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!
Welcome to my first and long-time-coming blog post!
Many of you will have read my news page on my website, which has been my hub for sharing about what’s been happening in my personal and writing worlds for over a year now.
You’ll have also seen that back in May I mentioned a new project. Well, this is it, my blog, and it’s taken quite some time to build enough courage to get on with it. I’ve decided to move my news on over to my blog too as it’s getting a bit long-running. Hopefully here you’ll be able to find what you want more efficiently, and I’ll be able to do more with each post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this change: whether you prefer it this way or if you’d rather I went back to the news page, and what you’d like me to post on (Any burning questions? Something you’d like my take on? Please let me know!). I’m all about helping fellow writers get started on their path to writing, and sharing my journey to help others, so let’s do this together!
August has been rather a mucky month all round in my world. Bugs and illness have gone around in a revolving cycle, and I’ve been involved in preparation for both girls’ upcoming stage performances.
My eldest is will turn seven at the beginning of September (how fast did that time go?!), and her school has been busy preparing for this term’s big events: Stars On Stage (performing arts through dance held at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre), and Polyfest 2019 (Maori and Pacifica cultural performances from Otago’s early-childhood, primary, and secondary schools). My big girl likes to get involved, and it seems these challenges are transforming her focus and self-awareness. The theme for their school’s Stars On Stage performance is ‘Everyday Superheroes,’ focusing on positive self-talk, and how our actions toward others make our world a better place. Having been lucky enough to catch a few rehearsals, I have to admit to a few tears of pride in hearing their own voices throughout the soundtrack. It can be a daunting experience for young children – performing on a real theatre stage before a real audience that sells out so fast you’ve got to have your game face on when buying tickets! My mother took on the challenging task of making costumes for the two junior classes – rainbow tutus for the girls (the boys get to wear awesome undies over their leggings), and superhero capes for all. Now she’s a particular woman, my mother. She takes care with each and every item, is neat, measures each time, double and triple checks, and has gone to great lengths to make sure each child has the perfect costume. I offered to help, and she accepted, and somehow our two methods (her careful and individual way, and my ‘how can I do multiple layers at once?’ try not to give Mum a heart attack with my more freeform approach) somehow blended together and we got it done! I can tell you, three hours in the kitchen spray-gluing twenty-odd red hearts onto the same number of yellow capes can test one’s husband’s patience (as well as quite giddy!), and cutting hundreds strips of tutu netting whilst bent over on the lounge floor is rather hard on the bod! The best part of the whole thing by far, though, was seeing our small, country school up there smashing it on stage like pros and overcoming a week of difficult challenges and events to fulfil their goal. My big girl was buzzing afterward, and I was filled with masses of parental pride, not just for her, or for her class or school, but for all the children participating. They all did themselves and their schools proud.
So that’s Stars on Stage down, and just Polyfest to go early in September. I’ll tell you how that goes next month. Both of my girls are in on this – Miss Seven will perform with her school at the week-long festival opening, and Miss Four will perform with her kindergarten later in the week. Boy this parenting gig can be busy at times, daunting too, but ever so rewarding!
On the writing front, I’m gritting my teeth and pushing on. I’d hoped to have my second novel well on the way to publication by this time this year. It turns out novels can be more like unborn children – they’ll pick the date and time their born, not me – and my ‘unborn’ novel has proven to be just as stubborn and overdue as my first! It’s been through two complete scrap-and-start-again re-writes to this date, with something plain wrong in the theme and plot. So, I’ve forced myself to sit down and ‘pants’ (write off-the-cuff) less and plot more. I’ve gone right down to the bones and tried to dig out the deeper issues to explore. This means into the tried and true writer zone of fear: using personal experience deeply to tell a meaningful, important story. In this novel, I’m exposing traits I myself have had to lay bare and overcome. It’s astounding how the simple act of writing about something that happened to you (even years ago) can drag those raw and sometimes ugly feelings writing to the surface again. Those feelings can make just the thought of sitting down to get started feel impossible, and I’ve had to dig deep just to open my laptop some mornings (cue procrastination!). What happens in my novel isn’t a direct recount of my experience, in fact, it’s quite altered, but I’ve used enough elements to make me relate very closely to my protagonist’s plight. My hope is that by using personal experience in this book, I can accomplish three things: 1, I can delve deeper into my own thinking and healing and let go of the past some more; 2, that the experience I bring to the story shines through and enhances the protagonist’s journey; and 3 (perhaps the most important), that people out there experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, especially those like me that didn’t initially recognise mental illness within themselves, gain some insight and/empowerment to change the course of their own journey. It’s scary, demanding, and sometimes exhausting, but it feels necessary; I’m compelled to write this story both for myself, and more importantly, for those in need of encouragement and help to seek help for and overcome similar challenges. I’ve had to put impatience aside. That’s what both my first novel, and this one, are teaching me: writing takes patience, whether you’re naturally inclined or not. It’ll come right in time, and rushing it will result in a story that is less than what it’s destined to be. So, I’m going to plod on. I’ve got plot enhancements to make and research to do, but I feel I’m on the right track now, so here’s hoping I’ll have something new for you sooner rather than later!
Finally, I’ll share this realisation: my experiences as a parent and writer are forcing me to grow within myself. I’m no longer the shut-down victim of experience, incapable of making positive change for myself person that I used to be. I’ve changed, my circumstances have changed, and my thinking has changed. I can control some things and not others, and stressing about it doesn’t actually help. I can stand up for myself and no longer need to worry about how the choice that is best for me impacts those outside of my family. I can say no, that doesn’t serve me, and be done with it!
I hope that by sharing my experiences and thoughts, other people out there, writers or not, can find some familiarity, comfort, humour, healing, learning, or inspiration useful to their own lives. If you have questions or (respectful) comments, please feel free to share!
Until next month,
I’ll start by saying that I LOVE writing prompts. They’re great little nuggets that get you thinking creatively. I use them in several different ways and that’s their other brilliance: they serve multiple purposes and you can use them in whatever way suits you!
I've created three short examples of how I get started with different kinds of prompts down the right side of this post - read, enjoy, or have a try at one yourself.
Read on to find out all about writing prompts and how I use them to enrich my writing experience, and to find links to free prompts and an exclusive printable I've put together just for you!
Please note, images I have used that are not my own are linked to their original source by clicking on them. The creator deserves credit for their own work.
Hi, I'm Emily,