Writing Time, Lines, and a Petulant Goose

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good few days. It’s got off to an odd start for me as the title above confirms.

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Had a most enjoyable swim earlier. When I started swimming more often I thought I’d be using the time in the pool to work out story ideas, dream up further ideas and so on. Not a bit of it. My mind tends to go blank when swimming! Make of that what you will!

I’ll be looking at Quizzes and Word Games for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m fond of word games so this post was a particular pleasure to write. I suppose it makes sense that a writer unwinds by playing with words!

Many thanks for the continuing comments in on Moving On, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. The feedback on this site is so helpful.

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Glad to say the August edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. Treat yourself to a free read. Plenty of fascinating articles and stories here. I talk about Funny Flash Fiction this time and share useful tips here. As well as setting a flash fiction challenge in my column, I respond to it myself so you get a story from me here too – and do check out the wonderful tales that came in as a result of the challenge.

Screenshot 2022-08-01 at 19-26-15 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022

Is there ever enough writing time? Probably not but I suspect the answer to this dilemma is working out how to make the best use of the time you have got. In my smaller pockets of time, I’m jotting down blog ideas, story titles, possible opening lines etc. In my longer pockets of time. I’m writing those ideas up! I also plan my week around my Chandler’s Ford Today post. Generally I have that written and scheduled by Tuesday. I then start work on the one for the following week.

I plan my monthly blogs so I have them ready in good time. I like to have those scheduled at least a week before due date. Now life gets in the way sometimes but giving myself this leeway means I still have a few days to get something in and I like knowing that I have this safety net. I rarely have to use that safety net. It is a relief to have it when I do.

So yes I outline my writing time too and have found doing that pays off.

Also my next author newsletter goes out tomorrow. To sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Newsletter has gone out but new subscribers are always welcome.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Looking forward to catching up with some Swanwick friends on Zoom tonight ahead of seeing them in person again soon.

Many thanks for the comments in on Moving On, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Don’t forget comments are welcome over on my Chandler’s Ford Today blog post pages as well.

I do enjoy getting my monthly posts together for Mom’s Favorite Reads and am just putting the finishing touches to my piece for September. My piece in the August edition, which is due soon, will be about Funny Flash Fiction, which is is also a joy to write.

Screenshot 2022-07-29 at 09-28-29 Moving On by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Further to yesterday’s post and in breaking news, the goose came back!

Again I was hissed at. The dog turned tail and ran (back into the house). Yours truly scared the goose off into the wooded bit of the garden with the aid of a garden broom. Am not having my dog too scared to go out into her own garden. My herding skills were okay (I have clearly learned something from my collies over the years). Most annoying thing of all – I can’t write this up as a story. It’s a bit unbelievable, isn’t it?!

The goose is fine, Lady is fine, I’m fine, but I still don’t get why this bird isn’t flying – it isn’t injured and its attitude – well it would have that anyway. There is no sign of injury or anything like that. Have shut the garden gate on it so hopefully that will send it back to where it should be at the lakes about a mile away from where I live where there is a colony of geese and ducks.

They say you can’t make it up. Well, as a writer I would dispute that. It is a question of whether you can use the material at times!

In other news, am looking forward to getting my copies of The Best of CafeLit 11.

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It’s Monday. It has been a long, hot day. It has been an odd Monday. I got hissed at by an irate lost Canada Goose in my own garden this afternoon. There are a group of them on nearby lakes and it clearly had got lost. I am betting it is male and didn’t want to ask for directions!

Why the barking of Lady didn’t persuade it here was not a good place to be I don’t know but it did wander off eventually. (Lady would happily have chased it off but one slightly bonkers dog and an annoyed goose did not seem like a good combo to me!).

So as I say it has been a long day. It’s Monday when all is said and done. Definitely time for a story. Hope you like Acting Your Age, my latest on YouTube.

 

PS. Will keep you posted if anything odd turns up here tomorrow. Am hoping not though I suppose I can always get a flash story out of it. See above – The Goose Came Back! Not a typical day or two in the life of a flash fiction writer, I can tell you!

Understanding what makes your characters tick
Wow, another month gone. It won’t be long before I’m writing my festive flash pieces!

Am not kidding. For the short story market, you have to work on these much earlier in the year than I need to on my festive selections. But it still pays to give yourself plenty of time to write and hone your festive flashes so around summer/early autumn is not a bad time to start on that.

I find having a rough schedule to write to means I produce more finished writing. I like that aspect.

While flash is shorter prose, it still takes time to edit and hone. I can get a draft down relatively fast but it is the editing that takes the time. And that is how it should be too, no matter what you write. The writing is in the re-writing.

