What Keeps You Reading?


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, as were the photos from the recent Golden Jubilee weekend.
Hope you have had a good weekend. It was lovely having a quiet one after a very busy and exciting one at the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend. Think fun and hectic for that one!

ACW workshop info

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Free read time, folks. Do check out the most recent flash fiction pieces which came in as a result of my column Numbers in Flash Fiction for the June edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. All great pieces and it is amazing how you can work in numbers into a story.

My article explains more about that but I would say the impact of a number with meaning to a character is greater in flash because the form of writing is so short. Where you can have fun is working out why that number has meaning and what that can do to the story outcome.

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Hectic day as always for me on a Monday but Lady and I did enjoy the lovely weather at the park earlier this morning.

It was good to get back to normal in writing editing and submitting a story for Friday Flash Fiction and another for my YouTube channel. I’ll share that over on my book page shortly. To check out all of my story videos, see the link below.

It is great fun creating these stories. I use Book Brush to make the video and then simply upload it via YouTube. The editor function there makes it easier to add a music track too. It’s a nice way of bringing visual and audio to a flash fiction tale.

Allison Symes – YouTube channel 

Screenshot 2022-06-14 at 20-40-58 Allison Symes - YouTube

Gloriously sunny day in Hampshire – hope it is lovely where you are too. Nice to be back in church this morning too after a month’s absence. I was away at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend last week and before that I was under the weather with a thankfully mild dose of You Know What. So good to see everyone once more and the singing was lovely.

Writing wise, I hope to have some exciting news to share soon – all I can say now is it is workshop related. Looking forward to sharing more on that when I can. It is funny how the pandemic combined with workshops has led to me re-discovering the joys of PowerPoint! I didn’t see that coming.

Do you like film or TV adaptations of books? I loved The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Peter Jackson) and enjoyed Hogfather, Going Postal and The Colour of Magic, which were wonderful Pratchett adaptations. Tim Curry was superbly evil in the last one. Well worth checking out if you love Discworld.

AE - March 2022 - the creative spark
Hope you have had a good Saturday. Already a week gone since the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend – it was lovely to see everyone there. Now back at home listening to the main theme form Wallace and Gromit on Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies! (And before you ask, I do appreciate some “cracking cheese” as does my dog! If you’ve not seen these wonderful animations do check them out, you’re in for a treat).

I’m back to my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. I’ll be looking at The Rule of Three this time. Link up on Friday for that. And talking of that number, I thought I’d share three top tips here.

1. Don’t expect to write a perfect first draft. Nobody ever does. Shakespeare didn’t. Dickens didn’t. We’re not going to either but that’s fine. Getting things right is what the editing process is all about.

2. Take off about ten days from any official deadline. Why? It gives you time to go through your piece again and pick up on those annoying typos etc that you missed on your previous edits. Trust me, there will be something, there always is!

3. If you edit on screen, change your font, the font size, even the colour, anything to make your text seem different. When you come back to edit, it is more likely you will spot the things that need to be corrected. I’ve found that on paper, it is easier to pick things up.

With screens, it is easy for your brain to fill in the words you meant to put in but which you didn’t actually get to type in. Making the text different will help you spot those omissions. And you will need to correct the changes before you send the piece out as again it is a chance for a final read through to make sure all is well before submission.

Top Tips

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for a prompt. Not quite such a mad day for me, which I always appreciate Tuesdays for (!), but that led to me thinking what days do your characters dread/look forward to and why? Am sure there are stories to be told there!

If your setting is not of this world, what time elements does it use? Does it mirror ours or are their concept of days literally alien to us? And even in that concept, I’m sure you can think of a story where a character has a right rotten time of it and you then have fun trying to get them out of the mess they’re in.

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It’s been a busy Monday so time to chill out with a new story on YouTube. Hope you enjoy my The Unexpected where magic is not of the variety my character expected. Find out how she was nonplussed here. (It is a tiny tale so you may need to play it through twice).

 

One-liners can make excellent opening lines for a flash piece, but have you tried using one as powerful closing line? When I write twist in the tale flash stories, or humorous ones, I will usually write the twist or the punchline first and then work out how I could have got to that point. Spider diagrams to work out different possibilities are useful here and I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I figure a reader is likely to react in the same way.

Trying to put yourself in the head of your Ideal Reader helps here. I try to work out what I think they would like and to ensure everything that is in the story meets the needs of said reader. A well edited story is one where you can’t imagine a word being taken out or added. Thinking of your Ideal Reader helps ensure you cut the waffle out!

