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: http://wigleaf.com/2012top501.htm) 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…

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I am not cool

I’m not cool. I’m not a hipster. I don’t live in Brooklyn. I’m not hipster enough for Brooklyn. I’m not a lesbian. Lesbians are cool and hipster. They get extra points if they have tattoos and multiple piercings. I don’t have any tattoos (or multiple piercings). I’m not sure what kind of tattoos I’d have if I got any, but I probably wouldn’t get cool ones if I did. I’d probably get a tattoo of a butterfly and then my hipster friends from Brooklyn (I don’t really have any) would tell me that’s SO 1980’s. Yeah, that’s probably what would happen.

An editor friend of mine, (in other words, an editor I befriended by sending them lots of emails and they graciously answer,) recommended I read The Chronology of Water. Another editor friend of mine said it’s a fantastic book and she wants to know what I think of it when I’m done reading it. (I just started reading it.)

After two pages of reading it I have an opinion about me, not the book or the author. I thought, yeah, I’ll never be able to write like this. I’m not just un-cool, I’m so far out of the loop on what is cool it’s a freaking miracle any of my writing has seen the light of day. She starts the book by describing how she delivers a stillborn baby. It’s a fucking memoir. Non-fiction. Yeah well, game over, check and check mate. Mad respect to the author, for sure, and I’ll continue on in my un-coolness.

And then, THEN, an author friend of mine sent me an email telling me about that whole Adrien Brody kerfuffle over at MuuMuu House. So I went and read that thing and I was completely horrified and disgusted by it. I guess now when a 21 year old girl (yes, GIRL) decides to be self-destructive and publish her self-destructive sex-capades for all to read like a car wreck happening in slow motion, we’re all supposed to read it and clap and say how cool it is? Well I’m not. It wasn’t cool and I’m not cool about it. And shame on the 40+ year old pervert asshole who took advantage of the situation. That girl needs adult guidance, role models and help, not publishing.

Maybe this blog post is really about how I can’t keep up anymore. I just started reading The Rumpus, and I’m getting hooked on HTML Giant and I regularly read PANK, Word Riot, Wigleaf, Dogzplot, and many other talented writers – and editor-writers too – and I’m running out of time and room in my brain for what’s cool. All these things I’m mentioning are cool, I know they’re cool and THEY know they’re cool.

How does a writer without an MFA and without connections to Brooklyn or Berkeley or any other cool place get known? (Am I worthy of being known…yet? I keep asking people to read my stories, so clearly I’d like to be known.)

And since we’re being honest, I don’t even really know who is cool. I know who I think is cool but even that is my own limited knowledge based on where I’ve been stumbling around on the internet to do my reading. I know what I LIKE and I know what I RESPECT – but is that good enough? I wish I knew the answer to that question, but as I’ve already said, I’m not cool. I don’t know the answer.

I want to hang out with the cool kids, and be in their company, but I think they might think I’m a poser. A wanna be.

I feel like a poser when I look at my stories and their stories. I don’t want to write what they write, I want to write what I write – just better.

I want to be good enough to write the stuff people say…wow, did you read that? That was cool.