Plans, Flash Fiction and Guest Blog Posts

Image Credit:  As ever, the marvellous Pixabay, unless otherwise stated.

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Many thanks to #PatriciaMOsborne for inviting me on to her blog. I always relish an opportunity to talk about flash fiction and it was also great fun to take part in her 100-word challenge earlier this year.

Do check out the other 100-worders on here. There is a wonderful mixture of styles and moods. (My guest spot includes a link to the story I sent in for this earlier in the year).

I share how I became a flash fiction writer at all and some of the things I love most about the form.

 

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One writing tip I DON’T follow, because I know it just wouldn’t work for me, is the one that recommends keeping a notebook by your bed. The thought here is you can jot down any ideas that occur to you as you drop off to sleep/wake up early with the Best Idea of All Time etc etc. (It always is meant to be the Best Idea of All Time).

There are several reasons why this tip isn’t for me:-

1. My reading pile is by my bed. There is no room for a notebook! Yes, it is a seriously impressive reading pile. (I LOVE being surrounded by books).

2. I read to unwind before sleeping and really don’t want to be writing at all at that point.

3. I often don’t dream at all. Once I’m asleep that’s it.

4. When I DO dream, the images are so confused and bizarre, there is no way a story idea is coming out of them. (And before you ask I never eat cheese late in the evening or partake of any other substances that might induce such daft dreams).

5. I have never, ever, woken up with the Best Idea of All Time running through my mind. I haven’t even had the Second Best Idea of All Time. Not sure whether to be sorry or relieved, to be honest. I appreciate my sleep, that’s all I’m saying!

 

I’m looking forward to sharing my CFT post later on in the week as I’m going to be sharing some Rules That Need to Exist!

Posts like this are fun to write. I don’t write many “opinion” pieces but I like to throw one in every so often. What I like to do with these is make them fun so no politicial arguing on these ones but hopefully they’ll generate some good comments back again.

I’m also pleased to say I shall be a guest on a fellow Swanwicker’s blog later this week (see earlier – and many thanks again to Patricia M Osborne) and look forward to sharing the link later. And later in the month I shall be popping up on another Swanwicker’s blog too.

So yes I’ve been doing a lot of blogging! There should be a term for that… what do you think? A brace of blogging?

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Looking forward to sharing a new series on CFT in October. More details nearer the time. I’m also editing a series for CFT on local history which, again, I’ll share details about nearer the time. So the red pen is being kept busy at the moment… plus I’m editing my novel. (These things ALWAYS take longer than you think they will).

The only aspect to editing I don’t like is when I know I’ve gone through a piece of work on screen and on paper and STILL miss an error, which I pick up later. The phrase “why the hell did I miss that” springs to mind. If anyone knows a surefire way to avoid that, they’ll probably end up wealthy, as I know I’m not alone on this one.

 

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Loved taking part in the Tuesday guest spot on the blog page of #PatriciaMOsborne. Many thanks, Patricia, for hosting me.

I shared my love of flash fiction (briefly, honest!) and how I got into the form at all. Flash fiction was a happy accident for me. I could do with more happy accidents like that!

Now, is there anything about flash fiction I dislike? I think it is fair to follow up with that question.

Yes, there is one thing, and that can be other people’s reaction to it. I know, I know. How can anyone not be IN to flash fiction at all?

I think a lot of this is due to misunderstanding what the form is – flash fiction has to be a complete story in and of itself. It isn’t truncated prose.

Still, we can but spread the word – literally!

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Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for taking this image of me at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic. Patricia and I both adore Swanwick and have made many friends there, including each other!

I was talking on my author page about a writing tip I deliberately don’t follow because I know it just wouldn’t work for me. So here I thought I’d share the ones I can’t live without.

1. Always edit on paper and not on screen. Your mind “fills in” missing words on screen. Really annoying that!

2. Read work out loud, particularly dialogue, to literally hear if it flows as well as you think it does. You may be surprised! If you trip over something, your readers will do too.

3. Write first, edit later. Never worry about a first draft being rubbish. Nobody writes a perfect first draft. You’re not going to change the universe there. Neither am I.

4. When entering competitions, take AT LEAST a week off the official deadline to give yourself a little extra time to make sure you have followed the rules to the letter, formatting is as they want it, there are no last minute typos etc to trip you up. I always aim to submit a story with several days to spare before the deadline.

5. Outlining your thoughts for your main character and the story they’re going to be in can save so much time (and you going off at unhelpful tangents). How much of an outline you want to do is up to you but I find them to be like a road map and they do help keep me on track.

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I like to start my flash fiction stories by “hitting the ground running”. Often this means I take you straight into the head of my character so you see their attitudes and thoughts (and from that try and work out just how far in the mire they’re going to drop themselves!).

Sometimes I set a scene with a time. (My Pressing the Flesh starts with “It was 3 am. The neighbours were sleeping”. Well, yes they would be, but it is important for my character here to have been certain they WERE sleeping! And that tells you at once said character is unlikely to be doing something wholesome! The title is a clue here too).

The key to my opening line is to try to intrigue. With any fiction, you have to hook a reader in quickly. With flash fiction, I say you’ve got to do so immediately.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Choosing What to Read Next

How do you choose what to read next?

If I’m reading a series, fine – problem solved. I carry on until I finish said series. But what about when I reach that point?

I often don’t feel like reading another series immediately, This is where stand-alone books come into their own, of course.

I’ve mentioned before a lot hinges on my mood when reading. If I’ve just finished reading a dark novel, I’ll inevitably got for something lighter just to balance things up a bit.

If I’ve been reading lots of novels, I’ll switch to short story and flash fiction collections for while.

If I’ve been reading books, I’ll switch to magazine reading for a time too.

The good thing with all of this?

I’m never going to run out of good things to read – and neither are you!

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My Writing Journey

Image Credit:  If not otherwise stated, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay!

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I can’t say a particular story made me decide to write creatively. My journey into writing was a long one. I had always loved composition as it was known at school but I didn’t start writing seriously until I was 30.

It was one of those moments, having always loved books, that made me feel if I am going to have a go at storytelling myself, I had better get on with it then. So I did!

