Further Thoughts On The Writing Game

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay unless stated. A huge thanks to my guest authors on this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post for their author and book cover pics.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to share the second part of my CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For Part 2. Plenty of advice and tips here, Hope you enjoy. A big thanks to all of my guest authors. This week I feature guests from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Topics include handling professional jealousy and checking contracts.

This series is the kind of one I would have welcomed when I was a new writer especially. Why?

Because you don’t realise at the outset how much there is to learn. You don’t know what the pitfalls and hazards are. You’re not aware, to begin with at least, of the difference between vanity publishing and real self-publishing.

It is only when you’ve been writing for a while and you make author friends that you pick up tips and good advice from them, as well as from organisations like the Society of Authors.

If there is only ONE reason to go to writing conferences and events (when such things are possible again), the learning from others is, for me, the most important one. No one author can know it all.

Mind you, there are LOADS of other excellent reasons to go to writing events when you can and via Zoom etc in the meantime.

The nice thing about all of this? Later on, you can share what you have learned with others who, in turn, will share it later. What goes around literally comes around in writing circles – and it should always be to the benefit of the writer!

Hope you enjoy.

Many thanks for my guests this week – #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #AmandaJones, #PaulaCReadman, and #AmandaHuggins.

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Have gone from walking the dog before it became too hot, creosoting fence panels, to editing to about to have a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. Full of top tips, this week’s installment shares advice from writers from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Link up tomorrow.

Need to get back to flash fiction writing but hope to do that over the weekend. Am also enjoying preparing material for a blog where I will be a guest. Now off to chat!

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Facebook – General – and the Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – The Reading Challenge

I talk about The Reading Challenge in my monthly spot on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

This month I ask if writers SHOULD find reading a challenge.

So over to you. What do you read that challenges you? What benefits do you find from that? Do you read outside of your usual genres and how do you find that works? Has it inspired your own imagination and, if so, how?

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks to my lovely guests for their advice and tips in Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my new CFT series.

As well as avoiding the scams (as we all must), the writing game does have a fun side to it! There are so many kinds of writing to explore so if you’re not sure which is for you, try different ones out. You’ll soon know which you are likely to stay with, which you might write occasionally, and those you loathe!

Exploring different forms of writing led me to discovering the wonderful world of flash fiction and blogging. I have no regrets about either!

Whatever you’re working on this weekend, I hope you have a splendid time writing.

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Mixing up how you find ideas for stories is always a good thing to do. It’s fun too. I think that was the major thing that I took from the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on recently.

I’ve mentioned before that I will sometimes start my flash fiction with what I know will be the closing line and work backwards to get to the starting point. At some point I ought to try a line that would work best in the middle of a story and see what I can do with that. To work forwards and backwards would be a good challenge!

Stretching yourself in writing in different ways helps you discover what you like and, best of all, find new ways of writing stories you also develop a liking for – and it keeps you on your toes.

 

What have been the differences for me in writing FLTDBA and my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due soon?

I’ve had more fun with TTFF in terms of where and when I set my characters. I’ve also written some linked flash fiction for this one, which is a first for me, and I hope to do more of that. I strongly suspect some haiku flash fiction tales might make it into my next one!

Again themes have emerged as I put the collection together but I hope to talk more about that later. I am planning to have a cyberlaunch in due course and am looking forward to that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Reasons to Love Fairytales

Nobody really needs a reason to love fairytales, of course, but for the less convinced I offer the following:-

1. They are often the first stories youngsters come across and are a gateway into the wonderful world of reading. Once that spark is lit, there should be no turning back. It is no coincidence that those who read more develop a larger and more wide ranging vocabulary.

2. There is a clear sense of right and wrong in fairytales. (That appeals to children and those who decided growing up was overrated).

3. Some stories can act as warnings.

4. The stories can reflect injustice and cruelty but also usually have those things stopped by the end. (In life so often these things are not stopped. It is good to have stories where matters are rectified, justice is done etc. This is something shared with good crime stories too).

5. They’re great stories (reason enough!).

In fairytales the dragon does not win. (Shrek inverts that concept but there the dragon is one of the good guys. Love that idea).

This World and Others –

What Every Piece of Writing Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

 

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AUTHOR SERVICES/ONLINE EVENT NEWS

Image Credit:  Pixabay or Pexels, unless otherwise stated.

NEWS

A lot has happened writing wise over the last few days.

Firstly, I now have an Author Services page on Allison Symes: Collected Works as I now work as an independent editor, as well as an author. More details below in the relevant post with the appropriate link.

