Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writing Flash Fiction

This past year, thanks to my participation in Friday Flash, I've penned a great number of flash fiction (stories less than 1000 words). For this reason, I think some might like to see my process when it comes to flash. As with all my articles, my goal isn't to tell you exactly what you need to do (every writer is different), but rather to show you how I create my stories. If this helps you, great; if not, at least you'll get a glimpse into my writing life. And what writer doesn't like a view of how others work?

Most of my flash fiction comes from writing prompts. I usually start by jotting down the prompt at the top of the page. Unless I'm caught by a wave of inspiration, I'll leave it and work on something else, letting the prompt mix with other ideas simmering in my subconscious. When I come back to the page a day or two later, I simply sit down and start writing. It often takes a few minutes for anything usable to flow, but once it does, watch out! The words fly onto the page fast and furiously.

If, on the other hand, I find the words barely trickling out, or worse, not at all, I'll start freewriting. It's a simple process--take a blank sheet of paper and bang out ideas about the story. I don't judge ideas at this point; I put them all down so they are visible. Later I can deem which are worthy to be expanded on. I'll also play "What if?" This works the same as freewriting. I'll ask myself questions about things in the story, usually starting with "what if..." and throw out multiple answers. When I get a few down, I'll decide which one I like best for that particular story. Sometimes that's enough to break the log jam in my brain, and other times I'll move onto a new question. Sooner or later, the story is ready to write.

Once I've finished the first draft, unless the story needs to go out soon, I'll let it sit for a day or two (or a week or two if I'm in no rush) before I revise. I rarely find my flash fiction stories need a major overhaul (I'd rather scrap the story and start another with the same idea instead of moving the pieces around), so I almost always just give them a few line-edit passes (however many I feel it takes before the story is ready). I write most of my flash fiction with pen and paper, but I usually edit them right on the computer (with the typing considered my first revision). Once I deem them ready, I'll send them off to an e-zine or magazine, or publish them on my blog for Friday Flash.

Next Wednesday, I'll talk about the nuts and bolts of how I participate in Friday Flash. I occasionally wonder what other participants do, so I figure other writers must have the same questions. Until next time, keep writing and/or reading.