Writing Wish List, Why Write Flash Fiction, and Special Offers

Facebook – General

If you could make a writing related list for Santa, what would be on it? I’d ask for:-

1. The ability to stretch time so I can get all the writing I’d like to do in and done! Naturally I would not feel any side effects from this.

2. The ability to spot ALL typos etc before submitting work anywhere ALL the time. (If it is any comfort, most writers spot errors in work later on. We just don’t admit to it! We do feel annoyed at ourselves over them though – very much the “why didn’t I spot that one?” school of thought.

3. To never run out of pens, notebooks, ink cartridges, paper etc and also to arrange for the printer toner NOT to run out half way through a print run ever again. (You do get sick of this happening when it occurs more than once. Trust me on this).

4. To never miss a writing competition that might suit you ever again. (It is difficult to keep on top of them all so help from Santa here would be useful).

5. To never run out of inspiration and ideas and to always follow them through thoroughly.

6. Extra stamina would also come in handy. You need it when the umpteenth rejection comes in during the week.

7. More reviews of my book!

8. For the charlatans in the publishing industry to disappear from it for good so nobody is ever taken in by false promises again. Meanwhile, do check out the Society of Authors and/or ALLI, the Alliance of Independent Authors websites for sound advice on what to look for in publishing contracts, self publishing services etc.

9. To never run out of bookmarks. When I don’t need them I seem to have loads. When I do, can I find any? What do you think?

10. For more independent book shops and for them to thrive and do well.

I’m not putting these in any order of importance though 10 should be very high up on any list to Santa, I think.

Am glad to share, via the link, details of some special offers on Chapeltown Books’ flash fiction collections, including From Light to Dark and Back Again by yours truly.

The offers are open until the end of the week. There are currently 8 books in the Chapeltown series and there is an offer on for all of those. Equally you can buy three or four of them and still have a special offer! This offer is on until 21st December.

Some last minute Christmas present ideas, everyone?

Hope that whatever else is amongst your presents this Christmas, some good books are amongst them!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The YouTube below shows the books produced by Cafelit/Chapeltown/Bridge House during the year. A lovely selection.

I was in the To Be…To Become ebook produced by Bridge House. This contains the 16 winning entries to the Waterloo Arts Festival’s first writing competition. I hope they go on to have others!

What can be confirmed is there is a lovely variety of books and stories to suit all tastes here.

When do you know a story is really special? When you can’t forget the characters.

For me, story has always been about finding out what happens to the characters. I don’t necessarily need to like them (though most of the time I do) but I do need to be intrigued enough to find out what happens to them. So then there has to be something about the characters I can either identify with or which hits my “curiosity switch” and keeps that pressed down so I have to keep reading!

A good plot can be let down by characters that aren’t strong enough for it (and this means the writer hasn’t got to know his people well enough before writing about them). Great characters will lift any story they’re in. Great characters will generate plot. Imagine the chaos a devious character can cause when they set out to cause mischief deliberately. All sorts of stories can come from that, humorous and otherwise, but the character has to be well portrayed for that to work.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Time for some micro Christmas stories then:-

1. The innkeeper smiled, having seen his guests to the last available room. Nobody else would be disturbing his sleep tonight then.

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

3. In the bleak midwinter, they could have done with a snow plough.4. 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.

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

Allison Symes – 15th December 2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Never worry about overwriting a story. That overwriting can and should be cut later. Usually this is a case of sharpening up phrases etc. I like the creative aspect of that side of editing where you are happy with your characters and story but know you can express things better than you have done with your first draft.

For me, it is far more of a problem when, on odd occasions, my story is too short. Not a problem for my flash fiction but it can be for standard length short stories (usually 1500 words or so). This always means one thing in my book, pun intended (!), and that is my idea simply wasn’t strong enough. I needed to do far more outlining to see where the idea could take me before I committed to writing it and that process would have shown up inherent weaknesses in it.

So do outline. It can save you a lot of grief later.

Reasons to write flash fiction:-

1. You learn how to edit well.

2. You learn to be ruthless when cutting out anything that is not moving the story forward.

3. You really do watch your word count. (This pays off for other forms of writing competitions too).

4. Given flash fiction markets and competitions have different requirements (for example some include the title as part of the word count, others specificially do not), you learn to make sure you ARE following the right rules for the competitions you’re interested in.