My only regret is not starting sooner as it takes far longer than you can anticipate to find your voice, develop confidence in submitting work, learning how to deal with the inevitable rejections etc. Then there’s the time needed for further development as you work out how to improve your work and so on (usually by trial and error and feedback), until that magical day when the first acceptance arrives. Well worth it though!

 

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One of the joys of writing my Chandler’s Ford Today posts is sourcing the pictures (take a bow, Pixabay).

But the funny thing is themes that seem to be open can often prove to be the most difficult to find suitable images for. I have no idea why that is but it is happening again this week with my topic of favourites. Yes, I know. You’d think I’d find loads for that.

The great thing is I have learned to think laterally in looking for suitable pictures so know I will find images that can fit the post. And I suppose it is a good thing to make yourself think laterally too. (It can be annoying at times though!).

 

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Where do you find the most fun is in writing a story? For me, it’s when I go into a character’s head and show a reader their thoughts and attitudes.

Why? Because If I show you a character who’s irritated, you will conjure up your own mental image of what such an irritated person could look like. I don’t need to spell that out and it saves a lot on the word count, which for flash fiction is crucial.

It also means I get into what makes that character tick so much more quickly and I really love that. I then know what I can do with them, what triggers will really wind them up and that’s when the creative sparks really fly.

Also, it’s at that point when I know what the character’s major trait is (often shown through their thoughts and attitudes), I know whether I’m going to love this character or love to loathe them.

Either reaction is fine as long it is the reaction I want to generate from that character. A character that makes you react is one you want to read about, even if it is just to find out if they get their comeuppance or not. (Confession time: I have been known to cheer to myself when a character who deserves that comeuppance gets it! I had a hard time NOT cheering out loud when Molly Weasley “deals with” Bellatrix in the Harry Potter story. Doing so with the book was fine but I didn’t want to embarrass myself in the cinema!😃😃).

I would far rather read (and write) about a character who I dislike but has purpose and I can kind of understand why they are the way they are than read or write about a character who does nothing for me whatsoever. I have got to react to the characters in some way. It doesn’t always have to be positive.

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The writing journey is not without its ups and downs, but (a) this is true for everyone, and (b) if you can get something out of the downs, great.

In my case, many years ago, I was almost caught out by a vanity publisher. What good came out of that?

Well, firstly I wasn’t caught out! Secondly I joined the Society of Authors as a result of the very helpful advice they gave me when I wasn’t a member. To begin with I joined as an Associate but became a Full Member later once I had enough short stories published.

If you’re ever in doubt about an agent or a publisher, don’t hesitate to check them out.

If you are going to spend money on self publishing, get all the advice you can first, and ensure your money is genuinely spent on self publishing! That does NOT include selling you your own books (which is effectively what vanity publishers do).

There are reputable service companies for self publishers out there. Never be afraid to ask pertinent questions. The decent ones won’t mind answering them (and will be expecting them). If you’re not sure what to ask, go to the Society of Authors or Alliance of Independent Authors for advice on what to look for and what to avoid.

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When I started writing, I was unaware of flash fiction as a form. Am very glad I discovered it though! Mind, I don’t think I would’ve tried the form even if I had been aware of its existence then. Why?

Partly because I really didn’t know what I wanted to write. I wrote a novel. I wrote short stories. I have written the odd script or two as well. All great fun. The short stories were published eventually after many a rewrite and edit! The novel I’m working on again now and I hope to do something with the scripts at some point.

The important thing is to enjoy your writing journey wherever it takes you and not to worry about experimenting with different forms of storytelling. You will find the one(s) that really suit you and which you love writing. The fun bit is finding all of this out!

 

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Most helpful tips I’ve used for flash fiction writing (and still do) include:-

1. Don’t have too many characters. One to two is best (especially for the 500 words or under type of story).

2. If a word adds impact, leave it in. Word count is important, obviously, but it is not the only thing that matters.

3. If a word does nothing for the story, take it out.

4. Be aware of what your wasted words are and cut them out on your first edit. You may not be able to stop yourself writing them (I can’t with mine) but they don’t have to go anywhere further than the first draft.

5. Always get your story down first and then edit.

6. Outline your character in as much detail or otherwise as you want before writing the story. You need to know enough about them to be able to write “their” tale convincingly. Only you can decide what is “enough”. For me, I have to know the major characteristic. Is the character brave, a wimp, humorous, as miserable as sin etc?

7. For open themed competitions, I’ve found it useful to set my own theme in advance and work to that. I find it helpful to set my own parameters here. It stops me going off at tangents that do nothing for the story or which could stop the story altogether.

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Do I always know in advance what will work best as an opening or closing line for a flash fiction story? The really good lines can be used for either and I have sometimes deliberately written two very different stories, using the same line like this.

I outline my character and often as I do that it will become apparent where the line is likely to work best.

Take, for example, the line is something like:-

She was a clumsy clot.

I would almost certainly put that at the start of a story and then shows what happens to my unfortunate character. It is, if you like, the obvious way to write that particular line into a story. I would also think of it as a negative way to finish a tale. (It sums up the character but there’s no space left to show any redeeming features, which is why I would consider this a negative ending). Sometimes you want that, of course.

But my gut feel here would be to write a humorous tale that ends on a positive note, such as something useful coming out of my character’s mishaps which helps another character.

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Writing exercise time… how about some lines to work on? But unlike the ones you might have been set at school, these should be fun, honest!

It’s up to you whether you use them as opening or closing lines. You could see if you can manage both. Good luck and have fun with these.

1. He would be extinguished if he didn’t get out before the candle burned out.

2. There were rats everywhere.

3. The temptation to go through the portal was just too much.

4. Less is more, she fumed, well I’ll show them.

5. The glittering gold couldn’t tempt him away from the mission but there was something that would.

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Goodreads Author Programme Blog The TBR Pile

How large is your To Be Read pile?

Mine hasn’t quite got to the point where I need scaffolding to keep the TBR pile upright but give me time…

I also have a considerable reading list waiting for me on my Kindle too.

