Holidays and Publication News

Image Credit: Pixabay/Pexels. Scottish and Lady pics by me, Allison Symes. Book cover image by Gill James for The Best of Cafelit 9.

Facebook – General

Am heading to Scotland for a short break. First time I’ve been there in the autumn. Looking forward to lots of lovely walking on deserted sandy beaches and to exploring the forests.
Now the fantastic scenery won’t in itself inspire story ideas. My imagination doesn’t work like that.

What the scenery and walking will do is blow away the cobwebs and relax me. Then the ideas will flow. And I am all for that!😄

Gorgeous day walking at Lairg and Golspie. Dog very tired but happy. Literally dog-tired! Lovely to be able to join in with Zoom church service this morning too.

Planning to draft some blogs and flash tales this week. Writing and reading relax me so they are the perfect wind down.

There is a well-stocked book shelf here too so will be investigating that too. I recall the last time I was here there was a copy of Somerset Maughan’s A Writer’s Notebook. Must dip into that. Insights into the writing life always fascinate me.

Delightful day at St Dunnet Bay today, the top edge of the UK mainland. Lady had a wonderful time but is now struggling to stay awake. The price dogs pay for fun!😄😊
Am delighted to say The Best of Cafelit 9 is now out and I have stories in here. Hope to chat more about this next week but did want to congratulate all of the writers with work in here meantime.

If you like a good mix of stories and styles, do check out the Cafelit series.

Spent day walking along Golspie beach and at Lairg woods. It is amazing how much sand a black collie can collect! Lady is happily snoozing away as I write this. Always a good sign she IS getting her exercise well enough!

One major difference with us holidaying now rather than in May is that we’re not seeing the deer in the field opposite where we’re staying. We guess they’re up in the hills preparing for the rut.

Writing wise, I’m drafting bits and bobs as the wonderful Scottish fresh air is not just knocking Lady out for six! But am enjoying my “pottering” writing wise and my reading too. Sometimes it is good to “tick over”.

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From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is fascinating seeing the country change as I go up to Scotland for a brief holiday.

Changes are interesting. They are vital too.Changes in character behaviour are what drives a story. Something has to happen. Something has to change.

But a character changing their mind can be the trigger for your story. Change doesn’t necessarily have to be dramatic.

Elizabeth Bennet changing her mind about Darcy turns Pride and Prejudice (as does his changing his mind about her).

How has your Sunday been? I’ve enjoyed glorious walking with hubby and dog on the NE coast of Scotland. Fab weather and good temperatures too.

Am looking forward to my annual challenge of getting as much info on a postcard as possible and sending same to my nearest and dearest. Still this is appropriate for me – flash fiction has been called postcard fiction!

And an interesting idea that came out of the creative workshop via Zoom I “went to” recently was to use the text as well as the pictures on old postcards to trigger story ideas. I might try and use the pics on the cards I pick up and see what I can do.


It is a privilege and pleasure to have flash stories included in anthologies, as well as in my own books.

On that note I’m pleased to report I have stories in the newly released The Best of Cafelit 9.

I hope to chat more about this later in the week when back from Scotland but it is lovely to have further publication news to return home for.

Am surrounded by beautiful old stone walls where I’m staying now. So many stories behind the building of those I suspect.

One thing I adore about visiting places such as Salisbury Cathedral is you do get to find out how the building was constructed, the names of the families doing the work and so on. Glimpses into a past world.

And that is what flash fiction is all about – giving readers glimpses into the past, the future, the present, the strange universe you’ve created etc. You choose where to set your stories and what glimpses your readers see.

Goodreads – Holiday Reading

– Holiday Reading

Do you make promises to youraelf to do so much reading while on a break? I do! Most of them I do achieve.

This time, while I’m in Scotland, I’ve promised myself to catch up with one paperback and three books on Kindle. Can’t wait to “tuck in”! I hope to catch up on reviewing too.

And the positive thing about heading into autumn with the nights drawing in, it does encourage more reading.

Creating Characters

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless stated. Also a big thank you to Richard Hardie for the images supplied for my second CFT post which appeared over the weekend, more below.

Facebook – General – bonus Chandler’s Ford Today post

A busy week on CFT for me this time. My second post this week shares news from YA author, Richard Hardie, about his link with Doctor Who. All very exciting and a feather in the cap for Richard. Well done! Check out the post for more details.

Facebook – Association of Christian Writers

More Than Writers blog spot – Creating Characters

It’s my turn on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

I talk about Creating Characters and share hints and tips, including a list of questions that will help you outline your “people”.

Hope you find it useful. (And many thanks to those who have commented on this. Much appreciated).

A good TV or film adaptation of a book only works if the images shown roughly coincide with the images I had from reading the text. The Inspector Morse series did this, as did the Poirot and Miss Marple series (with David Suchet and Joan Hickson). Film wise, I thought Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings had it spot on.

Are there any books you would like to see made into series or films? Which ones and why? Are there adaptations that haven’t worked for you? (I couldn’t get on with the Marple series. For me, Joan HIckson was perfect in the role and that was that).

When it comes to writing my stories, I put myself in my character’s shoes and see the world their way. I don’t always like my characters by the way! (Oh and a big thanks for a tremendous response to my ACW post on More Than Writers yesterday which was all about Creating Characters. Glad it was useful).

What I have found is you DO have to inhabit your character’s space so you can write about them/for them effectively.

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One very tired Lady on the sofa tonight. Had a great big play with several pals, including her “boyfriend”, a lovely Collie gent, and her best pal, a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I should imagine they’re pretty shattered as well!

Enjolyed listening to the Movie Music Hall of Fame on Classic FM today. I was right about the top two and pleased about them too. Must remember to find out where the Pink Panther theme came in (and there’s an earworm for anyone of a certain age!).

I usually write with classical music on as I find it helps me relax and when I relax, I’m more productive with the writing. Other things I have to have on my desk are my dictionary, my Scrivener for Dummies guide, my publisher guides (Writers and Artists and Mslexia) and plenty of pens (I know! I’m using a laptop, what do I need pens for? I guess I just like to see them around!).