I sometimes jot one-liners down for use when I only have a few minutes of writing time. Why? Because I am still doing something creative. I can come back to those one-liners later on and then decide if they’re going at the start of a tale or at the end of it. When I have a longer writing session, I have something to work with immediately.

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Last week’s ACW Golden Jubilee weekend was good fun and it was a joy to share my flash fiction workshop. Many thanks to all who came to it and for the lovely feedback. One thing I looked at was the benefits of writing flash fiction even if it is not your main writing form, I’ve found I’ve lost all fear of editing thanks to writing flash.

And so often at conferences you are set exercises to have a go at (I always set them incidentally!) and, in the time given, you’re not going to have time to write that much. The great thing here is (a) you can finish that piece off later and (b) even if the piece remains short, you now have a market for pieces like that.

There are so many more flash competitions about these days too – and don’t forget the online markets. A great way to get some publication credits too!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – What Keeps You Reading?

I don’t think there is any one answer to this question but it is a good one to make you think about why you read. For me, I can’t not read. I can’t imagine life without books and stories in my life and neither do I wish to! So the love of the written word in and of itself is one reason I keep reading.

The main reason though is because I am gripped by the characters in the stories and have to find out what happens to them. Only one way I can do that – read to the end! I rarely abandon a book but on the odd occasion I have, it is because I have lost all interest in the characters. Now that serves as a lesson for me with my own writing. I try and look at what made me switch off and try to avoid replicating that!

I don’t often read a book because it is “in”, the current flavour of the month etc. I have to be intrigued by the premise of the book and then by the characters to read and keep on reading. Life is too short to waste on a book which doesn’t grip me.

For a series I love, such as Discworld, having read one and loved it (Jingo was my starting point there), I had to read others in the series. Now that’s what every author wants to happen!

For authors new to me, I often read their works on Kindle first to see if their stories grip me. If they do, as does happen most of the time, I am more likely to get their paperbacks later on. But again they have to keep me reading.

So what keeps you reading? Have you stopped reading a book? If so, why?

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Zooming Around and Being Kind to Yourself


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’ve had a good few days. Weather changeable here. Hope it brightens up for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee (mind you, we are used to changeable weather here so prepare for it). I plan to raise a glass or two while I’m away at the Association of Christian Writers’ Golden Jubilee this weekend. I know – no jubilees for ages and then two at once!

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Facebook – General

Hope you’ve had a good day. You know I said Lady and I received a bit of a soaking yesterday? Well, today we “copped the lot” in a cloudburst that drenched us in minutes. It was a relief to get home and change. Lady is pretty good at being towelled down – she sees it as a chance for a cuddle.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, prompts news etc here and if you would like to sign up, just head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

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Looking forward to my trip to Derbyshire at the weekend. So nice being able to do in person events again. Mind you, I’ve taken to Zoom well too. It has been lovely to be able to make the most of both worlds here. Long may that continue!

Is there a particular day of the week when writing just seems tougher to do than usual? I hope it is some comfort to know every writer has those days. On those days, I focus on writing short things or accept I will write something towards a longer piece (say one of my blog posts). Writing is writing, whether you manage 50 words in a day or 5000. It accumulates.

And on those tough days, you will still have got something written. I find that cheers me up knowing I’ve got something to develop later. On those days when I can’t write at all, I try to ensure I “up” my reading as that helps with my writing too.

Writing is hard work but most of the time it should be a joy too.

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Changeable weather here in Hampshire – Lady and I did get a bit of a soaking. (Have known worse, mind you).

Many thanks to everyone for the lovely comments in on my Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop post for More Than Writers yesterday.  Link further down.

I’ll be looking at Settings and Simplicity In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday, just ahead of my heading off to the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend in lovely Derbyshire. I hope to write about that event and my recent workshop for the London Jesuit Centre in a CFT post after that. And I’ll be setting another flash challenge for Mom’s Favorite Reads soon too – so it’s all go in a good way.

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Writing Tip 10008 or thereabouts: Be kind to yourself.
What has that got to do with writing, I hear you ask. A lot! I find I write more (and enjoy what I do more) when I am relaxed. So having classical music on in the background helps me a lot there but so do things like ensuring I get enough sleep, make time for reading, etc.

