Flash Fiction

I wrote a story yesterday.

I have been seeking out invitations to submit short fiction for a number of reasons and this one intrigued me because of limitations of subject matter and word count.

Flash Fiction is a relatively new name, I think, but I like it.  It’s certainly better than “Short Short Stories”.  While the person who is accepting submissions has the final say, most Flash Fiction anthologies I have seen place the word count at between 100 and 1000 words.

That is tough for me.  I tend towards verbosity and a certain wealth of description.  In Worms Of Heaven the first ten chapters cover about twelve hours in my narrator’s life. (Granted, it is a very busy day.)

Yesterday I sat down and wrote out a story which ended up being about 1500 words.  Then I went back and cut it down to under 1000.  The first two hundred or so were easy, I was able to find sentences to snip out entirely.

Then I started working on my syntax, finding more succinct ways to frame sentences and omitting needless words.  That was harder.  I like needless words.

Finally I had to reread the whole story, start to finish, and decide what was really important.  There was some of the setup that I was able to cut, trusting my readers to figure out what was going on from context.

I got it down to 999 words and did a final read-through, found two different places where I had left a word out of a sentence, put the missing word into one of them and cut the other entirely.

I’m happy with the finished product.  I think that it retains the impact of the original story. I deliberately went against the grain with it and took it in a direction that I hope none of the other contributors will consider.

We’ll see.  I have another story I want to get to work on, this one with a more liberal word count window.  I’ll be looking for more Flash Fiction anthologies in the future, I think.  It’s good practice for me.


About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Publishing, On Writing, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Flash Fiction

  1. It is good practice. I use short stories as a method to relax the brain. I find there are times in novel writing when one gets really stale. The short story is like splashing cold water on the creative center. nice post.

  2. One of the most enlightening writing experiences I’ve ever had was when I had to chop down Imminent Danger by 25k words. It makes you take a hard look at your writing style, helps you notice trends, words you use too much, etc. I’ve never written flash fiction with the purpose of entering it in a contest/anthology, but you make it sound really worthwhile — and it’s also really convenient, because even with stringent word count limitations, it’s still only a 1000 words! Very cool idea — maybe I’ll try out a flash fiction or two when I get some more free time 🙂

  3. paws4puzzles says:

    I love the challenge of Flash Fiction too. Last Christmas a friend put together a collection of drabbles (100 word stories) I adored writing them and also helped friends and family edit their stories down to size. To me it seems like a puzzle – get the essence of the story out and cut away all of the trimmings.

  4. Jonas Lee says:

    If you like challenges… WriteClubFightClub.com may be something for you.

  5. Millie Ho says:

    Hi Misha, I had the same challenge of verbosity when I wrote an earlier flash fiction piece called “Beware of Joe Pesci”: http://millieho.net/2013/11/16/beware-of-joe-pesci/

    Then I realized you could skip passages of time and still have the reader know what you’re talking about, and did so with “The Wound-Up Bird Chronicle”: http://millieho.net/2013/11/23/the-wound-up-bird-chronicle/

    And when all else fails, just write your synopsis in 25 words or less, and expand from there.

  6. SJ O'Hart says:

    If flash fiction of 1000 words is your bag, have you checked out http://1000words.org.uk/? You find an image on their Pinterest page to inspire you, write a 1000-word story around it, and submit. Some really good stuff in their archive if you’re looking for a quick read, too.

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