Whether you’re a blogger, poet, novelist, or cookbook author, there are certain things all writers are expected to do. Some of them are obvious: all writers should read; otherwise, how will we know what to create? Likewise, all writers need to establish a habit of writing daily in order to pursue their passion.
But writing flash fiction? If you don’t write shorter stories, why should you write flash fiction?
What Is Flash Fiction?
Flash fiction is defined by most of the writing world as a piece of short fiction under 1,000 words. Of course, exact word counts may vary from writer to writer, but this is a good general guideline to get you started.
Does telling an entire story in fewer than 1,000 words sound challenging? Here are three reasons why the challenge is worth it:
1. Flash Fiction Teaches You to Be Concise
I’ve tried many times to write a story in 750 or 1,000 words and almost given up because it was so hard. Creating a well-defined plot or cast of characters with an intriguing beginning and satisfying end seemed nearly impossible.
But it’s not. Like any art form, writing flash fiction requires practice. Even if you’re not a flash fiction writer at heart, writing it helps you get into the habit of being brief in the best way possible.
Tips for Writing a Good Story Concisely
When you’re learning how to do this, there are a couple tips you should remember to make your experience easier. (I wish someone had told me this when I was first starting to write flash fiction!)
1. Start at the climax. With less than 1,000 words, you don’t have time for an elaborate set up or lead in to the climax of your story. Give as little time as possible to all of that. A few sentences should do. You want the main point of your story to shine.
2. Limit your characters. Characters are so complex, no matter how long your story is. Having to deal with these characters in such a short time? That’s even harder. Stick with your protagonist, antagonist (if you have a physical antagonist), and maybe one supporting character. Any more than three that deserve your attention will be very challenging.
2. Flash Fiction Can Be Written in a Day
One of the best things about flash fiction is that it’s quick to write. It can easily be done in a day, even for the slowest of writers.
Because it’s so short, writing flash fiction can be an awesome motivator. I’m most productive when I set reasonable goals for myself and accomplish one at a time, each one propelling me toward the next. Whenever I finish a task, check a box, or type “the end,” that sense of “I did it. I finished!” fuels me. Knocking out a first draft of a story in a couple hours is such a satisfying feeling.
In addition, regularly writing flash fiction can help you maintain your daily writing habit. It also feeds your creative soul when the business of life gets in the way.
3. Flash Fiction Is Very “Submittable”
What can you do with all of these stories once you’ve finished writing them? After some editing, you’ll find that there are tons of ways to share your work. Google some writing contests, or find magazines willing to publish them.
Even if you choose not to share your stories immediately, having a collection of your best work handy is never a bad thing.
Now It’s Your Turn
Still not sure about this whole flash fiction thing? Go ahead, try it. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy telling a full story with just a handful of sentences. And if you find you can’t stand it—hey, at least it’s short!
What are some other ways writing flash fiction can be good practice? Let me know in the comments.
Take fifteen minutes to plan out a flash fiction story. It can be any genre you want, about anything that excites you, but you have to be able to execute it in a thousand words or less. Not sure where to start? Write a story about a man who gets a phone call he’s been dreading.
When you finish planning, if you still have time on your clock, try writing your story.
Was this experience more challenging than you expected? Even more fun than you thought? Share your experience and your story in the comments below. Don’t forget to give your fellow writers some love, too!