Aspects of Writing by Allison Symes

 Image Credit:  Images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Which aspect of writing is your favourite? 

I mentioned in a tweet on @ACW1971 I feel relief when I “hit the ground running” with my latest character because by this point I know them well enough to know they do have a story to tell.

I’ve learned to accept it is their story. I am the conduit through which their voice is heard. That has proved, for me, to be the way to make sure my author voice doesn’t get in the way. What a reader reads is what my character feels, sees, thinks, and experiences. Writing to a strict word count for flash fiction helps a lot too. I must keep to the point as must my character!

 I feel an even greater relief once I’ve got the first draft down because I’ve got something I can work with and improve. It will need improving - a lot! 

It took me a while to accept the first draft is not meant to be perfect. It can’t be by its nature. You are, to quote the late great Terry Pratchett on this, “telling yourself the story” and you then need time to work out (a) yes, I need this and (b) oh, that section doesn’t move the tale on so out it comes.


Over time, you get better at spotting what helps your story or article and what does not. I overwrite but accept this is how I write. I’ve found it is easier to cut back than to pad out. (Note I said easier rather than easy!).

I must know my characters reasonably well to be able to write their stories. I can’t just “wing it” so, for me, background prep work is vital. I use a simple template to ask questions about my character(s) so I can get to know them. 


Sometimes I just need to ask one or two questions to get a real feel for my character and this will often be enough for my sub-500 words stories. Sometimes I need to ask half a dozen questions and nearly always those flash tales will be between the 500 to 1000 words maximum limit. 


I often think it is a question of working out what you as the writer need to know before you draft your story or article and I am a fervent believer in getting the story (or blog post) down first and edit separately. 


I did try, when I was starting out, to edit as I went but only succeeded in boxing myself into a corner because I knew my opening lines weren’t perfect. That stopped me from moving on with the rest of the tale. Am not making that mistake again!


So over to you. How do you prefer to write? Do you edit as you go? How do you stop yourself from boxing yourself in? Other than research, which of course you would’ve already carried out (!), what do you need to know before you write?  


  1. I so identify with this! I need to have a feel for my characters and know a few key things about them before I begin. It may be simply their archetypal role in classic story structure: whether this person is a trickster or an ally or a mentor. But then the only way to know them on a deeper level is to start writing the story and see how they behave and interact when they are tested.

    1. Indeed, Sheila. It's wonderful fun finding out what your characters are capable of but, for me, I do have to know the basic trait first. All sorts of things can come from that.

  2. Once I know the character it's quite easy to start writing about them. But I often find things out as I go, or situations occur to me which weren't in my head when I first sat down to write. It's a strange, terrifying process all round!


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