5. It is a great way to get work out there while you are working on a longer project.

6. There ARE more competitions and markets out there now so there should be at least one to suit your style of writing.

7. You have to write character driven stories but there’s nothing to stop you setting that character in any time, genre, or setting of your choosing. You are definitely NOT stuck to one genre here.

8. Flash fiction can make a great warm up writing exercise ahead of a longer project. The great thing is you can now do something with what your produce from those writing exercises!

9. You learn to write precisely because you are looking for the maximum impact on your readers for the minimum word count . This is a fantastic discipline which can be transferred across to other forms of writing you enjoy.

10. It’s fun! I’ve loved the challenge of writing to 100 words, to 75, to 50 etc. Flash fiction can be addictive!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

F = Fantastic Fiction
L = Lines that Hit Home
A = Amazing Characters
S = Stories with Impact
H = Humour and sometimes with a twist too.

F = Fairytales with Bite
I = Imagination is fired up!
C = Can cross genres
T = The word count is the main thing to watch
I = Insist on ruthless editing to cut all that is unnecessary
O = On the look out for markets and competitions
N = Never underestimate the time taken to craft your tales!

Allison Symes – 18th December 2018

Goodreads Author Programme Blog – Christmas Wish List

Naturally I’m assuming books are high up on your Christmas wish list. I would like to add to that though the following:-

1. More time to read!

2. More time to re-read old favourites. Does anyone else feel a pang of guilt sometimes when you really want to go back to a novel you’ve read a few times when you know there are so many other books you really should be getting on with and reading? That you actually want to read but the “clarion call” of the old favourite just can’t be resisted.

3. Being able to read “children’s” books without feeling guilty or embarrassed. Incidentally I understand the point of more grown up covers for certain books to get around this issue but for me this doesn’t really work. I like the original covers far better in the majority of cases and want to stick with those!

4. That all adaptations of stories and books do justice to their source materials. Too many don’t!

5. That I can always find a bookmark when I want one. (I either have LOADS when I don’t need them or none at all. Don’t ask… it is the way it is!).

Hope you have a book and story filled Christmas. The joy of the winter months is WANTING to stay indoors and curl up with a good book!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Celebrations, Reading Work Out, and Framing Stories

A nice mixed bag tonight I think!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is the review of the recent Bridge House event, Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit, though I’m quite pleased I managed to come up with an alliterative title! I also look at how reading work out is useful to writers, as is listening to others reading their work out. For one thing, you literally hear a story’s rhythm and can apply that to your own stories.

Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use some of the images in this piece. I’ve yet to find a way of reading work out and taking my own pictures of me doing this at the same time! (Oh and before you ask, I am really not keen on selfies!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My CFT post this week will be a look back at the Bridge House celebration event held on 1st December. I’ll also share some thoughts on the benefits of reading work out loud and on being read to, both of which are lovely!

One of the nicest things about this time of year is that it is very much a time for stories, which is a theme I will be looking at for CFT before too long. Naturally, I love the Christian Nativity story but I also love those wonderful tales associated with it. For example, how did the robin get his red breast? By burning himself on a fire he was fanning to keep a fire going to keep the Holy Family warm.

I also like to have a general review of the year (and also a specific writing review. How did things go? Did I achieve all the goals I set myself? What goals would I like to set for 2019 etc?). So that’s my CFT posts sorted until the year end! Just have to finish writing them now…

One of the great joys of stories (both writing and reading them) is their escapism value, especially if the news is particularly grim. That shouldn’t be underrated.

Whether you read or write humour, horror, sci-fi, or what have you, a story, of whatever length, should transport you into its world. You should be happy to stay there for the duration too! That, ultimately, I think is the biggest challenge to a writer. But it’s a great challenge to have a crack at!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I like to choose themes which can be open ended. Love, for example, can obviously provide happy stories. It can also provide tragedies, something Shakespeare took good advantage of in Romeo and Juliet.

I’ve found that picking the theme I would like to use and then deciding on the mood of the story is so helpful in giving me a “frame” for my story. Then the title comes into play and again I try to choose one which is open, unless I specifically want to put a twist into the tale right at the beginning (my Punish the Innocent is a good example of that).

I find it useful to have my “frame” and then write. It helps me focus.

When drafting a story, what is the first thing you are keen to get right?

For me, it’s ensuring I know my character well enough to know how they would react/act regardless of what situation I drop them right in! (Dropping your characters right in it can be a great way of finding out just what they’re made of). I also like to know what would shake my character out of their sang-froid and what their general beliefs are. Naturally, there should then be something to challenge all of that!