Secondly, the launch of the ebook Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s Waterloo Arts Festival is this coming Friday, 12th June from 6.30 pm.  There will be videos, you can meet, via Zoom, the authors including me and more details follow in the post below. You will need a ticket but the event is free. Link is below. Hope to see you there!

Cyberlaunches are a good chance to promote you and your work but you need to engage with people rather than boom at themDo invite people to your launch - you do have to actively invite them and then hopefully entertain them with your launch too

Facebook – General – and Author Services News

There is often a lot of “behind the scenes” work with writing. I find it bubbles away nicely in the background for ages and then, oomph, it is all ready for sending out to a publisher or a competition or what have you.

Or you are preparing various things ready for taking your writing journey on to another stage and I am at that point now.

I have updated my website as I now have an Author Services page available.

Some of you, I know, will already know I carry out editing work. Details are on my Author Services page.

There are two sides to this page: one is my work as an author. I am happy to give talks and run workshops etc. The other is the editing side.

Full details of how to contact me are on the Author Services page.

And for other writers taking new steps on their writing journey, may I wish you the best of luck as I take new steps on mine!

And from FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN FACEBOOK PAGE

I don’t think there can ever be said to be THE perfect time to do something new! It’s a question, I think, of doing what prep work you can and then picking as good a time as possible as suits you.

Just to say I now have an Author Services page on my website (link below) and there are two sides to this. One is for my work as an editor. Full details of what I do and how to contact me are on the page.

The other is for my work as a published writer. I am very happy to give talks and run workshops on flash fiction. Do see my page for more details.

Allison Symes and published works LARGE VERSION

Facebook – General – and Waterloo Arts Festival News

This Friday night is Waterloo Arts Festival night – well the writing side of it is!

Of course, it has to be online but the event is free. You do need a ticket for the event but see the link.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers, including yours truly.

Hope to see you!😊

 

Now on to the rest of this round-up!

Facebook – General –

The Book Cover Challenge – Days 1 to 5

Day 1
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate Val Penny who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Changed my opinion about Richard III. Is also a different kind of detective novel. A gripping read. Hope you check it out.

 

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A wonderful detective novel.

Day 2
I have accepted a challenge by Jane Brocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #RichardHardie who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Epic fantasy. And one of my favourite film adaptations too.

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Epic in every sense

Day 3
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #WendyHJones who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle. Great stories with the most intriguing detective ever, I think, and the forerunner for EVERY flawed one that has come since too.

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A timeless detective in many ways.

Day 4
I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #JenWilson who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? A ChristmasCarol by Charles Dickens. My favourite ghost story (and I love the Muppet version of it too).

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Not many writers get to add to a tradition but Dickens did/has.

Day 5

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #SharonBradshaw who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. A classic and brilliant example of irony in romantic fiction.

Image may contain: 1 person, text that says "The Penguin English Library JANE AUSTEN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE"

This book introduced me to irony in fiction and is such a wonderful story.

Days 6 and 7 will feature in my next post.

Facebook – General

I’m taking part in a Book Cover challenge on Facebook at the moment (see above) and it is making me think about what books I’ve chosen and why.

I’m also trying to marry up who I nominate to take part with books I’ve chosen I think they’ll also be fans of and not to make their life more difficult here, honest! Rather it will free them up to choose other huge favourites in their selections because we will all have the same dilemma. We can only choose HOW many?!

It is difficult limiting yourself to 7 books given the challenge lasts for 7 days but as a celebration of stories and books in general, this is great fun to take part in! Many thanks to #JaneBrocklehurst for nominating me.

I wrote a Chandler’s Ford Today post a while back about what books I would take to a desert island. Hope you enjoy. And do share which you would take with you and why.

 

Saddened but not surprised that Swanwick has been cancelled for this year. Will miss seeing everybody but am already looking forward to next year’s event. 2020 is going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. It’s unlikely to crop up as one of people’s all time favourite years, is it?!

Yet ironically good things are happening. Zoom has brought people together (and my social life has perked up a lot thanks to it though I guess that does say more about me!😆😆).

Talking of Zoom, I’m looking forward to the online Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition event on Friday night. Will report back in due course. (And do come if you can. Link to event to follow further down).

And I hope, after the event, to share the video I made for this after the event where I read an extract from my winning story. It was great fun to write and I look forward to sharing that.

It was good fun making the video too and it’s not something I would have thought to have done, had events gone on as they usually would have done.