I’ve learned over time to realize on those days when the writing is slow or I am especially tired to just write what I can and have done. (Mondays for me is often a day like that). I’ve found being kind to myself, especially in not beating myself up over what I haven’t got done, helps me on those days when I do have more time to write. Away I go again and it’s fine.

I also look at my writing over the course of a week so I never judge my progress (or lack of it) by what I managed to do (or couldn’t do) as a result of one good or bad day. I’ve found that helps a lot. I think my productivity has increased due to this too – it certainly feels like I get more done now than I used to do.

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It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers blog spot). I’m talking this time about Getting The Most from a Writing Workshop. I share some thoughts and tips which I have found useful over the years when going to these. Hope you find it helpful).

Looking forward to running my flash fiction workshop at the ACW Golden Jubilee weekend from 3rd to 5th June too.

Oh and the most important tip (well it is to me, anyway)?

Go – and have fun!

Screenshot 2022-05-29 at 14-31-29 Getting the Most from a Writing Workshop by Allison Symes

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on my The Heights of Equals, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. All much appreciated.

I’m back on the ACW blog tomorrow with my post about Getting the Most Out of a Writing Workshop. Timely since I’ve recently run one and am about to do so so again. Link up tomorrow on that. See above.

Don’t forget I send out my author newsletter on the first of the month. I share tips, news, prompts, writing advice etc and if this sounds of interest please do sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am enjoying using the various random generators to trigger ideas for stories and hope to resume more work on those tomorrow. I’m finding I am producing more stories as a result so I like that aspect too.

Screenshot 2022-05-27 at 09-24-38 The Heights of Equals by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I do a dry run of my workshop material and record myself on Zoom. As well as listening to see how it sounds (and therefore how the material is likely to come across to someone else), I can get a sense of the timing of my workshop and adjust things as I need to.

I do love that facility within Zoom to automatically convert your files to mp4 for you. So useful.

I like to leave enough time for questions too. Knowing the timing means it is easy to do that. At workshops I’ve attended, I love the question section. Interesting topics come up and I inevitably learn something useful from that.

I often read a story or two of mine and break down how I wrote them. (I’ve found this useful when other writers do it). So I get to practice that too.

It helps (I find just knowing I have had a read through helps with nerves. I can remind myself I have read the stories, it was fine etc., now all I need to do is do it again – and that’s fine). With flash, the huge advantage is the readings don’t take long (leaving plenty of time for question time later!)

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How come it is almost the end of May already? I don’t know the answer to that one but I do know it’s Monday and time for a story. Hope you like my latest YouTube story, Surprise.

I’m running my flash fiction workshop as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend (3rd to 5th June – yes, we’ll raise a glass or two to the Queen while there !). Very much looking forward to it as it is always a pleasure to spread the word about the joys of writing flash fiction.

I look at how it can benefit all forms of writing and share a couple of stories and break down how I wrote them amongst many other tips and advice and yes I set writing exercises too. All good fun. Did I imagine I would ever do something like this when I started out as a writer? Absolutely not! It’s another reason to be grateful for the flash fiction though!

 

I often read my stories aloud, as you know, sometimes for things like Open Prose Mic Nights. I also do this as I prepare workshop material so I can hear that my chosen tales do fit in as well as I thought. I also do this when I get a collection together. I see that as part of my editing.

Reading work out loud does confirm if the story flows as well as you think or not. If you stumble over reading the story, a reader will do but you can adjust that before the story sees the light of day. I’ve done this several times. It can be strange sometimes when you see dialogue written down, say, it looks fine. Reading it out loud shows otherwise!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Other Worlds in Books

All books take us to other worlds. Yes, even non-fiction, given that can enlighten us to aspects of life in this world and increase our knowledge, making us see this world in new lights.

But for fantasy and sci-fi especially, what is it about their settings which convinces you to “suspend disbelief” while reading the story? For The Lord of the Rings (though this applies to many other stories too) it was the portrayal of the characters which made me believe in the settings.

Hobbits are small so it makes sense for them to live in something like hobbit holes. I was also convinced by the peaceful tranquil setting of The Shire especially when contrasted with the dark world of Mordor. To have both of these elements in the book made sense to me. One represents good, the other evil. No world is perfect, even in fiction. Contrasts work for me.

And we can all understand the wish to defend one’s home, even more so with world events right now. So again I get the setting and the wish to defend that. I don’t need to know every little thing about the setting but I do need to know enough to understand why the characters love it.