I like to use things that inspire me as a source of story ideas. The great thing with this method is what inspires me and how I combine these to create a new tale will help my writer’s voice to come through. Nobody’s tastes and inspirations are exactly the same. The way these are combined will also differ from writer to writer. So list what your inspirations are. Think about how you can use these. At the very least, you should find some great themes emerging. Good luck!

Fairytales With Bite – Why Fairytales with Bite?

It occurs to me I should have written this post long ago but never mind!

I use the phrase “fairytales with bite” as a lot of my flash fiction work, in particular, is set in a fantasy world and I use a lot of irony. There really is a bite to a lot of what I write. I like quirky writing – my own and that of others! I also use twist endings a lot and there can be a great deal of bite behind those. I am, after all, looking to make an impact with my stories.

My catchphrase is also a reaction against those who think fairytales are twee. I know I’ve touched on this topic before, here and on other blogs I’m involved in, but fairytales can show up human nature for what it is and are anything but twee as a result. Think of all the tales where kindness is rewarded and/or greed is punished. What happens to the villains in lot of fairytales is anything but twee!

Of course, with the Big Bad Wolf, you could argue the fairytale with bite is literal here!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Reading Work Out Loud

This theme ties in with some thoughts I share on this as part of my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week called Celebrations, Crackers, Chapeltown, and Cafelit.  The latter is a look back at my publisher’s annual celebration event but one part of this is where some of the writers, including me, read some of our stories out to our audience.  Good fun whether you’re taking part or not, but for a writer it’s incredibly useful and here are some reasons why.

1.  You quickly realise if you stumble over words, so will your readers, so out comes the editing pen again.  Always better though that this happens before you submit the story anywhere.  By reading the work out to yourself before submission, this acts as another editing layer and can save your blushes!

2.  You literally hear the rhythm of the story.  There should be a natural ebb and flow to it.

3.  Especially if you write in a genre where you’re inventing names/place names etc, you can literally hear if what you’ve come up with is pronounceable!!  So no more Xxxrbtrzog (try saying that sober yet alone if you have had alcohol!) but something like Xerstone is “do-able” and still conveys to a reader they are in a setting NOT of this world.

4.  As you listen to someone else’s work, take note of what makes a real impact on you.  Is it the power of the dialogue?  Is the sentence structure hitting home well?  I usually find short, simple, and to the point works best.

5.  As you listen, watch out for where you are anticipating what comes next.  What MAKES you wonder what comes next?  Can you apply those thoughts to your own writing?

6.  We all love a story, it’s why we’re writers, and the oral tradition of storytelling is fantastic.  Without it we would have no stories at all so it is a joy to take part in and kind of “support it” ourselves.

Love your reading!

 

 

 

Time To Read and Heroes and Villains

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for taking the picture of me reading at the recent Bridge House event and for kind permission to use it.

Facebook – General

My To Be Read pile is increasing again! Do you find you have moods where you just want to read books and, at other times, you just want to read magazines? I do. I used to ride an exercise bike and read while on that but frankly it is a very boring form of exercise. I prefer to walk the dog and swim, both of which exclude reading!

Am planning to have Christmas reading time as a treat to me. I do read something each day but I’d like solid periods of reading time. I don’t want it to be a choice between writing time and reading time. I want both! Thoughts on how to get a good balance here would be welcome.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I looked at finding time to read in my latest Goodreads blog the other day. It is just as important as finding time to write given we have to feed our own imaginations and by far the best way of doing that is to read widely ourselves. It also supports the industry we want to be part of!

So whether you borrow from the library (always a fab idea, that!), buy books, stick to reading on the Kindle, the important thing is to read, read, and read. A tip often passed on to new writers is to write what you want to read. How can you know what that is unless you read widely and discover what that is? (Sometimes you can discover what you don’t want to write as well!).

Naturally I’m going to put in a plug for the small indie presses such as Bridge House Publishing and Chapeltown Books since this is very much book buying season.

Can I also put a shout out for reviews for books you’ve read? Reviews don’t have to be long – one or two lines is enough. People do read them. (I always read product reviews whether it is on my online shopping or what have you!).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Which night of the week, if any, do you find it the hardest to write anything? For me, it is always a Monday. Yes, I write, but I write more on every other day of the week! Maybe I need a “slow day” to make me get a move on for the rest of the week. Maybe it’s just a Monday thing…

The good thing is I’ve learned over time not to worry about this. The important thing is I am writing and loving it. I’ve learned to focus on that. I am also convinced a writer’s love of writing will show through in what they actually produce.