The positives with this are:-

(a) I’m never going to be short of things to read;
(b) I have different things to read to suit my moods;
(c) It doesn’t matter if I want to catch up with reading at home or away – the Kindle takes care of the latter nicely enough.

The negatives with this are:-

(a) Being only too aware of the finiteness of time! There will never be enough time to read every book I want to!
(b) Having to get the scaffolding out in due course to prop up my TBR pile!
(c) It’s going to take me a while to update what I’ve read here on Goodreads!

I read most just before settling to sleep or, on a long train journey and I’ve finished what writing I want to do, I then switch to reading.

However large your TBR pile is, happy reading! Whittle it down gradually and then you’ll have room for more lovely books…!

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Time, Heat, and Random Generators

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I wrote this while in the car on the way to a family do (on Saturday 24th August). Looking forward to seeing everyone again. Glad of the air con though.

I remember when that first came to the UK thinking it was a daft idea. With the exception of rare very hot summers, we’d never need that here, I thought. The States, yes; Australia, yes, but here?

Just how wrong can you be?! Very, as it turns out!

Where I am glad not to be wrong is in taking up writing seriously. My only regret is not starting sooner. It does take far longer than you anticipate finding out what it is you want to write and to develop your voice.

Give yourself plenty of time then and ensure you enjoy the journey, at least most of the time!😊

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Must admit I’m not enjoying the heat much (neither is the dog) and it’s hard to believe we’re almost into September. My plans for the last quarter of the year then?

1. To continue submitting work to competitions. I’ve entered more at this stage than I had done for the same period last year so I am pleased with that. I’m waiting to hear on some but will presume no luck if I don’t hear by the end of September. The good thing with that? I’ll have another look at the stories, do any further work on them, and submit them elsewhere.

2. To continue submitting flash fiction to publishers.

3. To hopefully get my novel out into the submissions process.

4. To complete and edit another major project I’m working on with the idea of looking to submit it early in the New Year.

5. To continue with my blogs on CFT and Goodreads. Am hoping to do more with blogging in terms of being a guest on others’ blogs and inviting more on to mine. That is a long term ongoing goal.

6. To revamp my website.

So definitely not stuck for things to do! And I’ve written my goals down too… (much more likely to achieve them or make progress towards achieving them writing them down).

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Just a Minute famously doesn’t allow repetition (except for the subject on the card) in its rounds. Do you find repetition creeping in with your writing?

I find favourite phrases tend to be repeated. I watch for these and limit my use of them. I might’ve written them down six times in my draft but they’ll only appear twice at most in the piece of work that goes “out there” (and that’s assuming I need the second one for emphasis or because it is a phrase my character would use like that).

Most of the time the repetition is not deliberate but I have learned over time not to worry about this when I’m drafting a story. The most important thing is just to get the words down and then tidy things up in the edit.

 

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Glad the weather is supposed to be cooler from tomorrow. Lady and I have drunk gallons (spread out over the day obviously), stayed in the shade etc, and followed all the sensible advice but we still feel more ragged than a ragged cloth that once belonged to a ragged man who lived in a ragged house on a ragged street in a ragged town. I tell you, a used teabag has more life in it than me right now!

Am so glad writing is something you can do sitting down! Moans about the temperature aside, I don’t find writing in high heat a problem. Writing takes me out of myself and I forget everything else and that helps a LOT!

Getting engrossed with characters or the latest blog post is a great situation to be in. It means you know you’ve got something viable. So back to it then….

 

Images:  Those of Lady were taken by Allison Symes. Thankfully side on face shots of dogs can work quite well. Just as well really…

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Getting out and about during the summer can be fun, especially when you catch up with family and friends.

It can also be hell if transport is not all you”d like it to be – and it so often isn’t! If you want to test if your deodorant works, go on the Tube during the summer!

How easy do your characters find their journeys? Is their journey the story or just an important component? What difficulties are you throwing in their way?

In flash fiction, of course, the story is usually the character’s journey in terms of their development and/or how they change in some way. What it should always be is interesting.

I was pleased to get lots done writing wise while travelling to see family yesterday. I love Evernote.

Having said that, writing in the back of a car is not always easy. I use a stylus for writing and every time you go round a bend, the phone screen flips from vertical (my preference) to horizontal and THAT was driving ME round the bend. The Romans were definitely on to something with their straight roads idea…

For once I was focusing on drafting some blog posts rather than flash fiction so I will redress the balance there when I’m next out and about. Need to get some more work out for specific flash fiction competitions I think. (I am waiting to hear on some but it will be a case of only hearing if I do well. If I haven’t heard by the end of September it will be a case of revisiting the stories and then seeing what I can do with them but I never mind that).

F = Fantastic Fun to Write
L = Lines to be kept Tight
A = Action and Animated Stories
S = Super Characters who will keep you gripped
H = Heroics condensed (to 50 words, 100 words, 250 etc etc!)

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I’ve mentioned random word generators before and they can be a great form of writing exercise. But I’ve now come across a random phrase generator. You can select one or several phrases at a time. I think I’ll have some fun with this!

I selected three phrases at a time tonight and my selection came up as:-

Ride Him, Cowboy
Scot-Free
Throw in the Towel

Now there are options here:-

1. Use the phrases as titles for your stories,
2. Use the phrases as themes for your stories.
3. Use the phrases individually, combined or the lot in your tale!
4. Do any or all of the above!

So here goes then… (and this isn’t a story I prepared earlier, honest!).

