be included in your tale. If there’s anything that doesn’t carry its weight, out it goes.

When I am working to a theme or title (often generated by random word generators), I write the story first. I see what I have, edit it, and then decide on whether it would work better at 100 words or 200, for example.

However you write, have fun!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Conflict in stories can take many forms of course but some of my favourite tales are the ones where a character is in conflict with themselves.

This is why I find Gollum from The Lord of the Rings an interesting character. You know you can’t trust him but I found on reading the tale for the first time, I desperately wanted him to somehow come good at the end. (And I’d say it’s open to interpretation whether he did or not. I am with Gandalf on this one when he says Gollum had his part to play in the history of the Ring and left it there).

In my story, Rewards, which is one of my longer flash tales, I use thoughts to show my lead character’s conflict. The reason this tale needed to be towards the upper end of the flash limit was because I needed some space to show those thoughts and then how my character acted on them.

But then that’s the joy of flash. You can go from the tiny tales in terms of word count to the longer ones but still have a limit you need to stick to. (I do find that a really good writing discipline. It’s why when I prepare my Chandler’s Ford Today posts I set my own word count and stick to it. I have to have parameters!).

The conflict a flash fiction writer has is deciding what word count will work best for their story. Sometimes you do have to go to the upper limit. Sometimes you can say all you need to in 100 words or less. Always think of the impact of the story on a reader. Don’t water it down by padding it out. If the conflict in the story is played out in 250 words, leave it there! But if you need 999, that’s fine too.

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Symbols have a great deal of meaning of course. Can they be used in flash fiction?

Yes, as long as readers are likely to know the meaning of the symbol or can get to the meaning from context. As with any writing, clarity is the important thing here.

Could you come up with your own symbols for your characters?

Yes but it would be useful to base them on what we already know.

For example, red roses are associated with love but what could black roses be associated with?

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Reviews are so important for any writer for a variety of reasons but the good news is they don’t have to be lengthy. One or two lines would be absolutely fine. A big thank you, while on topic, to all those who have been kind enough to review From Light to Dark and Back Again.

So if you’re looking for a way to support author friends, do review their books. The one caveat is reviews have to be honest for them to have any meaning. Honest reviews also aren’t usually at risk of being taken down!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B07T…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Openings

What is it about a story opening that makes you want to read on?

For me, either the character has to be “hitting the ground running” in such a way, I’ve got to find out what happens to them, or the set up is intriguing enough to make me want to read on.

Mind you, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the classic fairytale opening of “once upon a time”.

There is the wonderful association with happy childhood reading of those great stories. That opening just, for me, sets the tone for what is to follow.

I know to expect fairy godmothers turning up at surprisingly convenient moments. (I’ve always wondered why Cinderella didn’t berate hers for not coming to her aid a lot sooner but that’s another story).

I know to expect talking animals (and I should imagine the Three Bears had quite a bit to say about Goldilocks that was best kept off the page. I know how I’d feel if someone destroyed my chair and bed – though they’d be welcome to the porridge. I’ve never liked the stuff!).

I know to expect the villains to get their comeuppance. It’s just a question of finding out how and when.

And there is something wonderfully poetical about Charles Dickens’s opening to A Tale of Two Cities (which I confess I’ve not read but is on my To Be Read list), but even I love the sound of “It was the best of time, it was the worst of times” and the rest that follows. The rhythm of that opening paragraph is amazing.

So what I’m saying here is I want a story opening to take my breath away so I have to read on. Now there’s a challenge for any writer (including me!).

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New Year, New Book

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

Happy New Year to you all!

PUBLICATION NEWS

As you can imagine, I am thrilled to bits to start the New Year in such a positive way and look forward to bringing more news about Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course.

Advance Notice

I am planning to change the name of my book page on Facebook from From Light to Dark and Back Again to something more flash fiction related nearer to when I know Tripping the Flash Fantastic will be out. That way the page can cover both books and I’ve been using this page mainly to discuss flash fiction anyway.

Facebook – General

One goal I have set myself this year is to try to prepare more posts in advance and schedule them to free up writing time for other things. I have done this before, mainly ahead of going on holiday, and it works well but I need to do this more often. (If I can do the same with Twitter as well, even better!).

I’m currently reading 500 Words You Should Know, which was a lovely gift from a friend who thinks I probably know most of them already. Hmm…. we’ll see. Incidentally I did pick up the word “soporific” from Beatrix Potter many, many moons ago. Reading is by far the most enjoyable way of improving your vocabulary.

I’m relishing being back in the writing saddle again properly now having submitted two short stories already and working away on several new flash fiction tales. What I love about writing is that buzz of creativity never loses its attraction! I always feel so much better within myself for having created something with words.