And the “little” bits of writing mount up over time so I’ve learned never to underestimate only having small pockets of time to write in at times (whether it is due to it being a Monday or not!).

It is often said you can tell much about a person by how they treat others who can do nothing for them. This is true but it should also be true for your characters. How do they react to those they would consider weak? (Incidentally, are they right on that or are THEY themselves the weak ones but just don’t know it?).

In the setting of your story, what are the rules? Are older people treated with respect (perhaps even venerated) or are they considered of little worth and belittled? Does your character go along with what is the status quo here or do they rebel against it? If they rebel, what are the consequences? Are they the catalyst for positive change here?

Plenty of food for thought and story ideas there, I hope!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Great article on flash fiction in Writing Magazine. It is good to see the form get more publicity. I still find the question I’m asked most frequently is just what is flash fiction? While technically it is any story under 1000 words, I must admit I prefer flash to be 500 or under, though From Light to Dark and Back Again contains a good mix from across the word count spectrum here.

Also good to see more competitions for flash and having it added as a category to festival competitions. Sure signs flash is in a very healthy state and long may that continue!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Whether I read novels, short stories, plays etc, I nearly always find a few stand out moments that stay with me long after I’ve finishing reading. I suppose that looking out for specific moments in fiction that stand out might have subconciously drawn me to flash fiction given you have to make an impact quickly there.

Some of my favourite stand out moments include:-

Frodo offering to take the Ring to Mordor. You know everything changes from that point.

The fairy godmother turning up at Cinderella’s. Again you know everything will change then.

The Little Mermaid realising the Prince is not going to fall for her. Just such powerful stuff, given all she has gone through and you must read the original Hans Christen Andersen story to get the full impact of that.

Inspector Alan Grant in The Daughter of Time discovering the picture he has been given is that of Richard III and wondering what mystery he will find in the king’s story. You just know he’ll find something otherwise there is no story here. Again a major change point.

 

Sometimes selecting the right “moment in time” to be your flash fiction story can be tricky. My guiding rule is to go for whichever of the choices I have which makes the most impact on an impartial reader.

Incidentally I don’t “tug on the heartstrings” here. Any impact has to arise naturally out of the situation I’ve put my characters in and therefore any reaction is genuine. No matter how fantastical your setting, you have to keep it real!

And there must be something about your character that fascinates your reader in some way. It will be that which makes them read on.

What is the appeal of a well written villain? They’ve got to have good reasons for being as they are (and even elicit some sympathy from the readers for them). They’ve got to challenge the hero/heroine and make them work for their achievements. Hey, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy, does it? The villain should be reasonably likeable (it gives the reader the lovely dilemma of knowing they really shouldn’t want the villain to win BUT secretly they wouldn’t mind THAT much).

What is the appeal of a well written hero/heroine? Funnily enough there are a lot of parallels with the well written villain. Your hero/heroine should also have good reasons for being as they are (and should elicit FAR MORE sympathy from the readers for them). They should challenge, and ultimately defeat, the villain, no matter what is thrown their way. They WILL work for their achievements. They’ve got to be reasonably likeable (though no character is without flaws) for any reader to engage with them. They shouldn’t be “goody two shoes” as that will just annoy most readers.

Goodreads Author Programme Blog –

Finding the Time to Read

Finding the time to read is one of the most important things any would-be writer should do. We need to read widely and well to feed our own imaginations, to work out how we would portray characters and so on.

Like, I suspect, the majority of people, I save my reading time for when I’m in bed, which works fine. It took me a while to figure out that if I do actually want to read, I need to go to bed before my system tells me it wants to get on and sleep, thank you very much! But now I’ve finally figured that out, I relish my quality reading time.

I am planning additional periods of Christmas reading time though. I want to block out times when I do nothing but read. The thought of that is bliss! After all I carve out times for creative writing and stick to those and lo and behold I get creative writing done! The same principle must apply to carving out reading time. I’ll give it a go anyway.

I do find I have moods where I just want to read books. Other times I just want to read magazines. But I think the best gift anyone can give a reader is the time in which to indulge their love of books!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucial Characterisation and a Charity Cookbook

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post shares news of a very special cookbook written by Barbara Large MBE. Barbara was the founder of the Winchester Writers’ Festival (as it is now known) and her book is raising funds for the Nick Jonas Ward at the Royal County Hospital, Winchester.

