It is a pleasure to welcome author Allison Symes to the blog today to discuss her writing journey and the hiccups that have affected her journey along the way.
Hello, Allison Symes here. I’m a multi-published flash fiction and short story writer and blogger. Many thanks to Val for inviting me back on to her blog. It’s always lovely to chat!
I’m also an editor and a member of the Society of Authors, Association of Christian Writers, and the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading.
I’m also privileged to be one of the winners of the Waterloo Arts Festival Writing Competition three years in a row.
My writing journey has been an odd one. When I began writing seriously, I hadn’t heard of flash fiction. Yet it is the area where I have two books published (From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic!). I don’t mind the kind of writing journey which comes up with a result like that!
What made me start writing?
I’ve always loved stories and that was encouraged by my late mother, who taught me to read before I started school. She got told off for it too. Apparently I was taught the “wrong way”. I’ve never felt the lack and am so grateful to Mum for giving me the gift of loving books.
I was pleased she got to see my first published story (A Helping Hand in the Bridge House Publishing anthology Alternative Renditions) and I know she’d have been thrilled to see my two books. So that’s where the desire to write my tales comes from. It just took me a while to realise it!
It was a combination of my 30th birthday and giving birth to my son later in that year which made me realise if I was going to write, I’d better get on with it. My only regret with writing is not starting sooner than I did. It takes you longer than you think to find your writing voice and to get used to rejections, developing a thick skin to cope with said rejections etc.
What did you start writing?
I’ve written the “wrong way round”. I started with a novel. Yes, I know! Talk about running before you can walk… Mind you, this novel was longlisted for a debut novel competition and I hope to still do something with it one day. But in the meantime I discovered the joys and challenges of short story writing. I started sending in work to sites like CafeLit and to the Bridge House Publishing anthologies. I started having work accepted so naturally I continued to build up publication credits this way.
Then CafeLit issued a 100 word challenge and my writing life changed from that point. My first thought on seeing that challenge was you’ve got to be kidding me, there’s no way you can tell a proper story in so few words.
My second thought was they would not have issued the challenge if my first thought was right! So I gave it a go, discovered you can indeed write stories that short, sent these early flash tales in, they were accepted and I became addicted to the form. Eventually I had enough material to respond to the call for single author collections and I now have the two books to my name as a result.
For the blogging, a YA writer friend, Richard Hardie, told me about an online community magazine called Chandler’s Ford Today and the editor, Janet Williams, was looking for people to contribute to it. So I thought I’d give it a go. She liked what I did, I started submitting work regularly and then developed a weekly column.
I focus on articles of interest to writers though I also review local amateur theatre productions when possible (and do hope I can get back to doing that in 2021!). I also interview authors here and have had the great joy of chatting to Val on CFT a couple of times.
I like the balance of fiction and non-fiction writing. Both have their joys and challenges. I also have a low boredom threshold. This is good. With two different kinds of writing to keep me occupied, I rarely get bored!
A Smooth Writing Journey?
Err…. Definitely not! As well as doing things the “wrong” way around, I was almost caught out by a vanity publisher. They wanted to charge me thousands of pounds for producing my book and would keep the rights. Not only did that ring alarm bells, their offer letter was riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. To say I was not impressed was an understatement. It made me wonder if they could be so careless in an offer letter, what else could they be careless about?
That was a good point and remains a valid one. I was also horrified at the amount of money they wanted to charge me and I thought then, long before print on demand is readily available as it is now, that if I self-published, I could buy in services and still save money. I would have been right by the way on that.
I would also have kept my rights, meaning I, and I alone, would decide where the book would go. I would also decide which services I would pay for. And I would market the book obviously. (Vanity publishers have got their money - from you).
I sought advice from the Society of Authors, though I was not a member at the time, and they gave me detailed advice as to what was wrong with the contract I’d been offered. It was specific advice too and was an eye-opener I can tell you. I turned the contract down as a result and asked for my MSS back. I did get that back and have never regretted this move.
Bear in mind though that at the time, I was not published anywhere. There was no sign of any other contract in the offing. But I was still right to turn it down. This contract was for the novel that ended up being longlisted for a debut novel competition. I was so glad I did not go with the vanity publishers. Had I done so, I would’ve been severely out of pocket and unable to do anything else with that book.
You do have to see writing as being a long game. If something seems too good to be true, it almost inevitably is and I would always advise people is check things out. Ask the Society of Authors or Alliance of Independent Authors for advice. They have booklets (free to members, reasonable charge for non-members).
Check with other writers. And if you are going the self-publishing route, ask other writers who have gone that way before you. Never be afraid to ask for testimonials from writers who have used self publishing service companies.
Never be afraid to question things. The decent self publishing service providers will expect questions and be ready to answer them.
So a funny writing journey then but it has been an interesting one and I hope it continues to be so.
Allison Symes, who loves reading and writing quirky fiction, is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafelit, and Bridge House Publishing. She is a member of the Society of Authors, Association of Christian Writers, and Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. She blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today often on topics of interest to writers - http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/author/allison-symes/
Her two flash fiction collections are From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping The Flash Fantastic. See her Amazon Author Central page at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent for more on these and the anthologies where her work has appeared.