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Opening lines have to intrigue the reader enough to make them want to read on. This is even more important in flash where you do have to hit the ground running. You don’t have the word count room to expand on things later. In my The Silence (Tripping the Flash Fantastic), I start with It was the perfect way to shut up Mr Know-it-all.

I imply questions here – hopefully the reader will want to find out what the perfect way is, did it work, and who is the character behind this. Sometimes I use questions directly as opening lines but implying them also works well. It is key to provoking reader curiosity, that have got to find out what happens here moment. And then the tricky bit – delivering on the promise to answer here!

This is a key reason why I outline. I set up the question. I want to know in advance what the possible answers could be. It means I know where I am heading as I draft the tale. And I always go for the answer that makes me go “wow” – If I do that, it is likely someone else will. Naturally my hope here is that someone else will be a publisher, editor, or a competition judge!

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Goodreads Author Blog – Reading Between the Lines

I write as well as read flash fiction and implying happens all the time here. You do get your readers reading between the lines all the time. You just give them what they have to know to be able to do that.

With my reading hat on, I love having to read between the lines. Crime writers do this constantly too – give us clues to work things out and you accept some of them will be red herrings. All great fun.

I don’t want tonnes of description. I just need enough to be able to picture the character and the setting. Specific details often work better anyway. A moth-eaten chair conjures up a stronger image than just saying an old chair. (Well, how old? Are we talking antique here or something that is only 30 years old?). ]

Specific details matter. Whenever a writer put them in, I am looking to see how important these things prove to be later on in the story. They usually are important. At the very least they have significant meaning for the lead character and that’s the important thing (if only because their opponent could use that against them).

I love reading between the lines then. The great stories encourage this I think.

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Writing Techniques in Fiction

Image Credits:-  All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and photo of Lady taken by me, Allison Symes. Had a lovely day out (Friday 8th July) with better half and Lady – I think the photo proves she had a great time. (And yes we always carry plenty of water for her, wherever and whenever we take her out, even locally. The breeze down by the coast was lovely and Lady and I got to do some paddling. Now that’s the kind of Friday I like!).

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Writing Techniques in Fiction, my new post for Chandler’s Ford Today. I look at show don’t tell, speech tags, and share thoughts about reading your work out loud, researching the market, mixing up your reading and learning not to expect to write a perfect first draft. I also look at the importance of giving yourself enough editing time. You often do need more time than you think.

I’ve found all of these things have helped me improve my own writing techniques, especially learning to give myself plenty of time to edit.

This is why for competitions I tend to take about 10 to 14 days off a deadline and make that new date my deadline instead. It will be at this point I go through my story for the final time and, guess what, that is when I spot the typos etc I missed on my previous edits. It happens, folks! Anyway, I hope you find the post useful.

Writing Techniques in Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. I can think of one person in the UK today who definitely hasn’t. Moving swiftly on (unlike… you can fill in the gap here!).

Will be sharing my next Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. I’m looking at Writing Techniques in Fiction where I’ll share thoughts on show don’t tell and speech tags amongst other things. It can only be an overview but it took me a long time to work out what show don’t tell is so I hope this post will prove useful. See above.

I worked out a long time ago that my best writing time is in the evening with no distractions, but where I can I fit in more writing during the late afternoon, I do. I see it as bonus writing. I often use those times to draft extra flash pieces and blog posts as I can do those fairly quickly and I know I’ll find a use for that flash tale or blog post at some point. Little is wasted in writing. Even when I can’t use a flash tale or blog post directly I can usually take something from them to use elsewhere.

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Lady has had a fabulous week so far. Today she played with her favourite girlfriends, the Ridgeback, the Labradoodle, and the Hungarian Vizler. All four dogs went home happy and tired. Job done.

Amazon have an offer on both of my paperbacks – From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See screenshot. You can find my Amazon Author Central Page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent – all the anthologies where I’ve had work in are included here too. (Looking forward to being able to add The Best of CafeLit 11 and Evergreen, the Bridge House Publishing annual anthology, later on this year).

I like to catch up with my writing magazine over lunch most days and I will sometimes note promising markets and/or competitions from that. I believe this is where I found out about Friday Flash Fiction if memory serves me correctly.

It is worth taking time out to review things like these and see if there are possibilities for you out there. I would be very surprised if there weren’t any. The wide range of online publications helps a writer to build up publication credits too. And don’t forget the indie press markets for collections etc. There are opportunities out there.

Being aware of them and knowing where to look are the two biggest things to know (which is why I always suggest reading writing magazines regularly as it helps you build up your own industry knowledge as well as being entertaining and informative).

I think it is a fab way to do my market research – reading over lunch!

