WRITING NIGGLES, CONFERENCES AND A REVIEW OF THE FAIR

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I take a look back at the recent Hursley Park Book Fair for this week’s CFT post.

There are many things non-writer friends/family can do to support the writer in their life and one is to go to their events and show some moral support. Trust me, it is appreciated!

The biggest nightmare for all writers is being at an event where nobody turns up.

Helping to distribute flyers etc is also something that will go down well with your writer. (And plentiful supplies of tea/coffee/chocolate etc though in fairness those go down well with practically everyone!).

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Managed to get caught in some rain while walking the dog this evening. Came home to find it hadn’t rained here at all. Better half and I had only gone a couple of miles up the road to one of our favourite walks! Talk about localised weather… (it was also ironic that, for once, I had hoped for more rain).

On to writing niggles then….

How to Irritate a Writer Part 10001….. (I may be exaggerating)

1. Tell them you like books but much prefer films. (Grrrr….)

2. Tell them you think books are expensive. (Double Grrrr… – books are relatively cheap when you consider you can read them over and over. A really good book will make you want to have repeat reads. It’s exactly like revisiting an old friend).

3. Tell them you think the paperback is on its way out. (If by this time the writer has refrained from throwing something at you, count your blessings for you have done very well).

4. Ask the writer of How to Irritate a Writer Part 10001 where the other 10000 posts are on the topic!😉

5. Tell them you’ll wait until they hit bestseller status and then you might get a copy of their book. They want to know it is really popular first. The writer by this time is using every inch of self control they’ve got not to grab the nearest bit of 4 x 2 and hit you with it….

6. Tell them you can’t possibly leave a review for them, they’re not well known enough. It is almost certainly a waste of breath telling such like that everyone has to start somewhere and reviews help everybody, no matter where they are on their writing journey.

7. Tell them you think notebooks and pens are outdated. Surely everyone writes to screen these days. The writer by this time is already thinking of the perfect crime story where an irritating “friend” is done to death by an angry author and have already made plans for dumping the body. There may be wistful thoughts as to why they can’t do this for real….

My fellow writers, feel free to add your own thoughts here!

 

My CFT post this week will be a review of the Hursley Park Book Fair from a couple of weeks ago. Link to go up on Friday.

And to all my fellow authors taking part in festivals etc, hope they all go well.

Am looking forward to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in mid-August. Always good fun. Lovely to catch up with friends who for the rest of the year I’m in contact with via Facebook etc.

I remember being dreadfully nervous going to my first writing conference years ago (and set on the lovely Isle of Wight – and run by Felicity Fair Thompson.  It was great to catch up with her again at the recent Hursley Park Book Fair.). The nerves went when I realised networking was talking about something I absolutely love (writing and, associated with it, reading).

Also it is easy to get a conversation going with a writer – ask them what they’re writing! They in turn should ask you and before you know it, you are chatting away as if you’ve known each other all your lives. And that is how it should be.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do you like to see in a good flash fiction story? Some of my thoughts include:-

1. The story has to be the right length. Whether that’s 100, 250, or 500 words, it has got to be appropriate and right to that particular story. You want the reader to feel that nothing else could be added to the story, nor could there be anything taken away.

2. A strong lead character. Without that any flash fiction piece falls flat. The great thing is that strength can come in different forms – physical strength, mental strength etc. How your character shows their inner strength is up to you but it has to be there somewhere. Else why are they the lead?

3. There has to be a good ending (though not necessarily a happy one). The story has to “follow through”. Okay, sometimes that will be a twist ending, sometimes it can be a character coming to a conclusion about what they’ve just done or have been through. But the ending has to be right for all that has come before it.

The big challenge of flash is not so much the word count but having a complete story which has a proper beginning, middle and end in that word count limit. It is too easy to just write “truncated prose” but that does not come across as a proper story and rightly so. It can leave your reader feeling cheated.

At the end of a flash piece, your reader must not be left wondering where the rest of the story is! You want them thinking the story could not have ended any other way. I see flash as short, sharp looks into a character’s life. Look, write down what you see, and stop there.

What do I look for in flash fiction, whether I’m reading or writing it?

I look for a strong character and an ending I don’t see coming but which is entirely appropriate for the story.

I do enjoy playing “guess the ending”, sometimes I’m right, more often I’m not, and I always like that.