Meanwhile I’m writing away and looking forward to answering interview questions I’ve been sent. In some ways lockdown hasn’t changed my routine at all. I sit at a desk and write! But it is the not seeing friends and going to book related events I’m missing the most.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It seems such a long time ago that I took a change of direction with my writing and discovered flash fiction. Now there is one turning point I really don’t regret! And it has enlivened my reading too. Flash fiction collections are great fun to delve into (and ideal for a quick read when you haven’t much time).

Yes, yes, I know, I’m biased. Course I am. Go on check out some flash collections and see if I’m right or not then!

These things are all relevant to a cyberlaunches which are often used to launch a book at a discount rateImages like this help set an online party atmosphere

 

A good opening line either sets up an intriguing premise OR lays out a problem you know has got to be solved by the story’s end.

A good closlng line either delivers on that premise OR resolves the problem.

What is talked about less often are the lines in between! They matter too, obviously.

One thing I like about flash is it forces you to ensure every word, every sentence moves the story forward, so no saggy middles here! But there’s no reason why you can’t use that same technique of asking yourself DOES this line add anything useful to what ever kind of fiction you write. And that question I’ve found useful so many times. It helps me focus on what really matters after all.

My top tips for flash fiction writing would be:-

1. Limit the number of characters. Especially for those stories under 500 words, you may well get away with only one character.

2. Focus on what the situation is. There has to be a moment of change so what is the single most important thing we the reader have to know about your character and the situation they’re in? That is the story.

3. Your opening line needs to lure your reader in but don’t worry if you need several goes at this. Often I will draft a story and a better opening line comes to me when I’m editing.

4. Your closing line needs to deliver on the promise of your story so ensure it does. I love twist endings, punchline endings, etc., but deliberately mix up the type I write as I don’t want all of my stories to be finished using the same format each time. The ending has to be appropriate to the character and tone of the story too.

5. Read your story out loud if you can. Listen for the flow. Look out for anything that might make you stumble over your words. If you do, a reader will.

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Time spans for flash fiction, appropriately, are best kept short. I focus a lot on one character, THE important event in their story as that IS the story, and the action is usually wrapped up fairly quickly. The pace is quick too.

I do, however, sometimes write more reflective pieces where a character looks back at their life. My They Don’t Understand is a good example of that.

I also sometimes have characters filling in important information as they are doing something. Time for Tea starts like that and you get to see more of the character’s attitudes, thoughts, and plans as the story unfolds. It is clear those thoughts etc have been building up over a long time but it is NOW they are doing something. That, of course, is the hook for a reader – to find out what that something is and does the character achieve what they think they will?

 

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Goodreads Author Blog – 

The Right Time For a Good Book

I prefer to read in bed but the right time for a good book varies from reader to reader of course.

What is your preferred reading time?

Mind you, I am pretty good at sneaking in extra reading over lunch, though I usually read magazines then. Still it is all grist to the reading mill and I get more read so win-win!

Reading for me is principally a form of entertainment.

Secondly, it is a form of widening my experience of the world. When life is tough, I will always go for books that make me feel better, often tried and tested favourites.

When life is okay, I will want to stretch myself with my reading and that is when I will read books and authors new to me. The good thing is with life being so full of ups and downs for everyone, I get to “do” both kinds of reading over time. So that’s okay.

I like the Look Inside feature on Amazon when trying out new authors and most of the time I do end up buying, having liked what I’ve seen.

I tend to go through phases here too when I will be downloading a few things, none for a bit, and then downloading again. Just as well really that an electronic book shelf cannot give way!

When do you decide it’s time to widen your reading horizons? Is it just based on friends’ recommendations or do you have to be in the right frame of mind to “bite”?

Usually I will take a look at a book a friend recommends and if the blurb, the cover, and the Look Inside attract me, I download. But all of it has to appeal.

And that’s something I try to bear in mind with my author hat on. How can I get these details right for a potential reader of mine?

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Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips

Image Credit:  Pixabay and Pexels as usual, unless otherwise stated. Many thanks.

Special Note:  Today, 8th May 2020 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. My parents and grandparents, who lived through this, are sadly gone, but to all who gave up so much so that we could live, thank you. You are not forgotten. Nor should you ever be.

My parents were evacuated, my father more than once as many East End families came back to London before having to leave again due to the doodlebugs.

My grandparents? One served in the Forces before being invalided out and then working as an ARP warden. He saw things as an ARP warden nobody should have to see. My maternal grandfather was in a reserved occupation – he worked in munitions and was often bombed out.

