YOUR FIRST WRITING – AND SWANWICK!

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What was the first piece of writing you remember? I can’t recall mine but do know when it was “composition” time at school, I was in my element. The whole idea of making up your own story back then was marvellous (and frankly still is!).

I couldn’t tell you either the moment I decided I would be a writer I just know the nagging feeling of wanting to write and, backing it up more importantly with actually doing the writing, has been with me for far longer than I can recall. The best thing to do is follow that writing urge but be open to trying new forms of writing. It is the way, I think, to find out what it is you really want to spend your time doing!

 

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Have prepared what I hope to be working on during Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, which starts on Saturday. This is a longer term project I want to read through and edit. I’ve also got a few ideas on where to submit this once done so want to check those out too while I’m away. Hope to submit said project by the end of the year (the idea being once back from Swanwick I’ll be ready to sort out my amendments and get the project out there).

Am continuing to work on my third flash fiction book. Have got ideas for non-fiction too which I hope to flesh out more so in between the courses at Swanwick, and catching up with friends there, I shall have plenty to do! But that is always a good thing…

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What do your characters like to eat/drink? Are they good cooks or do they live on their world’s equivalent of take out? What do they like to wear (and does it fit in with their world’s idea of what is suitable)?

Ask yourself questions about your characters. Not only will you get a better picture of who they are and what they’re like, the crucial points about your fictional world will develop too. For example, if you know your character is a freedom fighter, what are they fighting against? It also shows your world is probably a dictatorial one. (If it wasn’t, why are there any freedom fighters at all?).

Am hoping to submit some more flash fiction stories before long (but probably after I’m back from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. This week will be spent in preparing posts to schedule for while I’m away I expect).

My third flash fiction book is coming along but I hope to do a lot more on that while away. And as I mentioned on my author page that will be alongside a longer term project I want to read through and edit and, hopefully, be submiting by the end of the year. It is great having a mixture of different writing projects – I never get bored (!), I love the challenges each one presents (and those differ naturally). and, if things go as I hope, I should have a variety of work “out there”, hopefully to find a good home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WILDFLOWERS AND SAGGY MIDDLES

Now there’s a combination you don’t often see in the same sentence!

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What are your favourite virtues in characters?

I would list courage, honesty, and reliability. Perhaps not the most exciting of virtues but certainly ones you can depend on.

I’ve always felt Sam Gamgee does not get nearly enough credit for the support he showed Frodo. To my mind, he is as much of a hero in The Lord of the Rings as Frodo is.

I suppose what I love most here is Sam doesn’t pretend to understand what it is all about or the pain and pressure Frodo feels. All Sam knows is he has got to support Frodo and that is what he gets on and does. I love characters (and indeed people) like that. They really are the ones you can depend on in a crisis

For villains, can you list favourite virtues? I think so. I want the villain to be a worthy opponent always (otherwise where is the real challenge for the hero/heroine?). So this means then an ability to plan and anticipate what the hero/heroine might do, their NOT underestimating the hero/heroine, and having a kind of charisma, where you can understand why other characters would support the villain.

Fan still going full tilt in the office. It’s more than what I am!

Writing wise, my plans for this coming week are to try to submit more work. I need to catch up a bit with competition entries etc. It’s not the writing of the stories funnily enough that is the problem here. It’s the selecting of the ones I HAVE written and deciding where to send them, then actually sitting down and getting them out there!

I can get into the state where I am writing loads of new stories but not testing the market with any of them, which is where I’m at again at the moment. So will try and work on that this week I think.

Must admit I hope it cools down a bit soon. I definitely work better overall when it’s not so hot. (The wildflower picture is one taken by me at a local park where part of it it set aside for a miniature meadow. This is literally just a tiny bit of it. The whole thing looks glorious and I hope to share more pics in my CFT post this week. And, yes, I do find getting out and about and enjoying the wonders of nature helps my creativity. It’s just the heat that doesn’t but then if you do feel as if you’re melting, that explains that!).