This is where I find writing the ending first can be helpful. If I’ve got something that makes a powerful impact which is what I want my readers to finish with, then I’ll work backwards from that point to see how the story could start. I find it a useful technique.

When I brainstorm ideas for new flash fiction, I’ll sometimes come up with something that will make the perfect ending, so leave it at that. I will be looking for what “threads” could come from what I’ve written and if it seems to be linear, then I’ll write the story in the traditional way from start to end.

But it doesn’t always work like that. The threads can sometimes lead away from what I’ve written back to a start point and that’s generally when I know I’ve got something that will make a wonderful ending to the story. I know enough now to NOT force something to be a start when it really isn’t suitable for that.

I also think it a good thing to mix up how I write here. It helps keep things “fresh” for me as a writer, and that will hopefully show through in the stories.

Fairytales with Bite – Fairytale Themes

If you’re looking for themes for your stories, analyse some fairytales and ideas will leap out at you!

After all, what is the theme of Cinderella?  Never giving up?  Justice will “out” in the end?  Whatever you think the theme is, you can use that for your stories.

Themes such as anti-bullying emerge from stories like The Ugly Duckling.  (Also beauty is only skin deep and transformation is always possible!  Lots of themes from this one).

The lovely thing is that the themes from fairytales are timeless.  It is one major reason we still love these old stories.  They still resonate.  I think they always will.  They reflect on our nature.  There will always be jealousy (Snow White), a need for sensible building materials (The Three Little Pigs!), and  greed (Goldilocks – I always have sympathised with the three bears here). That is to name just a few examples.

And there’s nothing to stop you combining themes either.  After all your lead character may have the virtues of, say, Puss in Boots and the villain the qualities of The Big Bad Wolf.  Set up the conflict and away you go!

Generating the writing ideas maybe - image via Pixabay

Generating the writing ideas. Image via Pixabay.

Lost in a good book - image via Pixabay

Lost in a good book. Image via Pixabay.

Books create their own sense of space - image via Pixabay

Books have their own sense of time and space. Image via Pixabay.

Books are wonderful whatever their format - image via Pixabay

Books are fabulous, whatever the format. Image via Pixabay.

CLARITY POST - Editing is vital to help you be as clear as possible - image via Pixabay - Copy

Editing – the crucial part to getting a story right. Image via Pixabay.

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

Books are the keys to knowledge. Image via Pixabay

Printers would have fun trying to print this - image via Pixabay

Let the ideas flow and let journeys encourage that! Image via Pixabay

Use review questions to find out more about your characters, image via Pixabay

Use personal reviews to help you generate character and story outlines. Image via Pixabay.

Creation is good for us, image via Pixabay

Well, let’s do so by writing lots of stories! Image via Pixabay.

This World and Others – Character Virtues -v- Vices

I thought I’d list a few character virtues and vices to look at how these can be used in storytelling.

Patience/Impatience
Patience doesn’t always come across well in fiction. Much as I love Little Women, I did find the very patient Beth to be a little too much of a goody goody for my tastes.  I think patience translates better when it is shown as a character actively trying to seek a goal, is at a point where they need to wait for a very good reason before taking further action, and that they do so.  There is a point to the patience then.  It is also an “active patience”, an act of will.  I find I want to read to find out if they CAN see that patience out and have the reward for doing so.

Impatience, of course, can be shown as a character’s weak point, causing them more problems than they needed to have (which adds to the conflicts and drama of the story).  Sometimes impatience can be used more positively in that it can be the trigger for change.  Someone is impatient with the lack of education, say, in their village and actively seeks to change that.  Again, the impatience at the status quo here can be a good catalyst for the story.  There are bound to be those who want the status quo continued.  Is there a reason why they don’t want the villagers to be educated?

Calmness/Anger
Calmness I think is easier to show in a story as there are always characters who are needed to calm other characters down and make them see sense.  What effect would that have on the tale?  If they failed to calm the other one down, what would the consequences be?  Keeping calm can be a crucial need in a thriller where that virtue gives the character time to think, time to work out a way of escape etc.  (Less likely to think of this if the character is panicking, getting worked up etc).

