Tagged: advice

High Maintenance

Flash Fiction Month 2019, Day 24

Doctor Hewlett checked the next two names on her schedule: Nic Panaso and Mark Lex. She called them in.

“So,” she began. “Tell me a little about your relationship: how did you two meet?”

“Well,” said Nic. “It was at that electronics superstore—the one just outside of town. We were at the same checkout, and we just sort of clicked. It was like we were made for each other, you know? Like we were meant to be together.”

“It’s common to feel that something’s missing once that initial excitement wears off, but you must still see something in each other.”

“Well, yes! We still connect on so many levels: USB, Bluetooth, even over our home network. But—”

Doctor Hewlett put up a hand. “I’m quite conscious that I haven’t heard a word from Mark yet.” She turned to him. “Is there anything you’d like to say?”

Mark leaned forward significantly. “Black ink low.” Continue reading

Flash Fiction Tips from Tonya Thompson

You might be aware that I write flash fiction. A lot of flash fiction.

However, I don’t think I’ve ever really written a how-to on it, which seems like a bit of a missed opportunity given that people seem to be finding my Twine for Beginners series pretty helpful.

Someday I might get around to doing that, but in the meantime do have a look at Tonya Thompson’s How to Write Great Flash Fiction: 10 Things You Need to Know. Someone at ServiceScape actually got in touch inviting me to share it,* and having had a read through it really does tackle a lot of the points I think new flash fiction writers – particularly those who are new to writing in general – tend to struggle with. It’s also a handy introduction to the format, listing some of the reasons you might choose to write it.

The main drawback of the advice in this post is the same as the drawback to most writing advice: good fiction involves more than simply checking items off a list, and plenty of bad fiction ticks all those boxes. I’ve seen people absolutely butcher a sentence to get rid of an adverb! However, there’s a difference between choosing to ignore advice and simply being unaware of it, and if you’re writing for a competition then dropping a dozen adverbs can be the safest way of trimming a 1,012 word story down to the 1,000 word limit.

*ServiceScape aren’t paying me for this. I don’t even claim this is the best guide to flash fiction out there, it’s just the one that was put in front of me and it covers the topic well.

Terms and Conditions

Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 13

“Stop, good citizen!” cried the complete stranger who had just burst through the door. “Sign not that paperwork!”

“What?” yelped the landlord. “What are you doing here? Who are you anyway?”

“Why, I am Apartment Man!” proclaimed the intruder, who wore a hat on his head shaped like a house’s roof.

“And I his loyal sidekick, Rent Boy!”

“And we are here to tell you…” Apartment Man pointed dramatically at the prospective tenant, “that your security deposit should be nowhere near the value of three months’ rent. Not for an unfurnished apartment!”

“Sorry,” said the landlord. “What did you say?” Continue reading

MTW Guest Post: Robbie Cheadle’s Advice on Poetry


I said in the introduction to Khristina Atkinson’s guest post that just about anything could happen in these, and here’s proof: advice on writing poetry! This isn’t anything I have any experience with myself, though I’ve actually got to know quite a variety of poets through reading flash fiction at open mics. This post might also be of interest to anybody writing children’s books, as Robbie and Michael’s own are written in rhyme.

Advice on Writing Poetry

I have never really given much thought to how to go about writing poetry. Writing poetry has always been something I just did, from long and flowery descriptive poems when I was a teenager to limericks and poems about corruption and life as an adult. As I have grown older, and as I have been assisting my 13 year old study, I have learned a little bit more about the different types of poems like haikus, sonnets and metaphorical poems. That last one, metaphorical poems, really captured my fancy and I have written a few of these. I have always written poetry in a rhyming form, either with every two lines rhyming AA, BB or every second line rhyming AB, AB or every second line rhyming and the lines in between not rhyming AB, AC or AB, CB. I like poetry that rhymes and this is how poems usually form in my head. I have written a few free style poems recently, based on poetry written by other, very talented people that I have come across but I still like my old style rhyming poetry the best. I have also tried a bit of experimentation, and taken a format for a poem, such as a metaphorical poem, and amended it as I see fit. This is in keeping with my general disregard for rules and ability to make my own. Continue reading

Winchester Writers’ Festival 2015 Writeup

Last weekend wasn’t my first time at the Winchester Writers’ Festival, but thanks to a scholarship from the University of Winchester, it was the first year I managed to attend the entire event. That really made quite a difference, since the full range of day courses, talks and workshops offered far more variety than I could have got from any individual day. It was particularly useful to be able to get advice on both writing and publishing. Here’s how the weekend went:


Each day of the festival starts (if you get up early enough!) with coffee and an opportunity to chat to other delegates. For the first two days, this was also an opportunity to wander around the Book Fair. I was really keen to make the absolute most of the weekend, though most people didn’t turn up until a little later.