RIDE HIM, COWBOY
‘Go on then, ride him, cowboy. You are supposed to ride horses, you do know that?’
‘Fine, Jake, but nobody said I had to ride that beast. It’s snorting and pawing the ground. That thing wants to hurt someone and I know it isn’t going to be me.’
‘So Dirk gets off scot-free with his taunting then, Joe. You’ll have a reputation for cowardice for miles. He is watching to see what you’ll do. He’s put bets on that you’ll throw in the towel.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I put 200 on. I came into some money. You know I had that lucky find. Well, I’d been wondering what to do with it and I thought I’d have a flutter. I thought I’d bet on you!’
‘Really?’
‘Yep. Now do you really want me to lose that?’
I gave Jake the look that said I didn’t care but I made myself walk towards the beast from hell. I ignored Dirk’s outright laughter. I knew I’d have to prove myself eventually and it may as well be now. Besides I had a trick up my sleeve and in my pockets.
I stopped within ten feet of the beast and held out my hands to him. He looked at me and came walking slowly over.
There isn’t a horse yet that can resist sugar lumps.
Dirk looked like he wanted to be sick and Jake was rubbing his hands in glee. What he didn’t know was I’d put that money out for him to find. I wanted to take money off Dirk somehow. That would hit him far more than anything else I could do against his taunts and bullying. I just had to do it indirectly.
As for the horse, well every time I see him now, I just stop for a bit and feed him sugar lumps. It’s Dirk’s horse, see. If he ends up with expensive veterinary dental bills for his horse, I’ll have taken money off him again!

ENDS.
Allison Symes – 26th August 2019

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Further to my post about random phrase generators, I thought it was time to give random number ones a turn! How can those be used to generate story ideas?

I found a generator where you set lower and upper limits. The number I generated from this was 313.

Thoughts on how to use this for a flash fiction story:-

1. It could be your word count (to include title or not, as you see fit).

2. You could use a number like this as a time – 3.13 am or 3.13 pm and that time has to be important to your character for some reason. (For numbers that don’t fit with the clock, generate more that will! Or you could use, say 499 if that was the number generated, as a countdown for something. For example your character had 499 minutes to rescue someone).

3. You use the number in some way in your story (for example your character has to run up 313 steps to get away from someone else).

4. Does your character have a number phobia? Can’t bear to see anything with the number 13 in it, for example, and then you put them in situations where that is all they see. How would they react? Would their phobia bring them to a screeching halt or would they find ways of overcoming it so their life isn’t crippled by it any more?

5. Could be a house number either for the character or somewhere the character has to get to or avoid.

Definite story idea triggers there. Have fun!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading for Inspiration

Do you read specifically to be inspired for your writing?

I don’t as such.

What I do is read in subject areas of interest to me, fiction and non-fiction, and expect sparks for story/blog ideas to come. I’m rarely disappointed!

Sometimes I know I need to research and then I target my reading appropriately. But usually the spark ideas come as a nice surprise. I know I will find the sparks, it’s just the form they’ll take I can”t anticipate.

But that’s a good thing. In having an open mind, I can make far more use of those sparks when they turn up.

And I increase the amount of reading I do. Win-win!❤😊

 

 

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

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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.

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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

 

 

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.

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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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Tewkesbury and Top Flash Fiction Tips

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I’ve been to the Tewkesbury War of the Roses Re-enactment today for the first time. In previous years I’ve either been on holiday or otherwise engaged, so it has been lovely to finally tick this one off my To Do list. It has also been great catching up with family in this part of the world.

Lady stayed at home with my better half as, not only is it hot, I thought all the sights and sounds would over-excite her and I was right! The sights and sounds were incredible.

I sometimes think of the Wars of the Roses as an earlier English Civil War. There are so many stories here – not just of the victors and defeated but those of people who simply had to do what their lord did here. If the lord backed the wrong side, the consequences would be heavy and would go all the way down to whoever followed him. How many families were torn apart this way?

Historical fiction, when well done, can show you something of that and boost your history knowledge. Flash fiction can show you brief moments but a quick light burst can be enough at times.

This is only a very small section of the Tewkesbury Medieval Fair

This is only a small section of the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival. Image by Allison Symes

A beautiful place to kneel and pray inside the Abbey

A beautiful place to pray in Tewkesbury Abbey. Image by Allison Symes

Tewkesbury Abbey

Tewkesbury Abbey. Image by Allison Symes

TF 2019 - Have never seen basketwork like this before

Incredible basket and weaving work was part of the Festival. Image by Allison Symes

I was amazed at the range of stalls at the Tewkesbury Medieval Fair yesterday. I didn’t get to cover them all either! There really was everything from longbows (including a pink one which I presume is meant for the ladies – hmmm… I’ve never been a pink type of girl anyway. I preferred the dark red ones. Before you ask, no I didn’t get one. Lugging that home on the Great Western Railway would not have been fun!).

What was lovely though was:-

a. Seeing the Richard III Society stand and having a lovely chat with the lady running it.

b. Meeting Alex Marchant of Grant Me the Carving of His Name, an anthology of stories with Richard III at the heart of them. This anthology has a story by #JenWilson in it and the book is raising funds for the Scilosis Society (and apologies if I spelt that wrong!). Alex’s YA book Order of the White Boar was on sale too.

I’m always going to love having a good nose around author stalls at events like this and yesterday was no exception! (It is also lovely to meet face to face people you “meet” on Facebook the rest of the year).

There was also a storytelling tent (aimed at children) but that ties in beautifully with the theme of oral storytelling traditions, which I’ve written about before.

Today has been spent recovering from a lot of walking (it is amazing how much you do walk around for events like this) and anticipating next year’s event!

Does going to events like this inspire story/article ideas? Yes, they can do and have done for me. It’ll be fun to find out what comes from this visit in that department.

Richard III - one document found by George Buck led to a reassessment of the king

Richard III. Pixabay.

Old documents reveal so much about our history including the writer's bias - Pixabay

Old documents can shed light on so much (lots of stories to be found here). Pixabay

Currently in power cut mode. Thank goodness for a smartphone and mobile data! Apparently someone went through the electric cables so SSE engineers now out working to fix things.

Much as I loved my Tewkesbury visit at the weekend, I am so glad I live now and not in mediaeval times. I appreciate literacy. The likelihood of my having any back then would be extremely remote. My best chance of any would be to be of high birth but I just know I’d be of peasant stock.

How many stories have there been of those rebelling against their “allotted” pace and role in life? How many lives have been changed due to being literate in a way their ancestors would envy?

Pictures are all from the magnificent Tewkesbury Abbey and taken by me.

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What are the key ingredients to a story, regardless of its length?

1. Strong characters (strong in that they are memorable to readers. Readers don’t necessarily need to like them though).

2. A crisis (or series of them) that must be resolved (not necessarily well or happily) and usually involving great personal cost to the lead character.