I love the colour combinations in the wildflower meadow

A close up of the wonderful wildflower meadow in my local park. Image by Allison Symes

Looking up towards the Hilt

Looking up the length of the park from behind the meadow. Image by Allison Symes

This is just a small section of some wonderfully coloured flowers

Another view of the wildflower meadow. Image by Allison Symes

Do you have a saggy middle? Hang on, let’s rephrase that.

Does your STORY have a saggy middle?

It is so easy to focus on coming up with that fantastic opening line. It is even easier, I find, to focus on a great ending, especially if it involves a twist.

But the bit in the middle? Well, unless it fulfils the promise of that opening line, that beginning is wasted. If it doesn’t lead to your great conclusion, then that’s wasted too.

Everything has to follow through from beginning to end, regardless of the length of the story. But let’s hear it for the sometimes neglected middle section. It is absolutely crucial to get that right otherwise the story falls down. (Never a pretty sight that!).

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I’ve occasionally used the title of a flash fiction piece to act effectively as the first line of the story as well.

My Time Waits for No Man is an example of this. The next line reads “But time does slow to a crawl when driving in traffic”. (And boy is that true?!). I must try and use this technique more often. It can be a great way into a story.

I always find, whether writing fiction or my CFT posts, I need a good start and then I’m away. Yes, the polishing and editing comes later but I find once I’ve started the story, I’ve just got to keep going until I’ve got a first draft down.

So whatever techniques help you to get to a cracking start with your writing, keep going! I love the freedom of knowing the editing will come later, the story will improve drastically later, but right now is just the sheer joy of creating and I treasure that.

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Many congratulations to Lynden Wade, who won a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again as part of Elizabeth Hopkinson’s cyber launch for her Tiny Tales. Am looking forward to posting the book to you.

Many congratulations also to Elizabeth herself for a very enjoyable launch.

I loved my cyber launch (and many thanks to Gill James and Chapeltown Books for that), but I couldn’t believe how tired I felt afterwards! All that adrenaline I guess… or was it the virtual cake, wine. and other goodies?!

I love the way good flash fiction can capture a whole world in so few worlds. What the writer does tell you about a character should leave you being able to work out how that character relates to others, what effect they are likely to have on others, and often what their natural state of being is. Are they nervy? Are they calm etc?

My Time Waits For No Man on Page 40 doesn’t name my character but you know enough from what I have shared to see this is someone who has gone through hell. I haven’t needed to spell out all the details.

It is always the selection of what a reader needs to know to be able to identify with the character (whether it is sympathetically or not) that matters most.

I’ve talked a bit on my author page tonight about the sometimes neglected middle section of a story and I thought I’d continue the theme here.

We all focus on cracking opening lines and brilliant story endings but without the middle of the tale being equally excellent, the whole story falls flat.

I’ve forgotten who gave the advice “try not to write the bits people skip” but it is excellent advice. You want your readers to be so gripped by your story when they come to the middle of it, they will definitely want to see it through to the end. That middle section is where the set up is, regardless of whether the ending is going to be a sad or happy one. And it has got to “follow through”.

I use my middles to feed in those bits of information the reader needs to know so that the ending makes sense. Also I sometimes use the middle to expand a bit on what I’ve set out at the start. In my story, The Haunting, by the time I get to the middle, I have set out three times in three different ways that a particular object is irritating its owner.

So no saggy middles then!

 

TRAVEL NEWS
The joy of the road traffic report
Is knowing, as if playing a sport,
You are not in the horrible queue
So the bad news means nothing to you.
But when it is the other way round
I can bet, from your car, comes the sound
Of a swear word or several dozen
Which irks your kin, except your cousin.

Allison Symes – 17th July 2018

Hope you enjoy. I love this sort of doggerel from time to time!

 

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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Helpful Book Reviews

What do you find most helpful in a book review?

Speaking as a writer and reader, I love to see the following in any review, regardless of its length.

1. A good description of the central idea of the book. (This tends to indicate genre and often age range too).

2. Whether the reviewer liked it or not and good reasons why. (Nobody likes a troll! I want to know what people liked about what I’ve written and what they feel I could do better. I’m not necessarily going to agree but if several are saying the same thing, then it’s time to look again. From the reader viewpoint, I want to see sensible reasons given. “Not to my taste” doesn’t really tell you enough).