Anger can be shown as a character’s downfall – their temper alienates anyone who might help them.  It can be used to show a character’s sense of justice.  (You’ve got to question why anyone wouldn’t be angry at abuse, violence etc).  It can also be shown as part of a character’s development.  At the start of the story they’re hotheaded, at the end they’ve learned to temper their temper, so to speak.

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Getting Into Character

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I’ve been catching up with some concerts recorded a while back and I finished watching the John Williams Prom today.

Fab music and what is so telling is that in everything he has ever composed, it is clear he has entered the head of the character he has chosen to focus on and come up with the music that would suit them. This is especially true for Indiana Jones and Jaws!

Much as I adore the music, story wise, I’m very fond of only one of those… I leave it to you to guess which one!

But there is an object lesson here: know your characters, REALLY know your characters, if you want to write “for” them well.

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Many thanks, once again, to all the fab writers who shared their thoughts on my recent Why I Blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today. I find blogging, including on posts like this, wonderful for getting me “into” my writing sessions.

I love the freedom blogging gives but have found it helps to have one major topic. In my case that’s writing of course, but all sorts of things can come off that – such as the importance of reading, editing tips and so on.

The rules I generally follow for blogging include:-

1. Keep it simple. Not in terms of content but in terms of expression. Bullet points for headlines, expand later in the text.

2. Stick to a word count. For CFT I stick to 1500 words absolute max (and it’s usually nearer 1200). More than that, such as the Why I Blog pieces, I split into two or more parts. For the monthly ACW blog, it’s up to 500 words. (I love the discipline of writing to different word counts like this. It makes me “up my game”. It is far easier to write “long” than short).

3. Think of who you are writing for and go for topics which people will find useful, interesting, or would be happy to comment on. The best topics of course combine all of those!

And now on to my other blogs before I turn to fiction for this evening…

The start of another sweltering week in deepest, darkest Hampshire sees me cracking on with more flash fiction for my current WIP. Am happy with how that is going but would like to submit more work as well, so that’s my next mini target.

I’m a little ahead of the game when it comes to my CFT posts (and would like that happy state of affairs to continue). My next post will be a review of the recent Hursley Park Book Fair. More details later in the week.

I’m also drafting some non-time dependent blog posts that I can slot into different places as and when I need them. I must do this more often as it’s useful having material to hand for those on holiday times, down with the dreaded lurgy times, having too good a time at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School time etc etc. I love being able to schedule!

Somewhat cooler today, much pleasanter… Lady appreciated it too.

What is your chief reason for writing? For me, it is a mixture of wanting to share my stories and non-fiction AND wanting to do something positive with that wonderful treasure called literacy, which is so easy to take for granted.

I think most people have some sort of artistic “bent”. It is a question of whether they recognise it or not, and whether they try to develop it or not. Rejections are a pain, especially when there seems to be no “real” reason for them, but you are at least getting work out there. You are being creative.

And every time you try to develop your skills further, you (a) learn and (b) that in turn will help improve your chances of success. The great irony is that success can come after learning to deal with rejections.

The rejections do make you look at your work again and, especially after a gap between sending it out and getting the bad news, it is easier to take a fresher look at your story. Where you see room for improvement, do the necessary work and resubmit elsewhere. Where you really can’t see what you could do better, see if there are other markets which may be interested and submit there, following their guidelines.

Above all, keep writing. Be open to different forms of writing and enjoy what you do!

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to give my characters a “matter of fact” tone to them. I think it makes their portrayal more realistic and, as a reader, I love to find out what characters like these end up doing.

Why? Because characters who are “matter of fact” can end up clashing with those who do not appreciate their honest approach to life. That is where the conflict is, and therefore where the story is too.

I also need to convince readers to stay with my characters so giving them a tone many will identify with is another way of encouraging people to read on.

I like to get into my stories “hitting the ground running” so to speak. One of the best ways I find of doing this is by getting into the lead character’s head quickly and showing their thoughts and attitudes.

The great thing with this is that it doesn’t necessarily mean the character has to be likeable and generate the readers’ sympathy. All any potential reader has to be able to do is see where the character is coming from. It doesn’t mean you have to like the journey this character is on!

Having said that, the truly great characters will spark a reaction in readers, whether it is a good reaction or not. Sometimes a character’s attitude will encourage the reader to keep reading to see if they can get away with said attitude or will the character be brought to earth crashing. I love reading stories like that.

