Flash Fiction; fast and fabulous!
I started writing Flash Fiction for two main reasons: one, to feel that sense of accomplishment in finishing and publishing pieces more frequently; and two, to give back to my readers.
Many writers long for that ‘I’m done!’ feeling, that sense of accomplishment, completion, and having works out there in the world being read! I appreciate that feeling, and it helps me carry on with longer projects, providing little reminders of what finishing a full-blown novel feels like. Through writing Flash Fiction, I discovered benefits I hadn’t thought of: 1. Practicing and polishing my writing skills, 2. I can draft a piece in an hour or so, so I can write a whole story whilst my kids are occupied with a movie or drawing, 3. I can write, edit, and publish a piece in a week (a great and productive gap-filler between larger projects), 4. Readers get a taste of my writing in different genres, 5. I can push my boundaries by trying different genres, characters, and settings, therefore stretching my writing muscle. And boy does Flash stretch that muscle! You’ve got such a short window to get that story across, and every single word needs to count!
I’ve challenged myself to write at least one Flash Fiction piece for publishing each month in 2020 (this is my year for big goals, after all!). I felt the need to up my count of published pieces on Amazon, and to give back to readers. At the same time, I wanted to provide an incentive for my audience to read more of what I’ve written: the hope being that if a reader enjoys a historical fiction Flash I’ve written, they might then choose to read a historical fiction short, or if they liked my contemporary Flash, they may then go on to read my novel. Essentially, my Free Flash Fiction Friday pieces are a ‘lead magnet’ of sorts, but not the main reason I write them.
So, how do I do this Flash thing?
First of all, keep in mind that Flash Fiction is like a glimpse through a window; you’re not entering the whole house, just catching a view. In other words, Flash Fic is short and to the point; you just don’t have the word count to go into depth, so must convey your idea succinctly.
I tend to follow a formula that I’ve developed through reading short stories, blog posts, and articles on short stories and flash fiction, combining what works for me into my own formula. This process is ever-evolving, and I have a base document that I plan and write from that I regularly update with new (and often simplified) ideas. On occasion, I’ve been known to ‘pants’ Flash Fiction (writing without planning first), straight from a prompt if it grabs me strongly enough.
Most of my flash fic starts from writing prompts. A prompt that’s strong enough to capture my imagination will provide an image to start from, and often a character, setting, or problem. There are so many prompts available on the internet, and I’ve collated many of my favouites into a Pinterest board (see them here). I also write prompts and add to them every week which you can see and pin for yourself here.
The following are extended explanations of the steps included in the downloadable document I’ve included in this post for your use.
Hey all you readers and writers out there,
Do you have any tips or tricks to writing great Flash Fiction? Do you want to help other writers get the best out of their 1500 words? Please comment on this post!
Better yet, pop on over to my 'contact' page and drop me a line. I'd love to include a section on this post with tips and tricks from all of you! Please include your name so I can credit you in the post!
I hate wasting time and I bet you do to!
URGH! How often do you click publish on your blog and realise you’ve forgotten to SEO, ALT text images or add in links? It’s such a frustration, a waster or time, a potentially costly occurrence and, as it turns out, completely avoidable. We, as (semi)-professionals, strive for an error-free product, and missed steps cost time, money, and dent our image. Not good for any of us! So, I’ve come up with a solution so simple and easy you’ll wonder why we haven’t all been doing this forever!
This year I’m trialling a new planning format, and I decided early on that some kind of easily accessible list would be essential. Being a trial, it’s not particularly pretty, but it is dead cheap – a left-over 1B5 exercise book that I’ve spent time ruling up to use for planning. Since having children I’ve lost the magic ability I used to have of keeping an entire diary in my head, so I’ve created Planner Foldouts that hold those essential lists that I CANNOT afford to forget. I’ve got one for my Journal Prompts because I tend to lose the loose pieces of paper I used to tuck between pages, and there got to be so many that I’d be leafing through and wasting time every time I went to look for one!
Well, it’s time for that to stop!