There is much to be thankful for despite our current difficulties.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I hope this week’s CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, proves particularly useful. I share my thoughts about Zoom. I go on to share hints and thoughts about having a cyberlaunch. I discuss what I found useful when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again and what I learned from this.

Naturally in the fullness of time I’m looking forward to having another one for Tripping the Flash Fantastic!

What I do know though is preparation is key! And a cyberlaunch should be fun for you as author/host. That fun will be picked up on by those attending your launch.

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I hope the tips on cyberlaunches in my latest CFT post, Zooming Around and Cyberlaunch Tips, prove useful. The good thing about holding events like these is you will always learn something from them in what worked well, what you could have done better and so on. Those you take with you to your next event!

Going to other cyberlaunches, as well as being great fun and supportive of other writers, also provides good opportunities to learn.

I held a raffle when I had mine for From Light to Dark and Back Again. I used a random number generator and allocated a number to every visitor. When it came to doing the draw for a prize, I simply put in the range of numbers from smallest to largest and picked out the winners that way.

That wonderful tip was something I picked up from a cyberlaunch I went to (and I’m sorry I have forgotten whose that was but I will say a big thank you now as it did prove useful and I am sure it will again!).

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Good support at 8 pm for the Clap for Carers though Lady decided not to use her vocal talents this week. I’m sure she’ll make up for it another time…

Am absolutely thrilled to say I am one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival’s Writing Competition. Many congratulations to all of the other winners who are:-

Mehreen Ahmed: Dolly
Gail Aldwin: The Price of Firewood
Christopher Bowles: Chroma
Maxin Churchman: Pulling Together
Jeanne Davies: Utopian Dream
Jo Dearden: A Small Clay Vase
Linda Flynn: Fishing in Troubled Waters
Anne Forrest: Number Twenty-seven
Dawn Knox: Rising from the Ashes
Roz Lyn: Circle Time
Paula R C Readman: Cobalt Blues
Hannah Retallick: Bookclub for the Elderly
Theresa Sainsbury: Transforming Teenagers
Allison Symes: Books and Barbarians

I will miss enormously NOT going up to London for the Festival, meeting up with my fellow writers for a very convivial pub lunch etc, but there will be online events so I will look forward to those.

What with the news of two of my stories being in Cafelit 9 later this year, it has been quite a week! This is the lovely side of writing of course. What doesn’t get seen is the work that goes into those stories over weeks, writing them, honing them, sending them off, and then waiting to hear.

This is why I like to have something I’m about to send off, another competition in mind to have a go at, and something I’m resting ready for editing after a suitable time break away from it. Over the course of a year, it means I’ve submitted a number of stories. Some will be accepted, some won’t but even there I can revisit the tales and try them out again with another market/competiton. I’ve had work published doing that.

Now on to the next story, which is almost ready for submitting!

 

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Another reason for outlining my characters is I want to be able to see the world through their eyes and until I know certain things about them I can’t do that. What their attitudes are is, to me, far more important than knowing what they look like.

I know some writers need to know the physical appearance of their characters first and then work out what else they need to know from there.

But what matters here is finding the starting point that works for you, whichever way around it happens to be!

It took me a while to work out which way WAS the best route for me to take. But all that practice in writing early on, though the results were never published, has paid off now. I know what works for me and I go with that.

Where variety comes in is how I approach writing the story. Sometimes I start with the end line and work backwards. Sometimes I use the more conventional start to end approach.

Practically always, I find I need to change the beginning of a story. It is usually only once I’ve got the first draft down I can figure out the best start is at, say, paragraph three, and the opening two are either not needed at all or I can salvage useful bits of information and drip feed them into the tale later. I know I often have to work my way into the “real” story and that’s fine. The dressing to help me do that never stays in the final tale you hopefully get to see!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Another way to mix up how you approach writing flash fiction is to take a closing line from a story of yours and then use it as the opening or a title to a completely new story. I’ve not done this YET but I have in my draft third book used the same characters in more than one story AND have someone else refer to them in yet another tale.

A little while ago I had a series of linked flashes on Cafelit which was prompted by an exercise in the Prompts book by Gill James and that was good fun to do. See link!

As you know, I like to mix up the mood of the stories I write plus I like to write in different genres too. My overall favourite will always, I think, be what I call my fairytales with bite (aimed at an older audience, usually with humour and/or with a twist). But I have enjoyed writing historical flash fiction and hope to do more of this too.

Prompts 2020

Image by Gill James

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again –

and Publication News! (Yes, it’s been a good week!)

