Swanwick Report 2 (This Time It’s Personal!)

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I was on way home from Swanwick as I drafted this earlier this afternoon. Not sure I’m ready to face the real world yet but the weekend will help.

Mind, it was lovely getting home to the family again, and I was mugged by Lady in a totally good way as well! One happy dog…

My CFT post this week is Making Space Part 2 and here I share thoughts and tips on this for writers. Hope you find at least some of them helpful.

Planning is key to my getting writing done at all and it pays to make space for that planning. It really does help you be more productive. Try it and see!

Image Credit:  Pixabay.  Captions on CFT.

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Publication News:  Cafelit

Busy night for me! I forgot to share this earlier this week but better late than never…

Am pleased to say my story, Life is What You Make It, went up on Cafelit on 12th August. Hope you enjoy.

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Why does Swanwick week always speed by? Glad to see sun come out in time for the Dregs Party held on the main lawn though.

Really encouraged on the non-fiction front and have written flash fiction stories too. Plenty to be getting on with when I get back home (and not just my laundry!).

The joy of writing is in being creative and discovering and enjoying new forms in which to write.

The joy of Swanwick is you know there are close to 300 people there with you who totally understand that.

Image Credit:  Swanwick pictures taken by me but a huge thank  you to Penny Blackburn for the one of me reading at the Open Prose Mic Night.

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I picked Getting Lost, Mirrored, and Test Pilot to read at the Swanwick Prose Open Mic night. Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for the pic (above).

Another full day of inspiring courses and workshops. It takes a while after you get home to process all you know will be useful to you but that’s fine. Knowing what you want to do is key and coming to Swanwick can and has been helping me hone in on that.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have three flash stories drafted as a result of Swanwick. All need polishing though. I never get as much writing done as I think I will at Swanwick, because your head (and notebooks) are full of ideas to follow up when you get back.

I also want to cherish time spent with other writers, most of whom I won’t see for another year. This is where social media is such a blessing in that it makes you able to stay in touch that way.

What was great was coming across a number of other flash fiction writers. The form is growing and that will lead to more fantastic stories. Win-win there!

The nice thing with writing for competitions is if a place doesn’t get placed, you have a story you can look at again and rework and submit elsewhere.

Most of the time you won’t be placed. Does that sound depressing? Perhaps but on the assumption there’s nothing wrong with your story, other factors happen such as:-

  1. The judge has already read a story very similar to yours and, for whatever reason, the other has the edge. There’s not much you can do here other than make your work as polished as possible and try not to go for the too obvious interpretation of a theme.

  2. For open competitions especially, judges may genuinely have a preference for a particular story type or genre and yours doesn’t float their boat. Just get the work out somewhere else appropriate.

Good luck!

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I love it when flashes of inspiration strike though nobody says they have to come at convenient times, unfortunately.

My awkward-to-get-to-a-pen moments include:-

Being in the shower when a real cracker of an idea turns up.

Being on the loo when etc etc.

Being stuck in traffic and I’m driving.

Longing to write when on a train but you’re packed in so tight even an exceptionally skinny ant would have trouble finding space. {Anyone come across an obese ant? Just thought I’d ask!).

Oh well…

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Fairytales with Bite – Making Space

My CFT post this week discusses why Making Space is a great idea for writers. See http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/making-space-part-2-the-writing-view/

I believe fairytales and fantasy fills the spaces between reality and chaos. Why? Because so many tales in these genres reflect what we can be like, while others give strong moral messages. Why do we need such things?

  1. To guide us as to what our behaviour should/should not be;
  2. To show us what life could be like without kindness, gratitude etc. Would you really not want things to come right for Cinderella, for example?

As writers, we also need to give our characters space to develop in themselves and as part of the plot development. A character who doesn’t change will be of little interest to readers.

This World and Others – Entering Another World

You do feel as if you enter another world when you go to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. For a week, I do! Coming out of that world again can be a wrench too.

Image Credit:  Photos of Swanwick taken by me with the exception of my reading at the Open Prose Mic Night. Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for that. ALREADY SHARED ABOVE.

But going home with ideas to work on will take me back into the fantastic world of the imagination in no time. So that’s all right then!😀 The really nice thing about this?

It applies whether you write flash or other fiction and non-fiction.

When you want to escape this world for a bit, write!

Your title needs to make an impact quickly and especially if writing flash fiction as it can set mood and save you word count - PixabayThe first title idea you have may need to change later but that's okay - PixabayAnd the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay918521_S.jpg

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Still room for pen and paper drafts. Pixabay

 

 

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Swanwick Report 1

Facebook – General

Am at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School as I write this. By the time I get home again, I’ll have:-
A list of ideas to follow up;

Books (nothing keeps me out of the Book Room for long!);

A confession to give to my Slimming World consultant (but know I won’t be the only one!)

Be buzzing with inspiration and encouragement, having had a fab time with writer friends, old and new.

Made progress on a project I’ve taken with me.

Re-read my novel with a view to submitting it in the autumn (hopefully – best laid plans etc etc).

Whatever your writing plans are, enjoy them and good luck!

Have had a wonderful first full day at Swanwick Writers Summer School. One really nice aspect is meeting up with people you only “see” online for the rest of the year. The encouragement and support is tremendous.

Why does that matter? Simply it’s because you spend most of the rest of the year at your desk, working alone, and the validation aspect shouldn’t be overlooked either. Most writers have to fight self-doubt. If only it was one of those things you fought and beat the once and that was it! But alas…

Splendid day at Swanwick. Much encouragement, many ideas to follow up, wonderful conversations with other writers who understand the passion to write.
Am due to take part in the Prose Open Mic later. Loved that last year. Fantastic range of stories to listen to – great entertainment. I’ve picked three flash stories, all of which are on Cafelit.
Tomorrow’s a quieter day with workshops in the morning. Have projects to work on in afternoon.

When you take time out to think about it, ideas for stories/blog posts etc come from a huge range of influences.

This is why any writer will groan (or swear or kill you off in their next book/story or any combination of these) if you ask us where we get our ideas from.

There is no one quick answer to that!
My influences include fairytales, crime stories, history (fact and fiction), quirky facts picked up from all over the place, amongst others, and these influences will expand depending on what I read next.
So don’t ask! Your eyes will glaze over long before we finish telling you, assuming we haven’t sworn or mentally killed you in a dozen different ways!

Image Credit: All images were taken by me, except the Open Prose Mic Night one. Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for taking that.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I expect to have fun with writing exercises while I’m away at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this week. Two exercises from last year became flash fiction stories and went on Cafelit – The Balcony Seen and The Art Critic.
The latter will be in print in The Best of Cafelit 8, which is due out in December.
Am looking forward to what comes out of this year’s Swanwick in this department!

Loved the writing exercises set at Lift Up Your Pens, which was the first session I went to at Swanwick Writers Summer School today.
Let’s just say that’s two new flash fiction stories drafted so win-win!
What I often find at courses is, as well as there being lots of useful information for you to act on, ideas for stories and posts spark too. Now for the time to write them up!

All stories illuminate truth in some way. What flash does is take a blooming great torch and focus intensely on one point.
So when thinking of a new story, I work out what I want the point to be and which character would best suit that.