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As well as writing flash fiction, I’m thoroughly enjoying reading it. It is a very simple way of ensuring I get to read contemporary fiction (and in my genre) and it is lovely to have my reader’s hat on and just enjoy the stories. It reminds me of why I wanted to write flash in the first place and you kind of end up falling in love with the genre all over again.

I think the biggest thing for me has to be the fact flash has to be character led but you can set that character in any time, place, or world you choose. There is so much freedom there despite the demands of the tight word count.

Sometimes I will start a flash fiction piece but realise, usually fairly quickly, that this character is going to “run” and the story will end up be standard competition length (1500 to 2000 words generally). That’s fine and it is a joy to write to that length of story too.

However, the reverse is true sometimes too. What I think would make a good competition entry story really is best written as a flash story. There is one pivotal moment, which is entertaining enough, but if you were to add more, it would (a) spoil it and (b) be obvious padding.

So when writing I’ve found it to keep an open mine and judge what the story needs (which is not always what I think it will be!).

The ever useful post it note - image via Pixabay

The ever useful post-it note. Image via Pixabay.

Part 5 - Keeping the language simple and above all clear

No room for gobbledygook here. Image via Pixabay.

The fantastic world of books must include non-fiction too - image via Pixabay

The wonderful world of writing should include non-fiction, which benefits from creative techniques too. Image via Pixabay.

Time to find a new place to call home perhaps - what stories could that lead to - image via Pixabay

Time to have another home perhaps? Good stories to be had here! Image via Pixabay

Feature Image - Facts and Fiction - image via Pixabay

What writing triggers will help you create your new worlds? Image via Pixabay

A familiar desk scene for writers - image via Pixabay

The familiar sight of the writing desk, regardless of genre! Image via Pixabay.

Good historical fiction will make it seem as if you had stepped back in time - image via Pixabay

Could this picture inspire stories? Good fiction will take you out of the world for a while. Image via Pixabay.

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A great selection of books. Image by Allison Symes

My book stand at the Discovery Centre

Enjoy what you write and read! Image by Allison Symes

Laptops - all have a global reach - image via Pixabay

Reviews can have global reach. Most impact I think can often be local to the writer.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – What Makes a Character Work for You?

In all of the best stories I’ve read, certain things have to be true about the characters.

1. They’ve got to be interesting in some way, whether it is by being so different to these around them it is bound to grab your attention, or they do something which goes against what is expected of them. You immediately want to know why and what the consequences are. Result! You read on…

2. They have to have flaws and virtues and, above all, understandable reasons for acting the way they are. It doesn’t mean you have to agree or like them.

3. Personal one here – I’m particularly fond of the underdog. I like to see if they can “win out”. Fairytales of course feature a lot of these (and they do win!) so that fuels my love of this one.

4. They have to overcome adversity in some way, whether that is a major one (or is only major to them).

5. They have to develop in some way over the course of the story or novel and by the end, even if not successful in their aim which is driving the story, have come to a better understanding of themselves and the world they live in. The reader can see they’ve changed for the better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY I BLOG (PART 2) AND WHAT YOUR FICTIONAL WORLD NEEDS

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Many thanks to all of my guest writers for sharing their thoughts on my CFT Why I Blog two part series. Part 2 is up on site now – do see the link. It has been fascinating from my viewpoint to read the different takes on this. Comments, as ever, are very welcome in the CFT comments box.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am planning to catch up on my flash fiction writing this weekend. Most of the week has been a non-fiction “fest” for me (not that I’m complaining. I’ve come to love non-fiction in a way I never anticipated. For one thing, I’d never anticipated writing it at all when I started out as a writer!).

For my current WIP, I’ve been trying out historical flash fiction – i.e. stories told from the viewpoint of a certain historical character. Good fun to do and another way of getting into the heads of characters, which is something I love doing.

I love finding out what makes my characters tick and to do this to someone who lived and died centuries before makes me look at why they acted the way they are known to have done. It also gives me a very good excuse to read my history books again – I really can call it research here. Not that I really need an excuse to read such books.

In cases where there is speculation as to what happened because nobody really knows, then I can have some fun suggesting what might have occurred or coming up with a viewpoint the character might have held.

Fairytales With Bite – What Fairytales Reveal

One reason I love fairytales is for their honesty.  They call evil exactly that and have done with it.  Fairytales are very revealing about human nature (and the pictures they portray via words are not always flattering).