It will be lovely having another story in the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition ebook anthology during the summer. It will be the third year in a row I will have had a story in there. This year’s theme was Transforming Communities and my story is called Books and Barbarians. I’ll leave you to wonder about that one for the time being!

Every writer had to write to a 1000 word count maximum and all on the same theme. The other ebooks from the Waterloo Arts Festival (publisher: Bridge House Publishing) are a fantastic mix of styles and moods.  Here is the link to Transforming Being. The first in the series was called To Be…To Become.

The books prove, to me at least, that each writer has their own voice and, as a result, we really are not in competition with each other. Do check the books out. Available you know where….

 

What do characters in a flash fiction story need to have? For me this would include:-

1. A strong voice. They have to be distinctive and intrigue a reader enough to want to follow their story.

2. An intriguing personality (though it doesn’t necessarily have to be a nice one!).

I also need to feel at the end of the story that no other character could have/should have been the lead.

When writing the story, I want to be fascinated enough by the character to WANT to write about them. I usually know fairly quickly when outlining thoughts for a story/character that yes, this is going to work because…

I sometimes know that the character will work if I beef them up a bit here and here… (and that’s nearly always a sign I needed to do a bit more outlining at the beginning to get the character right but that can be and is fixed).

And talking of which, I have a character in a draft story that definitely needs my attention!

Happy writing!

 

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Fairytales with Bite – What is Your Favourite Fairytale?

I would list my favourite fairytales as:-

Cinderella

Snow White

The Little Mermaid

The Ugly Duckling

Puss In Boots

Toy Story series!

Shrek series

Be fair, I didn’t say they had to be just books now!

Common themes here:-

  1.  Wrong being righted.
  2.  Not judging by appearances.
  3.  Animals being smarter than humans – okay just the cat in this instance but be fair, what a cat!
  4.  Evil being thwarted.

All great individual themes for stories of your own there! And yes, you can still write fairytales with animals in them. It never did Roald Dahl any harm!

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This World and Others – Interaction

When you set up your created world, are you getting it to engage with other worlds or is it just one universe you are concerned with? The advantage of having at least one other world in your set up is the possibility of conflict between World A and World B, which can lead to some great stories. The disadvantage is you have at least two worlds to think about and plan for fully before you start writing.

Having said that, bear in mind, as with The Lord of The Rings, you can have one complete world and within it varying countries/regions. Here you will need to give careful thought to what these have in common and what the differences are. Who lives where and why? Do they get on with the other regions and if not, why not? How are they governed? Do different governing styles lead to conflict and what are the results?

Also think of interaction at a local level. Local officials can often have more sway over people’s lives because they are dealing with said local officials all the time. The people may never  have dealings with the overall government so what are the local officials like? What actions of officials might lead people to rebel? Again, think consequences and happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lists and Zooming Around

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

Facebook – General

Am finding my social life has perked up no end – thanks to Zoom. Hmm… Lady has got used to “disembodied” voices coming out of my computer! She still doesn’t like it (who can blame her?) but she goes and curls up somewhere instead of barking at the screen. Progress takes many forms, folks.😊

Mind you, some things don’t change. When I was a kid, I used to have to stand on a box so I could be seen over a pulpit when I read a Bible lesson. For Zoom, I have to sit on a cushion so I show up clearly enough for people to be able to lip read me if they need to/want do. Some things don’t change much! 😕

In other news, I’m finding having a session once or twice a week where I just draft blog posts is proving useful. It is proving handy having a batch of posts good to go when I’m pressed for time.

Generally I prepare these Facebook posts “live” and I am doing so now. There are times I come to this not knowing at all what my topic is going to be but I like that. It forces me to think and be more creative and then that flows well into the rest of the writing I’ll do afterwards. Also it means I can respond to news, writing news etc as it comes up during the day.

But the crucial thing is whatever you write, whether it is for publication or not, is to enjoy what you do. I can’t imagine a life without writing in it somewhere and that is how it should be.

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Zoom church was lovely this morning – and that was a combination of words I never expected to write!

I continue to make progress on my various projects though I always feel I should be achieving more. I cheer myself up with the thought most writers think that though!

I find I can’t work on one thing at a time before moving on. I have to have at least two to three different things on the go, partly because while I know when my writing slot is going to be each day, there can be some variation in time allocated to each one. I can adjust what work I do according to the time available so this is why having a couple of things on the go at any one time works well for me.

Also it means usually I’ve got something out there for consideration, something I’ve written but which needs some “resting time” so I can edit it properly, and something else I’m drafting. I find that useful.

Hope to have another lighthearted CFT post up later this week. Details to follow.