3. A good pace as the crisis develops. Readers need to have the “must find out what happens next” reaction to what you have written.

4. A satisfactory conclusion, but again it doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy one.

Strong characters don’t have to be strong in the conventional sense. A character who is weak, backstabbing, treacherous etc can still be a strong one in that their actions will be crucial to your story and readers will remember them. (And if any fellow fans of Richard III are NOT instantly thinking of Lord Stanley here, I would be most surprised!).

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The A to Z of Flash Fiction Writing Tips by Allison Symes

How about an A to Z of flash fiction writing tips? I’ll be holding my breath seeing what I come up with for Q as well but here goes…

A – Alliteration in your titles can make them memorable. (Examples from me are Telling the Time and The Truth, though I haven’t consciously singled out the letter T for alliteration usage, honest!).

B – Backstory. Not a lot of room for this in flash fiction but what you can do is hint at it and leave readers to fill in the rest.

C – Characters. Couldn’t really be anything else. Characters drive the story, regardless of its length. It will be the characters readers remember and either love or love to loathe.

D – Dialogue. Again not a lot of room in flash fiction so keep it to the point. For any story dialogue has to earn its place by moving the story on or revealing information the reader needs to know (and it can be both). This is even more important in flash fiction.

E – Episodes. Yes, you can write linked flash fiction where either one character features in more than one story or they are referred to in another tale. I didn’t do this in From Light to Dark and Back Again but have played with this in my third flash fiction collection (currently in draft form) and it is good fun.

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So on to the next section of my A to Z of Flash Fiction Writing Tips.

F – Flexibility – I do see this as one of the great strengths of flash fiction. As it has to be character led for impact in as short a space as possible, you can have fun setting that character wherever and whenever you wish. Talking of which…

G – Genre – Have fun mixing up the genres for your flash stories. I’ve written in fantasy, historical, crime, and horror to name a few. See what you can do here. Mixing things up keeps you on your toes too, which is great for honing your writing to a particular genre’s requirements.

H – Humour – Flash fiction can be a great place for witty one-liners. I’ve sometimes ended stories this way as they can double up as a twist ending. You can also start stories this way andxsee where a promising witty character takes you. Enjoy!

I – Imagination – Being restricted to a specific word count shouldn’t restrict your imagination. It should fire it up! Why? Because you have to use your imaginative powers to select words which carry as much weight and have as much impact as possible. You choose what a reader has to know and what they can work out. Just what are the telling details that matter?

J – Justice – Poetic justice stories work well in flash fiction as the best of these go for maximum impact and that is best “concentrated”. You don’t want that kind of story dragging as it will lose its effectiveness.

More tomorrow but meantime a flash story tying in with my visit to the Battle of Tewkesbury Re-enactment.

Cut Down

I saw the standard bearer fall. I really thought my master had done it. Victory had to be ours…

But no… Master was cut down, betrayed.

My regret? Not taking the chance to cut down Lord Stanley. Without his command to switch sides, my master would still be here and not slung naked over the back of a horse.

Ends

Allison Symes – 13th July 2019

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So more on the A to Z of Flash Fiction Writing Tips then and we start with K.

K – Knaves. Unless you write to the top end of flash fiction, there isn’t often the room for an out and out battle between good and evil in your stories. But what can be fun is writing a story from the knave’s viewpoint and working out why they are committing the acts they are (or are about to do) and how they justify doing so to themselves. Yes, you can do that in 100 words! (My Getting It Right is an example of this kind of story).

L – Lively Lines. I love writing dialogue but unless it moves a story on in some way, it has no purpose. In flash especially, dialogue between two characters will take up a lot of your word count. Now you might not worry about that, especially if you’re writing an all-dialogue type tale, but I’ve found instead of using dialogue, showing up a character’s attitudes via internal thoughts saves on the word count. I can still give them good lines too. They’re just not spoken out loud, that’s all, but the reader still picks up what the character is like etc and, I think, more directly too.

M – Monologue. I’ve always thought these work best when they are kept short. And so can they work in flash fiction? Oh yes. I write a lot of flash tales from within the viewpoint of one character only so it is as if they are monologuing to a reader. My Telling the Time is just one example of this.

N – Narrative Voice. Has got to be strong. Has got to make an impact. This is another reason why I like to get into the head of one character and write directly from that viewpoint. I can only use one narrative voice doing this and the impact is strong as a result of that. This is why it is a good idea not to have too many characters in flash fiction. It’s not just about the word count.

O – Originality. Is it possible when it has been said there are only a few basic plots? Yes. It is how you treat your characters and the voice you give them that makes your stories unique to you. Use the flexibility of flash fiction to help you here. You might prefer to write just funny flashes or crime ones or what have you (or mix them up, as I do) but play to your strengths and originality will come from that. You will develop your niche.

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Moving on with the next section of my A to Z of Flash Fiction Writing Tips.

P – Pace. Despite the reduced word count, pace is still vital in terms of getting it right for the story. I’ve read and written fast and thoughtful pieces. The important thing is you need to know what pace will be best before you start and hit the ground running with it. Using character thoughts is a great way in here.

Q – Quirky. Flash fiction is a good vehicle for work that defies categories. It has to be character led and you can make your characters as quirky as you like. Have fun here, I do!

R – Reading. Crucial for a writer isthe willingness to read widely in and out of genre. Flash fiction comes in novella form, as well as collections, so explore the form. See what you like to read and it may well be it is what you like to write too.

S – Story. It’s all about the story and that is down to the strength or otherwise of your characters. Look for the impact your story has on you. Is it memorable to you after time away from it?

T – Tension. This will be more intense in flash tales as you have less set up and calm down again time. I think of this as that moment in the spotlight where everything is focussed on one point. Helps with pace a lot! So work out where the tension should be and play up to it. Don’t let your characters off the hook.

U – Universe. Your flash tale is its own universe. Is it somewhere you yourself would want to be? Why? If not, why? Whatever your answer is you need to convey that to your reader.

More tomorrow..