For example, Cinderella is realistic in the portrayal of the stepmother and her daughters and their ill treatment of Cinders.  Resentment, dislike, hatred even of anything not connected to blood kin does happen and more often than perhaps we would care to admit.

Then there’s the topic of pride and what that can lead to when unchecked.  Go to Snow White’s stepmother for the tips there!  Pride/vanity can and has led to people trying to destroy those better than themselves (and sometimes succeeding, sadly).

As for unrequited love, The Little Mermaid could tell you all about that.  Anyone who has ever been a victim of bullying because they look different would sympathise with The Ugly Duckling. 

A thought occurred to me recently as a result of a discussion I was having on Facebook about the left behind disabled child in The Pied Piper of Hamelin.  It was asked whether we felt the child felt left out or had had a lucky escape.  Opinion was pretty much split down the middle, I fall into the child feeling left out camp, but it occurred to me that Hans Christen Andersen was ahead of his time here in recognising the disabled can and do often feel left out and was highlighting that.  Sadly, still relevant.  I would like to think one day it wouldn’t be because we leave that “leaving out” state behind us.

In the meantime, I think we need, and will always need, the blunt honesty of fairytales showing up what we can be like.

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This World and Others – What Your Fictional World Needs

A lot will depend on the scale of your story obviously.  (One advantage of flash fiction is you need less!  One advantage of novels is you can build your own world in a reasonable amount of detail).  But I think for most situations your fictional world will need:-

1.  A sense of what the world is like.  In my flash fiction stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again, I only have the word count to give a fleeting impression, which is fine.  It is just that the fleeting impression has to be strong enough to register with your reader.  With a longer story, of course, you can show more but do beware of showing anything that is not absolutely critical to your tale.  You don’t want to “info dump”.  Just show your readers what they need to make sense of your story, whether that is one line, one page or what have you.

2.  What your character is like.  This is best shown in their actions, reactions, dialogue and thoughts.  In my flash tale, The Outcome, I don’t go into a physical description of Becram, my alien lead, but I do show you his attitude!  And for this 100-word story, that is enough.

3.  A sense of how the world is run.  For my unpublished novel (hope to be working to change that soon, watch this space!), I do show how the government is run.  Terry Pratchett in his Discworld series worked out how Ankh-Morpork could operate based on how people got rid of their waste and then how the city was governed grew out of that.  You need to pick a place to start to work out to yourself first and foremost how things would work.  Then it is a question of working out just what your reader needs to know and which is just for you to enable you to write the story.

4.  How needs are met.  This can be done lightly.  Again in my The Outcome, a few words indicate Becram comes from a highly technological society (so you can imply from that the basics such as food and drink supplies really are not a problem!).

5.  Problems!  It may sound ironic, but there is no such thing as a perfect world for real, yet alone in fiction, so give it problems it has to try to resolve.  For example, does your world get on well with its neighbours?  If not, why not?  Is it your world’s fault or theirs?  Have there been attempts to resolve the issues here?

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a Fresh Angle, Blogging and Adjusting Your Reading

Well, there’s a nice mixed bag of topics for you.  Plus I will share my top 10 tips for helping the writer in your life.  (Fellow writers, you can always drop a lot of hints to non-writing friends based on my list!).

Facebook – General

When you’ve had a website or a blog for a while, it pays from time to time to go back into your older posts and have another look. I do this a few times a year and inevitably I can think of a fresh angle on the topic I’ve pulled out of the archives to have a look at. Hey presto – a new post!

Some other ways to generate ideas for fresh posts include:-

1. Think about what irks you most about writing and why. Share! You won’t be alone. (My biggest bug bear? Never having as much time to write as I’d like. Answer: Just make the most of the time I do have!). You can share tips about how you overcome these bugbears or how to minimise their impact.

2. Think about why you started writing in the first place. Think about where you are now with your writing. Be encouraged by how far you’ve come but again this topic is great for being able to share what you’ve learned on your own writing journey.

3. Think about your favourite writers and stories and why you love these. Share your thoughts and invite comments. Briefly, I love the works of Terry Pratchett, Jane Austen, and P.G. Wodehouse (now there’s a combo if ever there was one!).