Screenshot 2022-07-06 at 17-18-36 Amazon.co.uk Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the wonderful comments in already on Respect, my latest tale for Friday Flash Fiction. This story is linked to the YouTube one I shared earlier in the week called Deterrent. Also see below.

I used a random clock generator for both so the times appear in both – but so does the lead character and you are left in no doubt about what she thinks about her cat. Hope you enjoy.

Screenshot 2022-07-08 at 17-15-37 Respect by Allison Symes

Earlier in the week I shared my YouTube story which involved my using a clock time generator. I wrote another piece using the same generated times which I hope will appear on Friday Flash Fiction tomorrow. Hope to share the link then, if it is on there. It did appear – see above!

Another way to use times is to have one which has a meaning to your character. Maybe a certain time on a certain day is a significant anniversary. You get to decide what that is of course. It may mean something to your character so that triggers a course of action in them with consequences for others. Just what could those be and what does those consequences do to/for the character who triggered it all off in the first place?

Deadlines can involve time as well as dates. Could there be a misunderstanding about a meeting time say? After all there are, for example, two eight o’clocks in one day? Could someone getting the meeting time wrong have hilarious or other consequences? Your call but there are good opportunities to use time effectively in your flash fiction.

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Do you write seasonal stories including flash pieces at all? I must admit I do write festive flash but for most of my stories, the time of year doesn’t matter much. However, if I take an opposite view on that, I find it leads to a writing prompt idea.

The biggest difference between winter and summer, for example, is the amount of natural daylight available (and that will vary even more depending on your character’s location). You could use that difference in light availability to make a huge difference to the success or otherwise of your character’s “mission” (especially if it is a criminal one).

My late maternal grandmother never used to liked autumn. She saw it as the season of dying. Ironically, she did indeed die in the autumn herself.

But you could use people’s views on the seasons, and indeed your own, to help round out your characters and encourage empathy for them in your readers. A character may dislike autumn because they’re frightened of spiders and you always see loads in the autumn (well, I do. They keep trying to come into my house!). A story could emerge from them having to overcome their fear because they’re trying to help someone they don’t want to let down and they have to find a way of coping with spiders. Just a thought. Good luck!

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Fairytales With Bite – A Magical Shopping List

This is what I think could be on a fairy godmother’s magical shopping list.

  • One magic wand which does as I ask it to when I want it to do it. I don’t want “connection” issues causing havocs with my spells.
  • Anything BUT pumpkins. Have had enough pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup etc to last me several lifetimes. Wand went crazy on producing these, hence my first item on this list. I can’t stand the sight of them now.
  • A clearly legible spell book. I must have misread something or have been drunk to come up with glass slippers. I know I wasn’t drunk when I did that. I wanted to be when I saw what poor Cinders had to put on her feet. Oh those things can’t have been comfortable (though I did get a good deal from the chiropodists on corn plasters etc. Cinders knows where to come when she needs them. She will do). It must have been some dodgy calligraphy that got me here. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
  • Static objects to convert into transport etc. I still feel guilty about those rats. I still don’t understand why a chair couldn’t have done for that spell. After all you need something to sit on in a coach. It would’ve saved Cinders and I chasing around after those rats for another thing. Trust me, that was not a dignified look for one of my gravitas.
  • I want something I could legitimately use to take all calories out of chocolate though the big boss says it’s cheating. Says it is interfering with natural processes. And turning a rat into something else wasn’t? I can’t believe the hypocrisy of my world at times. But if I could find something natural to remove the calories she couldn’t stop me then, could she? It is worth a good look around the shops for that. Might even be able to share it with humans. There would be a lot of happy people then though possibly not the Tooth Fairy and dentists. Still one can’t have everything, can one?

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This World and Others – Who Owns What?

In your created world, have you got a system for who owns what? Is your world based on a free capitalist like economy or is everything controlled by the government? If the latter, how good a job do they make of this? Is there any room for private enterprise at all? If so, how are things regulated? What would happen to anyone defying those regulations?

What range of facilities, shops etc do your characters have to choose from? Are they happy with what they can buy and where they get it from? Do shops and so on find it easy to keep a good supply range?
There is an old saying about he who pays the piper calls the tune. How does that work out in your stories?

Are the owners of businesses etc in political power themselves or in league with those who are? What happens when things go wrong here? Relationships can break down of course so there would no reason why that couldn’t happen here.

Also could someone from a lowly background go on to do well so they start owning property etc? Do they face resentment or prejudice because of that lowly background and what do they do about it?

Plenty of food for story thoughts there!

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Managing My Writing

Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

2. You learn from the talks/courses.

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

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

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

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

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

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Favourite characters beginning with the letter A:-

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Goodreads Author Programme Blog –

Saturday Night is Alright for Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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