And finally to the last section on my A to Z of Flash Fiction Writing Tips. I start with a tricky letter (to place in Scrabble at times anyway!).

V – Variety. One of the joys of flash fiction is it is so easy to mix up your genres here so do so and have fun with it! It has to be character led so set your character where and when you want. I’ve written historical flash fiction pieces, crime ones, horror stories etc so mix up what you do here. It’ll be fun for you and some of that fun at least will come through in what you write to a reader.

W – Word Count. Had to be really. Don’t forget flash is quite flexible here. It has so many sub-divisions there is bound to be at least one which suits you. Play around with your writing and see where you tend to favour most. I tend to write up to about 500 words mostly, with the occasional longer piece.

X – Xerox! Am I cheating here? Well, maybe. What I mean here is it is good to read what has gone before but don’t copy it directly. Use the flexibility of flash fiction to create marvellous, inventive characters of your own. Read widely to see what characters you love reading about. Can you write a character who would bring out the same reaction in another reader? Look at how and why the character who appeals to you achieves that. You want to “xerox” the technique, not the actual writing or characters.

Y – Yardstick. Think about how you judge what a successful story is. Is it one that has been published? Yes, it can be, but you will have come across published stories that simply don’t work for you. The trick here of course is to make sure none of YOUR stories do that! (Again look at why a story didn’t grip you and look at how you can avoid doing that in your own writing). For me the yardstick is am I proud of the story? Could I make it better? The answers should be yes and no!

Z – Zips. This is what your story should be doing – zipping along with great characters and pace and keeping your readers gripped. Easier said than done? Frankly, yes, but it is worth striving for. A story that zips along and entertains is always going to be of interest to an editor somewhere.

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Goodreads Author Blog Storytelling

I love taking in stories via reading, of course, but also have a very soft spot for the oral storytelling tradition. We owe our oldest tales to that tradition, but there is something wonderful about being told a story.

Whether it brings back happy memories of being read to as a child, or of great jokes told as a story, if you get the chance to go to Open Prose and/or Poetry Nights, do go. As well as supporting those taking part, you are helping to keep this fantastic heritage going.

I always loved the Ronnie Corbett monologues in The Two Ronnies. The ultimate in shaggy dog tales, I think, though I also love the My Word collection by the equally much missed Frank Muir and Denis Norden. I didn’t hear the radio series on which these are based, but if you love puns, do look them up.

Stories on radio and audio books are the modern oral storytelling methods, I guess. What would Chaucer or Shakespeare made of those?!

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Writing Legacy

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My CFT post this week is about Writing Legacies. I look back at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and reflect on the wonderful writing legacy left by the late Barbara Large, MBE. I take the subject from her own legacy to the legacy she gave hundreds (possibly thousands) of writers she encouraged over the decades.

I also ask what legacy we should leave as writers, regardless of what we write in terms of genre. Link up tomorrow. This is one of those posts that is a privilege to write but then it was a huge privilege to know Barbara. The writing world needs more like her…

Image Credit:  Mostly Pixabay though the image of Barbara Large and Barbara with Anne Wan were kindly supplied by Anne Wan for a previous CFT post.  The selfie is of crime writer, Val Penny, and I at the Winchester Writers’ Festival on 15th June 2019.

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My CFT post this week is about Writing Legacies. I look back at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and reflect on the wonderful writing legacy left by the late Barbara Large, MBE. I take the subject from her own legacy to the legacy she gave hundreds (possibly thousands) of writers she encouraged over the decades.

I also ask what legacy we should leave as writers, regardless of what we write in terms of genre. Link up tomorrow. This is one of those posts that is a privilege to write but then it was a huge privilege to know Barbara. The writing world needs more like her…

 

What do you think your greatest achievement is as a writer? Is it publication? Is it repeated publication? Or is it knowing you’ve written without publication in mind but still produced work to a high standard.

All of that is wonderful. I’d say the real test is writing something, putting it away for a while, looking at your piece again, recognizing its flaws, and then editing it to improve it. And going through that process until you know that piece of work is as good as you can make it.

That, for me, is where the real writing lies.

Nobody but nobody produces a perfect piece of work at the first attempt. For me, there is great consolation in knowing that! What matters is putting the work into your story or article or book and doing what it takes to get it right. There’s a reason writers need stamina – and this is it.

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I had an unusual opportunity to discuss flash fiction (and the wonderful Cafelit today) – and that was while I was in the dentist’s chair waiting for the anaesthetic to work! Never miss an opportunity, folks…

The main point to come out of this was I was discussing how flash fiction are complete stories in and of themselves. They’re not cut off prose. Each flash story must make sense AS a story.

What flash does do is leave more gaps for the reader to fill in. It has to because of the word count restriction. There should be scope for a reader to wonder what might have happened after the story ends. Now that’s true for all forms of fiction (haven’t you wondered about characters in novels you love?) but with flash you just reach that point far quicker!

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Every so often I will jot down some promising opening lines and see where I can go with them. It’s one of the few times I don’t outline something. I wouldn’t call it the white knuckle ride of flash fiction writing exactly but it is the nearest I get to it given I do outline 90% of the time and am glad to do so. Outlining has saved me going off on too many tangents that don’t prove useful.

I am a firm believer in mixing up how you write your stories as it will keep things fresh and interesting for you. It’s a good way of avoiding being formulaic too. It is one of the great ironies of the writing life nobody wants you to be formulaic but they do want you to write more of the stories that have been published etc. More of the same but different… hmm…

One of the things I love most about Scrivener is setting my word count target. For flash fiction competitions and markets, this is invaluable.

Some include the word title as part of the allowable count, others do not, but whichever way it goes, I can set my target accordingly and know I’m not going to go over it.

You can even check how often you use a word if you want to do so. Yes, “the” and “and” are right up there! But if you use Scrivener and you know you use certain phrases or words a lot, this could be a great way of ensuring you don’t overdo it.

Image Credit: The shots of the Scrivener boxes were taken by me as screenshots, something else which is easy to do within the program. I love the traffic light system of red, amber and green as you approach your target.