I don’t have any rituals before writing. I just open my laptop and get on with it but I do like to see the accoutrements on my desk. I suppose it’s a case of Allison going into her comfort zone sort of thing.

And now I am IN my comfort zone, time to get on with more writing then!

 

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I can’t say a particular writer made me pick up my pen and start writing. I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I can recall. I loved writing stories in English lessons at school (and I’ll be talking a bit more about that in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week).

But it took me a long time to figure out I really ought to get around and write seriously. It took two major life events to wake me up here! My only serious regret with writing is NOT starting a lot sooner than I did.

But it is wonderful to say that all of the writers whose books are on my shelves (and the electronic one too!) have added to my love of stories and storytelling. For that I will always be grateful. And then there’s the joy of discovering new writers too.

If I could invent things I would invent:-

1. Elastic time so I never run out of time to read or write.
2. Calorie free chocolate.
3. Calorie free prosecco.
4. A stamina “topper-upper” for those times you could really do with it!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I don’t know about you but I find it unsettling it is 8.30 pm in August in the UK and it is pitch black out there! (Not due to the weather either). The seasons are definitely shifting. Talk about going from light to dark!

I’ve mentioned before that one of my favourite writing exercises is writing to a set opening line. The ones that work best for me are the ones that can be taken in more than one direction. For example:-

1. The door remained locked despite her efforts.
2. He was on time, as the note insisted, but nobody was about.
3. The fairy godmother was on early shift.

Now all three opening lines here have comic as well as dramatic possibilities. (The door could remain locked because it took her a while to realise she was using the wrong key. He might be on time but what if he turned up at the wrong place and forgot to check? As for the fairy godmother, what could she expect to have to do on early shift that she might not face later on in the day? Definitely scope for humour there and that would almost certainly be the way I’d take these story ideas).

I find it useful to jot down initial ideas from an opening line and then go for the one that is a little way down my list. That is the idea which is not likely to be the obvious one and could well be open to my putting a twist on it, which I always love doing.

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One of my favourite stories in my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, involves a librarian and a snake. Can’t say more than that at the moment but it was great fun to write! By all means, let your mind boggle at the thought of that!

But then that is the fun of fiction. You can write in any genre, any time period, and the impossible isn’t so much in things like fantasy, magical realism etc.

Whatever you write, it is important to enjoy it. I mentioned to a friend and fellow author (the lovely #ValPenny) that you have to enjoy what you write, especially if it is a book, because you’ll be promoting said book for a long time.

You as the writer have got to be able to live with what you’ve written and enjoy living with it too! That’s an aspect to the writing life which isn’t often considered I think.

But commitment to what you write shows up here and not just in the hard work it needs to get those stories written in the first place.

Writing is good for you as it stretches you and develops your imagination. It is also good fun experimenting with different forms of writing and discovering where your strengths are. But even when you’ve found the style of writing that suits you best, writing should still keep pushing you.

Pushing you to keep on producing good work.

Pushing you to discover new markets/competitions for your work.

Pushing you to get better at editing your work and polishing it as well as you can to give it its best possible chance out there in the big, bad world.

Pushing you to develop new skills including but definitely not limited to reading your work to an audience, making the most of technology to produce items that can help you market your work more effectively, and so on.

What writing doesn’t do is allow you to rest on your laurels and that’s a great thing. Why? Because you want to keep on developing. The writing journey should be as much fun as possible. Different things come up along that journey, things you would not have expected when starting out, and by developing you will be ready to tackle those things and have more strings to add to your bow.

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Am looking forward to taking part in the Zoom session with #GillJames and #DawnKentishKnox on 26th September. I hope to be reading a story or two, including one from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. You did hear it here first!

I will share the link to the event later in September. You do need to register but the event is free. I’ll also be flagging it up via Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Flash is great for reading aloud at events etc. It doesn’t take too long to read. It makes an immediate impact and the “deeper” stories resonate with you and linger long in the memory afterwards. Nothing to dislike there!

And I’ve said before it is a good idea to read your work out loud so you can hear how it flows, whether the dialogue etc comes across as smoothly as you’d like etc. If you trip over your words, a reader almost certainly will. Again with flash, this doesn’t take long. I’ve spotted things I’ve needed to change many a time doing this.

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Goodreads Author Blog Book Dilemmas

What book dilemmas, I hear you ask?

Well, there is the obvious one of which book you are going to read next from your naturally huge TBR pile.

I refuse to believe that doesn’t give you pause for thought from time to time! (I get a little annoyed with myself for doing this. I realise the half hour I spent deciding what I’ll read next could have been spent on reading!).

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll reduce the TBR paperback pile or the one on your Kindle.

Then there is the dilemma of whether you’ll read short stories or another novel or non-fiction.

There is no one right answer to how you answer these.

I find I read a load of things on my Kindle for a while, then switch back to paperbacks for a bit, and that’s fine with me.

I just need to stop wasting half hours every now and again making up my mind and just get on with what matters – the reading!

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Looking Forward

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

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On days when I don’t have much time to write, I focus on drafting blog posts for future use and/or flash fiction stories. Ironically it can often feel like I’ve got far more done because I’ve written 3 or 4 posts and a couple of 100-word stories. But that’s fine. I don’t mind that at all.

What can feel tough is when you’re on a longer project and it feels like you haven’t got much done. Hang on in there. You have. You’ve written a chapter (fiction or non-fiction) for a book. You’ve drafted a longer story (say 2,500 words plus). You’ve edited a lot of work. You are achieving. It just doesn’t show up so well that’s all.

 

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Loved Part 1 of the Doctor Who series finale, looking forward to Part 2 next week, and that’s all I’ll say there!

A good story makes you wonder, especially on your first read (or viewing come to that). The characters you’ve become attached to? Well, what WILL happen to them? I find I start trying to anticipate how the story will pan out. Sometimes I’m right but I love it even more when I’m wrong and the writer has wrongfooted me.

Of course flash fiction is a great vehicle for twist in the tale stories. The twist has to make sense – none of the “it was all a dream” nonsense, the last author who used that with any conviction WAS Lewis Carroll. This is why, for twist tales, I often know what the twist is first and then work backwards to get to several reasonable starts. I then pick the one I like best. Good fun that!