4. Share writing advice that you’ve found helpful and equally that which has not been relevant for you. Other writers will find this really useful.

5. What would you have found most helpful to know when you were starting out as a writer that you only found out much later on? Share!

Above all, have fun writing your posts. My CFT post this week will be Part 2 of Why I Blog. I’ll share the links later in the week but finding out what other writers have to say on a topic is (a) fascinating and (b) you learn so much yourself.

My CFT post this week will be Part 2 of Why I Blog. Many thanks again to all the fab writers for taking part in both parts of this. Lots of interesting insights and proof people really do blog for all kinds of reasons. More on Friday when I’ll put the link up.

Will be reviewing the recent Hursley Park Book Fair soon too. Good fun, lots of footfall, a very promising start to what I hope will be an annual event.

And Swanwick Writers’ Summer School draws ever closer too!

 

Do you adjust your reading according to the seasons?

The nearest I get to it is that I make sure I read or listen to Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man around September time and his Hogfather in the run up to Christmas. (I also sneak in either reading or watching A Christmas Carol during December – the Muppet version is my favourite!).

I suppose summer is associated with “light” reading to match the longer, lighter days, but I don’t change my reading much here. I am still reading history (and historical fiction), flash fiction, short stories, novels across the genres etc. What affects my reading choice more is mood.

As for writing, well it’s always a case of “game on” for my flash fiction and blog posts!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I think every flash story has to contain an element of surprise for it to engage the reader. Okay, you may well see where the author is going but isn’t the fun to be had there in finding out whether you are right or not?

That is what keeps me reading when I think I’ve guessed ahead correctly (and sometimes I’m right, sometimes the author twists the tale again and fools me. I like both of those options!).

Having said all that, it doesn’t mean the surprise has to be a nice one, far from it!

What should come through in your flash fiction pieces above all else is what makes your character tick. There is usually room for 1, maybe 2 characters, at most and their attitude should come through clearly. The attitude doesn’t need to be a “nice” one but it should be one readers can understand and, as they read on, see why the character has developed this.

As ever, it is the telling detail that matters here. For example, in The Outcome, the opening line is “I’m pleased to be wrong about my misgivings”. The attitude here is of a character who is open to the possibility of being wrong and being willing to admit it. Of course you then hopefully want to find out what they were wrong about! But it is that hook, the attitude of the character, which draws you in, I think.

Top ten tips to help the writer in your life:-

1. Buy their books!

2. Review said books. Doesn’t have to be a long review but must be honest.

3. Go to their book events to show support. Trust me, it is appreciated and, as a certain supermarket would say, every little bit helps.

4. Always get them nice notebooks and pens. The idea that any writer could ever have enough of these is just plain wrong! From your point of view, you’ll never be stuck for present ideas for your writer friend ever again. Win, win here.

5. If you are a computer whizz and can act as technical support, fantastic! You’ll save them a small fortune. No doubt your grateful friend will put you in their next book and not as a character to be killed off horribly either.

6. Plentiful supplies of tea/coffee/chocolate/other treats generally go down well with said writer. If it lifts their mood because they’ve got bogged down in Chapter 8, it benefits you. Do away with moody-writer-syndrome. Feed them their favourite treats. You know it makes sense.

7. If you really do feel you can’t get your writer friend any more notebooks and YOU feel like getting them something different, go for book vouchers or vouchers towards a writing course/retreat. Will go down well.

8. Accept said friend will often seem to be in a world of their own. That is because they are! Give them time to come back to earth before engaging in conversation. You’ll get more sense out of them for one thing doing that.

9.Never ask where they get their ideas from. You want to stay friends with them, yes? Just trust me on this one. If you insist on asking, don’t blame me if your friend gives you a long lecture on well this idea led to that one, I was inspired by one paragraph in A Christmas Carol, I thought I’d add a twist here and there, etc etc. Your friend should be able to go on at length as to where they get their ideas from. If you get bored, (and you almost certainly will), you only have yourself to blame here.

10. And last but not least, do spread the word about their books. It all helps.

 Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

What do you have in the way of book accessories?

I love bookmarks and those clear plastic stands for displaying books at signings etc. They make such a difference to your presentation.

I also like nice pens with a book logo on them and had some produced to go with my flash fiction collection when that came out. Likewise, a nice spiral notebook with the cover of the book on also went down well as prizes for my launch.

