Entries tagged with “flash fiction”.
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Mon 16 Dec 2013
by Gay Degani
Jim Harrington, who is doing a bang-up job here at FFC, invited me to answer his question, “Why do you write flash fiction?” Here are three big reasons.
1. Malcolm Gladwell
Not him, but his 10,000 hours. Maybe not his 10,000 hours (according to Wikipedia they belong to Dr. K. Anders Ericsson); however, it was from Gladwell’s book Outliers that I first heard about the idea that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at complicated skills such as playing the piano or programming a computer or—what I’m interested in—writing something good.
Of course, 10,000 hours is 10,000 hours whether you spend time on a novel, novella, short story, or flash, but by definition, practice is repetition. So if someone’s goal is to “write something good,” which of the above formats allows a writer to draft a story, rewrite it, workshop it, revise it, let it simmer, rework it, revise it again, ask three friends for more comments, edit it one more time, proof-read it, and send it off to ten of your most desired publishers, all in the course of one or two weeks? Flash fiction.
2. It’s Trite, but Writers Write
Only through practice can a writer understand that beautiful words must, in the end, mean something.
If a writer practices over and over again by putting together 300, 700, 1000 and 1500-word stories, he will repeat the writing process over and over in short amounts of time. The day-to-day act of creating allows writers to become immersed in the work and immersion brings a kind of “muscle memory” to the act.
A writer of flash must constantly craft new characters, set scenes, find precise, evocative language, and nudge out meaning. A writer of flash comes quickly to the need for originality and surprise in story-telling, that characters must be individuals with different problems, different fears, different coping mechanisms, and that incorporating lines or phrases about time and place will anchor a piece, yet must be deftly done. And these are the obvious elements.
Only through practice can a writer understand that beautiful words must, in the end, mean something. Not necessarily a big something, but a spark of insight into another person, a moment of self-awareness, the reinforcement of a universal truth. Good stories contain meaning because style, diction, imagery, symbolism, allusions, and tone are seamlessly woven into the text.
Flash fiction not only allows a writer to practice literary elements, but it demands that she use them, and the stories demand it because they are short. Every word counts in flash and every word that brings more than one meaning to a sentence, a paragraph, or a whole work, is a word that must be sought after and found. Writing flash engenders an appreciation of the power and nuance of language, and prepares the writer to take on a variety of challenges that stretch skills and deepen the work.
3. Perfect Diamonds
Which is more beautiful, a solitary diamond flashing in the sun or a diamond necklace designed so that each stone sparkles in harmony with the others? There is no real answer. It all depends on the quality of the carbon, the cut of the stone, the presentation. And it’s about preference too. One person might choose a solitaire over a necklace, a stickpin over a brooch, or decide to snatch the whole treasure. Another might desire only one, and then crave and seek the other. It’s up to the individual.
When it came to writing–and I’ve been writing a long time–I couldn’t always see my way through the different rules, guidelines, trends, nuances, techniques, and hazy mythological clouds that surrounded what I called the “glass mountain.” I could see inside, what others managed to achieve. I could climb all around it, but I could never suss out exactly how to get inside. I realize now it’s like walking into Tiffany’s and having someone tell you can look at the diamonds, but you can’t touch and you certainly can’t buy.
In diamonds and in writing, it’s about figuring out what works. I’m sure I’ve spent 10,000 + hours writing all kinds of stories, long and short, with a good amount of flailing in the dark, and though I make no claim to expertise, it is through flash fiction, I have finally gained enough confidence and skill to push on. Everyone is a beginner, but how long a writer stays a beginner is up to the writer. Pick a strategy. My strategy was flash fiction.
In an article that touts how practice brings expertise, I am a little embarrassed about this analogy. I could use “flowers,” I suppose, how a single amaryllis in afternoon light can speed the heart and how sometimes walking in a desert of poppies, thousands of them dusty green and orange, can do the same thing. But I like the reference I chose because good writing is as beautiful and precious as diamonds.
Gay Degani has published on-line and in print including a chapbook, Pomegranate Stories. Every Day Publishing is releasing her novel, What Came Before this winter, serialized on-line and in print. She is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly and founder and editor emeritus at Flash Fiction Chronicles. She blogs at Words in Place where a list of her stories can be found.
Mon 25 Nov 2013
Posted by Karen Nelson under Flash Fiction, Process
by Sarah Crysl Akhtar
…because flash stories don’t prey on your mind the way a novel would, writing them is refreshing rather than exhausting.
A few years ago I had an idea for a story, wrote it, and felt pretty good about it. But it was well over 3,000 words and I was just beginning to discover the joys of flash.
Occasionally I’d take a look at what I suspected was a somewhat overgrown effort, make a few minor edits, and close it up again.
A few months ago, an entirely new opening for it just popped into my mind–that, if used, would change the story’s structure, mood and resolution entirely.
And finally make it come alive.
Now I’ll never know if some publication, somewhere, would have liked the original. I demolished it.
