Flash Fiction is a strange beast. It’s basically fiction in a hurry. Not more than 1,000 words, flash fiction can be challenging because you have to get to the point, fast. No rambling, no long, flowery narratives, no chapters. Flash fiction is an entire story, condensed into 1,000 words or less. It’s a whole story that can stand on its own, not an excerpt from a long story….though, I guess it could be if that snippet made sense all by itself. But, I’m rambling…something you cannot do in flash fiction.
Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot of flash fiction. First for a local writing event, then for online contests, now just for fun. And, in writing this super short prose, I’ve learned some stuff. And now, I’m going to share some of that stuff with you. And, if you’re lucky, later I’ll share more. If you want to write flash fiction but aren’t sure where to start, here are 5 tips to get you moving.
Give Yourself Parameters
The event that introduced me to flash fiction offered 3 words that must be used in the story. The contest I enter frequently offers a genre, a location and an object that must be in the story. As someone who has a hard time coming up with ideas, or at least focusing those ideas, these parameters were SUPER helpful to me. As was the word limit. Knowing I had to tell my story quickly AND fit it within the given parameters, well that really narrowed what I could write about. And THAT got me writing.
You don’t have to enter a contest to get prompts. Make them up yourself. Ask your friends. I started doing live videos where I asked viewers for genres and other prompts and then I had to write that story in a week. I crave direction. Maybe you do too. Pick up a book and pick three random words, give yourself a word limit, a time frame and GO. (And if you write something using this advice, share it here!).
Write Past the Word Limit (THEN Cut)
Don’t be too concerned with the word limit…at first. Tell the story you want to tell. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. Then, hold your breath, grit your teeth, and check that word count. Once you’ve got a good idea of how much needs to go, start chopping.
Checking your word count obsessively as you write is a surefire way to stress yourself right out of the writing groove. Promise yourself, and me, that you won’t check your word count until you’ve reached some sort of respectable endpoint to your story. You promise? Spit shake? Ok no, gross. Pinky promise.
Read Out Loud
While this is true for any type of writing, it can be particularly helpful with flash fiction. Pacing and flow are extremely important when you are trying to write a story in 1,000 words and reading out loud can help you gauge that. It can also help you see where you’ve repeated words or thoughts and save you precious words. If you’re shy about sharing your work, you can read it to yourself but I like reading to at least other person depending on my timeline. I can see where they laugh, tell if they’re confused and ask if everything made sense. More often than not, reading out loud helps me catch mistakes and fix errors I may have missed.
Have Someone Else Read It
Again, true for most writing. You should always have someone else read your work before you submit (whatever that means to you) that final version. Outside perspectives are important and other people are going to catch mistakes you missed. If you’re trying to cut words, let them know. Ask them to look for spots that seem too wordy or descriptions that are too…descriptive. It’s hard for us to cut our own words…it’s easy for others.
I hate to say it because I’m usually a panster, but when you are dealing with flash fiction an outline can be extremely helpful. Even if it’s something super informal like a couple paragraphs about what you want to happen, some sort of direction can keep you from wandering off into the weeds. And, since I told you to write past the word count, the less wandering, the better. If you are loyal to your panster ways, at least have an idea of how you want to the story to end before you get too far and do your darndest to write in that direction.
Speaking of flash fiction, in just a few weeks my newest book, Flash in the Dark: A Collection of Flash Fiction, will be available. Coming October 19th, the ebook is available for pre-order right now!