As a novel writer, I find writing flash fiction daunting. That’s why I’m determined to give it a go. When I looked up how to define flash fiction, I learned that it can be anything from 75 words to 1000 words. The purpose is to say what you want to say in as few words as possible. Word selection becomes extremely important. Nonetheless every story needs a beginning, middle and end.
In writing a story with just a few hundred words or less, it takes a strong red pen to cull it down to the bare essentials. There is no rambling about. There are few descriptions and little opportunity for back story. Everything has to be clear, crisp and clean.
Here are some tips I’ve learned:
1) Write long and then edit down. Don’t try to write short. The first story I ever published was in Reader’s Digest. I wrote it in “Reader’s Digest” length. The story won second place in a national contest and the editor contacted me. He asked me to re-write my award-winning story. He said, “Don’t write in Reader’s Digest length. Write it fully and then we can cut it down.” And, that’s exactly what happened. This needs to happen with flash fiction as well.
2) Because you have so little space, don’t try and create a whole bunch of characters. One or two at most is all you have time for.
3) You cannot spend a lot of time setting scene. If scene is important to your story, count it as a character. If scene is not important, move on.
4) The last sentence must be as powerful as the first sentence. In novel writing the first sentence is probably the most important sentence in the book. As writers we work and work on that first sentence. With flash fiction both the first and last sentence must wow the reader.
Two years ago the Guardian celebrated flash fiction day on May 14. David Gaffney wrote an interesting blog post about the genre. Take a look at his suggestions.
What are your ideas about flash fiction? Have you tried it? What tips would you suggest?
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