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Back to Earth after Swanwick

Image Credits:-

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

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Had a fab time at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (and a huge thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books there recently), but also glad to be back home and at the old writing desk once again. (Lady went bananas on my return and in such a sweet way!). Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Have started work on my next author newsletter (to go out on 1st September – to sign up for this just head over to my website – landing page – at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). I share news, tips, exclusive stories etc here. I hope later that some of those stories will make it into future flash collections but newsletter readers get “first dibs” on reading these.

Am pleased to say most of my slots for Chandler’s Ford Today are full until towards the end of next month and that’s always a good sign. Plenty of fantastic interviews to come and I will be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh this coming week. Link up on Friday.

I will also be looking back at a wonderful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT soon too. (It’s a good way to celebrate the fact Swanwick happened at all and gives me a chance to share some of the benefits of going to it).

Writing Tip Time: One writing tip that has always stood me in good stead is to read work out loud, especially dialogue. What looks good on the page or screen does not always read well. If you stumble on something, your readers will too. I’ve made many an amendment to a story due to that alone. It is worth the time. That extra polishing up can make all the difference to whether a story is accepted or not.


Back to the usual writing week after a fab week at Swanwick. I’ll be drafting blogs later this evening but since coming home I have submitted a flash fiction piece for #FridayFlashFiction and I will be sharing a YouTube video of mine over on my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly.  See further down for the video. (I wrote the story for that video yesterday).

I like to have a good balance of non-fiction and fiction achieved over the course of a week and as long as I manage that, which I normally do, I’m happy. I am also carrying out editing work at the moment which is always interesting.

Funny day with the weather today. Think it’s still trying to make up its mind whether it’s summer or not…

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes use random word generators (nouns, adjectives, questions, numbers even) to trigger story ideas but another way to use them is simply to come up with say half a dozen words and ensure they are somewhere in your tale.

I tend to use the generators to trigger themes and/or title ideas, but the “have to use the words somewhere in the story” ploy is one I need to do more often. I’ve always had fun with this when doing these in the past. So I think it pays every now and then to look at prompt types you used to use and perhaps don’t write to so often now and have a creative trip down Memory Lane and revisit these.


Hope you have had a good Sunday. I know every day this week I’ll be thinking back to what I was doing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this day last week! Swanwick gets to you like that but it is in a lovely way.

Just a quick heads up to say my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again – the paperback – is currently on offer at Amazon. (Sounds a bit like a film franchise, you know the kind of thing, when I put it like that. I promise not to name my eventual third collection XXX – This Time It’s Personal!).

Looking ahead this week, Part 2 of a fabulous interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Have blogs to put up and schedule too and there is always flash fiction to work on. I drafted some while at Swanwick and I need to give some thought as to where I’ll submit those. I have ideas for both. I have the nice task of deciding which I like best. And I am working on workshop material ready for events later in the year. I’m looking forward to sharing details nearer the time.

Learning to plan out what I write when has been a useful tip I have made good use of over the years and it is coming into its own for me now.

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Had a lovely afternoon and evening with family members I’ve not seen for months. Today was the first time in so long that we could have a proper chat and Lady was besides herself with excitement. She loves visitors. She thinks they all come to see her of course. (Oh and she did go bonkers on seeing Mum had returned from Swanwick yesterday. Naturally Lady had to make sure Mum really was back by giving big cuddles to said Mum. Mum did not mind in the slightest!).

Have plenty of blogs and stories to get on with but I will resume my usual writing routine from tomorrow. I always find I need a little bit of “come back to earth” time after Swanwick. Am also looking forward to reading the books I brought back with me though I have already made a start on those. One of my great “home treasures” are my book shelves, packed with signed books by writer pals.

Many thanks for the comments in on my It’s an Ill Wind (up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday). That was lovely to come home to!

Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Alliteration Always Advantageous – In titles for flash stories or collections? Not necessarily. (There’s some more alliteration for you!).

I am wary of anything that might come across as gimmicky so I use alliteration sparingly. It can work well but I think as something different to the overall “mix” in a collection. I also want to keep titles open to interpretation and/or mood so trying to dream up something with alliteration can mean I restrict myself unnecessarily here. You wouldn’t want a whole book of alliterative titles. I could see that becoming boring.