3. The review is clearly an honest one. I need to be able to gauge whether someone’s book is likely to appeal to me. Several comments, offering differing views, is a very good help to me to work out, yes this is likely to appeal or conversely that it won’t!

I write reviews myself sometimes and do follow my own advice here. The great thing about being a writer yourself is it kind of makes it easy for you to come up with a good review. You write the kind of review you would love to see on your own book or, if you do really dislike what you’ve just read, to still pick out where you think the book might appeal, while honestly admitting it wasn’t for you. (I love the honesty behind that sort of review).

So happy reading and reviewing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fairytales With Bite – What Fairytales Reveal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – What Your Fictional World Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

WEATHER, PLANS, AND THE WRITING JOURNEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allison Symes – 1st July 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOT AND BOTHERED AND BLOGGING!

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Does the hot weather affect your writing? In my case, not directly. I’m at my desk, everything is as comfortable as possible, and off I go.

What I do dislike is the lethargy that can set in so I find it harder to stay up and write, write, write. So, accepting that is how it is is, I just squeeze more writing into the time I know I can work with before I simply HAVE to go to sleep. Must admit this is where I loved the weather in Scotland – generally good, but a few degrees cooler. Lady loved that too.

I’ll be looking at blogging in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week and next. I’ll look at some of the joys of blogging and share some fantastic contributions from fellow writers and bloggers. Looking forward to that.

Hope to get some more flash fiction out to Cafelit before too long. Plus I hope to put more stories up on Scriggler, the US based site as well. I’ve got longer term plans for non-fiction writing, revamping my novel, as well as more flash fiction books so will be busy, busy, busy. All in a good way.

Must admit I am finding the heat a bit much (Lady is being pretty sensible about it to her credit for such a young dog). So the idea of sitting in the garden to write does not appeal. I’m definitely one for the shade!

What is the best thing about a story, regardless of genre? Is it the tale being written well enough to make you forget your cares for while?

Or is it that the characters are so well drawn you sympathise with them and can see why they are acting the way they are? The best stories contain elements of both, of course, but I don’t think it is something the writer can set out to do deliberately.

What we can do deliberately is give the most honest portrayal of our characters as we can and then it is up to the reader whether they identify with them or not. A really good story will leave you with no choice but to do so!

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One thing I mentioned in my talk on flash fiction on Saturday at Hursley Park was the fact I love the way flash forces you to fill in the gaps. For example, if I give you a story about a time travelling alien, you fill in how/what it looks like as I get on with the important bit of showing you what happens to said alien in the story. There is no room for anything else.

The great thing here is your experience of time travelling aliens will be down to how much sci-fi you read or watch, whether you’re a fan of Doctor Who or not, and so on. You will fill in the gaps in description based on what YOU think a time travelling alien should look like. My interpretation will be different (even allowing for some overlaps). And that is where flash can be such fun.

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My favourite ending for a flash fiction story, whether I write them or read them, is easily the twist one.

This is partly because I like to guess ahead and then see if I guessed correctly (and all kudos where it is due to flash fiction writers who wrongfoot me!).

I also like to see a twist that really works well and makes me go back into the story to look for the clues I know the writer will have planted there. There is always lots to learn from reading other fiction, whether it is in your own genre or not. If you needed an excuse to read more, please use that one!

Flash fiction encourages readers to fill in the gaps, given there isn’t room for much in the way of world building. I love that, both as a reader and writer.

You can infer so much more with flash too, indeed inference is a major tool in the “kit” to write it. It is true that with any story, you have to give the reader what they need to know to make sense of it, but with flash, that is fine tuned to the nth degree.

Write what you need to write and then get out is a useful guiding principle. Another is to check each line and ask myself, well why do I need this? The answer has got to be strong enough to justify that line’s inclusion in the story. Any hesitation on your part and at best you need to rewrite that line, at worst cut it.