 

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I can’t recall when books and writing were absent from my life. Nor do I wish to!

I do know they mean a great deal to me, even when the writing is a struggle or I’m not getting as much time as I’d like for them.

Incidentally with the former, it is usually just a question of being dog-tired (sorry, Lady!) and a good night’s sleep restores me and my imagination.

Don’t undervalue the importance of getting enough sleep. People focus on the health benefits of it but it is also true good sleep will help with your creative side. (At least you won’t have tiredness dragging it and you down).

A good writing day is when I head off to the Land of Nod happy with what I’ve written/edited/both and am anticipating another good writing session the next day.

A bad one is when I struggle to get anything down and am fighting to keep my eyes open. Time to give up and just get an early night. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

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Looking forward to going to #TheChameleonTheatreGroup‘s Spring Quartet production in April aka the Chandler’s Ford Today works outing, given my lovely CFT editor will be there too. A good time will be had by all though, unlike with TCTG’s last production, there will be no cries of “It’s behind you!” to contend with – well, not unless something goes horribly wrong… 😆😆

More immediately, am looking forward to sharing this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post which will be an interview with #PaulaReadman. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss it. Some fab insights as to what books and writing mean to her.

Many thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the shout-out on her Knox Box of Miscellany. It is also a pleasure to highlight Prompts by #GillJames as well. It is a fab book and I’m looking forward to writing up many more of the story ideas.

So lots of looking forward going on tonight but given Lady and I got caught in a downpour earlier today, I think looking forward, especially to spring, is a very good idea indeed!

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I tend to “hit the ground running” with my flash fiction stories. I want to get a reader into the story as quickly as possible (and of course out again at the end of the tale).

I mix up the way I do this as it keeps things interesting for me (and I hope for readers). I sometimes take a reader straight into my character’s thoughts. Sometimes I ask a question I hope will provoke curiosity – the must find out the answer type.

Sometimes I will start with a character action, again the type that will trigger the where will this go reaction (and there is only ever one answer to that – read on!).

I mix up using the first and third person for my stories (though I love the immediacy the first person gives you).

I also mix up my settings. My first love is the humorous fairytale with a sting in the tale but I adore writing crime and historical ones too. That is the thing I love most about flash fiction – its flexibility with setting. It is just the word count I have to watch – and even there I have choice. If something works better at 200 words than 100 so be it. It just go in for a 100-word (aka drabble) competition or market, that’s all.

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What I like with character creation:-

1. The sheer joy of coming up with a fully rounded person you as writer can have fun telling what to do and dropping right in the mire when it suits you!

2. When the character comes alive and, for me, that moment is when I know how they’d react in ANY circumstance. I usually know things such as what kind of music they’d listen to and so on. When I started out writing, I used to find it a little unnerving to hear a piece of music and think oh yes, Character X would like that. Now, I see that as a good sign.

3. When the character makes you laugh, terrifies you etc., just as you want them to do to a reader. If there’s no reaction from you, their creator, there won’t be from a reader either.

4. The challenge of coming up with different characters. Their voices must be different. I don’t want to write “all the same person” any more than a reader would want to read that. So getting the variety in keeps me on my toes.

5. When someone tells you they really loved or disliked a character but that is the reaction which is meant to happen!

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What I like about writing dialogue:-

1. When the dialogue flows, I know for certain I’ve got into the head of my character properly. It can feel almost as if I’m taking dictation from my characters but that’s a good sign.

2. I can get my characters to say things I’d love to say but wouldn’t dare! Now that’s got you wondering, hasn’t it? Best left there I think. Well, imagination is not fun if you give EVERYTHING away now, is it?

3. For my longer stories, I love getting two characters to spark off each other via their dialogue. My danger point there is to make sure everything is relevant to the story and I’m not just writing it because I love my characters and what they’re saying (though I do!). This is where the edit comes in and I do cut out anything that does not move the story on. I really do kill my darlings, darlings.

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Further to my mini-series so far, what I like about writing in general:-

1. Writing is fun and can be amazingly therapeutic. It is not a cure-all, nor is it meant to be, I think, but just escaping into your created world for a bit I’ve found to be very helpful and relaxing. Sometimes just that is all you need, regardless of what happens to the piece of writing itself. Of course, if you submit it and it is published/wins a competition etc., even better!

2. It is a challenge to do but it stretches you and that, I think, is a good thing.

3. You will expand your knowledge. I’ve looked into all manners of topics for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, but research comes into fiction writing too. (If you are also a quiz fan, this could be really useful for that too!).

4. You can try all sorts of writing to work out which one suits you best. Nor do you have to stick at one either.

5. The challenge to begin with is to see if you can create a story, then, for me at least, it was to try and be published, and since then to see if I can be published more often. That challenge continues. It combines with wanting to make your storytelling better as you learn from what you write as you go along too.

Whatever you write, enjoy!

Goodreads Author Blog – Sneaking In Reading Time

My main reading time is in bed but the snag with that, of course, is if you’re really tired, you’re going to be lucky to get to the end of a page before your head hits the pillow and the book drops to the floor!

Having said that, there is nothing to beat being nicely cosy and comfortable and settling down for a chapter or so before sleeping. (To my mind this is not the time to read Stephen King though, especially if you dislike clowns!).

So I’ve managed to find little pockets of time during the day when I can sneak in some extra reading time. Five minutes here, five minutes there, and it’s lovely.

At the moment I’m using these pockets of time to catch up with my magazine reading but that’s great. Reading is reading when all is said and done, whether you read magazines, books, graphic novels etc.

When I use the train, I tend to focus on writing. I will occasionally read but I do feel the need to be “doing” something so out comes the smartphone, Evernote, and my stylus and I either draft some flash fiction or blog posts like this one.

So how do you sneak in extra reading time? I realised long ago there is never enough time in the world to do all the reading you would like to do so it’s a question of compromise.

What must I read next? What must I read now? How can I break the book I’ve chosen into manageable reading chunks?