One of the gifts of flash, for a writer, is that you can have a lot of little pots simmering on the fire at once. If something isn’t gelling, something else might be. As with any craft, you begin to develop the sense and feel for when a work is ready, or not, and because flash stories don’t prey on your mind the way a novel would, writing them is refreshing rather than exhausting.
I’ve said in other places that I prefer writing to be solitary work, and I feel that workshopping is, necessarily, the killer of spontaneity. I believe that an essential ingredient to creative growth is developing and refining your intuition; letting the voice of the story mute your own; learning to recognize for yourself when something is ripe, and when it isn’t.
Sarah Crysl Akhtar‘s shtetl forebears gifted her with the genes that impel her to make much from little. So of course she writes flash fiction, cultivates orchards on her windowsill and bakes fabulous shortbread. Her son gives her what’s immeasurable–the best of all possible worlds. (Less miraculous fruit of her labors has appeared on Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Online and Perihelion SF Magazine.)
Mon 11 Nov 2013
by Joanna Sterling
So you’ve spotted an advert for a piece of Flash Fiction, it’s your chance to get your work to a wider audience. Your heart says – Go for it. But your head should be saying …
#1 Does the brief interest me? – however much you want to have your work published, is it a theme, topic or genre that gets your creative juices flowing? If Sci-fi isn’t your thing then try as you might to shoehorn your story into the genre it won’t work – not even in a flash fiction.
#2 Have I read the brief properly? – this may seem obvious but when an editor or publisher is looking for something specific to fulfill a slot or as part of a project, then that is what they are looking for. They don’t want your story that’s been languishing in the drawer for six months brushed off and given a new title.
#3 Am I just topping and tailing? – a common mistake, to take a perfectly good story in its own right and top and tail it to fit the brief. For example, change the setting or the sex of a character. It rarely works and publishers/editors can spot this ruse a mile off.
#4 Have I checked out past work? – don’t just launch in. Read the type of work the website or magazine publishes. What is the ‘house-style’? This also goes for the way they handle text and punctuation, do they use speech marks, for instance?
#5 Have I edited and edited again? – check there are no spelling mistakes and grammar errors. I know this sounds boring but poor English is slapdash and in a piece of work that may only be 300 words long there is no excuse.
Joanna Sterling writes short stories and flash fiction. She has had a number of stories published in magazines, anthologies and online including English PEN. As part of National Short Story Week Joanna hosts ‘Telling Tales and Taking Tea’, a series of events for the local community bringing the wonders of the short story to a wider audience.Joanna has a website ‘The Casket of Fictional Delights’ where she showcases her own and guest writers’ short stories and flash fiction. Joanna has devised Tube-Flash and, in conjunction with Transport for London, this collection of flash fiction stories mapping a journey around the London Underground is being published on her website and recorded as audio podcasts for iTunes.
Joanna lives in London with her husband and her ever growing collection of brooches. Her website can be found at www.thecasket.co.uk, and you can follow her on Twitter @casketfiction or Facebook at www.facebook.com/casketfiction
Sun 3 Nov 2013
Posted by Karen Nelson under Karen Nelson
by Karen Nelson
Humans are made to learn… sometimes in spite of ourselves. But the truth about education is that it can be found in some pretty surprising places, and it usually comes tuition-free. As students of life, we have many options: taking a traditional class on a topic that intrigues us, working with a mentor in our field, attending a special event, such as a reading or conference, or just observing how someone we admire works through their process.
Flash Fiction Chronicles is the perfect resource to explore all of your writing options in one place. Just in the month of October, we met a diverse group of professionals eager to share their knowledge.
In Christopher Ramsey‘s creative writing class, he offers “simple, yet vague, advice: write a scene, avoid too much description, utilize dialogue to reveal backstory, start the story in media res, don’t use exclamation marks, and avoid the word THAT.” Sounds simple – until you try it.
In Beth Lee-Browning’s article, “Inspiration“, “a ‘teacher’ can take on many forms and isn’t limited to a classroom or mentoring relationship. It can be a chance meeting at an author’s luncheon, a conversation in an airport, or even the gift of a book.”
Of course, finding the right place to write can take a lot of time, too. Rohini Gupta admonishes writers to avoid spending too much time on achieving the perfect environment, though.
It is never a place, it is a mindset. Places are not quiet, you are.
As a fan of prose poetry, I was especially intrigued by Bill West’s “Crossing the (Invisible) Line“, which examines the similarities between prose poems and flash fiction, and helps us know how to differentiate one from the other. Learning from other genres is an instant boost to our own.
If you’d like a deeper analysis of an acclaimed flash fiction piece, be sure to review Susan Tepper‘s reasonings about “Young Love”. Then apply her techniques to your latest piece!
Sometimes, we just need a nudge of encouragement to keep us going. Take note of Sarah Crysl Akhtar’s advice in “What I Am Is Me“, and then post it on your fridge…your desktop…your forehead…
Of course, some of the best opportunities for expanding your skills is just in seeing how others achieve success. Take a look at these excellent interviews of authors and editors in the writing community:
This month’s offerings were so numerous, it was like a college course in thirty days! Be sure to take advantage of the great tips from our contributing authors, and keep writing!