I was listening to a fab talk on plot twists at Swanwick this week and reflected on my use of them.
A plot twist is something that changes the direction of the story in unexpected ways but for flash, it can work well in bringing the story to a powerful ending.
You still set the clues in the story, you still must make the twist feasible, you still DON’T try to be clever (it never works and will irritate readers), but the change of direction can be to an ending.
What should happen is you then see the change in the character. The “yes, that ending makes sense, that would happen to a character like this”.
My Calling the Doctor has the character reveal something at the end which ties in with what went before but will still surprise (and hopefully make your blood chill!).

Goodreads Author Blog – Books, Glorious Books

B – Brilliant entertainment
O – Own portable library in print or on Kindle
O – Only lack of light or tiredness stops me reading
K – Kindle has transformed reading for me
S – Stories – so many, so little time!
G – Genre – there is at least one to suit you!
L – Libraries will always need support and can be a great way to try out authors new to you.
O – Originality in story and characters is hard to achieve but your take on such should be original.
R – Reading (what else?!)
I – Imagination. Reading and writing books should fuel this.
O – Only one book at a time or several on the go? Which camp do you fall in?
U – Unsung heroes in books – I love these. Best examples for me are Sam Gamgee and Mr Tumnus from The Lord of the Rings and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe respectively.
S – Sagas. Not my thing but I admire those who can write them. So many threads to tie up!
B – Best books of all? The ones you re-read and the ones you recall from years ago without re-reading.
O – Omnipresent narration. I do still have a soft spot for this.
O – Oily characters like Wormtongue from TLOTR are the ones you love to loathe.
K – Kindle again but it has saved much packing anguish!
S – Selective reading. I tend to read crime for a while, then fantasy, etc. I want to make sure I cover all the genres I like!

Making Space and Variety

Publication News

Another story, Life Is What You Make It, will be up on Cafelit on 12th August. Am sharing link to my author page here but do check out the other writers on here too. There is a wonderful range of writing here.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week on Making Space is a two-parter and was inspired by a recent visit to the Sky Gardens in London. I had great fun spotting so many landmarks from a literally great height!

Making space to write is fundamental and, for me, this involves planning out my writing slots and how I’ll use them. I know that without the planning, I would get far less done, far less stories sent out (and less chance of acceptances too) etc.

I’ll share some tips I’ve found useful here in Part 2 of this post which will be be up on 16th August. And, yes, I’ve scheduled it! I should schedule posts more often but my problem is finding time/making the space to draft several blog posts in one go. I also do like writing posts like this “live” as it keeps me on my toes, which is never a bad thing.

The happy answer of course is to do a mixture of both but I find that I do most of my scheduling ahead of things like Swanwick or my holidays. I suspect that may be true for many of us!

Image Credit:  The images of London from the Sky Gardens were taken by Allison Symes on 27th July 2019. The other images, as ever, are from the marvellous Pixabay. Captions are on the CFT post.

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Have set up a list of tasks on Evernote for me to start drafting while on the train to Derbyshire on Saturday for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Hit the ground running so to speak!).

Discovered recently the Slimming World HQ is near where I’ll be going too. Have no plans to call in (especially towards the end of next week. They do look after you very well at Swanwick!).

Will be taking a couple of projects to work on as well. How much time I get to spend on them remains to be seen but I always like to have something to work on. (I usually do get more done than I might have done at home).

Have I made up my mind about what courses/workshops I’ll go to? Of course not! Yes, I’ve a rough idea, but I know I’ll change my mind yet again before getting there! But that’s the fun of it….

Anticipate meeting up with old friends, making new ones, learning loads, and ending up with a head and notebook crammed full of ideas to work on. Now what’s NOT to like about that?

Image Credit:  Images from Swanwick taken by me. It is such a lovely place to be. A big thank you to Geoff Parkes for taking the image of me reading at the Swanwick Prose Open Mic night last year.  All other images are from Pixabay.

 

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My CFT post this week is a two-parter on Making Space. Part 1 focuses on making space in cities, making space in packing (apt given I’m about to go to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School!), and I also discuss decluttering and books.

Mind, you can probably guess what stance I take on decluttering when it comes to books.

I also share my thoughts on white space and share my favourite quote about packing/going away which always makes me laugh out loud when I re-read it. Hope it does the same for you!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Transformation stories can work well in flash fiction. My Getting It Right is an example of this. It is written from the viewpoint of Snow White’s evil stepmother as she transforms into the old crone. I ONLY show that moment and her thoughts on what has led to it and that’s all. It’s all that’s needed.

Flash is brilliant at making you focus on the core of the story, which is another reason I love it. I like to think of it as precision writing given every word must punch its weight to justify staying in the story.

 

Key ingredients for a good flash fiction story:-

1. Strong leading character.
2. A focused incident/point of change. Less IS more here.
3. Dialogue (if used) or internal thoughts to be to the point.
4. Promising opening line (which can keep a reader guessing).
5. No sagging middles!
6. A powerful ending that fulfil the promise of the opening line.

Last but not least:-

7. An intriguing title which can be open to interpretation.

Why put that one last especially as I have to a title to get me started on any piece of work?

Because an intriguing title is fab but without the other six ingredients being in place, said title will fall flat.

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What makes a good flash fiction story become a great one? My thoughts on that are:-

1. The story has to make me react – a story that is meant to be funny DOES amuse me, a scary one DOES make my blood run cold etc.

2. A powerful beginning which is backed up all the way to an equally powerful ending. No “sagging bits”.

3. Unforgettable characters (whether I love to love them or loathe them).

4. I am a sucker for a good punchline, I admit, or a twist ending that I didn’t see coming. What I love with those is then going back through the story again and spotting the clues the author did put in. On first reading, I am always keen just to see how the story pans out so it easy to miss something enroute. A really great story will withstand repeated readings and will give you something new with each read too. (Sometimes that can just be an increased sense of admiration for wonderful characterisation. I love that – and of course it inspires me to “up my own game”, which is never a bad thing).

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Fairytales with Bite – Variety is the Spice of Life

Variety is the spice of the writing life. Last week’s CFT post was a review of a wonderful spoof staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group and this week I discuss Making Space.

I love variety in reading and writing. The former inspire ideas for posts and stories (and the wider you cast your net here the more opportunities you have for being inspired. Literally keep an open mind and feed your mind well with wonderful material from other writers!).  The latter keeps me on my toes. I love meeting the challenges of flash fiction and short story writing. I love meeting the challenges of non-fiction writing too.

But there’s nothing wrong with sticking to one genre if that is what you prefer to do. So how can you bring variety in here? The crucial point is to enjoy what you write, whatever it is you go in for. If you’re bored, that will show through in your writing (and I think will eventually lead you to stop writing altogether). For story writers, it is all down to characters as you can come up with so many combinations of characters and situations to write about. For me, a story is all about the character. It’s then fun to find out what happens to them.