I am grateful for the time I have though and it is a question of trying to make the most of what you can do here. (Same applies for creative writing). Any thoughts and comments on how to sneak in even more reading time are welcomed!

 

 

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Writing – and Multiple Projects

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

I’ll look at the disadvantages tomorrow.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just some of the many things I love about writing!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Creating a Flash Fiction Story

INGREDIENTS

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

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

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

METHOD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have fun!

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Goodreads Author Programme – First Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Image Credit:  Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

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Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you have lots of lovely books as presents and plenty of time in which to read them. Now if that’s not a good wish, I don’t know what is!

Hang on, I can think of another. If you’re a writer, may you be inspired by plenty of excellent ideas and have lovely stationery as gifts to jot down those thoughts, which will surely become works of genius in years to come.

Yes, I think that counts as a good wish too. Not quite sure how Santa can deliver that one exactly but I am sure the great man will think of something!

Have a wonderful time. Will be back online in a few days.  NB:  I don’t know if I’ll be posting on Friday as, if I do, it will only be a link to my CFT post and I may save that until next Tuesday.

 

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I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Whether you write books or read them or ideally do both, I hope you find plenty of fascinating new material to be enjoying in 2020.

Not sure what my plans writing wise are for the rest of this week but I am planning a CFT post which will be a review of my writing year. I will also be sharing a few timeless wishes. Link up later in the week.

There is a surge of reading at this time of year for obvious reasons but I do hope that leads to a surge of reviews in the usual places in the New Year! As a certain supermarket would say, every little bit helps!

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I was reminded of the power of words and music to move the human spirit at the Carols by Candlelight Service I went to this evening.

Firstly, I heard the most beautiful rendition of O Holy Night I’ve ever heard (well done to the two ladies concerned) and it was one of the loveliest things I’ve heard EVER regardless of musical style etc. The congregation was deeply moved by it. I was close to tears (of the good variety).

Secondly, even without the familiar tunes, the carols are great poetry in and of themselves (and they all tell a story too so I’d love them for that reason alone).

I also read the poem Shepherd by Lisa Debney which was a great pleasure to do. It takes an unusual angle on the Christmas story – that of someone coming to terms with Jesus as a baby – and the words are so moving.

Words – and music – are wonderful things. Any of us working with either or both are so privileged. Enjoy!

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I’ve created a book trailers page on my website. As well as the one for From Light to Dark and Back Again, there are trailers for Nativity and Transforming Being, both of which I have stories in. A big thank you to #GillJames for her wonderful work in creating these three.

I’ve also included a short video I created for Job Satisfaction which is in FLTDBA. I hope to add more trailers (and things I creat too) on this page every so often.

Meanwhile I hope you enjoy the new page!

Nativity Medium

FromLightToDark_medium-2

Image from Chapeltown Books

Transforming Being

Transforming Being. Image by Bridge House Publishing.

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Merry Christmas, everyone. I’ll be offline for a few days. I hope you all have a lovely break – and enjoy plenty of flash fiction, whether you’re reading or writing it (or both), of course.

To finish here are some of my micro Christmas stories. Hope you enjoy!

1. Scrooge grimaced as he walked home, having heard some youngster tell a snippet of a ghost story. Ghosts! Whatever next?

2. In the bleak midwinter, they could have done with a snow plough.

3. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer found that telling everyone he was suffering from a nasty cold stopped the awkward jokes about what he was adding to his water trough to generate said red nose.

4. Frosty the Snowman was the first to admit he really could not appreciate the benefits of central heating.

Allison Symes – 2019

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Thought I’d share one of my flash fiction stories. Hope you enjoy it.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

She knew she had to stop it. It wasn’t doing her any good and any comfort she derived from it had vanished long ago.

She put on her huge black coat, it made her look slim, grabbed her cavernous bag and shook out the massive pork pie she stored in there. She grimaced at it, picked it up and, as she left her flat and walked out of the roadway, she dumped the pie in the community bin.

Today she would start again. Enough was enough. She took a deep breath and headed to where she knew the slimming group met. She’d put off going for ages. But today was different.

She was NOT going to be mistaken for a giant tomato on legs again by anyone. She would show the world she could do it.

And when she had she would get the most rotten tomatoes she could find, hide and hurl the things at those people who’d humiliated her tonight. She knew where they were. They did not know where she was. And it would stay that way.

A year later, the local papers appealed for help in tracking a mystery assailant going around pelting rotten veg at people coming off the 28 bus at different times.

She laughed.

ENDS

Have a wonderful, story filled Christmas and New Year!

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There are certain things about the Christmas story I particularly love – and those are the telling details (which is highly appropriate for a flash fiction writer as only the most important nuggets of information are included in our stories. We have no room for anything else and readers have to fill in the gaps though, for me, that is the joy of flash. I love having to work things through like that and picking up on the implications etc).

One such nugget is the Bible story says Mary was perplexed by the angel’s greeting to her and wondered what kind of greeting this could be. Firstly, I can just picture that (!), and secondly, it makes Mary so real. It would’ve been very odd NOT to react that way I think.

When it comes to our own stories, our characters’ reactions MUST be realistic to the situations we’ve put them in. Readers should be able to think yes, I’d react like that or yes, I could see why they would react this way but I would have…

So when reviewing your stories look at how your characters react to something. Is that reaction reasonable? If a character goes “over the top”, can a reader understand why they might do that?

Happy writing!

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I love the poem The Night Before Christmas. It’s a wonderful story told in rhyme. As is The Gruffalo. I admire hugely anyone who can tell a story in rhyme like that. It’s such a challenge NOT to go for slightly awkward phrasing just so you get the rhyme you want.

Flash fiction can be told in poetic form and I occasionally experiment with this. It’s an interesting challenge but not something I’d want to do regularly. If there’s an award for most difficult category of writing ever invented, I think it would have to go to poetry. So hats off to all poets out there!

But flash fiction writers can learn a lot from poets. DON’T go for awkward phrasing just so you can achieve a desired word count. Your phrasing has to read naturally. You don’t want anything to jar with a reader. You do pick up on “duff” notes in the rhythm of your prose and I know when I’ve come across it in something I’ve read, it throws me. The writing will have to be pretty special to make me keep reading after that.