Loved Part 2 of Spyfall from Doctor Who tonight as well and that’s all I’m saying on this for now, given I know people who haven’t seen it yet! Very much looking forward to the rest of the series after such a cracking start.

Hope to be able to share publication news again soon (so I think I’m off to a cracking start for 2020 too, not that I mind this, far from it!). Again will share news as and when I can but really looking forward to being able to do so soon.

One of the writing prompts in my new diary is to write a New Year’s Eve party from the viewpoint of three different characters. Not sure I’ll do this one mainly because I simply don’t do New Year’s Eve parties so feel I wouldn’t write convincingly on same! I would rather stay at home and curl up with a good book (and I would have done so in my younger years too. Yes, I know. Boring it may seem to be but give me a good book and I can assure you the hours whizz by very nicely reading and that suits me just fine!).

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Am thrilled to announce my second flash fiction collection, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, will be published by Chapeltown Books later this year. Will share more details as and when I have them.

What I love is that the buzz of being published never diminishes whether it is having a story online, or in an anthology, or you have another book out.

I only wish I could bottle the buzzy feeling for those times when writing feels like really hard work and you have to push yourself harder to keep going!

 

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Many thanks, everyone, on your wonderful support at my publication news yesterday. It is very much appreciated. I look forward to sharing more news as and when I have it.

I am also delighted for friends who I know will also be published later this year – well done, all. I look forward to seeing your books come out too. I never mind adding to my To Be Read pile!

Now back to the nitty-gritty! The writing life can be compared to a rollercoaster. It really is full of ups and downs. Stamina is useful!

Incidentally, I’ve mentioned elsewhere that you have to play the long game in writing. You can’t know that what you write will be accepted or successful. You can only give it your best shot (and be prepared to edit, rewrite, edit etc). So writing for the joy of writing is vital in my view. It is what helps keep you going when nothing seems to be happening.

Seeds can take a long time to germinate. That’s even more true of the writing seeds you send out there. But it is lovely when the first shoots and then the blooms appear! And it is important to cherish the moment, especially as you can’t know when the next one will be. It is equally important to then move on and keep writing and sending work out.

So I’d better get on then!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do you find when writing stories in batches one mood tends to dominate? In the last couple of days, I’ve written sinster and sadder but moving stories. I am hoping to lighten up a bit in the next few days!

What matters is being true to the characters you create. If their story is a sad one, so be it, but the character has to engage with a reader so they will want to find out what happens to said character.

I am very fond of stories where characters find a way of dealing with issues troubling them. I always thought it realistic that Frodo never did fully recover from all he went through in The Lord of the Rings. A happy ever after ending still has to be appropriate for the character. It wasn’t for Frodo, it was for Sam.

 

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I hope to be able to share exciting publication news soon so, as they say, watch this space.

Meanwhile, I’m happily drafting plenty of flash fiction pieces I will submit as and when over the next couple of months or so. I am also currently sorting out my running order for a further flash fiction collection I hope to submit at some point though I know there will be further editing to do on that once I’ve done this. I find sorting out the running order helps clear my thoughts and makes editing easier to do. Note I said easier, not easy!

Running order matters to a collection. It can make a huge difference as to how well the stories flow into each other. Also when you specifically want a contrast in moods (as I did with FLTDBA) you want that contrast to stand out. I grouped my stories in FLTDBA specifically by mood and that worked well. I suspect for what I am currently working on, I will probably organise it by type of flash fiction (e.g. group the historical ones together, group the funny ones together etc).

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As mentioned on my author page, I am delighted to say Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my second flash fiction collection, will be published by Chapeltown Books later this year. Will share further details as and when possible but naturally am thrilled about this. (I had the great joy of sending the signed contract back today. That’s a good job to have!).

Meanwhile there will be more flash stories from me on Cafelit later this month and in March. Naturally I hope to get some more on there throughout the year too.

You have to accept, I think, that you are playing the long game when you are writing and seeking publication. There are no guaranteed results for anyone. You do have to work hard on your writing and be prepared to edit and edit again etc but the joy of publication is truly a wonderful thing and never diminishes!

 

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Many thanks for all the kind messages here and on Twitter re my publication news yesterday. All very much appreciated.

Whatever your writing projects are, I hope they are going well and that you are having the proverbial ball writing them.

Writing should be enjoyable. Yes, it can be a hard slog but there should be the joy of being creative in there too. I love it when I hit that moment when I know my characters have come to life for me. (If they do so for me, they will do for other readers).