But the ultimate book accessory for me I think is the hardback and jacket! While nothing will diminish my love of the paperback, I do have some wonderful hardbacks, including a Sherlock Holmes collection, where the book itself is simply beautiful (and the contents brilliant! Got to hand it to Conan Doyle…).

I must admit when I do choose a hardback, I tend to have a quick peep to see if the cover has been reproduced on the book or if it is just on the jacket. A lot of the time it is the latter, all to keep costs down, but I have some where the cover has been reproduced on the book itself. Always looks great.

Even with a “plain” cover, a hardback book can be lovely in the way it has been bound etc.

So while the contents of the book are always the most important thing for me, I do enjoy the aesthetics of a lovely tome as well.

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WEATHER, PLANS, AND THE WRITING JOURNEY

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Must admit I struggle a bit in the heat, due to being asthmatic (much easier to breathe in cooler air). But then I still don’t really associate Britain with heatwaves, really. It just doesn’t feel right for this country.

And yes I do remember the summer of 1976. Government appointed a Minister for Drought and within about a week the heavens opened. Someone liked a laugh there!

I don’t tend to use the weather in my stories but how your characters react to (a) standard and (b) unusual conditions can help your readers find out more about them. I wilt in the heat. Others get edgy. How do your characters react? Does their behaviour and attitudes change notably?

Food for thought when outlining your characters as, even if you don’t use this in a story directly, just knowing how they would react helps you as a writer to show something of that in the situations you do put them in.

Time really does fly – hard to believe it’s July already. Still, on the plus side, it’s just over a month to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Really looking forward to that.

Need to get some more submissions out so will try and focus on that. (Third flash fiction book coming along nicely though). Am also beginning to look at some non-fiction work I’d like to do. Would like to make good progress on that by the end of the year.

Am reading well, which is great. I see reading as the fuel to writing. How can you know what you like to write unless you know what you like to read? Deliberately mixing up my reading formats. Sometimes I focus on the Kindle, other times good old fashioned paperbacks, still other times catching up with magazine reading. All wonderful material.

When you first start out as a writer, you look to improve what you do (and this is something you continue to keep on trying to do). Then you aim for publication. Then you see if you can be published again and again and again etc.

All the time you are trying to improve what you do in terms of output and quality. You are also getting to grips (or trying to!) with marketing and promotion, arranging book events, using social media effectively to attract a readership and so on.

So at no point in the writing journey are you standing still and that is a good thing.

But it does pay every so often to stop and look at where you are and what you would like to do next (and then go for it!). Focus on enjoying what you write – that enjoyment will help you keep going through the tougher times.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction is a good outlet for one liners which sum up a character.

One of my favourites comes from Making the Grade: “Still, as I told Mother, if this is what I can do when I’m honest, just think of the possibilities when I’m not!” Attitude to life, feisty character all in one line!

Flash fiction is the epitome of economical writing! This is another reason why I love it. It challenges me to convey as much information as possible in as few words as possible. All good fun!

I love an intriguing first line
Be it in flash or short story.
But what is wonderful and fine
Is the ending in its glory.

Allison Symes – 1st July 2018

I’m partial to some doggerel too! Having said that, intriguing first lines are fabulous but the story has to follow through on them. The story must never peter out. The ending must back up all that has come before. You want your reader to feel they’ve had a satisfying read, whether it is a funny tale or a grim one.

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Flash is a great vehicle for sci-fi and fantasy, even though both are known for (a) epic novels and (b) world building (which leads to the size of said epic novels!). Why?

Because you can conjure up a world with a few well chosen words and leave the rest to your reader’s imagination. In my The Truth, I refer to a Mark 3 Intergalatic Spacecraft with the latest time warp technology. I haven’t room in this 100-word story to tell you more than that, but the great thing is YOUR vision of what such a spacecraft would be like is as valid as mine would be. And you can picture the kind of world that would have such a thing in the first place.

I like to have fun with my flash stories in giving the one telling detail a reader would need to know and leaving it at that! I’m not being rotten, honest. I think a reader engages much more with any story if they have gaps to fill in. I know I love this when I have to fill in gaps on stories I read.

N.B. Do you think they have trouble changing head light bulbs on your average UFO given the trouble most of us have trying to do the same task on our cars? Just a thought…!