Back in my previous life as a teacher, one of the things that became overwhelming was reinventing the wheel every time I went to teach a lesson that followed a very similar format, for example, printing/handwriting. Yes the letter changed, but the general formula for teaching the lesson didn’t. That’s where Routine Plans helped immensely, and this is where this Quick Tip comes in – ROUTINE LISTS. For the printing routine plan I created a general format lesson that outlined every repeated step in teaching all the letters (the steps that never changed, or changed very little). At the bottom I included the formation sheet and dated each letter as we went through. Tada, one Routine Plan instead of 26. Simple, effective, and not a step missed out, paper and time saved. So how can that lesson help save us time and energy in writing (or almost any other process)? Find out below!
“I despise wasting time searching for lists, AND reinventing the wheel every time I want to plan something. Routine Lists on Foldouts are such a quick, easy, and time-saving solution!” – Emily Larkins, author.
It’s a no-brainer, really: Foldout Routine Lists!
My last Quick Tip outlined exactly how to make your very own Planner Foldouts - simple inserts made to fit the inside cover of your planner that can be folded out for quick reference, and folded away when not in use. What makes them great is that they’re attached (so you can’t lose them), and they extend beyond the cover of your book to refer to as you go. Routine Lists are the extension of that – the essential lists and processes that you use often. My prototype planner with one large foldout holds: Journaling Prompts, Weekly Review Checklist (things I need to check I’ve done each week), Story Creation Steps (from idea gathering to clicking publish on my eBooks and making the Legal Deposit for my story (which we’re legally required to do in New Zealand)), and my Blog Post Checklists for before and after clicking publish. Some of these lists I refer to daily, others weekly or monthly, but the key is: I know exactly where they are when I need them.
To create yours:
Consider what you regularly check when completing a task – do you refer to a task list when creating a story? How about steps for editing? Do you use a specific process to write your blog? Here are some suggestions: frequently used hashtags, social media post schedule, daily/weekly/monthly tasks, Time Blocking chart, editing passes list, publishing process, blog post checklist, publishing checklist, reading list, Goals for the Year/Month/Week, inspirational quotes, conversion charts... In your home diary you may have a list of family birthdays, emergency contacts (doctor, plumber, electrician, etc.), appliance replacement part numbers, key dates (e.g. insurance payments, mortgage repayments, bills, children’s activities, etc.). The options are endless. Choose what works for you.
Write out the steps for your process and double check you’ve got all the steps and order correct.
Create a Planner Foldout for your journal/workbook/diary.
Transfer your list or routine to the foldout.
Hey presto! Done!
Now you’ll always have those essential lists on hand at a mere flick of pages. Check out my Foldouts Quick Tip to see how my clever wraparound Foldout makes this process even quicker and easier!
Happy planning everyone,
Do you have a question about it or would you like more on this topic? Do you have suggestions for other Routine Lists? Leave a comment to help others make the most of their Foldouts.
Help, I can’t find my insert list name here!
I’m a note-jotter, list writer, and an idea scrawler by nature. Without a quick tidy now and then, I’ll end up with a desk covered in squares of memo cube, and notebooks with warped covers from my tucking odd scraps of lists inside. Since I’ve had children, my previously exceptional memory for diary dates and lists has faded to almost nothing. I’ve become reliant on writing things down; if I don’t, I can kiss that idea goodbye. One of my biggest annoyances is remembering routines, and beyond that, where I’ve jotted them down.
But there is an easier way!
My magic Quick Tip to help you keep those high-use essentials at hand: PLANNER FOLDOUTS! They’re a quick, simple tool to create and use, and you can make them for almost anything you like. I’m not talking divider sections, or bookmarks, but sections that fold right out from the front or back cover of your planner.
Because of Planner Foldouts, I no longer need to try and recall from memory, or search through multiple notebooks and sheets of paper for items I use regularly. I know exactly where they are and they take just seconds to locate. I can fold a list out when I need it, refer to it for as long as required, and fold it back in when I’m done.
