Emeo's Wish This was my first foray into flash fiction. I have written vignette's and non-fiction of less than 1000 words, but in neither case was word count a consideration.
1000 words is helpful due to the effort involved in seeking out and cutting (or reshaping)unnecessary or lengthy passages. Shoehorning a big idea into a small box is the downside. I have since expanded the story by nearly four thousand words.
I defined a story from the triggers after only minutes of deliberation. I've use devices like this to start other stories. These were broad enough in scope for any genre. Fun stuff.
'I don't understand' is a fair assessment of the crits I've received. This is due in part to the necessary condensation of the material for the format. (Too big an idea.)
Secondly, I noted a difference in trust between two people who critiqued the story before I sent it in, and my fellow contestants. My readers trust that I'm a skilled enough writer to create an impression with implication. I often rely on the reader to imply certain necessities in a story. I say this with confidence, because a couple of contestant critiques mentioned that they didn't understand what happened, and then went on to detail what happened with perfect clarity. Yet, two readers thought I wrote a very good story, while contestants were mostly lost - I need to write for a wider audience.
Thirdly, I relied too heavily on sensory description and implication. There are images, sounds and smells that have implied meaning. Based on this, I got, for me, the killer crit, "I had to go back..." I learn from this kind of crit more than any other. It means that the reader feels he/she missed something and was compelled by that feeling to quit active, immersed reading and go searching the manuscript for an answer. It's a deal breaker, a bad one. And it's all on me.
One lesson is that objective time doesn't define the amount of words needed to write the entire story. My story took, objectively, about half an hour of the MC's time - including the chapter break.
Always remember that my story was number two. Kent
Posts: 133 | Registered: Mar 2014
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My first foray into flash fiction, too. Also, horror is not my usual thing, and the level of violence/gore was different for me, too.
The word limit was tough for me, because I'm a longer writer. I'm more comfortable with novel length, and my short stories are usually around 8,000 words. A good exercise for me in getting to the point and telling my story more efficiently.
I do plan to edit/revise/clean up and submit to horror mags.
This was about the 4th flash fiction story that I have attempted. I like doing them because I can be experimental and leave more for the reader to imply.
The word limit is difficult to live within, it is about understanding how big your story idea is, and whether it can be delivered within the limit. How I approached it was to split the story into 4 parts, and set word limits on each part. My first attempt at this was 1076 words long, so I had to go through and prune it down. That, I believe is the reason so many hit 1000 words exactly (or close to) - the pruning process stops when you meet the goal.
Of the triggers, I was glad for multiple triggers. In media res wasn't a trigger for me - any story could start that way and so it didn't actually trigger a story idea. The aroma didn't appeal to me, but both of the other triggers did appeal. I was aware that library is a term in science that can be used to describe an accessible collection of physical information, such as a combinatorial library of molecules, and so when I saw this article, I started thinking about how to collect a library of ice crystals from the geysers, where to collect them and how to store them. Light sails seemed an obvious choice, especially when I found out that asteroids near the L4 and L5 LaGrange Points (the so-called Trojan points - Kent, yes, I completely forgot about the other, non-stable Lagrange points, and will clarify that element in my rewrite) actually orbit around the points like they were planets (only in kidney-shaped orbits). The collection from light sails reminded me of this TEDX talk and the story idea clicked into place, including the crowd sourcing concept and the redesign of light sails (which I may even follow through on, conceptually).
Did the time limit help? I only sat down to write this on Christmas eve (actually, earlier in the day), so not really, except that I waited until it was nearly up to even attempt it. I would have preferred shorter, like around 2-3 weeks, to force me to write. But I understand the competing priorities at that time of year.
I do appreciate the feedback I have received, with several points I will certainly take on board. The ending is one case in point, where for some it seemed a little too vague. I was trying to make multiple statements about the story's conclusion, create some literary ambiguity - not just resolve the storyline which was resolved in the previous paragraph, but create resonance about a number of possible subjects. The first was the potential for the light sail system to find life, despite the many failed trials. But "Each" could also refer to the dragons assessing "each" venture put before them, or Jaiden assessing "each" dragon. Or any such venture that we put up to be assessed, any story, for example, in challenges like this or in the multiple markets that we send them to. Or us, personally, being a library, book and pages to be read and discovered by others, multiple layers wrapped up in single beings or personalities. And despite the fact that "each" is flawed, there is hope that in this search, new life can be found, that someone may buy the story, or it/we can connect significantly to someone else.
I do hope to get this one published. Top of the list is Nature, because of the audience - Rachel, you've published there haven't you. But that is a tight market, so it will probably do the rounds.
Posts: 789 | Registered: Aug 2007
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I learned what I should have known already, that if a story won't fit the flash format no amount of editing will get it below 1000 words. If it is to fit it must show (not tell) one incident, feature just one or two characters, and the milieu or world building must fly off the page in a few words.
Posts: 1796 | Registered: Jun 2007
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Honestly, I think mine was the worst of the bunch, but I'm more than ok with it. I actually worked backwards. I set out to write a flash story and quickly realized there was no way I could tell the story I wanted to in 1000 words. So I wrote the story I wanted to write and then went back and hacked and chopped and rewrote until I had a different but similar 1000 word story.
It was a stubborn attempt at fitting too many characters and too much action into too little space. Still, I don't consider it a waste of time. I think I learned more by reading the other stories of what good flash fiction looks like and I'm happy with the longer story that came from it. I'll have people here read it when it's ready, still need to make some major changes to it. Don't think I'll bother submitting the flash piece anywhere, it was more of a nice exercise than anything else. Oh, and I learned to be more careful about using uncommon words that, while descriptive, may pull the reader away more than draw them in.
I did like the triggers, they helped me focus and develop an interesting story, they were a good stepping-off point and I felt accomplished at having hit them all, even if it didn't necessarily make for a good story.
Lamberguesa, I tried a similar approach but when I'd mercilessly cut it to 1000 words, my most trusted draft reader said, "Dad, it makes no sense."
Posts: 1796 | Registered: Jun 2007
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I'm revisiting this forum one last time to thank TaleSpinner again for starting the contest. I took three days to expand my story and enter it in WotF, Q1, V32. It just received an HM today.
I want to take this moment to encourage those who won or placed high in the contest. If you are amateurs looking for a sign that your work is good enough to publish, know that your success here is that sign.
To those like me who didn't do so well, your future is brighter than you may believe. I submitted my expanded story, without critique, to WotF. Honorable Mention in WotF represents approximately the top 10% of all entries in the contest. HMs have often gone on to publication and one that I'm aware of just received a Hugo nomination. So keep working.