As with the stories themselves, your titles should have an interesting hook to them. I’ve used random generators (especially the question one) to come up with ideas for titles I can use directly or adapt. Often changing one word makes all the difference. And I want my titles to have impact. So anything gimmicky could reduce that impact.

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16th August
Pleased to share my latest YouTube video based on a story I wrote yesterday. Hope you enjoy Knowing the Basics though I am glad I do not have Sandra’s attitude to flying. I am even more glad pilots don’t have Sandra’s attitude. See the video for why!


I mix up the kind of prompts I use to produce flash fiction. I will often start with my favourite, an opening line, but have worked to a closing line. I like picture prompts too and random words (either to get into the story somewhere or to use as a title and/or theme) also work well for me.

Stories from viewpoints of alternative characters got me into print in the first place with my A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing) but are great fun to do. You do have to put considerable thought into which character you will use for this and why you have picked them.

On switching to Scrivener, I was delighted to discover it comes with character and setting templates in the short story format. I just adjust these to my own use as I don’t need all of the pre-set information given. But it makes a great starting point and thinking about your story before you write it works well for me.

I like to know I have got tracks to follow before getting on with the story. I guess it’s a reassurance to me I have got something to work up into a story in the first place.

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I was glad to take part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night again. I chose two stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again (Serving Up a Treat and Calling the Doctor). From Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I chose Judgement Day. See book trailer below for Calling the Doctor. I’ve always been proud of this one – I change the mood of the story with the very last word. Great fun to do.

You have a maximum of five minutes to read (and it is always better to come in a little under that time if possible) and the joy of flash here is you can easily do that with one longer piece or a couple of shorter ones.

It does pay to read your stories out loud and/or record yourself reading them and playing them back. I’ve found dialogue I think looks okay on the paper does not necessarily read well and if you trip over something, your reader will too. At least with flash this does not take long and it is a good thing to hear how your story comes across as that is how your reader will take it in.


Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events and Paperbacks

I’ve just come back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which has been my first live book and writing related event for well over a year. (It was fantastic catching up with old friends again and the array of courses and workshops was as amazing as ever).

Swanwick has its own Book Room for the duration of the school and it was lovely being able to put my two flash fiction collections in there and pick up books written by friends. (Naturally I got them to sign them during Swanwick week and it is always a thrill to be asked by others to sign your own books).

Is the paperback alive and well? They certainly went down well at the Swanwick Book Room! I think the paperback is still relevant as a format. After all, you can’t exactly put a Kindle out on a table for a book event! Nor can the writer be asked to sign a Kindle (well, I’m not aware of any way of doing this anyway).

From the writer’s viewpoint, paperbacks are relatively easy to transport to an event (note I only say relatively as it does depend on the size. Thankfully I am not writing a three volume epic so that helps a lot!). But people do still like physical books and I think it is healthy to have a wide range of formats as not one size suits all.

When I’m away I do take my Kindle to save luggage space but I would never want to be without physical books. There is something about the texture and feel of them too (and I still love that new book “smell”). And long may that continue!

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Writing Tips

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

One of the problems I had in writing this week’s CFT post about Writing Tips was picking the those tips that have not only BEEN useful but mostly still ARE and then whittling those down to what I think are the most useful.

One of the great things about going to conferences etc is picking up all sorts of useful advice on the way. Some tips you’ll use immediately, others you will come back to later and I’ll often find, even in advice for say scriptwriting, there are often general pointers useful in other forms of writing. So I’ve learned then it pays to pay attention!

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Other than your PC or laptop, what is the most useful thing on your desk?

For me it is the humble notebook and pen (I count these as one item given they’re not that great without each other!).

I don’t always want to stop what I’m working on in Scrivener to open up a new folder to jot down the latest good idea I’ve had (well I hope it will be a good one!).

But a quick note with paper and pen and I can open up a new file and start researching when I’m ready to do so. I’ve long thought pen and paper really should come into the writing process somewhere, it seems right somehow, and that is despite my writing to screen most of the time.

These days odd notes here and there are generally what I use “old technology” for. And neither the notebook or pen need batteries, charging, discharging, or are at the mercies of power cuts etc etc…. Still I’m not sorry I no longer have to literally cut and paste or have to change typewriter ribbons or faff about with carbon paper…

My CFT post this week will be a a round up of writing tips I have found useful over the years (and still do). Hope it will prove useful. Link to go up on Friday.