Barbara shares her thoughts on the joys and challenges of writing this book, as does Anne Wan, who through imprint North Oak Press, published the book. There is also a delicious recipe to try!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Shooting Star - Barbara and Anne 1

Barbara Large and Anne Wan at the launch of Anne’s book.  Image kindly supplied by Anne Wan

Anne Wan and Allison Symes at Bay Leaves Larder

Anne Wan and I enjoying a cup of tea as I interview her for Chandler’s Ford Today a while ago.  Image taken on Anne’s phone by the cafe staff!

When Writing Magazine comes in, I flick through and see if I know anyone who has written in to the letters page or the Members’ News section. I’m glad to say there usually is someone I know in either section in most editions!

Going to writing courses, conferences etc., is the best way I know of for networking with other writers and connections build up over time. Though a week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School speeds that process up a LOT!

Talking of connections, how do your characters build up their relationships with other characters? What kind of networking exists in the world you’ve created? Often it is a case of showing Character A has this relationship (of whatever nature) with Character B but can you hint at how it all kicked off? Is there a solid basis to how your characters interact with each other? There should be…!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My CFT post this week will share news of a charity cookbook called Scrumptious Recipes Shared with a Pampered Patient, written by Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the Winchester Writers’ Festival (formerly the Winchester Writing Conference). More details and the link on Friday.

I look forward to sharing thoughts on the recent Bridge House/Chapeltown/Cafelit celebrations the week after. As ever, can hardly believe how the year has raced by. Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the pic of me reading some of my more recent stories from Cafelit and also from From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have fun mixing up the settings you use for your stories too. Some of mine are set in a magical or fantasy world but others are very much here on Earth.

My Time for Tea is set with the opening showing an old man arranging the tea things as he is expecting his adult children to visit. But this is no ordinary tea party.

And I guess that is the point of this post. The setting may be ordinary but it is what you do with it that will turn your story into something special.

A random word generator can be fun to play around with sometimes. Having a look at one tonight, and having set the first and last letters I wanted, my haul was “bloody”, “biography”, “biology”, and “beneficiary”. Hmm… definite possibilities there.

DANGEROUS WORDS
The biography of my long dead great-aunt whom I cared for, well it was well over a decade in the end, was a revelation, a bloody one at that. No wonder she didn’t want this coming out during her lifetime and I’m heartily wishing I hadn’t been sent this book. Someone wanted me to have it but who and why? And why send it now?

Frankly, I’m not sure what I want to do with this. The logical thing would be to burn the wretched book but how many copies were produced? How could I find out without revealing what I know? And whoever sent this to me is expecting some sort of reaction I guess. There’s nothing to stop them sending me other copies either is there? Have they gone to the police? Well let them… I’ve done nothing wrong except be a beneficiary to a sick old lady whose family abandoned her. Except I now know why they dumped her. Has one of them finally decided I ought to know? Or are they going to try to take my inheritance from me?

What did I find out? That my aunt knew quite a bit about biology as it turns out and where exactly to stick the knife. She wasn’t always crippled with arthritis! Said knife ended up right in the backs of anyone to whom she was a beneficiary. Collected quite a sum in the end – well over £500 K. People have been killed for less than that. What I can’t figure is how she got away with it. All I know is I’m keeping that money and I am getting out of here NOW.

Ends.

Allison Symes – 6th December 2018

See a random word generator as another way to conjure up ideas for you to play with. You don’t have to use all the words that come up – a lot will depend on how much of a challenge you feel up to tackling! But have fun with this and hopefully you’ll get some stories down as a result.

 

Ideas for flash fiction stories can come from many sources (and I’ve used advertising slogans, scenes from films, well known phrases, and sometimes puns – e.g. my Raising the Stakes. Yes it IS a vampire story but told from the viewpoint of…. well no spoilers here!).

Mix up your sources of ideas from time to time. Never use just one source. You want to have a nice wide “net” to scour for story ideas. Don’t forget pictures either. They can be a great starting point for a story. What could you do with the images below for instance?

Above all have fun with your writing. It does show through!

Fairytales With Bite – Editing Your Story

Some of the ways I edit a story are:-

1.  To put it aside for a while.  Sounds odd I know but you need to put some distance between you as the writer of the piece before you can become you, the editor of that piece.  You are too close to the work to be objective about it just after you’ve written it.  You’re either going to think it is the best or worst thing ever written (there seems to be no happy medium here!) so remind yourself, you will look at the piece when it will seem like new to you again.  Then and only then can you judge it properly.  Assuming you have done that:-

2.  Read work out loud.  This is great for literally hearing whether your dialogue works as well as you think it does.  If you stumble over words or phrases, so will your reader.  I’ve sometimes recorded a story (using Audacity) and played it back.  You get to listen to it as a listener would then.

