Brief thoughts on flash fiction

Someone recently asked me what advice I’d have about writing flash fiction so I decided to post on the topic. Since many of you are writers and write flash regularly, please comment and share your tips and tricks too.

Flash fiction, or Short-shorts, are 1000 words or less. Once you get to 500 words you might consider the work Micro-fiction. Pieces of 100 words are referred to as Drabble.

Nomenclature aside, flash fiction is a highly condensed form of storytelling. Flash fiction lends itself well to prose poetry and experimental form because of this extreme compression of the story.

One place I’d recommend a new flash fiction writer go for examples is the annual compliation from Wigleaf. The Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions (link for 2012 selections: are curated by a different editor each year and represent a broad cross section from lit mags all over the web.

Once you find some you like, notate where the story appeared. Put it on your target list for submissions.

Someone once said of writing… novels are easiest, short stories are harder, poetry is difficult. I agree, but since we’re talking about flash, I’d place it as a category between “longer” short stories and poetry.

Poets ensure every single word counts and apply a high polish. There is nowhere to hide in a poem, each word has a life. Flash fiction takes after poetry, you must make every word count and the words selected need to be strong and support the structure of the piece.

When I write flash, I take a critical look at my use of adjectives and adverbs and do my best to replace them with descriptive nouns and “muscular verbs” (my phrase). But it won’t be enough. A good flash locks together like a puzzle; many hours can be spent rearranging the placement of words and sentences.

If one bit of a flash is out of synch with the whole, it sticks out. Those bits need to be removed, and the re-arranging will continue. Let your work rest and re-approach it with fresh eyes. You’d be amazed at what jumps out at you the next day, or a few days later.

What are your secrets to writing flash fiction? How do you ensure the piece is the best it can be?

I look forward to the discussion…