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What aspect of writing do you find the most challenging?

For me, it’s not letting my characters talk too much! I love writing dialogue. Failing that, writing their thoughts is also good fun. And, yes, I could go on at length which is why the flash fiction format works so well for me. It forces me to face up to the fact I can’t do that and I DO have to stick to what is relevant! There is a point to a strict word count!

What aspect of writing do you find the most fun to do?

For me, it’s finding that word or two which I know will either add depth to my characters or describe something well but economically. If I were to say, for example, Madame X had a velvet chaise longue (as I’m sure she would!), it is the word velvet that makes the difference for me. It helps me to visualise better. (I can also hazard a guess at what the rest of Madame X’s furniture will be like too!).

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What do books do for you? For me they:-

1. Entertain.
2. Inform
3. Take me to other worlds (and quite often it’s different aspects of this one).
4. Take me back in time (so I can see how others lived. This nearly always brings about a deeper sense of gratitude for what we have now, especially literacy. I just know I would’ve been a peasant in medieval times. Any chance of reading? None whatsoever. Chances of dying young in childbirth? Very high. Hmm…).
5. Keep me out of mischief. For a bit.
6. Show me just what a wonderful world of stories we have out there. There is at least one genre to suit everyone.

Happy reading!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Judging what to leave out of a flash fiction story can be tricky at times. I’ve sometimes been caught between two useful character details but I really only have the room for one of them.

This is not down to word count either given the range of different markets and competitions I could go for and I would just change which one I plumped for.

When I say I haven’t the room, what I mean is the story would feel too “top heavy” if I put all the details in. You learn to get a feel for this over time. Less really is more in flash fiction. It is the telling detail that matters. And it is a question of deciding which telling detail is the most important one and therefore should be the one to make the cut.

For me, it’s usually down to the impact factor which helps me decide what goes in. Detail A may strengthen understanding of a character’s motives. Useful. Detail B may show the character has a pathological hatred for something. If my story is showing a character being driven by something, then Detail B is almost certainly the one to go in.

So it is a case of selecting the right detail for the right occasion. What serves the story/character best is the way, I think, to judge this.

F= Find fantastic characters to write about but keep them few in number. Too many cooks spoil the broth = too many characters in a flash fiction story make it top heavy and can lead to confusion in your reader. Focus on one or two characters only.

L= Learn what makes your characters drive. Ask the old “luvvie” question “where is my motivation in this?” as it is a good one to ask of your characters. It will also help you focus on what really matters to your character and your story.

A = Always know what the story is and ask yourself what the point is and is your plot moving on to that point. Flash focuses on ONE important moment for your character. The limited word count means you have to shine a spotlight on ONE small area only but your story can make a powerful impact because of that.

S = Story, story, story. It’s got to be a cracking story. What will keep the reader reading? Think of your hook, lure the reader in, and deliver on the promise of that hook. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself, when editing, is this achieving the impact I want the story to have? Change anything that doesn’t serve the story well.

H = Have a strong conclusion whether it is a one-liner or a twist ending. You want your reader to leave having thoroughly enjoyed your story and feeling not one word could be added or removed from it. Oh and above all Have Fun! It’s a mantra of mine that you’ve got to enjoy your writing to be able to keep going with it.

Good luck and happy writing!

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What aspect of a character do you look out for when you start reading a story?

I want some idea of their general attitude. How they treat or refer to other characters in the story is usually key to telling me all I need to know!

Now okay sometimes this can be a red herring. A twist at the end can turn my assumptions around but I love that.

I then go back and look at the story again and see if I can pick up any clues as to what the character was really like early on. On a second reading I usually find something. Of course, I can note how the writer has done this and then see if I can do something similar for my twist flash tales.

You really do learn from other writers, past and present, and this is just one excellent reason to read widely and well. None of us are going to re-invent the wheel after all. So be inspired and use that inspiration to fire your imagination. Your take on characters will be unique to you.

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So how do you decide which ONE pivotal moment is THE one to write about for your flash story?

For me, it has to be the one that makes the most impact on your character. Sometimes this is the obvious dramatic moment but it isn’t always.

In my Time for Tea, the crucial pivotal moment (from my viewpoint as writer rather than reader) is when the narrator reveals someone else has told them something about their adult children. The narrator doesn’t think to question it. An alert reader will. But this moment sets the course for what the narrator is going to then do and that is why it matters. Quiet moments or revelations can turn a character and their story just as much as louder, more obvious moments can.