3.  Do a basic edit first.  I start by getting rid of my known wasted words, repetitions, and go through for spelling and grammatical errors.  You will need to do this again at least once more once you’ve got a final draft but I have found it useful to use this to get me into “editor mode” and to get started on the whole business!

4.  Look at whether the structure makes sense.  Are there gaps the reader can’t follow?  Where you have hinted at something happening in the story, did you follow through on it later?

5.  Do all of your characters have a vital role in the story?  If not, can you get rid of some or amalgamate them into one person?

6.  Do all of the plot lines tie up and make sense?  Have you shown a point of change in the characters?  Have you ensured the story reaches a logical conclusion (which doesn’t need to be a happy one)?

Good luck!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Crucial Characterisation

Characterisation is always crucial, of course, but pointers I have found really useful include:-

1.  Ensure there is something about your characters that your readers can identify with.  They don’t necessarily have to agree with your characters but should be able to see why your characters are acting as they are.  Part of the challenge of a story is to get your readers to wonder whether they would have done the same as your characters and, if not, why not and what would they have done!

2.  The goal should be an understandable one.  From the character’s viewpoint, naturally, it has to be a life or death matter.  It should be something they are prepared to risk all for.  It should be something they can’t refuse to do.

3.  Characters should be memorable.  Doesn’t matter if they’re heroes or villains, the crucial point is your characters should stay in the minds of your readers long after they’ve finished your story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrations and Acronyms

Facebook – General

Had a fabulous time at the Bridge House celebration event in London today. Great to meet up with friends and fellow writers once again.

In no particular order, I’d like to give a shout out to Paula Readman, Ana and Russell, Dawn Kentish Knox and her lovely mum, Pat, Gail Aldwin, and Amanda Huggins. Meeting for lunch in a pub before the event was a fantastic idea! It was nice that the venue was so easy to find from Southwark Tube Station too.

Lovely to hear some great stories read out. Lots of twists and surprise endings, several of the characters I would be very wary of were I meet them in life (!), and it is SO nice being read to!

I read Circle of Life from From Light to Dark and Back Again, Moving On and Time for a Change which were published on Cafelit fairly recently. Laughs and applause were much appreciated by me so thank you all.

Above all, thanks to Gill James and Debz Hobbs-Wyatt for all their hard work behind the scenes at Bridge House, Cafelit and Chapeltown. (I plan to write a Chandler’s Ford Today post on this event in the not too distance future and will share more photos there and then).

Below are just some of the authors who read works out during the celebrations.  All of the stories read were excellent and had the audience spell bound.  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for taking the photo of me and for kind permission to use it.  Also thanks to her for other images used further down in this post and for the one I’m using as the feature image for this post.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some signs of really good stories include:-

1. Promising opening line that MAKES you want to read on immediately.

2. You loved the story so much you feel disappointed when it ends.

3. You remember it (or in the case of novels, for example, you recall your favourite extracts).

4. You’ve read that opening line but CAN’T read on immediately and rush through everything else you’ve got to do so you CAN! OR If you can’t rush through, part of you is inwardly gnashing your metaphorical teeth, until you can sit down with a cuppa and get on and read the story!

5. The real classics become a tradition. The best example of this, of course, is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

6. In the case of twist stories, you really didn’t see the surprise coming. It is only when you re-read the tale, you spot the clues. Roald Dahl was the past master of this in his Tales of the Unexpected.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Time for some more writing acronyms. I expect some of these will ring a bell or several.

OFD – On First Draft
SOFD – STILL on First Draft
DAASD – Don’t ask about Second Draft
EWE – Editing, What Editing?
PDHRN – Printer Died Halfway (through) Running (out) Novel
WCINFAP – Why Can I Never Find A Pen (when I call myself a writer)?
RFOMN – Room For One More Notebook
DWD – Deadline, What Deadline? (Theme emerging here I fear!).
PWP – Procrastination, What Procrastination?
WSWPS – Will Start Writing Properly Shortly – linked to PWP inevitably.

If there is one thing I don’t miss from the “good old days”, it is having to cut and paste literally! I also don’t miss carbon paper.