For non-fiction, I look at themes that interest me and write articles and posts around those. One obvious theme is writing. I love reading and writing about writing (and I enjoy sharing tips I’ve found useful. I am grateful to authors who have likewise inspired and helped me here. One of the loveliest things about the writing world is, with few exceptions, it is a supportive one. You learn something, share it, someone else learns, their writing benefits and overall literature benefits too. We will always need a supply of writers across the genres and age ranges).

This World and Others – Making Space

I start a two-part series on Chandler’s Ford Today this week on Making Space and next week’s part will share some thoughts on this from a writing perspective. Meanwhile, where does making space come into your creation of characters?

I think the best way to answer that is to list what I think a truly great character needs to have. Also, it really does pay to take time out (make space) to think about your characters in advance and plan them out. It doesn’t mean you have to plan everything but you do need to know about your people in enough detail to be able to write about and for them with utter conviction. You need to decide what you need to know first!

I am convinced that when a writer writes with conviction something of that does show through in your writing and readers subconciously pick up on that. I also think they pick up when a character really doesn’t work and I know, for me, when that has happened, it is nearly always due to my not taking the time to flesh my character out properly in the first place.

So a truly great character should:-

  1. Be Memorable (and that usually means having distinctive traits a reader will love to love or love to hate. Both work but not usually in the same character!).
  2. Be someone a reader would want to identify with or be happy they’re nothing like them!
  3. Be put in situations a reader has to find out whether the character resolves or not (and how.  Failure to resolve something can ironically be a resolution of sorts. For example, a character wants to achieve a goal, they find they can’t do it, but they do achieve something positive they had not done before despite the overall “failure”. Readers will pick up on something being achieved, a positive point of change for the character, and everyone accepts not all endings are happy ones necessarily. Endings do have to be appropriate).

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Work In Progress/Flash Fiction Ideas

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

Facebook – General

A week today and I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School again. Can’t wait! Always good to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and learn so much from the different courses and workshops. The usual dilemma of which ones to go to applies… but I know I’m in good company with that!

Many thanks to all who’ve read Stolen on Cafelit.

Hope to get another story off for a competition this coming week. Am making a conscious effort to increase my throughput (so to speak) and am pleased I’ve done better this year on this than I did at the same time twelve months ago.

As for where I don’t hear what the results are or where I receive outright rejections, I will review those stories later in the year and see if I can submit them elsewhere. Usually, I can. Sometimes I can spot something, after a break away from it, that could do with strengthening so I work on the story and then re-submit it. Very little is wasted!

Update:  Am pleased to say I will have another story up on Cafelit on 12th August. More nearer the time.

And the first thing people will want to know is the title - Pixabay

I can’t remember what the first story I wrote was. It was not published but to begin with I didn’t write with publication in mind. My first thoughts were to see if (a) I could write a story at all and then (b) can I repeat the process?

I kept doing that for a while until I had a reasonable number and then started submitting work (on the grounds I had absolutely nothing to lose so may as well give it my best shot. If I was published I’d be thrilled to bits. I was – and I was! I still love that thrill of knowing something of mine has been accepted for publication. That’s the nice thing. That thrill does not diminish!).

I will always remember the first story that was published though! (A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions anthology. I suspect time will stand still long before I forget that!).

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Pleased Just a Minute is back on Radio 4. That and Clue are the main comedy shows I listen to now. JAM is a wonderful way of discovering just how hard it is NOT to repeat, deviate, or hesitate when talking on a topic. Know I couldn’t do it.

Repetition in writing is something I have mixed feelings on. I sometimes repeat a word or phrase deliberately for emphasis. Sometimes I get a character to use a particular word so whenever it comes up, you know it’s that character who is speaking. (I avoid tags as much as possible but generally stick to he said/she said/it said when I do need to use them).

When I edit, I’m looking out for the repetitions I didn’t mean to do and there are always some! (This is another reason for reading work out loud by the way. I’ve found I’ve missed things even looking at a printout. Reading the work out literally brings home your repetitions and other failings as you hear yourself speak and realise you’ve used a phrase several times when you didn’t need to or mean to).

Delighted to say I’ll have another story up on Cafelit next week too. More details a bit nearer the time. Looking forward to sharing the link while I’m at Swanwick too.

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I don’t schedule posts as often as could but I will be preparing a two-part CFT article on Making Space, which I’ll schedule for this Friday and the one after. (I will be very tired but happy after a wonderful week at Swanwick for the second part of my post, which will focus on making space as a writer. More details on the first part tomorrow).

I usually schedule posts for when I’m due to be away but, increasingly thanks to Evernote and a smartphone, I’m drafting posts and then putting up later the same day. I often use train journeys for this as well as my flash fiction. It means I get a nice mixture of writing done.

I need to try to write up posts in batches more often and schedule them, as I’m sure that will prove to be more efficient. The nice thing is as well is if something topical comes up, you just change your schedule for whatever you WERE going to post. You can always use that another time. The only thing to watch is to ensure any batch posts are all timeless and could go up at any time.

Pleased to say I submitted another story yesterday for a competition. Have submitted more work at this time this year than twelve months ago so pleased with that. Need to catch up on the writing prompts in my diary too as I know those will trigger more stories.

As you can no doubt tell, I don’t have time to get bored! But that is a very good thing indeed…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Favourite things about flash fiction for me:-

1. Can read a story in one sitting. (Invaluable when I’m short of time).

2. Great for twist endings (which I adore).

3. One-liners and punchlines work well here too and again I adore those.

4. You can set your character in any genre you want. It is only the word count you’re watching. I’ve found as a result the story has to be character led as that is more direct. There is no room for descriptions or interaction with many other characters after all.

5. I love writing dialogue. Not a lot of room for that in flash but what I can do is show you some of my character’s thoughts and I love writing those too. The great thing with that is you will pick up on the character’s general attitude to life. In dialogue they may disguise that especially if they want to impress someone.

Sometimes a flash story tips over and becomes a longer 1500+ tale and that’s fine. It just gets submitted to a different market/competition.

I’ve learned over time to let my character(s) have their voice. The trick is ensuring that what emerges IS relevant to the story (or deepens it and makes it more meaningful).

Writers need to come with an in-built “you’re waffling and you know you are, cut NOW” detector!

The critical test for me is to ask myself does a reader really need to know this? Will their enjoyment of the story be greater if this is in the piece? If it’s Yes and Yes, the material stays in. If there’s any doubt on either, out it comes.

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Loving listening to the Pink Panther theme on Classic FM tonight. (You’ll be humming it all night now. I know I will but it is wonderful music! Loved the films AND the cartoons. I don’t know how many other films spawned cartoons either).

So you have distinctive and memorable pieces of music then across the genres. The challenge for writers is to make OUR writing distinctive and memorable.

For me, the only way to do that is to have stand-out characters. It’s never about the plot for me. It’s always about whether the character engages me regardless of whether the story is a 50 word dribble, a 100 word drabble, or a 250,000 word epic saga!

I find working out what my main character’s chief trait is going to be a useful way to unlocking what makes them tick, WHY that trait is their chief one and so on.

For my flash stories (and especially the first person ones), I have to know what my character’s voice is before I start writing them. Are they whiny? Boastful? Remorseful etc etc? Only when I think I’ve got a handle on who they really are do I start writing the story. Outlining like this has saved me a lot of time later.