P1000755 EDITED

Unless stated otherwise, these photos were taken by an actual photographer, rather than me.

Being there at quieter times was pretty handy, because when it got busy (such as immediately after Sebastian Faulks’ keynote speech) it actually got a little difficult to move about the place. I got talking to Matador (on the far left) who were kind enough to spread the word on Twitter. Continue reading

Some Manner of Shocking Twist

Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 29

Challenge #13: Write an epistolary story in response to a piece of flash fiction written by another author this month. The story must include at least one dead character, at least one nameless character, and at least one cat. This story is a response to Joe Wright’s piece, Toil and Trouble.

Dear Miss MacAbre,


I have a somewhat embarrassing problem. As a recently deceased usurper of the throne, I’m having some difficulty adjusting to the afterlife. I understand that’s totally normal, and I’ve been very impressed by the advice on offer. The leaflet I was given upon arrival—So You’ve Been Besieged by an Army of Guys Dressed Like Trees and Your C-section Rival Lopped Your Head Off—was both helpful and unnervingly specific. I’ve taken everything it says on board and, though it’s hardly smooth sailing, I feel that I’m making good progress. My wife, who died shortly before me, seems to have acclimatised much more quickly and has already succeeded in gaining employment with a local magazine.


My real problem is that while I am content to slowly adjust to life after death, my wife is pressuring me to commit regicide once again. This causes no end of worry, as not only did it not work out so well for me last time, it is actually the same king. I fear that murdering him a second time would threaten to end our already strained friendship.


I love my wife dearly, and have tried to divert her attention from what I believe to be a doomed enterprise by adopting an adorable kitten named Spot. Sadly, my wife does not share my affection for him and upon seeing him will invariably attempt to shoo him outside. Also, I fear that distracting her with a pet or hobby would not address the underlying problem in our relationship.


I eagerly await your advice. Also, if there’s any chance anyone at your publication would be able to look after a small but very energetic kitten, I would be much obliged.


Yours sincerely,





Dear Anonymous,


Boo hoo hoo! You sound like such a whiny little girl. If I were a man, instead of a lady, I would totally murder that king so hard! In fact, I wish I wasn’t a lady so that I could actually murder him. I would be, like, soooo full of cruelty and thick blood and junk. And manly. Really manly. Just like you should be, except you’re not, because you suck. You big wuss.


Go kill Duncan again, and do it right this time.


Yours sincerely,

Lady MacAbre




Dear Miss MacAbre,


I’ve taken your advice, but I can’t help but feel that I’m just going round in circles. Everything is happening the same as before, only this time people seem to be much, much, much more suspicious of me. I didn’t like to mention this initially, but a lot of people who were around for my first stint on the throne are also dead now, and it’s hard to persuade them that I didn’t kill the king’s ghost. Frankly I feel kind of guilty that they’re even giving me the benefit of the doubt.








It’s fine. Just throw a big banquet. Get ‘em so drunk they don’t know what’s what! Also, if any of these people gave you trouble last time around, this would totes be the time to bump them off. Live and learn, right? Well, learn anyway.






Dear “Miss MacAbre,”


I didn’t exactly study at Wittenberg, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea to plan multiple murders in the “Help and Healing” section of a widely-read magazine. While I’d like nothing more than to see both of you get your comeuppance, I personally would prefer it if you didn’t arrive in the after-afterlife quite so soon.



Banquo’s Ghost’s Ghost




Too late. He’s your problem now.






Not anymore.


Banquo’s Ghost’s Ghost




I think we should see other people. “Till death do us part” and all that. You can keep the cat.


Macbeth’s Ghost’s Ghost’s Ghost

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from Flash Fiction Month 2012 and 2013 collected in OCR is Not the Only Font and Red Herring respectively.