Flash Fiction Tips



Some reminders before you put pen to paper:

1. Flash fiction shouldn’t be more than 1,000 words.

2.  It is NOT easy to get a whole short story into so few words. It requires a lot of PLANNING and EDITING.

3.  Writing Flash Fiction often takes MORE time than longer works.

4.  Focus on the small moments that shape bigger ideas, rather than on the big ideas.

5.  A good idea is to base Flash Fiction stories on things readers already know, such as myths and fairy tales, for example.

6.  To get your word count down, leave out dialogue attributions and in-depth descriptions.

7.  Focus on one central idea.  

Next week, we’ll finish off the series on Flash Fiction by sharing where you can go to read some good examples of Flash Fiction.

Similar, but Different

I recently shared with someone that I am a writer, but later I asked myself if I really understood the difference between being a writer and an author. I decided to find out.

I discovered that although the words might be used interchangeably, they really are different.

An author creates the idea or content of what is being written, whereas a writer uses someone else’s ideas.

But it’s not that simple because a writer can be an author if he/she is expressing his own thoughts or ideas.

And there’s more.

As pertaining to writing books, even if you develop the plot and write your own ideas, you will be known as the author only when it is published.

Even if you write A LOT, but never get anything published, you will be known as a writer—and there’s no shame in that. Lots of good work, great ideas, and a wealth of information/enjoyment comes from writers.

I’ve had a lot of fun writing skits for various groups, poems for friends’ birthdays, etc. That kind of writing is self-rewarding in that it doesn’t need to be submitted and I know it won’t be critiqued. I do it for pure enjoyment. I bet you do, too.

However, if you do have aspirations of being an author, follow these 2 steps:

  1. Write, using your own ideas.
  2. Publish your work.

Did you lose your voice, or just have a “scratchy throat”?

I woke with a scratchy throat. An hour or so later, that was followed by chills and a fever. My energy was zapped and my strength gone by the middle of the day. I called for a substitute and went home to bed at 1:00 p.m.

I remained at home for the next 48 hours, but felt better by the middle of the week. I decided to try to go back to work.  I was able to maintain control of the class (if you’ve ever been a classroom teacher, you know what I mean…kids can sniff out a teacher who doesn’t feel quite up to par…) until shortly before noon when the unthinkable happened: I lost my voice.

That was when I lost control. When no one is listening, the effect can be devastating.

What happens to us, as writers, when we lose our “voice”? After all, let’s be honest, our voice is our writing and if we lose that, well, how does that affect our performance? And, is it possible to regain our voice after a brief lapse in technique, or a period of time when our creativity lags? When we just don’t feel we are quite hitting the mark with our words?

I think there are days, in any profession, when we are just “off”. For whatever the reason— illness, distractions, catastrophic events, difficulties in our interpersonal relationships, even changes in the weather—we just don’t perform to our expectations. We become disappointed in ourselves. We may even feel that we’ve let others down.

May I suggest that it may not be realistic to expect ourselves to function at optimal levels every day—each time the door opens, each time the bell rings?

God grants us grace, so why not follow His example and extend a measure of the same to ourselves? Remind ourselves that it’s o.k.  That although we may strive for perfection, it’s just not realistic to expect it of ourselves in each and every circumstance.

Let’s tell ourselves that things WILL get better because, you know what? They WILL!

You WILL find your niche, again. You WILL discover more hidden talents. You WILL reconnect with those creative ideas!

The computer keys will once again be pounded by a person ignited by the next great thought. That article or book will be completed by someone who was gentle enough with themselves to allow for days when ideas germinated, rather that came easily onto the page… days when they thought they’d lost their voice, only to find out that it was just resting a little…until their heart healed, until the things of life settled down once more, until they learned a difficult life lesson, until they took a break in the middle of the afternoon and went home to bed.


Write or Rewrite?

Here’s what I think. Plain and simple. It’s a LOT more fun to write than to rewrite. In the case of writing, it’s the creative surge within—and as it flows out—onto the paper that makes it so enjoyable.

One moment the page is blank. Within a few minutes, the page is half-filled.

One moment, it is a small spark in the brain. The next, it is a living, breathing, growing organism.

A thought begets another thought. And that thought multiplies into a grouping of thoughts that are just begging to be a story. And that story is NOT GOING TO WAIT!

The ideas are coming so fast that there’s no time to check for grammar, spelling, or errors of any kind. They spill out and if they aren’t acknowledged right away, they fade, sneak, or even run away. It’s hard to recoup them. Often, it’s not possible.

So, like many of you, I have carry a pad of paper in my purse and a notebook in my car. If an idea comes into my head, I pull over and scribble it down. If I’m in a restaurant, a napkin may have to suffice. In the doctor’s office, I once wrote down an idea on the paper liner from the exam table. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

So what happens when you are in the middle of writing and someone calls you to say, partake of luscious ribs from the grill?

That’s what just happened to me. Seriously. In the middle of writing this blog, my husband announced that the ribs were ready a good hour earlier than I had expected.

Now, I couldn’t disappoint the chef (or my stomach) so I closed down my writing program and graced my husband with my presence at the table. The ribs were great and I wasn’t sorry I let them interrupt my writing, but now I am back in front of the computer and I’m stalling…

Why? Because I’ve lost my momentum, my train of thought. I’ve forgotten where I was headed with all of this. Things aren’t quite gelling the way I had hoped. Scratch that. The way I had planned.

So, what should I do? Sit here and wait for inspiration? Pray for instant recall?

I’m gonna give this what I call the “Fifteen Minute Rule.”  This means that if, within the space of fifteen minutes, nothing earth shaking or mind blowing has taken place, I’m shutting it down. That’s right. I’m powering off.

Why? Because it is much more fun to write. Not so much fun to rewrite. (Editing, well that’s just a necessary evil. But that’s not what I’m writing about.) It’s not as exciting when you’ve lost that edge, that quirky way of expressing something ordinary in a new and different way that makes us all sit up and take notice and say: “Wow! That’s sure a new twist” or “Hum, I never thought about it that way before.”

So, go ahead and have a plate of delicious ribs, if you want to. But, as for me, I think I’ll pass—next time.