I write a flash fiction piece, edit it until I’m happy with it, and THEN select the competition or market it is best suited for. When a competition comes up for, say, a 250 word piece, but my story works better at 300, I won’t crop it. I’ll save it for another competition.

Incidentally unless a competition or market specifically says otherwise, it is okay to come in UNDER the required word count. I’ve found though my work tends to come in at 20 or so words below whatever the limit is and that is deliberate on my part. It means I’ve got a little bit of room to manoeuvre if I need it and allows for those places where the title IS part of the word count. You’re never going to have a 20 word title, are you?!!

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Goodreads Author Blog – 

Why Everyone Needs a Writer in their Life

If you’re not a writer yourself, you definitely need one in your life somewhere. Why? Well for one thing, you’ll have an easy present buy for said writer.

If we don’t give you a list of books we’d like to find under the Christmas tree, we’ll always appreciate nice pens and notebooks!

But the chances of us NOT asking for books, in whatever format, are extremely remote. Nor will we ever moan about a book shaped present waiting for us! We don’t care we know it’s a book in there. We just want to find out which one you picked out for us!

And this is why I loved receiving book tokens as presents too. I relished the thought of going to pick up my own present after the Christmas holidays – the thought of all that choice…oh good!

I don’t know about you but I always find it a joy buying presents for people where I know they’re going to like said present. And writers as a rule fit that category very well.

I can’t think of any writer who would pass on the option to have books bought for them!

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What Books Mean To Me Part 3

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay. A big thank you to my guests on the Chandler’s Ford Today Series What Books Mean to Me for supplying photos.

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I’m delighted to share the final, bumper edition of my What Books Mean To Me series for Chandler’s Ford Today. A big thank you to all of fantastic guests for sharing their insights here. It has been a superb series to put together and great fun!

This time Gail Aldwin, Paula Readman, Jim Bates, Wendy H. Jones, Val Penny and yours truly answer the three questions I set.

I asked which ONE book would you save in the event of a disaster, what does reading mean to you, and what do you think reading has done for you as a writer.

As ever, do share your thoughts on the books you’d save over on the CFT page.

A HUGE thank you to all of my guests appearing in the What Books Mean to Me series on Chandler’s Ford Today.

The series was great fun to put together. The wide variety of books chosen to save was amazing (as were the reasons why).

There is plenty to learn from also when my guests discussed what reading had done for them as writers (and of course continues to do).

If you were ever in doubt about the importance of reading for writers, do check this series out. My guests’ comments will leave you in no doubt that the best thing any writer can do to help them improve their craft – read and read widely and read lots. But, hey, don’t just take our word for it. Get on and read and discover how true this is for yourself (and the great thing is you can include reading the posts as part of that!).

Incidentally one of the joys of my CFT posts is choosing a Feature Image (nearly always from those magnificent people at Pixabay). Isn’t the library image for this week’s post just gorgeous?! See the slideshow!

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W = Welcome into a new world (sometimes it’s this one but seen from a new angle).

R = Real characters you can identify with come to life before your eyes as you read and you root for them all the way to the finish.

I = Imagination. The writer has clearly shared theirs with you. Does your imagination picture the world the writer has created clearly enough? Does the story spark your imagination and maybe inspire you to write your own stories or, even if that is not the case, can you think how the characters might live on after the book is finished? The latter shows the characters really are “live”.

T = Tension. There should be plenty of that, even in the funniest of books. Characters have to strive for something important. Other characters should get in their way for good reasons of their own. No tension/conflict = no story.

I = Intensity. Does the story grip you with its intensity? Do you feel the emotions the characters are being made to feel? (You should. No cardboard cut out characters here, thank you).

N = Narrative should be lively and speed the story along. The information given here should be crucial to your enjoyment of the tale.

G = Genre. Read widely in many! Think how many worlds you can explore through book covers if you do that!

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Looking forward to sharing Part 3 of What Books Mean to Me on Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. It has been great fun putting this series together and there have been some fabulous insights and books selected to be saved. More to come on Friday!

My guests this week are #GailAldwin, #JimBates, #PaulaCReadman, #WendyHJones, #ValPenny and…. er… Allison Symes. Well I thought I should answer the three questions I set! Never ask other writers questions you’re not prepared to answer yourself!

(And if the series gives you a marvellous Wish List for a certain season due in a couple of months’ time, even better!).

Second image in was taken on my phone at the pub just before the Waterloo Arts Festival in the summer. Here are three happy flash fiction writers – Paula Readman, Gail Aldwin, oh and me.

Many thanks to Wendy Jones and Jim Bates for supplying their pictures. Val Penny and I were having a selfie moment at the Winchester Writers’ Festival earlier this year.

Do check out everyone’s thoughts on what books mean to them on Friday. Meanwhile, there are Parts 1 and 2 to catch up on over at CFT.

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Glad to say I will be having more stories on Cafelit later this month and into November. Two of them are linked. I’ve experimented with linked flash fiction stories this year and have found these to be good fun. I think the trick, if there is one, to them, is to ensure the link is strong enough and don’t keep it going for too long. Will keep you posted.

Tying in with my post on my author page, here is another acrostic which I hope shares some good tips.

F = Flesh out your character who is going to be the focus of your flash fiction story. Why are they the star of your story? What is special about them? Some of that needs to come through so your reader picks up on their special qualities and will want to read on. (Not necessarily all by the way. Readers won’t need the full biography! Just give the readers what they need to know.).

L = Lively pace. Well nobody wants a dull read, do they?

A = Animated character(s). They’ve got to be the type of people who readers will want to root for and, in the case of villains, are perhaps a little sorry when they lose (assuming they do).

S = Setting(s) to be places readers could picture, even if the setting is a fantastical world beyond any known galaxy. What is there readers can identify with? (That even on Planet QZog, the females of the species have trouble getting their men to put the bins out?).

H = History – character and setting. There won’t be a lot of room in a flash fiction tale of course, so imply what you can when you can. A character’s thoughts can be a useful device here as they consider what action they will take based on the circumstances you’ve put them in. They will decide what to do based on their past experience and also based on any known history of their country etc, as indeed we do.