 

 

 

KNOWING WHAT I DO NOW…

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Are there things connected with writing that you are glad you know now? This is definitely the case for me and my list would be:-

1. When offered a contract, get it checked out by the Society of Authors. I did and it stopped me entering into something that would’ve been a vanity publishing contract. I’ve never regretted not going for that (though at the time I wasn’t published elsewhere nor was there anything in the pipeline). Talking of which:-

2. Don’t be afraid to turn things down. You have got to be happy with what you are doing writing wise. And, as with so much in life, if it seems too good to be true, it is. There’s no shame in walking away from such a thing.

3. You really do need to edit on paper and not on screen. You WILL miss typos, grammatical errors etc on screen. I’m sure there must be a logical reason to this, probably based on how the brain interprets things on screen as opposed to paper. All I know for sure is when I edit on paper, I pick up far more that needs correcting (and so save myself a great deal of embarrassment in NOT submitting something with errors because I’ve not seen the wretched things and dealt with them!). It IS worth taking the time here.

What would you list here?

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New story from me coming up on Cafelit on Tuesday (5th June), will share the link then. If you like dragons, it will be for you!

Am sorry to be missing the Winchester Writers’ Festival this year. Hope all who go have a wonderful time. Likewise all going to the Waterloo Arts Festival and to all of the winning authors who will be reading their stories out here, have a great time and good luck!

Am looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair later in June and Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Much later in the year will be the annual Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown Books get-together in London.

Immediate writing plans are to get more stories out to Cafelit and press on with my third flash fiction book (though I am happy with how that is going). I would like to write more non-fiction and a long term goal is to do something more with that.

Am also pleased to say a new mini-series will be coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today shortly which is about art by Graham MacLean. I was the series editor on it and it was lovely to work on. Some wonderful pictures by Graham illustrate the three part series. These will be appearing on 7th, 14th and 21st June.

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Does the mood of your characters match your mood as you’re writing their stories?

Definitely not in my case and this is just as well given a lot of my flash fiction has themes of murder, revenge, poetic justice and so on! When I’m not writing on those topics, I often write about magical beings you would not want to meet, yet alone cross, or I’m writing about poignant situations.

So is all human life then in From Light to Dark and Back Again? Quite a bit of it is, yes – and a fair amount of non-human life too!

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One of the most difficult things about writing flash is ensuring that it is a “proper” story and not just a piece of prose cut abruptly short. The need for a beginning, middle and end applies to whatever length of fiction you’re writing, though I suppose it is more obvious for things like novels and short stories.

This is where twist endings help a lot as you can’t go beyond that without spoiling the effect. I’ve occasionally written a flash piece as a letter (Punish the Innocent is a good example of this) and the great thing with that as a device it it has GOT to end with the sign-off (or possibly a PS at most!).

I think of the middle of the story as the “pivot point”. It is where the problem in the tale has been set out, it has got to be resolved, and your reader can see that being done in at least two different ways. (You’ve got to keep them guessing!).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Holiday Reading

I’ve recently picked up three lovely paperbacks which will be part of my holiday reading. Many thanks to generous friends and family for the book shop gift cards. I’ve finally had a chance to go and use them on:-

1. Double Cross by Ben McIntyre
2. London by Peter Ackroyd
3. View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

I love history of all sorts (and am intrigued by the idea of having a biography of a city!). The Neil Gaiman book is a collection of his non-fiction pieces and I’m really looking forward to reading that.

As ever, my trusty Kindle will also be with me on my holidays this year. I love both ebooks and paperbacks and switching between the two formats is another joy to reading as far as I’m concerned.

Now all I need to do is catch up on my reviewing!

 

 

 

 

Being Creative

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I think most of us need to find some form of being creative – whether that’s using a pen to write or gardening tools to make the “perfect plot” (pun intentional, no apologies!).

I suppose it is because creativity gives us an outlet, especially if most of the time we are doing something far more humdrum. (I love that word humdrum, just sounds good, and conjures up the exact image of what it means).

Creativity is good for mental and physical health so why does it seem sometimes as if it is something that is “indulged in”? (I don’t have that problem, my family are very supportive of my writing, for which I am enormously grateful as I know not every writer can say that).