Where I’ve found ideas for flash fiction stories includes:-

1. Proverbs (to use both as titles and themes).

2. Advertising phrases

3. Taking a period of history I like and writing from the viewpoint of one of my favourite characters from that period.

4. Other well known phrases (e.g. my Circle of Life, Pressing the Flesh, and Coming Up Roses).

5. Turning stereotypes on their head (e.g. my George Changes His Mind. Let’s just say I have an alternative view as to what happened when George met that dragon).

6. Using an alliterative title and seeing where it takes me (e.g. my Pen Portrait). The more open to interpretation the title, the better.

7. Taking a book I like (e.g. Pride and Prejudice) and writing a snapshot story from the viewpoint of one of the characters (e.g. my Changing My Mind is from the viewpoint of Mr Darcy).

8. Picking a fiction genre and seeing if I can write a flash fiction story in it. (I’ve written what I call light horror such as my Calling the Doctor in this vein).

9. Posing a question as the title and again seeing where it might take me.

10. Using a letter format from one character to another to generate a story.

What I like most is mixing up the methods used. It keeps me on my toes and I think makes the writing more interesting. It is really important to have fun with what you write, I think.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books You Can’t Finish

I’m glad to say there aren’t many books I haven’t been able to finish but I guess this is one of those things that happens to most of us.

I always think it’s a bit of a shame when this does occur and I ask myself just why I couldn’t finish the book. The answer is nearly always that the characters didn’t grip me enough to make me want to find out what happened to them.

These days, given life is short and I have to TBR pile to be seen to be believed (and on my Kindle too!), anything that doesn’t hook me quickly is discarded.

It’s a good challenge to me as a writer to ensure I do put plenty of hooks into my flash fiction and short stories.

It also makes you appreciate those wonderful writers who can keep doing this book after book after book over many, many years. When I think P.G. Wodehouse wrote over 90 books and was consistently funny, well for me that’s genius and should be recognised as such.

Now back to my reading…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They Came from Mars and Other Top Tips

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

When a spoof works… CFT Review – They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning?

Delighted to share my review of this fabulous production, the latest to be staged by The Chameleon Theatre Company – Chandlers Ford. It was huge fun spotting the references and recalling the musical links.
I also go on to discuss the “rules” for a good spoof and why I think humour is the hardest genre to write well.

Spotting all the references and gags here would take at least two visits to the show!

Images supplied by Lionel Elliott, Mike Morris and The Chameleons. A huge thank you as ever. Captions on the CFT post.

 

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Further to my earlier post about The Chameleon’s latest production, just why is humour so difficult to write well?

(Said production incidentally easily has the longest title of a play I’ve reviewed and I can’t see it being beaten any time soon! Well, what do YOU make of They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning? Try saying that quickly! Go on give it a go!).

So humorous writing – the pitfalls (and this is not a comprehensive list by any means):-

1. Humour is subjective. Not everyone gets your style of joke.

2. Sometimes you will come across people who really don’t like funny writing of any kind. My late mum loved books across a wide range of genres (including sci-fi) but just didn’t get funny writing. It was her blind spot. This happens. Nothing you can do about it. (And yes I went the other way and LOVE funny writing!).

3. Humour doesn’t always translate well between countries, cultures etc. So to get something that does cross boundaries is pretty special.

What is your favourite form of humorous writing? Where the humour is “in your face” or do you prefer the subtle one-liner etc?

I love all humorous writing but if I had to pick a favourite, I adore those one-liners which can turn a story on its head and make you laugh at the same time.

You can bet the writer would have written and re-written that line several times to get it spot on and it wouldn’t have just been the words themselves. The rhythm of a sentence can make a difference to how funny it is perceived to be. Punchlines are generally short for maximum impact for that reason.

As part of my CFT review of The Chameleons’ latest hilarious production, I’ll also be looking at what makes a spoof work and what I think some of the “rules” are. Link up tomorrow.

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My CFT post this week will be a review of the Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production. They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning doesn’t trip off the tongue but is a classic example of a title showing clearly what the story is – a spoof!

I will be discussing spoofs and comedy as well as part of the review. Link up on Friday.

What amazes me with the Chameleons though is I have seen them stage everything from Arthur Miller’s All My Sons to Blackadder to hilarious pantos and all of them have been wonderfully entertaining.

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Five top tips:-

1. Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first thought of just isn’t making enough impact on you. (It won’t on anyone else either. Trust your gut here and don’t be afraid to play around with titles until you find one that does hit home).

2. Think about the emotional impact you want your story to have on a reader before you write it. Take a little time to figure out how best to achieve it. This is where outlining is useful, even if you do a broad outline.

3. Once the story is written, put it away for a while. When you re-read it, read it out loud. Hear how your dialogue sounds. Is there anything in it to trip you up or does it sound clunky? What looks good on paper or screen doesn’t always translate well into being read out loud.

4. Assume you will have to edit more than once. We all do! (But see it as getting your story into shape and helping increase its chances of being published).

5. Be open to trying new forms of writing as you may discover avenues you hadn’t considered but which you discover a skill for. I hadn’t started as a flash fiction writer! ‘Nuff said.

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Favourite endings for flash fiction tales for me include:-

1. A punchline that turns the story on its head.

2. A laugh-out loud moment. (You then read the story again and pick up on the clues that show this moment is coming but which you missed first go, being too eager to find out how the tale did end. Guilty as charged on too many occasions to count on that one).

3. A poetic justice ending. I love those and several of my stories include this. (Subconscious wish to put the world to rights I suspect is coming out here!).

4. A revelation. This can be a character finally showing what has motivated them, some aspect of their personality that hasn’t come out until the end and which makes a huge difference to the outcome, or an action to finish the story on.

Fun with Flash:-

1. Flash stories can be ideal for those characters who would drive people nuts if their tales went on for too long so have some fun with this. Keep your tale short and you can use characters you might otherwise have to discard.

2. Punchlines work well in flash. I sometimes use them as twist endings to a story. But again punchlines work best if they’re kept short so flash fiction can be a good vehicle for them.

3. If you have a short scene in a longer work that you’d like to keep in but can’t justify as it is an amusing character sketch (for example) but nothing more, how about turning it into a piece of flash fiction? Let it stand on its own. Flash is brilliant for focusing on one character and one moment in time. Waste not, want not. (You may find in turning it into a story, the scene suddenly develops “legs” after all).

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Fairytales with Bite – They Came From Mars

My CFT post this week is a review of a wonderful spoof staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group. The title is likely to remain the longest of any play I’ve ever reviewed. Try saying They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning in a hurry!

No matter where your story is set, or how outlandish your fictional world is, it still has to be populated by characters whom we can understand and either root for, or love to hate. They must generate an emotional reaction in us. Their motives must be ones we can understand.

The setting should also be one we can get behind. After all, we know how our planet works/is run. How is this done in your fictional setting? Are there corrupt politicians for example? (I refuse to believe that could just be on Earth!).

Especially in a fantasy world, some ideas of what it looks like, how the species live, what kind of wildlife is there etc deepen your characterisation of the setting itself. (Setting can often be a character in its own right and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to treat it as one. It means you think it out for a start!).

