How much time do you spend each day writing?
At least two hours. I write different things in these sessions, starting with my Facebook author page, my website blogs, my regular slot for Chandler’s Ford Today before moving on to fiction. I also use my Mslexia diary to note down what I have written each day and to track submissions.
What is your favourite time of day for writing?
This is the evening going into the early hours. I’m a night owl! (And I can usually hear some in the oaks in my garden as I write too!).
What drink is by your side as you work?
This depends on my mood and the time of year but it varies from hot chocolate to tea to diet coke to the occasional glass of something stronger. (A lot also depends on how the writing is going as well!).
What do you write with – pen and paper or PC/Mac?
For short stories and blog posts I write directly to screen. For novels I still prefer to hand write and I use the typing up as my first copy edit. It can be disheartening to spot repetitions etc as I type up my MSS but I remind myself this is what the first edit is for – to get rid of all that – before moving on to structural editing and proof reading. The other thing I use a pen for is my writing diary. Somehow “proper” writing has got to involve a pen somewhere! I always edit with pen and paper, having learnt long ago I never pick up all errors trying to edit on screen. I don’t know why but there seems to be a blind spot for me here. I find it easier to spot errors on paper but I am cheered up by the fact, from what I’ve read in author interviews, I’m far from being the only one who finds this to be the case.
What software do you rely on?
I have become a devotee of Scrivener in the last year. I really find this useful for setting targets and for fleshing out outlines. I also like being able to set a “backwards” target when I need to reduce a story’s word count. Seeing the little bar graph change from red to yellow to green as I get nearer to my target and then reach it really encourages me to keep going. I also like the character and setting templates which ask questions to set me off in the right direction for my outline.
I also like being able to export into different formats. I’m preparing a short story collection and have used Scrivener to export it to epub format so I can see how it would look electronically. This is so useful. I rarely use Word directly (though I always export all documents to a docx format as well as the scriv format. That gives me a choice then of how I access the documents – via MS Word or Scrivener and I do like having a choice).
Blogging is lovely on Scrivener as I can keep my notes, my finished piece and photos in one place before exporting the post. I’ve prepared this post in Scrivener.
What is the most essential thing on your desk where you write?
The laptop and printer followed by pens and paper and a good supply of mints! I like to have my Mslexia diary to hand. I was recently given a quill biro for my 50th birthday by a friend who wanted to get something suitable “for a writer who is old”! I like having the quill on my desk (and it is great to write with too).
What are you working on at the moment?
Collections! I’m preparing a short story collection and a flash fiction one. I also always have a short story on the go for submission either to a competition or to Alfie Dog and so on. I also always have a blog post in preparation for Chandler’s Ford Today as I now write for them weekly.
Giving It a Rest – Allison Symes
1100 word Fantasy / Science Fiction
Narrated by an alien collector of specimens, disillusioned with their job. They reveal what their job entails and leave evidence to warn humans not every alien is as honourable (by their standards) as this one. They know the consequences of their actions could be fatal.
I’ll leave my notes and universal translator here so you can read why I jacked in my job to explore different worlds for my enjoyment, rather than my bosses’ profit margins. I’m not going into how those profit margins were shared but I’ll be the year’s top earner at the end of this trip if all goes well. It’s why I’ve stuck it out for so long. The penalty for disobedience is an electric shock applied to one’s intimate areas. Not fun I can tell you. I’m still the best worker, despite having the treatment five times, which is why I’m here and not dead.
Green Door – Allison Symes
4000 word Fantasy / Science Fiction
Emily Shanton is lonely, she has recently been forced out of her job. She discovers there is more to her new neighbour, Jemma, than meets the eye. Jemma is everything Emily isn’t: young, outgoing, comfortable socially, but has a secret. Emily discovers, the hard way, what this is.
The blonde woman over the road was painting her front door in British racing green. ‘And about time,’ Emily Shanton told herself, finally letting her brilliant white net curtains drop into their usual position. ‘Given she has visitors at all hours all week her house needs a decent spruce up. Mother said women who always had visitors could never be up to any good. Mother was so right and on so many things.’ Emily paused. I shouldn’t have thought that. Mother would’ve thought it. She relished thinking nastily. Mother was difficult. Will I ever forget about her? I won’t be like her. I won’t. She was a tyrant. I must make myself think nice thoughts.
Just Desserts – Allison Symes
930 word Fairytale
Snow White's story is told from the viewpoint of the embittered stepmother.
I stop running - finally - and rest under this ancient fruit tree. The bark of the tree is gnarled and it is uncomfortable to lean against but I must make do. Oh the humiliation of being forced to run for my life by angry dwarfs! If ever there were a species I thought I could outrun it was them, but I only just escaped thanks to the underground river I knew about. That was about the only thing I got right - always have a spare escape route.
Life is What You Make It – Allison Symes
3700 word Science Fiction
Marc fights to keep his life and his wife, Barbara. Lose her and he’ll lose everything he ran away from his ruthless bosses to get. Punishment on his home planet is not known for its compassion and executions are televised as a warning to others. Marc does not want to be on the next scheduled programme nor does he want to reveal to Barbara he isn’t as human as he appears.
‘I don’t care how you do it but Marc must be stopped. He’s asking awkward questions about our experiments and I tell you he’s looking for a way out. He’ll find some suitable planet to defect to and we’ll lose him. He has got the talent to outwit us all.’ The Grand Inquisitor stared down at his quivering deputy. ‘Our lives will be on the line if that happens. You know how compassionate the Grand Council can be.’ The trembling deputy did know. Failure on Anarect meant a horribly slow, lingering death, which was televised to act as a warning for the masses. As a policy it worked. Within a year of its implementation, crime rates dropped by over 80%.
The Delivery – Allison Symes
1400 words Fantasy / Horror
A former favoured servant of the Dark Lord is forced to face up to the consequences of arguing with his master.
I knew the third letter was coming. I was warned. It is difficult to ignore anonymous letters especially when in the last week I’d already received two and I knew the third would be the most significant. There are certain rules here everyone knows from age 5 up. It is possible to ignore said letters but difficult. They linger in the mind especially with the language used. Oh it wasn’t foul (unlike the writer) but let’s just say the letters are not designed to put the mind at rest or to encourage any thoughts of continuing to have a happy and healthy life.