 

Goodreads Author BlogLists

Do you make a list of books for gift ideas to share with family and friends as hints for birthdays, Christmas etc? I do. There is always a list to be made!

But I also like to list traits in characters I admire and work out how I can use something similar when I create my own characters.

One of the great joys of reading from a writer’s viewpoint is you learn so much from other authors and you can use that to strengthen your own writing. You also get to see how dialogue is set out and so on.

It is vital to read a good mixture of material though from comtemporary to classic and non-fiction should be included too. The more you read, the wider the net of potential ideas.

You read a wonderful story or piece of non-fiction writing and that can inspire you to wonder well how would I have tackled this topic. What take would I have taken on it?

Of course lists lead to incredible To Be Read piles, both physically and in electronic form, but that’s a nice problem to have!

Another fun list would be to create an inventory of places connected with books you would like to visit once the lockdown is over. On my wish list here would be the British Library and Gladstone’s Library to name but two.

How about thinking of books to take with you on a retreat? My list there would have to include something by Austen, Pratchett, and Wodehouse, and naturally I would be taking the Kindle for this. (The saving in weight and luggage space would be considerable though the main thing would be to not forget to take the charger for it).

Then there’s the list of books your friends have told you about that you haven’t got around to reading yet. That too can be a formidable list.

But lists involving books are fun! Just relishing the possibility of reading all of those lovely books is wonderful. Getting to do so is even better. And now back to my TBR list I think!

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Brainstorming and Rainbows

Image Credit:  All images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

I’ve mentioned before that every so often I brainstorm ideas but I do this for non-fiction, as well as for flash fiction and short stories. I jot down thoughts for future Chandler’s Ford Today articles, note ideas for future blog posts for different places including for the Association of Christian Writers, and material for use on my website.

This is a great use of odd five minutes of time which build up every now and then and means I’ve always got ideas to work on. It is usually these ideas I work on further when I’m travelling by train anywhere, though that’s not going to be happening for a while!

The point though is if you’re not sure what to work on, jot down possible ideas. Even if you don’t work on them immediately, it means you’ve got a store of ideas to turn to later on and that is a good thing.

 

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Thought the Queen’s speech tonight was spot on (Sunday, 5th April 2020). Hope it encourages people. I know it did me. Encouragement is needed (and too often undervalued).

Now on to writing matters. Encouragement can come into our stories too. I think the best example is Sam Gamgee’s role in The Lord of the Rings. He literally carries Frodo at times. So how can we show encouragement in our stories? Well, pretty much the same way we show encouragement to each other.

I know a kindly and timely word does me the world of good especially in stressful times. Getting a character to do the same for your “lead” should have an inspirational effect. I also think it important to show our leads under stress, needing help from others, as that adds realism to our characterisation too.

Realistic characters have the ring of truth to them and that makes the world of difference to readers sympathising with your “people” and “buying into” your story.

 

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I am sorry to hear Boris Johnson is so ill and hope and pray he recovers soon. Regardless of political or any other kind of belief, I wouldn’t wish coronavirus on anyone. (Nor should anyone else).

On a more positive note, and the reason I’m late on here tonight, was I was discovering the joys of video calling with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. I’ve “gone” to the odd webinar, had video calls one-to-one on things like What’s App with my sister etc., and am now “doing” Slimming World online via Zoom, but tonight was one of the single biggest online chats I’ve taken part in.

It was good fun and lovely to see everyone, albeit at a distance. We did look like we were contestants on the old quiz show, Celebrity Squares though. For anyone not growing up in the 1970s, it was a quiz show based on the old game of noughts and crosses and celebrities were in boxes of 3 x 3, which is why tonight’s video call reminded me of that.

On Sunday, we’ll be having a virtual Easter Day service with communion (we’ll be bringing our own bread and wine!).

So all very different but the need to stay in touch with our friends and family does not change. Nor should it.

And what can writers contribute?

Stories and articles to entertain – don’t underestimate the importance of entertainment. It can be a coping mechanism.

Stories and articles to cheer – and I think we could all do with that.

Stories and articles to inform.

Stories and articles to encourage other writers in their craft and readers. We don’t know what difficult journeys they might have but if a story or work of ours lifts spirits for a while, that’s good.

And other than walking the dog, I shall be only too glad to be at home tomorrow.

Take care everyone.❤️❤️❤️❤️

black and white laptop

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

 

I’ve had to change how I exercise Lady at the moment (though overall she is doing pretty well). It has been lovely spotting the rainbow pictures, whether they’re chalked on the ground, or on paper in people’s windows. Thanks all. They are cheery.