Images for the review are on the CFT post and many thanks to the Chameleons for them.  Images below are from the ever marvellous Pixabay.

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This World and Others –

Top Tips for When Writing Isn’t Working as You’d Hoped

It happens. You go through phases where writing is either difficult or simply isn’t working out as you’d hoped. Lots of submissions. Lots of rejections. Few acceptances. Do you wonder if you should keep going? Some tips I’ve found useful to keep me going during difficult times include:-

1.  Read More. Feed your own imagination. Remind yourself of why you love stories and why you wanted to write any.

2. Remove the Pressure.  Deliberately write just for your own pleasure. Make up complete nonsense. Have fun. (Later, if you can do anything with the writing, even if it is just the odd line or two makes it into a story, say, then fab. Even if not, you’re taking time out to play with words and again remind yourself why you wanted to write).

3.  Look at Where You’ve Come From Writing Wise.  How much have you written over the years? Can you list publication credits (online and in print)? If not at that stage, have you had shortlistings? Are you simply submitting more stories for competitions than ever before? Remember  you define what success in writing is. Yes, publication is the obvious goal but it isn’t the only one. Saying you’ll write 3 or 4 stories and then try and get them published later is a fine goal too.  Look at what you’ve learned as you have written more. Have you learned how to improve your editing skills? Have you picked up tips on the way that are helping you write better now (I would be surprised if you hadn’t)? All of these are good and worthy things.

4.  Find supportive writing buddies via online groups or in creative writing classes. We all need to be reminded we’re not alone. Others do understand our compulsion to write. Others understand the frustrations of trying to get published. You need that support. It can make all the difference during low times, creatively speaking.

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PERSPECTIVE AND PUBLICATION NEWS

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Hope it has cooled down where you are. I prefer a temperate climate, as does the dog. I also find it easier to focus.

Does the time of year affect what you write? I can’t say it does for me as I write a mixture of light and darker pieces throughout the year.

If the seasons do affect what you write, how can you play to the strengths of this? I would’ve thought it is probably better to work with it rather than to try to fight it, if only because you’ll feel less frustrated that way.

Analysing how you work is a good idea, whether you’re affected by the seasons or not. For me, the amount of time I have per writing session is more important and I aim to make the most of each slot. My goal is to be able to look back and feel it was a good writing session, regardless of whether I had ten minutes or three hours.

Happy writing!😊

 

Image Credit:  Generally Pixabay as usual but the Scottish beach and loch pictures were taken by me earlier this year.

Glad to be home from a very busy day in London yesterday. Loved visiting the Sky Gardens. They were great and the views incredible. I’d never seen the Tower of London look like it was a Lego sized kit before! I guess it just goes to show perspective is everything.

Perspective is everything for your characters too and indeed for you as you write the story. Just who is your lead and why have you chosen them? Why does it matter to show their perspective and not another character‘s view of the world instead?

What is fun is to write from the perspective of a character you know you wouldn’t sympathise with in any kind of life yet alone the real one. The challenge here is to write about them convincingly despite your own antipathy to them.

Working out how to get into their head to show their reasons for being the way they are will push you into exploring how they got to be at this point in the first place. That will make for interesting characterisation for one thing. It will almost certainly increase the drama in your story too.

Images below taken by me as at 27th July 2019. It isn’t often I get to take a shot with the caption already on it! Also have fun spotting the landmarks.

Publication News

A busy day on the writing front. Glad to share the links for my ACW More Than Writers’ blog which discusses whether or not it is easier to write during the summer.

Also glad to share the link to Stolen, my latest story on Cafelit. This is the nearest I’ve got to an autobiographical story (and probably the nearest I will get I think. I identify with Sarah in this one).

The nature of this story meant I knew it wasn’t going to be a flash piece but that’s fine. The story has to be what it is. If it’s over 1000 words then so be it.

 

Am sharing an extract from both More than Writers and Stolen here as a taster. Hope you enjoy.

Summertime and the Writing Is Easy…

Or not maybe… Apologies to George Gershwin for misquoting his classic (though I still prefer Rhapsody in Blue).

Do you find writing in summer easier than during the winter? The jury’s out for me here. I try to keep a consistent writing level up for most of the year because, regardless of season, there are always distractions. But there are times when I write less and I’ve learned to come to terms with that…..

Stolen

by Allison Symes

cranberry juice


I’m not going to the bloody doctors.  I couldn’t tell you how often Sarah goes on about it.  When will she take the hint?  I do know my own mind.  I swear she thinks I’m going loopy.  She says not but why else would she want me to go to the doctors when there’s nothing wrong with me?

It’s perfectly normal for older people to forget things sometimes.  Hell, she’s done so herself.  She forgot my birthday last week.  I was really hurt by that.  I was bloody annoyed when she told me my birthday is next month.  I should know my own birthday.

Oh my cup of tea has gone cold.  Did I forget to drink it?  Did I forget to put the kettle on at all and just poured cold water into my mug?  I did do that last Wednesday but I’d had a stressful time of it arguing with Sarah again and well that kind of thing is bound to make you forget odd things, isn’t it?  I didn’t tell Sarah I did this.  She’d have seen it as proof I do need to go and see Dr. Page.

Sarah keeps telling me I shouldn’t be afraid to go to the doctors.  Dr. Page is sympathetic, is bound to have treated patients with memory loss before and there is more awareness now of “mind” issues.  Sarah says this covers everything from depression to dementia.  Sarah is right on all of this but how it applies to me I couldn’t tell you.  I am perfectly healthy.  Sarah says I’m in denial.  There is something wrong when your own daughter tries to tell you what to do.

And I’m simply not having that.  Sarah ought to be pleased.  If ever there was proof I do know my own mind, this is it, surely……

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The challenge of writing stories like Stolen, when they pack an emotional punch, is keeping your own emotions out of it while you’re writing it. You have to put some distance between yourself and the voice of your lead character(s) so it is THEIR story coming through and not yours as the author. You also want the emotion to be authentic and not spill over into melodrama.

This is why it is crucial to put a story aside for a while before revisiting it to edit it. I’ve found it is the only way to get the necessary distance so I can judge what I’ve still got to do on the story objectively (and there is always something!).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What is your favourite form of flash fiction? The 100-worder? The 500-worder? Funny? Darker? I love them all of course but if there is one kind that sneaks its way to the top of my list, it is the 100-worder with a humorous twist. So here goes…

Late Running

The ghost train ran straight through the station. It must make up time.

If you thought fines issued to late running train companies on earth were inadequate, you wouldn’t be disappointed here.

Miscreants were treated according to species. Ghosts were obliterated. Vampires were drained down. The rumours tonight were not good.The controllers were more foul than usual. The Boss was due to visit to check all was well…or as bad as this service was meant to be. He wouldn’t be let down by sloppy staff.

Bonemeal was mentioned.

After all, the train was run by a skeleton crew.

Ends.

