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Author Topic: Short Stories as practice
Member # 9433

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I read a thread today that sparked a thought in me...the term was "flash fiction"...

First, my thought is to write mini fiction stories that could be developed and written in a day, just to get some practice in.

Is that an accurate interpretation of "flash fiction" and would that kind of training take too much time and attention away from the story I am actually writing? Lastly, if it's a good idea, is there a place maybe on this forum for people to critique these exercises?

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Member # 9381

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Flash fiction is a short story that most publishers (in my experience) require a word count of 1,000 or less.

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Member # 8329

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They seem to get a decent amount of feedback in the critique areas because they're short (so low workload for the critiquer). They encourage a writer to obsess over the use of language (not much space in which to pursue maximum impact), and structure (because for some readers, a flash vignette may not be as satisfying as a structured flash story). I doubt there's anyone making a living from only writing flash fiction, but as a tool to lift one's writing game, they certainly have a use.
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Flash isn't just an exercise and it's not intended as practice for a longer story. Writing flash is an art unto itself, (not one that I've succeeded at being published in yet). The goal of flash is to write an engaging story in under 1000 words.

It's certainly fine to treat it as practice to simply work on your skills, but don't underestimate its complexity or how difficult it is to do well.

I would certainly suggest giving it a try.

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Member # 5512

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I can't seem to wrap my head around short stories. I consider every chapter of my novel as a short story in itself, doing the hook, the climax and ending every time. But to write only one... Just not in my nature. Of course that doesn't mean I intuitively write only Robert Jordan style mammoths.

My constant curse: I can never put myself in a single category. Neither can anyone I've ever met.

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Member # 9196

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I try not to think of myself as a particular category of writer, though my natural tendency is for stories tend towards novelette and novella length. For me, an idea is either expressed as a flash, a short story, a novelette, novella or novel solely based on the demands of the idea itself. I ask myself, what is the shortest possible form that this story idea can be expressed in? The story I submitted to WoTF is novelette length because the idea and story needed that length to be fully explored. I have one WIP that will be the shortest I've ever written, mostly likely about 2-3k words, not because I decided it should be said length, but because thats the space that is needed to write it. My other WIP, on the other hand, is turning out to be my longest piece, and will end up as novella-length piece.

So, I'd say, don't worry about whether your story is a flash, or short, or whatever. You will get practice regardless of the story length. The important thing is to write every day.

[This message has been edited by Osiris (edited March 30, 2011).]

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You can learn a great deal by writing flash fiction, just as you can learn a great deal from any kind of writing, but it depends how you approach it.

Thinking that just because a story is under 1000 words, and can maybe be written in an hour, does not mean it's easy to do. I've published around a dozen flash stories but I've written a lot more that went nowhere or didin't work - overall I'd say my "hit" rate (of worthwhile publishable stories vs attempts) is maybe 1/3 or less, wherease with other stories it's probably closer to 1/2.

It is instructive to see what you can and cannot do in a flash story. If you are interested, I suggest subscribing to Every Day Fiction and Daily Science Fiction - 7 flash stories a week from the former, 4 (Monday through Thursday - Friday is for longer stories, and no weekend emails) from the latter. You'll see what a range of styles and subjects there can be.

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Member # 9381

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I recently wrote my first flash piece and found it a lot harder then any other work I had written. That being said it was an awesome learning experience. But, I certainly wasn't writing the piece as "practice."
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Member # 9183

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Flash is tough. I've never written one worth a darn. It's in that in between word count for me.

But short stories in itself is an entirely different art. I enjoy writing both and hope to be successful with both. I would love to have published novels and then put together a "best of" short story anthology of my favorite published short stories over my lifetime.

Problem is that right now my anthology would consist of zero stories. Still trying...

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Member # 9213

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Writing flash is a challenge, the challenge greater the shorter the piece.
One's word selection takes even greater thought and care, and this is the part I like best.
Flash is almost like writing poetry.

Writing flash certainly does not require as great a time commitment as a novel or even a short story. And there is still a feeling of accomplishment when finishing a work, regardless of size.

I recently sold a 257 word piece [THE WART AND THE RABBI]--and, yes, I was not made rich or famous thereby.
But it was not about either, but about honing my craft: cutting the fat and getting to the story core, telling it as richly as possible with the fewest words, and still leaving the reader satisfied.

Having only recently returned to writing, I find I've developed a form of adult attention deficit disorder. Or I am simply struggling with making time to write while working full-time, and preferring to read or watch DVD's or go out with the missus in what free time I have--and it is still ski season in Maine. Or I, too, have fallen pray to the sensory overload and short attention span of the modern Ipod, internet, facebook, texting generation.
I'm amazed I actually wrote a novel last year.
Now I have a half-dozen short stories in various stages of incompletion.
But a flash I can write and play with in just a few days--and I find this rewarding when I find I don't have the time or will to continue one of my longer pieces.

I have another flash (in under the wire at 999 words) that I've submitted and found this length permitted me to create a richer story while still being miserly with my word choices. If the piece is accepted, I'll let my fellow Hatrack Members know. I'd be curious as to what you all think.

And last evening I wrote 3/4 of another one.

For me, with my commitments, I am finding the form fun and rewarding (personally, not financially or professionally).

Dr. Bob

[This message has been edited by History (edited March 30, 2011).]

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Member # 9446

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I think writing FF is a useful exercise. I won a contest to write a column for a newspaper and the length was 750 to 1000 words. I learned a lot and got a lot of exposure to editing and the industry.

I read books on writing, analyzed columns and agonized over every word. At the end of a year, the managing editor asked me to write a weekly feature and paid for the work. Staff members used my columns in writing classes and the editor who hired me said she especially loved the 'story' aspect to my work.

I worked that job for a couple years, spoke with and interviewed fascinating people and learned an incredible amount.

When I read Dr. Bob's thread, I realized I'd been writing the 1000 word story for years and needed to learn and develop the craft to suit this market. It's great practice.

So I'm a believer in short pieces and their ability to reach a reader. Try it out.


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