 

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Pleased with writing achievements on the train yesterday. A whole CFT post written for next week and a flash fiction story (though one at the higher word count end for me). Hope to have a good look and edit of the latter during the week and submit it somewhere.

Looking forward to taking part in the inaugural Hursley Park Book Fair in June. Over 40 authors are taking part and I will have more details nearer the time via a CFT post about it.

Reading, for me at the moment, is pretty much split 50/50 between paper and Kindle. That is a change for me as it used to be 80/20 paper to Kindle. (But you can’t beat the convenience of slipping your Kindle into a bag with loads of books to choose from over having to limit yourself to one or two paperbacks, depending on the size of one’s bag of course. Goodness knows how men manage here. Is that a paperback in your pocket or…. well you can fill in the rest!😁).

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I’ll be resuming my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series for CFT this week. Up to No. 76 already! Drafted this on the train at the weekend. Had no problem thinking of things to shove (hard) into the vault of doom.

Am hoping to get a couple of flash fiction stories off for competition later this week. I am pleased (and frankly relieved) so many competitions now accept online submissions. I used to spend a small fortune in postage when I first started writing – and yes, the dinosaurs did still walk the earth then. I was one of them – easily spotted. I was part of that sad group forever in a Post Office queue! (I could almost guarantee I’d be out of stamps when I needed them for a competition. I guess the online equivalent would be finding out your server is down just as you’re trying to send your story in. Murphy’s Law does get everywhere).

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Glad to say I’ve had to order more copies of From Light to Dark and Back Again ready for book events coming up over the summer months. Will post more about those nearer to the time of each though I am glad that at one of them in particular, I should have the chance to catch up with friends, which is always a lovely bonus.

I did manage to write some flash fiction on my train journey today – one of my longer pieces. (I also wrote an entire CFT post too so a productive day!)

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I am definitely going to have to go on more train journeys as all of the ones I’ve taken so far this year have meant I’ve drafted LOADS of flash fiction stories, which I hope will end up in a third collection eventually. Just a pity my Swanwick trip in August is going to involve a replacement bus service due to major works happening at Derby Station over the summer. Will be interesting to see how I write while on a bus – assuming I can of course.

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The nature of flash fiction in that it gives only a glimpse into the world of its story makes it useful for when you want to imply your character is a time travelling alien or what have you but don’t need to set up a lot of details as to the world they’ve come from.

I’ve found the odd line showing the character’s reaction to the world they’ve left can be telling. It can be a case of what they don’t say that will imply to the reader the world they left was horrendous. Equally a comment, a throwaway line from the character will show their attitude and from that a lot can be deduced.

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Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Broadening the Mind

The old saying goes that travel broadens the mind and, of course, it can do. But so can reading widely across genres and non-fiction.

Also reading contemporary AND classic fiction is useful here as the former keeps you in touch with what is out there now, and the other keeps you in touch with where writing has come from.

Also I’d argue that writers such as Wodehouse, Austen, Dickens etc have all stood the test of time and will continue to do so. What is fun is to watch out for those contemporary (or near contemporary) authors who will go on to stand the test of time. (I’d have the late, great Terry Pratchett as a certainty here. Also J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter.).

Writing, especially when it involves any kind of research, also encourages mind broadening. (The great thing with this is most of us don’t want our waists to broaden, but you can broaden the mind as much as you like! No calories involved whatsoever…!).

So read and write away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plans and Mini-Series

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Happily enjoying some of the latest Chapeltown publications on Kindle. That is the great thing with flash fiction – it is so easy to read on a screen (no matter the size of the screen!).

Am also drafting some challenging opening lines that I hope to create stories from soon. Sometimes this challenge leads to a longer story than expected (but that can always go to a short story – 1500 words+ – collection in due course).

I’d like to enter more competitions this year too as doing that is always good practice for writing to a deadline and if you are lucky enough to be shortlisted or win, then that does look so good on the old writing CV. You feel pretty good about it too!

One of the nicest things about writing is when you are well “into” it and enjoying what you are coming up with. You are your own first audience. If you don’t enjoy what you write, why should anyone else? Later, trusted readers who can tell you what does and doesn’t work are invaluable.