There is something fantastic about storytelling, whether you read stories, write them, or do both. It is certainly worth celebrating!

Goodreads Author Blog – Happy New (Reading) Year!

Happy New Year!

I’m looking forward to discovering authors new to me this year and getting plenty of reading done. The TBR pile, unlike my ironing pile, is one where I’m not that sorry if it stays pretty much at its high level!

I’d like to read more non-fiction this year too and expand my range of subjects.

The biggest problem, of course, is time. I always mean to read more over the Christmas break and, yes, I did catch up a bit. However, I’m usually too tired to read for long so I never get as much done as I was hoping for.

Am trying to read more (particularly magazines) at lunch time and am enjoying that.

I’d also like to get back to more humorous reading and suspect it will soon be time to resume the works of P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett, both of whose books bring me much joy.

Whatever your reading plans are this year, I hope you have a fabulous time with them. I intend to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasonal Stories and Songs

Image Credit:   Unless otherwise stated, all images come from Pixabay

Facebook – General

I’ll be looking at what makes a good story for the next CFT post. I promise to make it a reasonable length as I know I could write chapter and verse, quite literally, on this topic! I know, I know – the irony, given I write flash fiction and I’m duty bound there to keep it short!

I’ve mentioned before I have “patches” of reading one specific thing – e.g. crime stories – before moving on to the next thing I fancy. At the moment I’m particularly into short story collections. Hope to be reviewing a couple on Amazon before too long.

Stories coming up that I always enjoy at this time of year are Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather (probably going to watch the DVD), A Christmas Carol (have watched the Muppet one which is brilliant but I also like the Patrick Stewart version), and possibly The Polar Express. (I like that as it is not twee. I loathe twee).

I love the carols as so many of them are stories in themselves and/or encourage strong imagery. My favourite there is probably In the Bleak Midwinter. Fabulous poem by Christina Rossetti. I love both tunes to the carol but for me the Holst one is THE one to sing along to.

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Part 1 of Hogfather watched tonight. Cracking story and the film adaptation is wonderful. Fantastic music to it too. Do check it out. I’ll be watching the final part on Friday I hope.

Am feeling virtuous as have given my desk the pre-Christmas tidy up. Yes, it did take a while. It doesn’t take long for clutter to gather. I freely admit to not being the tidiest writer in the world but I do know where everything is so there!

What must I have on my desk? Well, aside from the usual pens, PC, printer etc., there have to be the family photos, notebooks, my dictionary, Writers and Artists’ Yearbook, the Mslexia Indie Press Guide, and Scrivener for Dummies.

I also have my writing diary and the projects I’m working on and a lovely doggy calendar (which is one of those will do for any year types. Each date has a picture of a dog and a suitable quote to go with it). Incidentally, Lady takes no interest in my writing whatsoever. She’d rather curl up on the sofa with my other half!

I deliberately keep reading material well away from my desk. The temptation to read rather than write is far too obvious! (And not that easy to resist!).

Murphy’s Law For Writers (an occasional series!):-

1. Your printer will run out of paper and/or ink at the most inconvenient time.

2. You will either have loads of ideas for stories/articles or none at all.

3. Your favourite writing conferences will always have several talks/workshops to go to but they’re all on at the same day and time. (I know. I don’t envy those who put the timetables together. Anyone who prepares timetables come to that…).

4. You will never find a new notebook when you want one, though you know you’ve got loads. There’s nothing for it, of course, but to go out and choose another!

5. You will find that notebook you were looking for when you get back with your purchase. Never mind.

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Have just got back from a lovely evening at our church’s Carols by Candlelight Sing-Along. The church goers used to go around the village singing carols. Now the village comes to the church and frankly it is warmer, more comfortable, we can have tea, coffee, mince pies etc., and a lovely time is had by all. In between the carols were Christmas cracker jokes and poems!

Why did one of Santa’s helpers need to go to the doctor?
Because they had low elf-esteem.

Not sure the writer of that one is going to get any prizes but I am very happy to claim I DIDN’T write it! Mind you, a good cracker joke is one that can make you laugh or groan so I guess you can’t lose here!

All of the carols tell the Christmas story in different ways. Now there is inspiration for writers. There may be only a few basic plots but it is what we do with them that gives a story its uniqueness.

Oh and we did sing my favourite carol, In the Bleak Midwinter (and it was tonight too – very foggy!) and to the tune I love – the Gustav Holst one.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

A good flash fiction story should have:-

1. Impact (whether it is to make a reader laugh or cry or to surprise them).

2. A strong lead character.

3. Not many characters. Many of my stories are single characters only (though they often refer to others and that can tell you quite a bit about the “off stage” people and my lead’s attitude towards them. It’s not always nice!).