What do I want my flash fiction to be?

1. Entertaining. (Never despite the value of the escapism value of a book or story. The ability to escape into a good story is invaluable and I’m convinced has health benefits too).
2. To have the impact on a reader I hoped it would, whether it be to make them laugh, scream, or, where appropriate, both.
3. To be something I can be proud of – not just now but years on when I can look back at it and think, yes I loved writing that story/book and I still enjoy reading it.
4. A good character study, even if my character is a rotten piece of work. (Marvellous fun to write up though!).
5. To sometimes, and where appropriate, give a reader (and me) pause for thought.

Fairytales with Bite – What Books Mean to Me

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed interviewing my guests for the Chandler’s Ford Today series for the past three weeks. But linking that into fiction writing, I’ve got to ask what do books mean to your characters? Are your characters set in a world where they can read and books are easily available? Or are their stories preserved in other ways?

When you think about it, we have not had the printed word for that long compared with how long we have had the oral storytelling tradition. I love both “formats” and long may they reign but what would your characters know best? What is their technological equivalent to the Kindle if they have it? What fictional books would they read?

You can also ask that last question as you create your characters. Their choices may well tell you a great deal about them (and do query why the choices are the ones they are. Do they love, as I do, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice because they appreciate irony? How do they express their own irony and is it appreciated? Does it land them in trouble?).

Thoughts to ponder!

This World and Others – Goalposts

When you create a setting for your characters, do you set up goalposts for yourself? What do I mean by that? Simply, do you set limits for the setting that you absolutely have to know about before you write?

For example, you may decide you need to know the history of the town your lead character lives in but not of the neighbouring villages. There’s one limit set (one goalpost if you like that you won’t cross!).

Look at what you decide you need to know and examine why you need that. You should have no problems justifying those choices. What does pay is if thoughts occur to you about your setting that do not appear to be relevant, do jot them down anyway. You may find they come in useful later on in the story draft.

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Behind the Scenes – and Publication News

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My CFT post this week takes a look Behind the Scenes from the viewpoints of volunteering and writing. Volunteers make such a huge difference in so many ways and what they do often goes unseen. So time for some plaudits and encouragement then.

Writers can feel all the hard work they put in as they submit stories, articles etc goes unseen too. Yes, it does, but it helps you to develop as a writer. You can’t learn from your mistakes unless you make some!

It really is how you develop but the great thing with being involved with writing groups/writing communities online is generally these are very supportive and there are ways of finding out what you need to know so you do NOT make ALL the mistakes ever known to writing kind!

Going to good writing events helps enormously here too.

Does the behind the scenes work pay off? Nobody can guarantee publication or a foolproof way to always earn from your writing but you are much more likely to achieve success (however you define it) by putting the groundwork in. As with so much in life, there are no shortcuts. The encouraging thing here is EVERY writer goes through this.

Image Credit:  The images are from the magnificent Pixabay. I particularly like the grouchy looking face in the comments box. Rumours that this resembles me when another rejection has come in are totally true.  Captions on the CFT page.

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Absolutely delighted to share the cover for Transforming Beings and the link to it on Amazon. My story, The Professional, is one of the sixteen winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing competition.

Every writer all had to write to the same word count and on the same theme. This is proof you can have at least sixteen different writers produce sixteen different takes on the topic!

Am so looking forward to being at the Festival on Saturday and to taking part in the readings. Good luck to everyone who is also taking part. It will be great to catch up with you all.

Transforming Being Medium

My CFT post this week will look at what behind the scenes means in terms of volunteering, but also what it means for writers. It gives me a chance to say thanks to all those who give up their time to help others and, I hope, to encourage writers who feel they may be slogging away for years without their being any visible benefits. Link up on Friday.

In other news, as they say, work continues well on the novel and I’m fleshing out other ideas, fiction and non-fiction, for development later in the year. Want to get some more submissions out before long too.

The joy of writing? One of them is never being short of things to do!

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Reading work out loud is a great way to hear how your story flows, whether your dialogue works properly, and so on. Once your work is out there, and you get the chance to read before an audience at events such as the Waterloo Arts Festival, Open Mic nights etc, give it a go.

You are getting to engage directly with people who love stories so your audience will be broadly sympathetic to begin with. But what is really lovely is when a part of your story which made you laugh as you wrote it generates the same response in your audience. It is a fantastic feeling.

Equally if your story generates any other response which is appropriate to that tale, then you are receiving invaluable feedback that this worked!

Writers need things like that for all the times work gets turned down. There should be an “up” side!

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Following on from my other post tonight, themes work best when open to interpretation. For example:-

Revenge is a dish best served cold – well you could come up with all sorts of ways to show whether that is true or not.

But something like Dreams, while you can get stories from that, for me this is a bit TOO open-ended.

It helps to narrow your focus on something specific so for me Fallen Dreams would be much better. There are stories to be told about how a dream could be fallen.

The other thing that comes to mind would be at least one story on how a fallen dream is overcome and doesn’t blight your character’s life. Equally, how it isn’t and it DOES blight your character (depends on whether you like sad stories I suppose!).

Have fun and play around with your themes but hone them so you have something useful to focus on and work with.

It’s always a thrill when a story of yours is published and I’m delighted to say Transforming Beings, the ebook of the winning entries in the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition, is now available.

My The Professional is in here and my character is one I would not like to meet in life! Naturally no spoilers here…!

If you like a good mix of stories, do give this a try (and if you can review that would be fab, thanks!).

Each story had to be 1000 words max so this is at the upper end of the flash fiction spectrum but there is a great variety here.

Books like this are also a reminder you can take a topic and come up with so many themes on it. Why not try it for your own flash fiction stories?

Link and cover image further up this post. If you do read the book, please review! Thank you!

For a flash fiction story to work well, you have to be totally convinced by your lead (and usually only) character. If you’re not convinced by them, nobody else will be.

That doesn’t mean you always love said characters. I can think of some of mine I loathe and/or would dread meeting in real life were that to become possible. The important point is I DO understand and get why they are the way they are and the story wouldn’t work at all without that.