One great thing about going to conferences like Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and the Winchester Writers’ Festival is you do get to pick up so many useful hints and tips, some of which are not always useful immediately, but you will come back to them later. And they come not just from the courses but when you get together with fellow writers over tea, coffee, dinner etc. So added reason to (a) go to good conferences and (b) get chatting with your fellow writers.

Like we needed an excuse or something…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

More six-word stories for you. They should conjure up images and you can see a definite start, middle, and end.

1. The lion ran straight at you.
2. The dentist will see you now.

(Own up, which one scares you the most out of those two? The one that is just about possible or the one where you know you WILLhear those words at some point?!).

3. The fairy godmother trashed her wand.
4. Prince Charming wed an ugly sister.

(Probably as a direct result of story line 3 here!).

5. What was this world, she mused.
6. It really is hell in here.

Hope you enjoy!

Not a new topic I know, but one that is always pertinent: can I put the word out about reviews being really appreciated by authors? The obvious places are Amazon and Goodreads but links to other places so authors can share good reviews on their websites etc are also welcome.

Doesn’t have to be a long review either. I liked or loathed Book X because….. is fine. The crucial point is the review has to be an honest one so if you dislike a book, say why. With my consumer hat on, I do read reviews when I do my online food shop or am buying books myself and I like to see a variety of reviews. I am always suspicious of anything getting ALL 5 or 1 star reviews. I do read the positive and negative reviews and then make my own mind up! But the author is still helped as review numbers make a big difference, especially with Amazon.

Oh and don’t forget reviews are just as welcome for ebooks as they are for paperbacks.

Where do you find your inspiration? I find mine from films, odd sayings I’ve overheard or had said directly to me (so do watch what you tell me incidentally!), proverbs, advertising slogans, the classic fairytales, timeless themes such as love and revenge (and sometimes love and revenge together!), etc etc. The key to being inspired is keeping your mind open to the fact that ideas can be found all around you. It is then up to you to develop that initial spark further.

My Learning the Trade is inspired by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and naturally my character blames the boss for basically not having an “undo” spell to hand! The Haunting is inspired by the Ladykillers (and if you ever get the chance to see the stage show of this, do. It’s fab in its own right though nothing will top the Ealing comedy with Alec Guinness).

Getting that initial idea is fabulous but what I really love is taking that and seeing what I can do with it. I like to have fun with my words and writing should be fun, most of the time anyway.

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale A to Z Part 6

On to the next section tonight then and I get to do one of the difficult letters – Q!

P = Princes/Princesses are often the heroes/heroines in fairytales of course but I love the heroines that prove themselves every bit as capable and intelligent as any hero (and are often better!  Think Fiona in the Shrek series basically!). I also like those stories where the characters here have to prove themselves worthy of their calling – i.e.  it doesn’t just all fall into their laps because they are royal.  A character who has to work for something, regardless of their background, is a character that will face conflict, dilemmas, enemies, and will make mistakes and basically give the reader lots of lovely action and drama to follow – and they will.

Q = Questions.  Not such a tricky letter to find an answer for here though as I write this I don’t know yet what I will be coming up with for X!  All characters should ask questions and make your readers question them.  The situations you put your characters in should test them (and make them query whether they are doing the right thing or not – internal conflicts like this add depth to your stories and make your characters seem more real.  We all have internal conflicts to deal with so why shouldn’t fictional characters do too?).  Your readers should be engrossed with what your characters do and their attitudes and perhaps question themselves as to whether they’d act that way or not.  A reader that is asking questions like that is one who is engaged with your characters and stories.  You want lots of those!

R = Reading.  It goes without saying we need to read widely to know what it is we like and what we would like to write as a result.  But what would your characters read and how can you use that to show something of their personality?  What are their world’s myths and legends?

This World and Others – World Building Tips

Whether you write flash fiction or novels (or both!), world building tips should prove useful.  With my flash fiction, when I write in the fantasy genre, I just give enough details to confirm it is a magical setting for my story.  With my novel, I’ve got room to share more but things to consider when creating your world for your characters should include:-

  1. How your characters eat and drink (and what!).  Is the society a hunter-gatherer one? Meat eaters or vegetarians?
  2. How sanitation is dealt with.  If your characters are eating and drinking, they will need to excrete!  Okay this may not be a crucial part of your story, but there should be a general sense of how characters keep clean, and how disease is avoided (or not) due to good sanitation measures (or in the case of not due to the lack of them!).
  3. How their society is organised.  Is it class based?
  4. What their society expects of them especially if it is class based.  What happens to anyone defying expectations?
  5. Is their world a developed or developing one?
  6. If magical, are there limits to what people can do with their powers?  How is anarchy or dictatorship prevented (assuming it is!)?