I think you’ll love them as much as I do, so I’ll walk you through, step by step.
Planner Foldouts are a timesaving lifeline I use almost every day. With Foldouts I can free up more thought space for writing. It’s a win-win.” – Emily Larkins.
Create your own awesome planner foldouts!
Planner Foldouts are actually really easy to make, and you can make them to suit you and any journal or planner you’re working from.
For this set of steps, all you need is your journal, a list/set of steps/quick reference table of your choice (I’m using my Start and End of Week Check-In lists. Read more about Self-reflective Journaling here... https://emilylarkins.nz/one-writers-life-blog/self-reflective-journaling-improve-your-focus-in-just-ten-minutes-per-week), paper (heavier paper is more durable), ruler, scissors (or craft knife), pens/pencils/markers, tape (and/or glue). You can choose to measure and rule if you like. If you’re a crafter with a good eye, you can wing it.
Here’s what you do:
1. Decide on a list or reference table you frequently use.
2. Rough out the steps or elements you need to have at your fingertips.
3. Decide whether you wish to have this list pop out like a tab when folded, or if you’d like it to tuck right inside the cover. For today’s example you’re getting the bonus of one that does both: It protrudes as a tab when in use on my desk, or, if I’m taking my book somewhere, I can fold the sheet over again and it tucks right in for protection.
4. My journal is 29.5cm high by 20cm wide. I suggest working to slightly smaller measurements to ensure all foldouts will fold in neatly. When fully folded out, my paper will measure 26.5cm high by 22cm wide (remembering that it folds in). This is the MAXIMUM I can allow to have a tab AND fold it to tuck away.
5. I’ve marked the fold lines on my paper to fold with a 2cm securing margin (which I’ll glue to the cover of my journal. A top tip is to fold this section slightly narrower than 2cm, you’ll see why shortly), and a 10 cm flap. That leaves just over 10cm between the two folds. You’ll want the middle section to be just a bit bigger than the flap so it folds in without buckling (that’s why we fold slightly shy of 2cm). You can trim the excess along the flap to fit if it buckles.
6. Now, fold along your marked lines. Tip: place your ruler on the fold line and run your fingertips along the back side of the paper. This will give you a nice, straight, sharp fold.
7. It’s time to mark your attachment line on your book cover. If you’d like to be able to tuck your foldout right away and have a tab, you’ll need to make sure you can fold along the attachment line and have the whole foldout tuck flat. I took my time with this step to ensure I had enough of a tab edge, and to ensure I could tuck the whole thing in. Once you’re happy with placement, fold your foldout completely closed and mark along the back side of the fold line against the cover. This will help when you stick it in. For permanently tucked in foldouts, move your foldout over so the folded flap doesn’t protrude at all (no tab).
8. Now, glue along the back of just the thin attachment strip fold. Line it up with the placement line you marked in your cover earlier and stick it down. Check that all folds hinge neatly (I suggest a small piece of tape top and bottom to reinforce the hinge area). Also, try opening your foldout all the way out, close the planner. See how it neatly wraps around your front cover? At times, I use my foldouts tucked around the current working page. This is the secret to why they work so well for me.
9. Last of all, transfer your list neatly (and beautifully if this suits you) onto your foldout! If you’d rather complete this step before permanently binding it to your book (just in case you make a mistake), just shuffle this step up to before you get gluing.
And just like that, you’ve created your very own Planner Foldout!
It’s perfectly possible to include more than one foldout. You can tuck them in the front and/or back covers, and if you’re really clever and patient, you can create multiple layers of foldouts. I haven’t gone that far yet, but plan to.
I recommend having your goals on a Foldout for quick reference, your journaling prompts, high-use hashtags and more. If you’d like to learn about Routine Lists (a throwback from my teaching days), join me for my next quick tip, due next month.
Until then, happy planning everyone!
Have you had a go at making your own Planner Foldouts? I’d also love to know what lists you like to keep at hand. Let me know how Planner Foldouts could or do work for you! Tell me about it in the comments section.
Hi, I'm Emily,