Allison Symes – 27th July 2019

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Image may contain: night

If there’s anything odd going on tonight, the cat will not spill the beans.  Pixabay

Image may contain: outdoor

Speeding restrictions apply to all but there are always some who ignore the rules. Pixabay

Must ‘fess up and say I’ve got a few writing prompts to catch up with in my diary but all have the potential to make promising flash fiction stories. Will probably have a go at some of these later in the week. (I tend to get my CFT post sorted first, then resume work on fiction).

Was pleased with my Late Running story I wrote on the train yesterday. Hope you enjoyed it. I am partial to puns and they can be used in flash fiction effectively. You can’t go on at length in flash as you’d defeat the whole object of it so a short pun as a twist ending or as part of a character’s thoughts can work well.

I love writing as well as reading these but, as with most things I guess, puns etc work best when not overdone.

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My latest story on Cafelit, Stolen, isn’t a flash fiction piece, far from it. The nature of the story meant it had to go well over 1000 words but that’s fine. Not only do I keep my hand in writing a mixture of fiction, it kind of proves the point the story has to be what it has to be.

It never pays to try to cut a story so you can get it to count as flash somewhere.

The stories that work best as flash fiction are those where you want to focus on one intense moment in a character’s life and nothing else. Where there is more than one, you are better off writing a longer story to begin with, otherwise you will sell it short (and reduce your publication chances too).

Time can be an awkward thing to write into flash fiction stories. Most will consist of one vital moment to a character and so the span of time where the action takes place is very short. I’ve found I’ve needed stories towards the upper limit of flash (1000 words) to be able to show action taking place across a longer time span.

For example my Rewards has a time span of one evening and the next morning while my Expecting refers to time as a character realises they haven’t heard from someone for a while.

Flash I think does work best when it is for the moment. Even when I write historical flash, I’m looking at one incident in one character’s life. Time comes into the setting I’ve chosen to use and acts as a backdrop.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

What a Good Book Can Lead To

Have you known a good book to change you?

For me, The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey has led to a huge interest in Richard III and conviction he is not guilty of the murder of The Princes in the Tower, assuming they were killed.

There is no evidence they were killed and my own view is at least one was smuggled out of the country. Richard himself was smuggled out as a boy so it would’ve been known it could be done and Henry Tudor was never able to prove where the boys were, else he would’ve done. That really would have damned Richard.

That aside, good books have expanded my view of how irony works thanks to Austen, Wodehouse, and Pratchett. Now there’s a trio for you!

Good books have expanded my ideas of what can be done in fiction, especially in fantasy. There’s a reason The Lord of the Rings is considered an epic. It is! The sheer scale and scope of the trilogy will always amaze me.

Good books open your mind and imagination.

Happy reading!

 

 

 

 

Titles and Quirky Characters

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Ahead of a review on They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, which has to be a strong contender for the all time longest play title (!), I look at titles in general.

I look at the role they play, why I change my use of them for flash fiction, and discuss how they can set a mood you want your reader to pick up on or can be used to keep said reader guessing.

How easy (or otherwise) is finding the right title for you? I share a few thoughts on that too.

Image Credit:  As ever, the marvellous Pixabay.  Captions on the CFT post.

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Looking forward to the Chameleons’ production of “They Came From Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Guild’s Coffee Morning”. Just try saying that quickly! Should be good for several laughs and I look forward to reviewing this next week.

Lady and I have not enjoyed the heat. Shout out to all our human and doggy friends. You know who you are. Keep cool! Glad it’s going to cool down tomorrow. The thought of the Tube in this heat on Saturday when I’m in town… uggh. Sympathies to all who’ve endured it today (or will do shortly). Still I guess it’s a great test of whether your deodorant works or not…!

How do I go about writing reviews for local theatre productions and the like? I always try to find something positive (I’ve never been a fan of hatchet jobs. I think it says more about the reviewer than whatever it was they reviewed). I look at the story. I look at the performance of that story. I also look at the background to the story (and I am looking forward to researching tonight’s one. Is going to be fun!).

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I thought From Light to Dark and Back Again was a long enough title for my flash collection, but it is well beaten by They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Coffee Morning, the play recently staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group.

I look forward to sharing a review on that on Chandler’s Ford Today next week though I do discuss the importance of titles on CFT this week.

I’ve discussed titles before here but I can’t stress enough how vital it is to get them right. I must have a title to work to when writing almost anything but if a better idea occurs to me as I’m writing (and it does), then I’ll switch. Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone!

For flash fiction competitions where sometimes the title is part of the word count, I take extra care. I work out whether I want my title to give a good opening to the story, or whether I want it to set a mood, or to be open to more than one take on it, so I can keep a reader guessing. What I decide here will determine how long that title is and that will then set how much room I’ve got left for the story itself.

Where I don’t have to worry about the title being part of the word count, then I tend to focus on the impact I want it to have and I can give myself a bit more leeway as to how long I want the title to be.

Generally, though unless you are writing a spoof as the play clearly is, you are better off keeping a title relatively short.

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Having spent most of the day feeling like I was being roasted (goodness knows what my cooking time to the pound would be and yes that does show my age!), along with the rest of the country, it’s a relief to get to my desk where it is relatively cool. Note the relatively.

I find with flash fiction I can get the story ideas down fairly quickly (which is fab. Nobody wants to work too hard in this weather). Where the time and effort comes in is in the crafting of those ideas. Have I really used the right words to conjure up exactly the images I have in mind? Can I think of anything better? The answer to that is almost always yes!

The one thing that cheered me up a long time ago was knowing that nobody but nobody has ever written the perfect first draft! So I never worry about perfection in my writing. It’s not going to happen. Even when you send a piece out, it’s as good as you can make it at that time and that’s absolutely fine.

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Fairytales with Bite – Quirky Characters

There are those who might feel that the reason I love quirky characters is because I am one!  Hmm…

So what is it about quirky characters that appeals to me so much, both in terms of reading about them and writing them myself?

  1. Humour – there’s usually a lot of humour, often irony, involved here. That appeals directly ever since I first came across irony in Pride and Prejudice which I read at secondary school many, many moons ago. That book was an eye opener for me in terms of how irony can be used (and the best kind is subtle with it too). It paved the way for me to appreciate more direct irony in the works of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, to name but two, later on
  2. The Unexpected – The irony (!) here is you expect the unexpected from quirky characters. You’d be a bit disappointed to say the least if they didn’t come out with something. Often this is the pivoting point of the whole story too. What is fun is trying to guess what they come up with.
  3. Memorable – You remember quirky characters. It’s why I’ve always loved Jo March in Little Women and George in The Famous Five. Again I wanted to find out what they could do and whether they could surpass what had gone before. It kept me reading! The trick for a writer is to achieve the same thing. It is also the challenge! What is it that makes your characters memorable?

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This World and Others – Titles

I look at Titles in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and hope you find it helpful as I share some thoughts on where to find good title ideas. I also discuss the uses of titles. But now to look at the topic from a different angle…

Firstly, the world in which your story is set – do they use titles to denote rank? Do these differ between species? Are some species excluded from any titles at all? How are titles given? Can they be earned and, if so, how?

Secondly, property (you knew it had to come in somewhere!) – how does your world distribute title to property? Can anyone own property? Do your characters have to earn their right to obtain title like this? Or is all land owned by one feudal or royal overlord and all title is held by them?