Also, I think your characters have got to make you feel something for you to be able to write their stories with conviction. Nobody fell in love or hated a cardboard cutout (well at least I haven’t!).

The advantage of a character you hate is the effect they generate on a reader. It should be that your reader will want to read on to see if said character gets the comeuppance they so richly deserve and, if so, how. All good fun to write!

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Fairytales with Bite – Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes is the topic for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and I look at it in terms of volunteering and writing. Plaudits and encouragement needed in both I think!

For a piece of work, what would behind the scenes mean? Well, even in fiction, research can sometimes be necessary. This is especially true for any fiction which weaves real life events or people into the narrative. Facts have to be facts. (If it’s an alternative reality or history, that should be made clear at the outset). Just watch how much research you do. Research is fun but can also turn into procrastination when you should be writing. We’ve all done it…

Sometimes research can be as simple as drawing on what you know from life about likely human behaviours. You know humans can be like this in these circumstances so your characters should reflect that too.  Good fiction does reflect our humanity. Nobody said it had to flatter though!

Behind the scenes obviously includes your drafts and edits but also things like ensuring you meet the submission requirements for wherever you are sending work to, as no two places have quite the same needs here. Yes, there will be a lot in common – double line spacing, font size etc – but I take a week off any deadline for a competition to make absolutely sure I’ve got those details right as I don’t want mistakes there to disqualify my story.  (It’s not really fair when you have two equally good pieces come in to allow one that didn’t follow all the rules properly to win over one that DID).

Perseverance and patience are invaluable qualities for a writer though!

This World and Others – When Life Throws You Lemons

… make lemonade, as the old saying goes, but how can a writer do this? Are lemons such a bad thing anyway?

From the viewpoint of developing characters, the more lemons you throw at them the better.  Well, you do want to find out what your characters are made out of, yes? You want to find out their hidden depths, yes?  Chuck them in the deep end and have fun finding out how they get themselves out of it. If they need to resort to the help of friends to get out of said horrible deep end, what did they try to do first before calling for back up? Is the back up reliable? You want plenty of tension and drama and writing these scenes should easily produce that. You can work out later on what  you want to keep for your story and what might prove to be useful background knowledge to you only.

As a writer, when all that seems to come your way are rejections, firstly bear in mind nothing worthwhile was ever easy and, secondly, most writers go through this. Even after publication in one avenue, rejections still come in. I find it useful to look at work that has been turned down and see if I can revamp it and send it out elsewhere. Usually I can and I have had work accepted by another outlet after doing this. The important thing is not to give up but it is perfectly okay to change direction with your writing. If you decide flash fiction isn’t for you but the longer short story form is, then that’s fine. Play to your writing strengths. It is also fine to pause from writing. I generally only do this when on holiday or ill and I use the time to catch up on reading (I always have reading to catch up on!) and that helps feed the imagination beautifully.

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Books, Books, Books!

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I suspect I’m preaching to the converted with the title for this post but never mind!

Books have been a vital part of my life since goodness knows when but I’ve only been writing since I turned 30…. X number of years ago!! Quite a considerable number of years in fact but not so many as when I first discovered the joys of reading and would spend many a happy hour in the local library.

Why did it take me so long to make the connection between “you really love books and stories” and “you really like writing your own stories” so you should become a writer? Goodness knows. Looking back on it, it is daft I didn’t start writing sooner but the main thing is I am writing now!

My advice to anyone pondering if they should write or not is to give it a go and have fun creating characters and stories. Whether you then try to get published is up to you. There’s nothing wrong with just writing for your own satisfaction. What matters is you’re writing and loving it.

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I loved watching the TV series of Black Beauty when I was a kid. That encouraged me to read the book by Anna Sewell. Southern TV, as it was back then, adapted some of the Enid Blyton Famous Five books and I loved those too. Pity they lost the franchise because that ended the series pronto!

So a good TV adaptation can encourage people to get back to the books, which is very much A Good Thing! This also happened with me with Oliver Twist. Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed were superb as Fagin and Bill Sykes. Had to read the book after watching the film.

With The Lord of the Rings, I had read the trilogy first. The magic of those films was bringing to life the images I had conjured up in my head of what Middle Earth looked like. (I still like the look of the hobbit holes. I’m about the right height to live in one too!).

I love it when creative media feeds off AND benefits other creativity like this.

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So terribly sad to see the news about Notre Dame. I hope the damage is as limited as possible. Also that restoration can take place as soon as possible too.

On to other things…

The only time I specifically write to a theme is when entering competitions. I’ve usually got a character in mind when I’m thinking about a new flash fiction story and work out, from their main characteristics, what theme would best suit them. I can’t say whether this is the right or wrong way to do things but I do know it works for me.

My other use of themes is to trigger ideas for a new story and then I spend some time working out which kind of character would best suit it. If I can’t work out a suitable character I don’t write the story.

For me it is all about the characters, always.

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I suppose my first introduction to short stories must have been the Reader’s Digest Collections of Fairytales, which I still have.

I was never conscious of this when reading these books (over and over and over and over again etc!) though I do recall being stunned at how long The Little Mermaid was and that it really didn’t have a happy ending. That was an eye opener for me. I didn’t know stories could be like that!

I also loved The Snow Queen with Gerda being the “action lead”. That was an eye opener too. Here was a girl off having all kinds of adventures to rescue her neighbour from said Snow Queen (and the splinter of the evil mirror in his heart). Loved that on first reading.

Here is where you meet ideas for future characters of your own – by reading widely and discovering them in other stories, then wondering what YOU could do with a character like that. You then wonder what setting YOU would put them in and what adventures/problems YOU set them. YOU wonder how your characters would sound and act and react and all of this comes together, creating a story that is uniquely yours. Writing and reading are truly wonderful things.

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The Book Depository UK has FLTDBA listed as available within 2-3 business days. Amazon currently has it available as one month plus! I don’t know why this happens but it does pay to check out online retailers for availability, whether it is in books or anything else!