Food for thought there I hope.

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WRITING TIPS AND CHARACTER CREATION

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is Part 2 of my interview with fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin. We discuss writing tips and character creation amongst other topics. Gail also shares her thoughts on “real” books and ebooks. Do you agree with her? Comments welcome in the Chandler’s Ford Today box at the end of the post.

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Facebook – General

When is a character “faulty”? When it takes a convoluted plot to make the character work.

Characters, no matter how bizarre they are or how weird their world is, still have to be believable. There has to be something about them that catches the reader’s attention and then holds it until the end of the story. So a strong character is a must, even if that strength is in being a weak person who will do anything to save their own skin. (Some great stories to come from that, I would have thought!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The most difficult thing about flash is having to cut lines you know are good ones, and usually add depth to the story, BUT don’t in themselves move the tale forward. There simply isn’t the word count room to indulge in that so out they come. Occasionally I’ve been able to use a suitable line elsewhere but not as often as I’d like!

Electronically or by print, both face publishing frustrations - image via Pixabay

Ebooks and print – both have their own frustrations when it comes to publishing. Image via Pixabay

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

Books are the keys to knowledge. Image via Pixabay

Let creativity spill out - image via Pixabay

Let the creative process flow! Image via Pixabay

Writing, whether it is fiction or otherwise, is a wonderful way to create something new - image via Pixabay

You can’t beat notebooks for jotting down ideas. Image via Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What is the purpose of a story?

To entertain – definitely.
To sometimes convey truths in a more palatable way – yes.
To get a message across – yes.

To set puzzles for readers to solve – think Agatha Christie here especially.

To warn – yes (particularly true for horror I would have thought. If you decide you’re going to tackle Dracula, you’ve got to be prepared for the consequences!).

Flash fiction does all of this but concisely!

Fairytales with Bite – Story Generating Ideas

In my Chandler’s Ford Today post for this week, I discuss with Gail Aldwin writing tips, character creation and “real” books amongst other topics.

One common question put to writers is where do you get your ideas.  Well, the answer can be all over the place, which is not what most people want to hear.  What they want, a quick pat answer, is simply not possible becauset he great thing about generating ideas for stories is that there are several methods to do this. One at least is bound to suit you.  I use:-

1.  Well known sayings (and sometimes I twist these too).

2.  Proverbs

3.  Think of a subject and a problem in one sentence and then see where it takes you.  For example, “He refused to cry again”.  Who is he?  What made him cry in the first place?  What has led to his change of attitude here (and it is clear there has been a change)?  What has been his problem that has led him to this point?

4.  Think of an ending in one sentence and work backwards.  For example, “At last, the dragon was killed”.  Okay, so why wasn’t it killed earlier?  What was the problem here?

5.  Sometimes in conversations or even TV/radio programmes, you will pick up on something that can be useful – an odd phrase can give a good indication of character.  Then it is up to you what you do with that character on the page!

This World and Others – Dreams and Reality

Writers learn early on to separate out dreams from reality.  The big dream of being published never goes away until fulfilled (and then you want to keep on being published).  The reality is knowing the writing journey is a tough one, that you’ve got to expect rejections but also knowing there are other options out there such as self publishing or seeking publication through the small independent press.

The latter is the route I, and fellow Chapeltown Books author, Gail Aldwin took.  Part 2 of my interview with her is up on Chandler’s Ford Today for this week’s post and we discuss writing tips and character creation amongst other things.

You need the dreams to keep you going. You need hard headed reality to be able to cope with the rejections, competition disappointments and so on.  It does help to know this is all part of the process.  The one good thing about it is that it does toughen you up so you face later rejections better than you might otherwise have done.

The world of the imagination should play a role in your stories. I can't imagine any world without some form of the arts. Image via Pixabay.

THE POINT OF CHANGE

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

The Point of Change talks about that pivotal moment when the story is “on”.  It is at that point your main character realises their life is going to change and they either can’t fight this further or accept that the need for change is there and “go with it”.  So how do they handle it?  Do they have help?  Is your point of change strong enough to be the story (because effectively that is the story.  Something happens to Character A and the ramifications are X, Y and Z, but without that something, there is no story).