Happy writing!

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One great thing about writing is it does give you a much deeper appreciation for the works of other writers, especially the classics. For a work to stand the test of time, it really does have to have something special about it, but it is highly unlikely the author concerned set out to achieve that. They would’ve wanted to write a good, entertaining story, for it to be published (and ideally sell in vast quantities too!).

I think you gain a deeper appreciation of the work that went into creating the story in question. I know I’ve learned that if someone makes something look easy (and that includes writing which is easy to read), I can bet that same someone has worked very hard for years to get to that point.

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I’m starting a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Friday’s post will be part 1 of my 101 Things to Put in Room 101 so this new series will keep me out of mischief for a bit then…

Link to go up tomorrow. Had great fun writing Part 1 so am really looking forward to getting on with Part 2!

I don’t know how many writers manage to achieve the accolade of having parts of their best-known work turned into TV programmes but Orwell is one of the few. What he would have made of Room 101 I don’t know (it can be very funny, sometimes thought provoking) but I suspect there might have been some scathing comments about Big Brother! (And I could always add some of my own there!).

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How easy is it to find the right title for your book? Answer: not very!

I used the mood of the stories to get to the title for mine but the title for the one I’ve not long submitted was more difficult to reach. In the end, I picked the title from one of the stories that I liked best and went with that. Am I expecting changes to my MSS? You bet!

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I know “luvvies” get their fair share of being mocked but the famous question attributed to them, “what is my motivation in this, darling?” is a great one for writers to ask of their characters.

Any character without a suitably strong motivation should be cut out. The good thing on that is their role might be a minor one but if it is pivotal to the outcome of a sub-plot, which in turn affects the way the main plot turns out, then that is good enough to justify that character and minor role remaining.

Motivations should be something the reader can understand, if not necessarily agree with. The main characters should, of course, have the most powerful motivations of all given they have the most to lose or gain.

 

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I often use proverbs or well-known sayings and then see what I can do with them to create my stories. Flash fiction in itself is the very definition of “less is more” after all!

Sayings are a useful source of themes and can sometimes give you ideas for character motivation. (For example, revenge is sweet could lead you to work out why your characters would want to make that saying come true for them. You’d need to work out backstory here – who they want revenge against and why? How do they make revenge sweet? Does it work or backfire spectacularly?).

What sayings would you choose to use for a theme? (The great thing is you could base an entire collection around a well-chosen theme. We’re never going to run out of love stories in the grand scheme of things but there is always room for the well-written one that takes a different slant on it. Okay the problem after that is finding the right home for it but at least you know every writer faces that dilemma and it definitely isn’t anything personal).

Creative writing takes many forms, including blogging. Image via Pixabay.

Creative writing takes many forms, including blogging. Image via Pixabay.

What a library! Image via Pixabay.

What a library! Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here - the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.

I could spend many a happy hour here – the library at Prague. Image via Pixabay.

The magical world of the imagination. Image via Pixabay

The magical world of the imagination. Image via Pixabay

A way into the magical realm, perhaps? Image via Pixabay.

The way to the magical realm perhaps? Image via Pixabay.

The perfect way to unwind. Image via Pixabay.

The perfect way to unwind. Image via Pixabay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images from the magical world... Image via Pixabay

ONE LINE FAIRYTALES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

One Line Fairytales is my variant on the Ernest Hemingway six words short story exercise.  I share three ideas, all of which could be written up as flash fiction or standard length short stories.  May well give them a go myself at some point!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

What a Good Book Can Do lists ten benefits of reading a good book (and that doesn’t include the sheer pleasure gained from a marvellous read).  Can you add to my list?

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I discuss some of what I’ve been listening to, my favourite “in the run up to Christmas” reads and continue to update on Mabel’s progress.  I also talk about my writing (a brief look back at progress over the year and hopes for the future) and my reading (what I have done, what I would like to do etc).

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A truly beautiful library but do the books in it meet my criteria for what makes a good story. I would hope so! Image via Pixabay.

A truly beautiful library but do the books in it meet my criteria for what makes a good story. I would hope so! Image via Pixabay.