And I will put in another word about reviews. They really do help authors. Amazon sit up and take notice if you have 50 reviews. If you’re not sure what to write, one line saying what you liked (or loathed) about the book is sufficient. It is a great irony that even a review where someone didn’t like s book still helps the author of that book when it comes to the “numbers game”.

My own policy for reviews, whether it is for groceries or books, is to have a good look through what people have said. Usually there is a consensus and I can then go with that or not as I see fit but I find reviews a useful guide when I’m on the other side of the fence. So please do review! Thanks!

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I sometimes use alliteration in my flash fiction titles (Pen Portrait, Telling The Time etc) but I haven’t deliberately done this. In each case the title has been the right one for the story and the alliteration is a nice side effect!

I also think it is better to have things that way round rather than try to think of a clever title and try to make the story fit it. I can never see how that would work. Something would feel artificial about it.

I have to have a title to work to when writing a story (of any length) but I will change it if something better pops into my head as I’m working on the first draft. I use my titles to help me set the mood for a story. I sometimes use titles which can have a secondary meaning that the story makes clear.

The important thing is that the title suits the story.

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Once I’ve got a flash fiction collection written and edited, I spend some time working out what would be the best “running order” for the stories. This can take some time but it’s worth it.

From Light to Dark and Back Again lives up to its name (!) but the big plus with that was it helped me group stories beautifully!

The reason for all of this? I don’t just want my individual stories to make an impact on a reader. I want the book as a whole to do so too so taking a step back and planning what stories goes where helps enormously with that.

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What is the worst aspect of writing flash fiction?

For me, it’s coming up with a character with a strong enough voice. Once I’ve got that (after some outlining), I can set that character wherever I want and away they go!

It’s not enough for a character to be pushy or what have you. There has got be strong enough reason for them to be like that. Give them this and you will take the reader with you even though the reading journey for flash fiction is necessarily a short one!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Playing with Genre

With my flash fiction, I like to play with genre a lot. As flash fiction has to be character led due to the strict word count, I can have great fun putting that character wherever and whenever I want. I’ve written fantasy flash fiction, historical flash fiction, crime flash fiction etc as a result.

I’ve read excellent collections by other authors too. Some focus on one genre. The Great War by Dawn Kentish Knox is a great example of a themed historical flash fiction collection. Do check it out. The characterisation is very moving.

But it is not just in the flash and short story form that genre can be played with, far from it.

I love the crossover novel. It blends the best of the two (usually) genres it is mixing and gives something unique to the reader as a result. A good example to check out here is Jennifer C Wilson’s Kindred Spirits series which crosses ghost stories with historical fiction. Great mix!

I think readers are much more flexible over this than writers/publishers realise at times. I know what I like when I read it even if I can’t categorise it! And while categories ARE important, I don’t think they’re meant to be straitjackets either.

Have fun with your reading/writing and mix those genres!

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PROGRESS, PLANS AND MOODS

Facebook – General

Does the mood you are in affect what and how you write? My own answer to that is it depends!

If I’m in a flat state of mind but the writing I’m working on has a character in a similar state, then I can use my own mood to help write that piece! (I get something useful out of being in a flat mood! Ironically that knowledge cheers me up so win-win!).

Sometimes I deliberately write opposite to my mood so, again if I feel flat, I try to put myself in the head of a character in a lighter mood and find myself writing light. Again that can be a mood booster for me. Writing can be amazingly therapeutic at times.

What I do know is writing anything is a good “outlet” and later, once in a better frame of mind, I can evaluate any writing done in a flat state and see what I can do with it. But the great thing is I have still written, I still have work to do something with, so my advice would be, if you feel flat and don’t feel like writing, try to write something, even if it is a very short piece. I’ve found many times once I get started, I keep going, and writing takes me to a different, better place. Again, win-win there, I think.

Drafted first flash fiction story that I’ve created using a picture prompt in my new writing diary. 51 challenges remaining then given there’s one such prompt a week! Also enjoying working on my novel again. I want to try to enter more short story competitions (1500 word type) this year too. I like mixing the writing up. Challenges the old brain and that’s never a bad thing.

Third flash fiction volume coming along nicely though I need to group my stories at some point. Am hoping to get along to Winchester Writers’ Festival and, of course, Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later in the year, also the ACW Writers’ Days. I think one of the best things about writing is you never stop learning whether it is how to improve what you do, new places to try to submit work or what have you. That is also a very good thing.

Feed that brain!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to the Hampshire Writers’ Society for the image of me reading an example of what flash fiction is at their meeting last year.

Having completed a picture prompt generated story yesterday, I see this week’s prompt in my diary has no picture whatsoever! Still will tackle that prompt later in the week I hope.

I’m planning to share a few of my favourite writing tips and why they’re useful on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. You pick up lots of useful tips from conferences, chatting to writer friends etc., but as is the way with these things, some advice will always be more useful to you than anything else. It can be a question of working out what is going to help you most. Anyway, will share the link on Friday.

Made good progress on the novel and short story ideas over the weekend so will resume work on those shortly. A writing session for me is most useful when I know I’ve made progress on work, whether that progress is editing something, adding a line or two to something already down, or writing a whole new flash fiction piece/draft CFT post.

It’s when I feel I haven’t got anywhere that is most discouraging and that’s when encouragement from writer friends is enormously helpful. I still wish my fairy godmother would turn up though and grant me “elastic time” which I could stretch as and when I needed to without any side effects/damage to history etc. You know I’d use it to stretch my writing time!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at the 2018 Bridge House celebration event.

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Am looking forward to sharing book offer related news later this week. Will share info and links soon!

Meanwhile, am making progress on a longer term project (non-fiction) I’d been wondering about doing for a while and have finally got around to tackling. I don’t know yet whether I’ll submit this to publishers or self publish but it is good to have both options on the table.

Am also making good progress on my novel too. My writing times are fairly consistent (which helps a LOT) and I’ve learned how to use which sessions for which projects in a way that suits me best.

I suppose the biggest lessons I’ve learned are to make the most of the time you do have AND accept you are in writing for the long haul. Stamina and persistence are key. (Good luck is a useful extra though!). How like life!