Can title (of any sort) be challenged or revoked? Who would do so and why?

Now there are some thoughts for story ideas for you!

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Publication News

I look forward to next week when I can share publication news of a story that has a special place in my heart. More details next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Triggers and the Dreaded Lurgy

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On my desk is a calendar with pictures of dogs and a motto alongside them. Today’s one shows a puppy (who looks as if it has just been told off for something!) and the motto is “Even a puppy will endure the unendurable out of love”. And it is true. Dogs are so fantastically loyal and loving. But the motto led me to think about using that for character creation.

In the words of the Meatloaf track “I’ll do anything for love but I won’t do that“, well… just what WILL your characters put up with or go through for love? What WON’T they do? How did they develop the love they have? Is anything putting that love under strain? What would make them snap?

It’s not just romantic love either that can be the focus here. It can be the love of country, the love for an ideal or what have you. How would your characters react if that love was betrayed or spoilt in some way?

Hmm… good stories to be found there I think!

Looking forward to going to the Chameleons’ latest production during the week.

With a title of “They Came from Mars and Landed Outside the Farndale Avenue Church Hall in Time for the Townswomen’s Guild’s Coffee Morning”, I think it’s a safe bet I’m in for a good laugh or several!

I’ll be reviewing the production in due course but will be looking at the importance of good titles in my next CFT post. This one though I admit is a great example of a title which tells you its genre – sci-fi spoof, a genre of which I’m very fond. (I do miss Red Dwarf!).

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Delighted to say I’ll have more publication news next week. Heard today so a great start to this week! The story concerned is a longer one than normal from me but one which has great personal meaning. So that will give you something to ponder! Can’t wait to share the link in due course.

Am currently preparing another story for submission and have a few very short pieces to submit elsewhere too. Making good progress on the novel too, though these things always take longer than you initially think. And that is still true even when you’ve been writing for years and know to allow LOADS more time than your initial estimate!

 

There are different ways to trigger flash fiction stories. A few I’ve used include:-

1. Set a word count and stick to it. (I did this when responding to Cafelit’s 100 word challenge and still do!). You can also use the Twitter character count here for the same thing.

2. Set a theme and stick to it – and then decide whether the story works better at 50 words, 500 words, or what have you and pitch to the appropriate market/competition. (I’ve done this too and how the story works has got to be the only benchmark here. The nice thing with flash is all of its sub-divisions in terms of word count so you will find something to suit).

3. Take a well known phrase or proverb and see what you can do with it storywise. (A favourite of mine. Usually gives you the title too!).

4. Find a source of pictures, pick one to write about. Come back to the others at later dates. My writing diary has inspired me here, I’m glad to say. Guess who will be trying to get the same diary next year. It has proved very useful!

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Sorry for the no-show last night. Bad case of the dreaded lurgy hit me yesterday afternoon and that was it for me for the rest of the day. Good to be back at the desk now though. I actually feel human again!

Gave Lady her first ever Kibble ice “lolly” today. After initially looking at me as if to say “what’s this then, Mum?”, Lady soon got the hang of it and demolished it quickly. Mind, she demolishes most things quickly. I suspect she’ll be having more of these “lollies” tomorrow. Due to get to 31 degrees where I am. Hmm…

Do I find writing more difficult in the heat? Not really. As long as I’ve got plenty of ventilation, I just plough on. Have got to go to London on Saturday. Am hoping it’s a bit cooler by then. It rarely gets cold on the Tube!!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What sparks a story idea for you? It’s never just one thing for me but the following are some of my story triggers.

1. A snippet of overheard conversation. It doesn’t have to be particularly “juicy” either. Something as mundane as “I told her the hat looked stupid” can stir up story ideas.

2. A phrase or proverb which I know will make a great title. It’s then a great challenge to find a story idea to suit it! But I like titles and challenges like that. I just have to write to the title.

3. Clothes/hats if they’re particularly striking will make me wonder what characters of mine would wear something similar and in what circumstances. Good start for a story that.

And a particular favourite of mine…

4. Taking the viewpoint of fairytale characters but not those of the main “stars” of said fairytales. My first story in print was A Helping Hand in the Bridge House anthology Alternative Renditions and tells the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the youngest stepsister. Good fun to write and still a favourite of mine.

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What can a flash fiction story do better than a longer standard length competition kind of tale?

1. Level of intensity is stronger in flash fiction. When you want to make a huge emotional impact on your reader, the less said the better a lot of the time. This of course is where flash comes into its own.

2. One-liners can lose some of their impact in a longer story. They can work really well as the ending of a flash fiction piece. Leave your audience laughing etc.

3. Every story should create images and emotional reactions in their readers. Flash can get to the heart of all of this that much quicker.

4. Sometimes THE moment is THE story and flash with its word count restriction would serve this kind of tale well. It doesn’t work for everything. Hamlet can’t be less than it is for example but where you only want to show the impact of one action on one character, a flash story is almost certainly the best vehicle for this.

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The dreaded lurgy yesterday afternoon meant the only flash I was capable of was the quick dash to the bathroom, hence the no-show. Is it a bird, is it a plane, no it’s me and nothing but nothing is stopping me getting to the loo in time! Am so glad to be feeling much better today. Must admit the heat does not help. I prefer a much milder temperature, as does Lady, my border collie cross.

The worst bit of yesterday was the feeling I just couldn’t focus, no matter how much I wanted to, so in that situation, you’re better off giving in to the inevitable. Did I miss my writing yesterday? You bet. Did I resent being poorly and keeping me away from said writing? Oh yes…!

The nearest I’ve got to writing about poorly characters is my Calling the Doctor (which is in the book trailer on this page so please do check it out). I suppose one reason I don’t write on this angle much is because I really do enjoy dropping my characters right in it and see how they manage! (I know, I know – I’m all heart!). I guess if they were poorly, I don’t think I could do that to them (told you I was all heart) and therefore I think it scuppers my writing for them.

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Goodreads Author BlogI’m “Just” Reading

Do you ever feel guilty when you get to relax with a book? I must admit I do sometimes. There are always other things I could be getting on which would be more obviously useful.

However, that is the point. Those other things will always be there. And all writers know you need to read widely and well to feed and nurture your own imagination.

So I will continue to “just” read as and when I can though the majority of my reading time is at bedtime. It is the perfect way to wind down before sleeping (though this may be why it is just as well I’m not a huge fan of horror. I don’t want to be too scared to go to sleep!).

Flash fiction and short story collections are a great boon for people whose reading time is limited, given they make good books to dip into for those breaks in the day when you have a lovely ten minutes to relish a cup of something nice and get to “steal” some reading time to go with it. (So now you know what I do when I have a cuppa!).

I’ve never had time for those who look down on genre fiction as somehow being less worthy. Genre fiction – and reading for entertainment only – brings people into reading. Who knows what they will go on to read but it is vital that spark to read is ignited. Besides being able to entertain others with words you’ve written is something rather special.