Karen Nelson is a writer and teacher in Southwest Missouri, specializing in educational and nonfiction works. She is a staff writer for Flash Fiction Chronicles, Curriculum Coordinator for Goldminds Publishing, author of four books and numerous stories and articles, and serves on the boards of various writing and literacy organizations. When staring at a computer screen gets to be too much, Karen wanders outside to her chickens, rabbits, and miniature horse, who are always good for gaining perspective.
Thu 24 Oct 2013
by Bonnie ZoBell
Randall Brown, founder and managing editor of Matter Press, teaches at Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press, 2008), his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field, and he appears in the Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction (W. W. Norton, 2010). He blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net and is the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.
Bonnie ZoBell: So glad you finally had time to talk. You’ve got a lot going on over at Matter Press.
Randall Brown: Thanks for this opportunity. Matter Press has an online journal, the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, a blog that is currently publishing writers’ top five lists, and the press itself, which recently published Tara Laskowski’s book of dark etiquette Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons. The journal publishes condensed fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry each Monday—and a visual arts series each Wednesday. Also, as a fundraiser for the press, we just published A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction, a 300+ page guidebook that provides various ways to make writing flash!
BZ: Does Matter Press have a philosophy?
RB: Here is Matter Press’s mission statement: Matter Press is a community-based, non-profit 501(c)(3) literary press that publishes an online literary journal (The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts), manages an annual short prose chapbook contest, and supports a regular reading series. Matter Press focuses on supporting emerging and established authors working with condensed forms of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and visual arts.
BZ: What would you say your press is looking for in the way of fiction chapbook submissions?
RB: To get the press started, Matter Press solicited some favorite writers for chapbook submissions, including Kathy Fish, Jeff Landon, Carol Guess, and Tara Laskowski. The press’s first open reading choice, Karen Dietrich’s Girl Years, was a collection of creative nonfiction flash. During the open reading period, Matter Press is looking for a prose collection (prose poetry, fiction, and/or creative nonfiction), 25–40 pages, each piece under 600 words. Individual pieces in the manuscript may have appeared in journals, both in print and online, as long as the entire collection itself is unpublished.
BZ: What mistakes do you see writers making who submit to Matter Press?
RB: As a submissions’ reader, teacher, workshop participant, editor, and lover of flash fiction, I might have read 20,000 or more flash fiction pieces. The most common mistake I see is for writers not to think about all those other flash fiction pieces that have come before a reader’s eyes. Something surprising and different and exciting (yet organic to the piece) is sometimes missing from submissions.
BZ: What’s your idea of a perfect submission for a fiction chapbook?
RB: Formatting, formatting, formatting. So many chapbooks have odd formatting, with stories appearing at the end of another story, spaces after every paragraph, font changes, and the like. Perfectly formatted chapbooks. That’s what Matter Press is looking for.
BZ: Name a few writers whose fiction chapbooks Matter Press has published and tell us a few words about their chapbooks.
RB: Kathy Fish’s Wild Life, undomesticated flash fiction; Jeff Landon’s Truck Dance, semi-short stories; Carol Guess’s Index of Placebo Effects, two women, a plane crash, and too many cameras; Karen Dietrich’s Girl Years, where memory and imagination intersect; and Tara Laskowski’s Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons, the way people conduct themselves in situations that Emily Post would never write about.
BZ: If you could put a fold-out in one of your chapbooks, who or what would it be of?
RB: Like a centerfold fold-out? I like the moment before the big bang as a metaphor for the press, so something like that. Maybe it explodes a little when you pull it out.
BZ: Talk a little about the production of your Matter Press’s fiction chapbooks.
RB: We usually publish 9 X 6, but we did do a 6 X 9, and the press has recently finished A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction (as a fundraising project) that is paperback sized. We generally have color covers but black & white interiors. They are perfect bound, unless they are too tiny and need to be stapled. The page range for the open reading period is 25-40 pages.
BZ: Do you accept manuscripts all year round, or only during certain times of the year?
RB: Just during the open reading period. The next one isn’t for awhile: September 2014.
BZ: Is Matter Press interested in in fiction chapbooks from new writers who haven’t had books or chapbooks published before?
RB: Matter Press is interested in new writers, but it sure helps sales if the writer has a network of some interested readers.
BZ: How many stories in the chapbooks submitted to you do you like to see already published?
RB: It’s not a consideration at all.
BZ: I really appreciate this, Randall! As a newish press, Matter Press is very strong with work by some great writers. Our readers will be grateful to know what you have to say.
Bonnie ZoBell’s fiction chapbook The Whack-Job Girls with Monkey Puzzle Press was released in March 2013 and her short story collection WHAT HAPPENED HERE is forthcoming with Press 53 in spring 2014. She’s received an NEA fellowship for her fiction, teaches at San Diego Mesa College, and is Associate Editor of The Northville Review. For more information, visit www.bonniezobell.com.