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Character Spotting refers to spotting those characters whose story is worth telling (who are literally strong enough to carry the tale) and to picking up on those attributes/attitudes the character has, which will confirm they are strong enough to carry said story.  I list three major qualities I look for in a character which confirm to me this character is the one to write about/for.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I talk about how music conveys mood and how writers must do this by carefully selecting which words they use.  Obvious perhaps but this is also where double meanings are so useful for a writer.  They can convey so much without upsetting your word count limitations!

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

Your characters step out of the page and seem real to your reader when the point of change for them is strong enough to keep your reader wanting to know what happens next. Image via Pixabay.

 

The perfect way to unwind. Image via Pixabay.

Career Prospects for a Fairytale Witch

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Career Prospects for a Fairytale Witch is full of advice for those interested in pursuing this path.  Of course a lot depends on whether you are happy to accept always being the bad guy, knowing  you are likely to die before your time and often horribly, and that you’ll never be able to trust any dwarf ever again (especially if there are seven of them confronting you).  However if this is not a problem, this post shares what you could do (and even shares some hints as to what you could do to increase your chances of living longer too).

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Firstly may I apologise on this one.  I’ve actually named the piece Writing Tips I Continue to Find Helpful but you will see the link says What Writers would do well to Remember.  The latter was the original title I’d chosen but I wasn’t happy with it so changed it.  I don’t know why but the change of title has not been picked by the website so is still showing the old one.  I’ve not had this as an issue before and if it happens again (hopefully not), I’ll query Weebly over it.  Having said that, the post does contain writing tips I continue to find helpful and hope you find them helpful too.

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Tonight I share last night’s This World and Others post about Why It Is Not a Good Idea to Annoy a Writer.  I love writing (and reading) humorous lists and hope this one amuses you!

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Magical lands. Image via Pixabay.

Magical lands. Image via Pixabay.

 

 

Part of the Reception Area at the Roman Baths, Bath. Image taken by me. Easily the most beautiful place I've ever queued!

AWAY DAYS AND TECHNICAL ISSUES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Away Days, I link to my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post (more below), but also ask what magical beings would do and where would they go when they fancied a jolly outing.  This post was particularly fun to write and I hope you like it.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Aptly, as I have had technical issues tonight sharing my website posts on Facebook (Weebly are looking into it), tonight’s post is on Technical IssuesI focus on what these are for writers – spelling, grammar, presentation of work and so on – and give one or two tips.  I like the technical side of writing.  While the creative side, that imaginative spark that gets you going with a story or whatever, is obviously more fun, I love having a piece to work with that I know a good edit will improve.  (I’ve yet to come across any work of mine that isn’t vastly improved by a darned good edit!).

ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN WRITERS – MORE THAN WRITERS

I write a post for ACW once a month now.  For my fellow Christians who are part of this, my latest post (which appeared yesterday) is on The Joy of Hymns and I share some thoughts about my favourites and why I love them.  It is generally down to the imagery the words create (much the same would go for poetry in general I should imagine).

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

My latest post is another in my Away Day series and looks at lovely Bath, once home to Jane Austen, one of my favourite writers.  I focus on the Roman Baths here.  Those Romans were amazing engineers.  The connection with Chandler’s Ford?  Chandler’s Ford has good train links and you can get to a wide range of destinations by rail in a day from the local station, hence my Away Days series.

Beautiful Bath. Image taken by me.

Beautiful Bath. Image taken by me.

 

 

Heavenly books. Image via Pixabay

MIXING IT UP

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Tonight’s post is called Mixing It Up where I discuss variety in writing in terms of what you write and also in terms of short stories. After all there are markets and competitions now for the very short story and the much longer one so have a go at both!   I also share news of a flash fiction piece of mine, Telling the Time, which first appeared on the Cafelit website now being available in their annual anthology, The Best of Cafelit 5

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Not the most imaginative title I know but my post tonight called Ten Writing Tips I’ve Found Useful sums up this blog nicely!  Hope you find at least some of the tips useful.

FACEBOOK PAGE

Again I share news of The Best of Cafelit 5 on my Facebook Author page tonight but I also refer to Baubles, the upcoming Bridge House Publishing annual anthology, where I’ll also have a story appearing.  More details on that when that book comes out.

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A world of technologies means more places for stories to appear! Image via Pixabay

A world of technologies means more places for stories to appear! Image via Pixabay