4. Leave the reader feeling as if nothing more could be added to the story.

5. Have a good pace to it (and funnily enough that goes for reflective pieces too. The pace must be suitable for the kind of story you’re telling).

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Is it worth analysing flash fiction given its brevity? Oh yes!

Coming across flash tales you love still gives you the opportunity to work out what it is you DID love about them. You can still look at why the story worked for you. You can also think about how you would have approached the theme in the story you’ve read and why you would take the approach you would.

Also if you come across flash fiction tales that don’t grip you for whatever reason, again take the opportunity to look at why. Then look at your own work and see if any of the points you noted might apply to your stories.

Taking time to figure out what works or doesn’t work in a story always pays off, regardless of the word count.

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Another form of writing prompt that can prove useful is to list ten words associated with something and get all of those into a story. For Christmas as a topic you could have:-

Elves
Tree
Tinsel
Reindeer
Cards
Presents
Cooking
Music
Stories
Post

The clever bit will be to ensure you use the words in a way that makes sense but doesn’t seem too obvious. (Mind you, the idea of the elves doing the Christmas Day cooking while the reindeer look on horrified at the mess the elves are making is one that quite appeals to me!).

It’s also useful to think of connections but to then go beyond the obvious ones. For example, we associate the elves helping Santa get the presents ready but what if the elves decided they’d had enough for one year and went on strike? How would that story resolve? (Who would mediate between Santa and the elves? I have images of someone like Cinderella’s fairy godmother being called in but then I have an imagination like that! What could yours come up with?).

So if you’re stuck for story ideas try listing some words and using some or all of them in a tale. Make the story as ridiculous or otherwise as you want. Have fun with this. The idea is to help you “relax” into writing (which I always find increases creativity).

Singing carols tonight reminds me that stories can be shared in many formats. Each carol tells its own tale though for me Ding Dong Merrily On High is not so much a carol as a challenge. I’m asthmatic and have to take a breath halfway through the long “Gloria” so I sing it as “Glor….or…..or TAKE IN BREATH…. or….ia”! Hmm…. very much a case of taking a run at it and giving it my best shot and that will have to do!

I guess carols could be considered a form of flash fiction. I can’t think of any of them that would be above 1000 words!

 

Goodreads Author Blog –Weighty Tomes

I guess the reason Santa’s sleigh is as big as it is must be to take the weight of all of the books that are given as Christmas presents. (He must’ve loved the invention of the Kindle. Think of all the weight and space saved!).

On the assumption you have made it on to Santa’s nice list, how many books have you asked for this year?

I don’t ask for as many as I used to funnily enough. I download many to my Kindle. I almost always pick up books to read at book events such as the Bridge House Publishing I was so pleased to be part of last weekend. (Still saving Santa time and effort here. That’s got to put me on the good list alone, surely!).

The heaviest hardback I own is The Collected Works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Wonderful book. Beautifully illustrated too but not something you have on your lap for a quick read.

The heaviest paperbacks I own are The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Seven Basic Plots. Neither are books you’d want to drop on your foot!

But I love all my books, whether they’re ebooks or print, whether Santa brings them or I pick them up.

Of all the joys in life, books, music and chocolate are my top three.

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Controlling the Weather and Writing Prompts

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

In my CFT post Controlling the Weather I share a flash fiction story of mine which is shorter than Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “it was a dark and stormy night”. Do see the post for the full sentence (and take a deep breath before you start too!).

I now know why Snoopy only ever quotes “it was a dark and stormy night” but no more as there wouldn’t be enough room in the caption bubble!

I rarely use the weather in flash fiction as the word count means I have to show you the pertinent detail(s) about the characters. The weather rarely comes into that!

So what would count as pertinent details then? For me these are:-

1. Something of their attitude/outlook on life (I show this via internal thought as well as dialogue).

2. Something of their setting. Setting can change the outcome of the story or have a huge influence on it, for good or bad.

3. Sometimes a brief physical description where it matters to the story. In my Pen Portrait I show Mary as a character who brushes her hair once a day whether she needed it or not. I mention her clothes and shoes would see her through a battlefield but DON’T specify what they are. I don’t think I need to do so either. Those two lines should conjure up an image of Mary well enough! It also shows something of her attitude (double whammy here!).

I’d say 1 is the most important and “where it matters to the story” is THE golden rule of fiction writing, regardless of whether you write flash stories or longer works.

Image Credit:  The magnificient Pixabay. Captions via the CFT post! Also this post was shared on From Light to Dark and Back Again as well as I thought the pertinent details relevant to that page too!

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