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Fairytales with Bite – Writing Legacy

My CFT post this week, Writing Legacy, looks at the legacy of the much missed Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the Winchester Writers’ Festival. I also ask what legacy we as writers should try to leave behind.

From a character viewpoint, what is the legacy we as our creators should leave them with?

  1. Have we made them unforgettable characters? We should have done…

  2. Have we given them plenty to do in the story? We should have done…

  3. Have we tested them to see what they are really made of? We should have done…

  4. Have they got good dialogue? If not, why not?

  5. Do they come across well to a reader? They should do (and this applies equally to villains. They need to be convincing too).

  6. Are the motivations of the character strong enough?

  7. Will the reader feel a pang of regret when the story is over?

Better get to it then!

This World and Others – The Longest Day

Today is the longest day (at least it is from my part of the world, the UK), but in writing terms, what would this mean for your characters?

  1. The longest day is taken literally and we follow the character through from getting up to going to bed.

  2. The longest day is taken metaphorically and we see a character going through all kinds of trials in a relatively short time span.

Whichever route you go, the character has to have enough to do and for that to be gripping enough to make the reader want to continue with your story. Their motivations must be strong enough and we need to see what makes them keep going when most would have given up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death scenario though a situation where the ability to leave is taken away from the character is always interesting and full of dramatic possibilities.

I find it more interesting though when a character could get out of a situation, you can understand why they would do so, but they continue on their current path. What drives that character? What makes them tick? Do they have any sense of failure? Who do they think they would be letting down if they did just walk away?

Definite story possibilities there!

Image Credit:  Pixabay.

 

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Blogging on the Move

I was away in the stunning far North of Scotland last week and was pleased I managed to blog most of what I would usually do most of the time.  Tonight’s roundup will include two Goodreads blog posts I wasn’t able to share while on the move last week.  I’ll also include the Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others links I also wasn’t able to share last week (and repeat the copy from each blog).

Must say I found the Word Press mobile app a joy to use though and that is encouraging.  (Only things I couldn’t do were coloured headings which is not overly crucial when all is said and done, nor could I share slideshows, so got around that with various individual images instead.  That worked a treat.).

First things first though.

Facebook – General

Learned a lot this week as to which mobile apps really are mobile friendly and those will be the ones I’ll stick to when next blogging on the move.

Having said that, it has been lovely writing overlooking a beautiful loch. From tomorrow it will be back to looking at my study wall! Mind, I can turn and look at the garden.

What matters when writing is being in the right frame of mind. That is, you are ready to write and you want to write because you can’t stop yourself from writing.

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Loved this when I found it on Pixabay.

Back to my desk and now it is time to catch up with my usual writing (though I drafted a lot while on the move last week, which I am going to be so thankful for this week!). Have smartphone, have Evernote, am dab hand with a stylus, and away I go.

I’m planning on submitting a couple of flash fiction stories this week, having drafted them while away. Later this week will be about the right time to look at them again with a “clear view” and if they still grab me, I will submit them. You do have to be grabbed by your own stories. You are your own first audience. If you don’t like what you write, why should anyone else?

The important point is to be objective and above all be honest. What did you like about your story and why? Are there any points you think need strengthening? Do trust your gut instincts here by the way, they’re nearly always right.

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I’ve got a few writing prompts in my diary to catch up on later this week. The one that takes my fancy the most is the picture of the white terrier running along a sandy beach – now I wonder why that is!

Another prompt is to select ten words associated with a train journey and write these up into a piece of writing. The nice thing with this one is you can easily make that fiction or non-fiction. (I suspect for anyone caught up in train delays, broken down trains etc that they’d have no trouble coming up with at least 10 words on the subject! How many of them would be non-swearing is another matter though…).

Am delighted to say I’ll be going to the Waterloo Arts Festival on 8th June. I missed it last year due to holiday.

My story, The Professional, is one of the 16 winners in the Waterloo writing competition. I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends and there will be the opportunity to read out extracts of the winning stories at the event.

I look forward to reading some of my story but also hearing the others. It is a treat to be read to!

If last year’s collection To Be…To Become (where I also had a story published) is anything to go by, it’ll be a good eclectic mix of tales.

Will share the link to the ebook when it is available.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My favourite kind of flash fiction is where it ends with a punchline that makes me smile. That’s partly because I’ve got a very soft spot for any kind of humorous prose. It’s also because having something that “just” makes you laugh is worth so much. Escapism, especially in humour, is invaluable.

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Haven’t seen this one round my way.  Pixabay

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Good idea!  Pixabay

Looking forward to reviewing some flash pieces I drafted while away last week. (Have smartphone and Evernote, the free version, love both!). Once done, I’ll be sending them off to a couple of competitions. Then it’ll be a case of working out which competitions I’d like to have a go at and getting on with the next batch of stories.

The nice thing with short fiction is being able to get work out there far more quickly than you can with novels.

One of the frequent reminders on the motorway is “Tiredness kills, take a break”. In terms of writing, tiredness saps your mental energy and it can be tough to write when you feel like that.

What has helped me has been seeing writing as something that helps me unwind, whatever I come up with now doesn’t have to be “perfect” now (which is just as well!), and that I always feel a bit better once I have written something, even if it is only a few lines.

I see the writing as the “taking the break” bit of the above phrase. When a day has been particularly tough, I jot down ideas for future blogs and stories, and find it is almost like clearing my mind out for a while. (That in itself can help with unwinding). And, of course, when feeling brighter, there are ideas ready for me to write up into what I hope will be something special!

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June is going to be a busy month. I’ll be going to the Waterloo Arts Festival (where winners of their writing competition will read extracts from their stories – really looking forward to taking part in that and listening to the others).

A week later I’ll be at the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

At both, I’ll look forward to meeting up with friends as well as enjoying the events. I’ve no doubt I’ll learn plenty from them too.

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A Double Dose of Goodreads Author Blogs!

Reading and Travelling

I was never able to read while on a car journey when I was a kid as it used to make me feel sick. Now it’s not a problem and is one of the joys of a long journey.

It is also where the Kindle does come into its own. Not much to pack either, just don’t forget the charger!

I catch up with reading, as well as draft stories, when travelling and have a lovely time doing so.