Has the PC spoiled us all? Perhaps but it is a boon knowing I can correct material easily and can move passages of writing around as I want to and without having to then photocopy the new sheet with the amended bit on (as the copy wouldn’t look as if it HAD had anything added to it!).

I suppose the one thing I really DO miss from said good old days is that reading lots of stories and books was something, if you will pardon the pun, that WAS taken as read. Now we have to encourage reading as much as possible. That isn’t a bad thing obviously but it strikes me we are detecting a “reluctance” that has to be overcome somehow. Why is reading seen as a poor relation to other forms of entertainment?

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There were some great flash fiction pieces read out at the Bridge House/Chapeltown/Cafelit celebration event in London today. Many congratulations to all.

I’ve found the biggest benefit from writing flash fiction is it teaches you quickly how to REALLY edit! You learn to write with precision and that skill can be transferred to whatever other writing you do.

Must confess I am feeling somewhat tired and I swear I was only on tea and orange juice today!! (More pics to come in a future Chandler’s Ford Today post in a couple of weeks time).

(I don’t know when they got the Christmas tree up at Waterloo but it looked nice, as always).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Questions to ask yourself when writing flash fiction:-

1. What do I want the impact to be on the reader?

2. What mood is the story? (Some titles could take you in several directions so I find it helpful to work out whether it is going to a sad tale, a funny piece, or what have you and then think about a title).

3. Would this story work best as a short, sharp piece (say 25 to 75 words) or expanded a little so there is more depth (say 100 to 500)?

4. Which market/competition am I aiming at? Always have your audience in mind! It directly affects how you write the piece.

5. If writing to a familiar theme, think about the unique take you can bring to it. For example, if you’re writing a love story, what will make that stand out? Dig deep for ideas. The first ones you come up with will inevitably be the “obvious” ones. So search a bit more and a bit more…

It is ironic cliches are usually avoided in fiction (and is that in itself a cliche I wonder?!). However, they can have their uses in flash fiction. Why? Because they can be a useful short cut to conjuring up images you want your readers to conjure up. Because they can tell you a lot about your characters. Because they can save a lot of words!

However, the trick here is to not use the cliche directly. I sometimes use a cliche as a title but in the story itself I twist it. One example was a story I drafted a year or so ago at Swanwick where instead of using “take the biscuit” I came up with “take the Garibaldi”. That made people smile when I read my piece out but it should put a picture in your mind as to what kind of character would think automatically of a Garibaldi as THE biscuit to go to! Equally had I said “take the cheap Rich Tea”, that would, I think, create in a reader’s mind an image of a very different character.

The idea here then is to use the cliche but don’t let it use you. Do something different with it. I know I get tired of reading cliches when I come across a lot of them in a story (and it does happen) but the odd one or two, ideally with a twist to them, is fine.

Advantages to writing flash fiction include learning how to REALLY edit, keeping to word counts, and writing precisely. (That is the only way to keep the word count to where it should be). You have to think of the strongest word to convey the greatest image and to again save on word count. No weak images here, thank you!

You are also thinking about the impact of your story on a reader as giving this some thought early on will dictate the way the story goes and save you some time and work in editing later. Putting yourself into the mind of a potential reader will ensure you are writing with an audience in mind from the outset (which will help when it comes to finding a suitable publication to submit the story to as well).

Goodreads Author Programme Blog Being Read To

When was the last time you were read to as an adult?

For me, that was this afternoon – 1st December 2018 – but more on that in a moment.

I have, as I hope you have, many fond memories of being read to as a child. It instilled a life long love of books in me at a very early age. Thanks to Beatrix Potter, I learned the meaning of the word “soporific” early on too! Good books can do wonders for your vocabulary.

This afternoon I was at the Bridge House/Cafelit/Chapeltown Books celebration event. My favourite time was listening to published works being read out by fellow authors (and I read some too). Let’s just say there are some characters I heard about today I am so glad I can never meet in life. One in particular had a penchant for getting away with… well to say more would give the plot away! Oh and I wouldn’t want to meet all of MY characters either!

But it was such a joy just sitting back and listening. I love audio books but there is nothing to beat hearing an author read out their own work. Dickens was definitely on to something there! I don’t know quite what it is but, even in a tale that has you gripped to the edge of your seat, there is something soothing in being read to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is a review of one of my favourite stories, A Christmas Carol, as performed by the MDG Players at the Dovetail Centre recently. Well done to all!

And this is the only production where the audience got to join in! If you want to know how, read the post! Oh and yes I joined in too.