The purpose of reading from a writer’s viewpoint is to engage with the reader whether you’re reading something serious or something light. Nobody says it has to be deadly dull and worthy. Let it be what it is – an entertaining read. It really is good enough (and more difficult to achieve than some people think).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murphy’s Law

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but ones like tonight’s Murphy’s Law are really fun to do. I list some Murphy’s Laws for writers (naturally there isn’t just one. That would make the writer’s life far too easy!). Can you add any to the list?

The best thing to do with Murphy’s Law is laugh at it.

I will add some of the laws I’ve listed have directly affected me, others have not, though I suspect that is merely a matter of time, Murphy’s Law being what it is!

Hope you enjoy.

Image Credit:  As ever the marvellous Pixabay. Captions on the CFT post.

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Have had a lovely time this evening looking back at some of my earlier short stories. Let’s just say I hope to do something positive with them! Waste not, want not, though there will be editing… there always will be editing!

But then, over time, you do get better at working out what will suit which market best and you hone your stories accordingly. That in turn gives you your best shot at increasing your acceptance rate.

Top three tips:-

1. A story rejected in one place may find acceptance elsewhere. I’ve had this happen a few times and I know it happens to others. So don’t give up on a piece. Put it away for a while. Look at it as if you were reading it for the first time. Can you find anything to improve? Fine, do so. If not, test another market with it. What have you got to lose?

2. Write, write, write – and accept the fact that to get better at anything takes time. You have got to put the work in but enjoy the process (and when positive results come in, enjoy those even more – you really will have earned it!).

3. Know who you are submitting your work to and why you are sending it there. Sounds obvious but from various publisher talks I’ve been to over the years, I know publishers who only publish romance novels, for example, get sent things that are NOT romance. I’ve never understood why people do that. You do have to target your work well.

I love writing all of my CFT posts but this week’s one was really fun to do. I discuss Murphy’s Law!

And the lovely thing about it? It will always be timeless! No matter what your profession or hobby, Murphy’s Law will come into it at some point. At several points if you’re really unlucky.

I will be sharing some of Murphy’s Law for writers and I’m sure you’ll be able to share some of your own. Link up on Friday.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve talked about Murphy’s Law for Writers in my CFT post tonight but to be more specific for flash fiction scribes:-

1. You’ve got a gem of an idea for a 100-word story and a place to send it which only wants 100 words. Try as you will, your word count remains stubbornly at 101 words. Take anything out and your story loses its sparkle (and therefore any chance of it doing well). Technically this is known as YASSTE – You Are Stuffed Send Tale Elsewhere.

2. You’ve got a great story at the right word count with a spectacular twist ending that suits the theme. You send your story off to the competition concerned and later, knowing your story wasn’t shortlisted, look at the judge’s comments on the website or in the magazine. The first thing you read is something like “there were lots of stories in with XXXX as the theme”. Your heart sinks. And you had thought you were the only one to come up with the idea. Err… apparently not.

Chin up and keep writing anyway! Best thing to do with old Murphy’s Law is laugh at it.

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Flash Fiction “rules”:-

F – Find the word count limit that suits you.

L – Lines to be crisp and still convey information.

A – Animated characters you love to root for or hope desperately for their downfall. Either is good. You’ve got the reaction to your creations there for good or bad!

S – Story to flow at a good pace. (Reflective stories are obviously slower but there must be something about the characters that grips us enough to keep reading).

H – History of characters to be implied but only where crucial to our understanding of them and/or the plot hinges on it.

F – Fantastic and Fun – regardless of your settings, you should be enjoying what you write. Readers do subsconsciously pick up on that. And, yes, you can have a fab time writing a gruesome crime or horror flash fiction piece. I have!

I – Imagination. It’s odd I know but I’ve found the restricted word count in flash makes me flex my imagination more, not less. I have to be more creative in NOT wasting words to get the real story across to a reader.

C – Chat. Not a lot of room for this in flash so ensure conversation is vital to the story and moves it on. Best kept to two characters only. You haven’t the room for conversational ping pong (though I’ve always thought, in other circumstances, that might be fun!).

T – Tension. I know I’ve mentioned this in my recent A to Z but I think it bears repeating. One huge advantage of flash is the shorter word count increases the tension in your story. It is like shining a spotlight on one particular area. Use that to your story’s advantage.

I – Illumination. All stories do shed some light on humanity. Why do you like the characters that you do? Do they reflect your values? What about the ones you love to hate? As well as asking what this might say about you (!), also ask how can the theme of your story shed light on values we hold in common? What do you WANT to shine through in your fiction?

O – One lead character only. Flash fiction makes you focus. Never a bad thing that.

N – Numbers Game. Don’t be fixated by the word count. If your story works better at 250 words, then leave it at that and find an appropriate market/competition for it.

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The only problem with A to Z series (much as I love writing them) is you know certain letters will need some creative thinking to find something for – Q, X and Z for a start! Numbers are so much easier…!

But one of the great things about flash fiction is you are challenged to think creatively all the time. Just how can you tell a story in X (that letter again!) number of words? Just what are the details you must give and the ones you can leave the reader to work out for themselves?

Challenging yourself is a great way to fire up your imagination. And great stories can come out of that. Mixing up the word counts you write to is good for your imagination too.

Fairytales with Bite – Murphy’s Law

My CFT post this week is on the topic of Murphy’s Law and how it can affect writers.
Image Credit:  As ever, the wonderful Pixabay. Captions on the CFT post.

Now we all know Murphy’s Law is no respecter of barriers. Whatever profession you’re in, whichever hobby you enjoy, it will strike at some point. So as to the actual creating of a story, what are the things to look for so you can avoid them?

  1. Naming Characters – For longer works of fiction, it is too easy to give characters names that are too similar to others (for example Stephanie and Stephan. Two different characters but the problem with names that are similar is they can make the characters forgettable or interchangeable, neither of which you want). I get around this by ensuring each of my characters has a name that starts with a different letter of the alphabet. It’s simple but it works. Murphy’s Law can kick in here by making you not spot this until after you’ve got your first draft down. (Yes, it can be fixed at that point but it can be frustrating when you’ve got two similar sounding characters. The last thing you want is anything that might cause confusion in a reader or a sense of “what is that character doing here? I don’t see the point of them” reaction).
  2. Outlining – The query here is how much to do? Will Murphy’s Law strike in that you either outline too much or not enough? How can you judge what is correct for the writing you’re working on? A rule of thumb I use is have I got enough to get started on the story? Have I got enough to get me to the middle of the story? Have I got enough to be able to conclude the story? You don’t necessarily need to outline everything. You just need enough to get you to the next stage in the story. Think of this as outlining the major markers. Get those right and it will help you get everything else in place. You just want to stop yourself going off at unproductive tangents and that is where Murphy’s Law will trip you up. Stop the unhelpful tangents and you save yourself valuable time too. Work out what you think you need to know.
  3. Settings – The trap here again is detail. How much do you need to know before you write the story? What impact will the setting have on your characters? Preparation is the key to beating Murphy’s Law hitting you here. Again work out what you think you need to know. And bear in mind the setting must have some kind of impact on your characters – they’re either going to love where they are (but it is under threat – which is where your story comes in) or loathe it and want to escape (which is where another type of story can come in).