Do you remember the old I-Spy books? I used to love them but they were no good to me on a trip! I had to remember what I’d seen and fill my books in on getting home!

I don’t pick specific holiday reading as I always have books to catch up on but the joy of holidays is having the time to do that.

Wherever you go this summer, happy reading!

What Do You Love Most About a Story?

My favourite part of any story is in the middle. The characters and situation are set up, the (usually) life versus death scenario is well under way, and it is a question of whether you can outguess the author as to the resolution.

I love it when I guess correctly but love it more when a writer wrongfoots me here. I then go back and re-read the story and inevitably find clues over the unexpected resolution that had been there. I just hadn’t paid enough attention, which is an object lesson in itself!

Naturally, I can apply what I learn here to my own writing, but it is also no coincidence the stories I re-read are the ones that have kept me on my toes. There is just so much enjoyment to be had here.

The great thing with twist in the tail stories is the simpler the twist the better and more effective it is. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy to guess at either, as it is easy to overlook or forget the “obvious”.

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Values

In my CFT post this week, I’ve looked at what I value most. It won’t come as a huge surprise to know I’ve included family, friends, and literacy in this, amongst other important things.

What is it that your characters value most? As with me, it is highly unlikely to be just one thing, but you should be able to deduce which your characters would fight for and which they wouldn’t. It should also be apparent why they would feel this way.

It can be useful information for an enemy, of course. What can they use against your heroes here? What does the enemy value that could be used against them? (It’s never a one-way street in fiction but you can exploit that).

See this as an invaluable part of an outline and have fun working out how you can use a character’s values to strengthen their portrayal and against them to generate conflict.

This World and Others – Pointer Checklist

Hope you find the following useful.  The following list is a guide to checking if your created world makes sense to a reader.

  1. Can a reader picture your world in their imagination?
  2. Can a reader identify with your characters? They don’t have to like them though!
  3. Does your world have a system of government that makes sense to your reader? Someone has to be in charge. Your characters should know who they would be answerable to!
  4. How do your characters survive on a daily basis? They will have to eat, drink, breath, excrete, reproduce, and die (unless they’re immortals of course but could anything threaten that?).

By ensuring you can answer these points, you will have a functioning created world of your own.

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Brainstorming, Historical Links, and Publication News

Really exciting week publication wise – more later.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I love historical links and going to events like the Fryern Funtasia on Bank Holiday Monday for CFT makes for a nice link with the medieval fairs.

What our ancestors would make of inflatable slides, train rides etc, makes the mind boggle though I suspect the Hog Roast would go down very well!

Images Credit:  Unless otherwise named, all images were taken by Allison Symes (so you know who to blame).

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Am thrilled to bits to share more publication news following the news my two stories, Dignity and Injustice and The Art Critic, will be included in the Best of Cafelit 8 due to be launched later this year.

My story The Professional is one of the winners of this year’s Waterloo Festival Writing Competition. Yay!

I was also in last year’s Waterloo Festival ebook To Be… To Become with my story, Progressing.

The full list of Waterloo Festival Winners is below.

Irene Lofthouse Cat and Mouse
Linda Flynn Climbing Rainbows
J S Brown Disarray
Jeanne Davies Everything has changed
Helen Price Havens
Amelia Brown Heat
Laure Van Rensburg Of Salt and the Raw Flesh of Fish
Beverly Byrne Old Masters
Paula R C Readman Over The Wall
Jessica Joy Russian Doll
Sinéad Kennedy Krebs Steam
Gail Aldwin Take Your Place
Yvonne Walus The Father Daughter Club
Allison Symes The Professional
Christopher Bowles The Side of Blue
Louise Rimmer The Undermen
Hannah Retallick The Word Has It
Madeleine McDonald They Lied to Me
Michael Baez Time Will Tell

Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are winners here.

What will be lovely this year will be getting to go to the Waterloo Festival. I missed it last year due to being in the stunning far North of Scotland on holiday.

Am already keenly anticipating going to the Festival AND having the great joy of meeting up with writer friends again, well ahead of when I’d usually see them for the Bridge House Publishing event in December. Win-win in every sense then.

And it is a really happy author who can report she has had a very good writing week!

Facebook – General

I’ll be sharing a look back at the Fryern Funtasia (held on Bank Holiday) Monday for my CFT post this week.

But meanwhile, my lovely editor, Janet Williams (who founded the site to bring people together), has prepared a very different summary of it including a great selfie pic of the two of us having a fab time. Pic taken by Janet, not me.

Naturally we got to have a good chat about writing, CFT etc over a cup of tea. An outdoor editorial meeting if you like!

If anyone tells you the writing life is glamorous…

If however they tell you it is a lot of fun, then DO believe that!

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/fryern-funtasia-6th-may-20…/

 

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Janet Williams, my lovely CFT editor, and I at the Fryern Funtasia.  Many thanks to Janet for kind permission to use the selfie which she took.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have got a long car journey coming up so am I planning to draft flash fiction, blog posts etc while in transit? You bet! The time will fly by and I’ll get lots done, I hope! Naturally I am NOT driving…!

Also hope to catch up with Kindle reading and to write some reviews. All of that should take care of the motorway stint!

The lovely thing with writing is you are never short of things to while away “dead” time and drafting work is always profitable for later on, if only in terms of having more work to submit.

Thrilled to bits to be a winner in the Waterloo Festival again. My story The Professional will appear in an ebook compilation later in the year and I’ll be only too pleased to share further details when I have them!

The Professional is one of my longer flash fiction pieces as it comes in at just a tad under 1000 words but the thing to remember with flash is the word count has to fit the story and NOT the other way round. If a flash piece works better at 500 words than say 250, then go for the former, always. Your story and characters will be sharper and better for it. (I’d say it’d stand better chance of being published too).

When writing to a very small word count (100 words or under), then I’ve found it helpful to select the ONE moment that has to be written about in my character’s life and focus intently on that. There is no room for anything else. But the story still has to be complete in and of itself.

Get the story right in terms of what details you HAVE to include, edit to sharpen it (you will find better ways of phrasing things while keeping the same meaning), and then get i