ALLISON SYMES - Q&A
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
To accept the need to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite no matter how long it takes. It’s tough sometimes especially to accept the need to rewrite a novel. But I’ve never regretted editing like this and inevitably my work is stronger for it. I’ve been told I’m very good at getting into my characters’ heads.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. Read widely and include non-fiction if you write fiction as factual accounts can spark off interesting ideas to help you flesh out your made up worlds. Be professional with spelling, grammar, how you present your work, following competition and/or submission instructions. Be ready for criticism, fair or otherwise. Always be prepared to take a critical look at your own work after giving it a period of “resting”. You then re-read your work with a fresh eye and it is easier to spot weaknesses in story structure, plot, and characters and so on then. Above all, enjoy the whole writing process from thinking of the initial idea to what seems like the umpteenth rewrite. You need to love it to be able to do it and stick with it – as the actress said to the bishop!
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I don’t have any at the moment! I would hope that people enjoy my work. I’d hope everyone would keep reading and support their local library. I am grateful for the feedback I get from story websites like Shortbread where I post poems and short stories every so often.
What aspect of writing don’t you like?
I always feel a sense of relief when I get the first draft written as I’ve then got something to work with and knock into shape. I’m also relieved to finish a piece of work and then get it out there as that’s what I’m meant to be achieving. I don’t like writing being downgraded or libraries being shut as there will be negative consequences. I love the feeling when the story, the characters and everything is working together to drive a strong plot. I hate badly produced books, vanity publishing and those trying to scam authors. Whilst I’m not totally against Amazon and supermarkets selling books, I don’t want either to destroy bookshops and, ultimately, the publishing industry. I want proper bookshops to survive (and yes I do buy from proper bookshops and Amazon – the great thing with the former is they do pay their taxes in the UK!).
What is your favourite thing to write?
I love writing dialogue regardless of whether I’m writing a script, novel or short story. Dialogue is a wonderful way to move the plot along too and to show aspects of a character’s life (how educated they are for a start, do they use proper grammar when speaking?). I also love reading well-crafted dialogue because it flows, you can hear the character behind it and it brings the story to life.
Do you have a specific writing time?
I tend to write in the evenings and weekends. On the odd days when I’ve a little more time, I will find a piece of work and get on with that. I think it helpful to have a specific time to write on the grounds you’re training your brain to get used to being in full writer mode. It also helps you be more organized and to hopefully help others treat your writing seriously. In putting time aside for writing, you’re taking your writing seriously. You can’t expect anyone else to do so if you won’t.