I forgot to mention I’ve had a couple of stories on Cafelit recently. Anne Boleyn fans will like my story, Consistency, published by Cafelit on 24th November.  It’s been a good week on Cafelit given my Moving On was published by them on 27th November.  Hope you enjoy them both.

My Doubting the Obvious was published by Paragraph Planet on 22nd November.  I need more weeks like this!  The link should take you to their archive for November, which is why I’ve listed the date in case you need to scroll through to find this.  Having said that, have a look good at the other stories here (and indeed on Cafelit too).  There is some wonderful writing here – all very entertaining tales!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers’ More than Writers blog spot

I discuss writing goals in my monthly spot on the Association of Christian Writers’ More than Writers blog.

Do you set any? Have you achieved what you hoped to do? Did you take part in NaNo? I didn’t because I know I’d exceed the word count on some days, be under on others, and while it might balance out in the end, I just don’t need the guilt of “not achieving”! And I would feel guilty…

See what I DO do about setting goals in this post.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General

My CFT post this week will be a review of A Christmas Carol as staged by the MDG Players.

A Christmas Carol is my favourite Dickens story and one of my favourite tales overall. It has everything – a villain (at least to begin with), ghosts who reveal why Scrooge has become the way he has and what it will mean for him if he doesn’t change, and redemption. The story is its own little world and just works so well.

Still love the Muppet version with Michael Caine. Is on my must watch list again this year. It is just really well done. Looking forward to sharing my post on Friday.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Sometimes I write flash fiction with a historical flavour to it. Here’s one for Anne Boleyn fans. Consistency was published by Cafelit on 24th November. Hope you enjoy.  Link given above.

I’ve been talking about achieving goals as my monthly Association of Christian Writers’ blog has been about that. See below. I don’t set a particular number of flash fiction stories to write or submit in a year. What I DO try to do is seek to produce a regular number of stories and then submit them to outlets as often and consistently as I can.
 

Where is the point where a story really comes alive for you?

For me, it is when I realise I have GOT to find out what happens to the character, whether I love them or loathe them. I generally want to see villains get their comeuppance so read on to see if they do! Equally I want the “good guys” to win through so again read on.

So when creating my own characters, I am always trying to ask myself will this one grip a reader? Is the character strong enough? What is there to love and/or loathe about them?

Fairytales With Bite – When Is a Story Ready to be “out there?”

There is no hard and fast answer to the above question, of course, but what I have found to be true is that a story is ready for submitting when:-

1.  You really cannot edit another word of it without spoiling it in some way.

2.  The story haunts you – and you wrote it!  (Good chance readers will be haunted by it too).

3.  Having deadlines to submit (for reputable competitions say) can be really useful as it makes you work to a date and encourages you to let a story “go”.  It can be easy to keep editing and polishing.  At some point you need to pluck up courage and test the market with your stories.

4.  When you can genuinely envisage your piece as suiting Publication X, say, because you have read several of their editions, have a feel for their style and your story or article fits in beautifully.  If you are right go on and send it in but be sure to follow their submission guidelines.

5.  You come across other published stories which you have cause to feel are not as good as yours.  Only one way to find out if you’re right or not:  send your one in!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Story Moods

What’s your favourite mood for a story or does it depend on what mood you are in at the time of reading?

I love humorous and poignant stories and am glad to say Cafelit have published one of mine in each of these categories in the last few days.  Consistency is a historical piece and Moving Onis a changing job story, both very different in mood.  I should add the mood varies for my Chandler’s Ford Today pieces too.  My post this week is a review of A Christmas Carol as staged by the MDG Players recently.  In articles like this, as well as the actual review, I like to give some background to either the material or the writer of the material which is being performed so I generally go for an informative. chatty style.  For my scam alert pieces, I obviously adopt a more serious tone.

The key, of course, is having the right “mood” for the right story or article.  Yes, you can have funny crime and I’ve read and listened to some wonderful stories in that genre, but generally, unless it is flagged up, you would expect crime stories to have a fairly sombre tone to them.  This is where the blurb on books is so important.  A reader will pick up on the mood of the book and decide if it suits them thanks to that so it is vital to get this right.

With my From Light to Dark and Back Again the title is the big clue that there is a variety of moods here (as is my strapline – “a story to suit every mood”).

Yes, I think you should play to your strengths when writing so if that is serious writing, go for it, but I would also say don’t be afraid to experiment and play with words.  If you find you can write in more than one mood or tone of story, so much the better.  It will open up more competitions and markets for you to try.  Good luck!