Question for you: What do you get if you have an upside down rainbow?

Answer: A multi-coloured smile! See below.

So whichever way up the rainbow is, it is always a good thing!

Whatever you are reading or writing, whatever creative work is your “thing”, I hope it makes you, and others smile. We could all do with that.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post from me tonight.

Delighted to say I have a new story on Cafelit – Getting the Job Done.

Hope you enjoy.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So what should a flash fiction piece aim to do? It should illuminate something of a character. It should produce a good response in a reader (whether to make them laugh or cry etc).

There should be a sense of there being nothing else to say and that the story works perfectly as it is – a mini form of fiction. It should never feel as if it has been artificially cropped to fit a word count requirement!

If a short story is a moment in time, then a flash piece could be described as a half moment, a blink if you like, but you can still take quite a bit in during that blink!

 

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How can flash fiction reflect deeper emotions and attitudes such as encouragement? You need another character to do that for the lead, surely, and that increases the word count?

Yes, of course, but this is where the beauty of flash comes in. It has a range of word counts up to the maximum of 1000 to play with. So if your story needs to be 750 words, with your lead person needing support and encouragement along the way, then so be it. Don’t lose vital characterisation for the sake of the word count.

Ask yourself always what is is the reader needs to know.

Ask yourself always what the character has to do and how they can achieve it.

Ask yourself always when the character needs help, how does that happen? Who assists them?

It is generally true in flash fiction you can’t have too many characters. But you can certainly have a couple of them. I also get some of my characters to refer to others who are “off stage” as this shows my character has a life outside of the world of the story I’ve put them in.

Also a character can recall words of encouragement so there are ways to get this kind of deeper characterisation into flash fiction and not exceed the maximum word count.

In darker times, do you prefer to read longer works or shorter ones?

I know regardless of what I read, I want the tone to be uplifting in some way. And flash fiction has a role to play here. Given its brevity, it is a perfect vehicle for the short funny story to cheer people up. I often finish a story with a punchline. Flash lends itself well to that.

For longer works, for me it is always Wodehouse or Pratchett that I tend to turn to first.

But take pleasure in your reading and writing. That’s always a good thing to do anyway but particularly now I think.

For a story to work properly as a story, there has to be a pivotal moment of change. In flash fiction, there isn’t much time to set that up of course. This is why I generally start with that moment and the story then shows the consequences.

(And even when I don’t, my opening is written in such a way as to signal to the reader the moment of change is coming soon and you have got to find out what is going to happen, haven’t you? You make the premise so promising, “no” is ruled out as an answer to that immediately!).

For short fiction, the pivotal moment has to be as close to the start as possible (otherwise why would a reader be interested?), so this, for me, is another side benefit to flash fiction. It means I know I have to hit the ground running! That’s no bad thing.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Titles – What Is It About Them That You Like The Most?

What is it about a book title that encourages you to look inside the book itself?

I like titles (of stories, books or what have you) to give me some idea of the mood of the story and, where possible, its genre too.

My next flash fiction book will be called Tripping the Flash Fantastic which I think manages to do both. From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash collection, was specifically chosen to reflect the mood of the stories and the range of moods for the collection as a whole.

I like titles that sum up the book’s contents well. You can’t misunderstand The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection can you?! (Fabulous book too. Conan Doyle was a genius and I’m sure we owe the concept of the flawed detective to him. Certainly he can take the credit for popularising it at least. Holmes’ drug addiction would still be controversial now. As an aside, I wonder if that is why Conan Doyle chose that, believing drug use would never be uncontroversial. Just a thought).

For my flash fiction stories, especially for those competitions and markets where the title is included in the word count, I like to keep titles short. I’m also fond of alliteration every now and again. Well, let’s face it Pride and Prejudice is a much more memorable title than Jane Austen’s first idea, First Impressions. (To be fair that would’ve worked. It’s not a bad title. It is a question, I think, of working out what is better for your work and she certainly did that).

Some of my favourite book titles include:-

The Lord of The Rings. Doesn’t that make you want to find out who the Lord is and why the Rings matter?

Interesting Times (Pratchett). Again, doesn’t that make you want to discover what the interesting times are and who they are happening to?

Murder on the Orient Express. My favourite Christie novel for many reasons but the title is an instant attention grabber.

It is the book title that makes me want to read the book’s blurb and, from there, the opening paragraph or two.

Yes, a good cover will catch my eye and it is important but if the title intrigues me, then even if the cover isn’t as good as it could be, I’ll try the book.