This month I met Ben Erlichman, the editor of SPLICKETY Magazine at the Write to Publish conference. I asked him if I could share his presentation on how to write FLASH FICTION and he agreed. Yay!
This is the first of a three-post series. I hope you’ll stop by Ben’s site by clicking the link above, thank him, and submit your short story based on what you learn here this week.
How to Write Flash Fiction
By Ben Erlichman
As an editor, I have a specific role in the publication of Splickety Magazine. I correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, and all that fun stuff, but I also choose the stories, plan out entire issues (including coming up with ideas for future issues), work with my graphic designer/layout person, and I even sell advertising. Editors at publishing houses or bigger magazines don’t have to do all of that.
I’d like to start with a couple of scenarios that real-life writers often face:
Scenario 1: A writer sits down to write a novel, starts writing, and gets lost in his story, not knowing where it’s going. He feels like he’s wrestling a grisly bear when he was expecting a chihuahua. The project is too large; it seems too daunting.
Scenario 2: Another writer sits down, writes the book, edits it a few times, and feels like it’s ready for publication. She contacts a few agents and even makes a connection with a publisher or two at a writer’s conference, but no one seems interested.
“Have you ever been published before?” is one question of many she might hear from these agents and editors.
Do either of those scenarios sound familiar? They do to me. I’ve been in both of those writers’ spots before. Maybe you have too.
Our scenarios illustrate two problems:
- A novel is a huge project that is not easily finished
- Many agents and editors want to know that you’ve been published in other venues before they will consider representing or publishing you.
In the world of traditional publishing there’s a structure and a process that authors usually have to follow if they want to get published: they write a book, get an agent, and then get a publisher. That’s overly simplified, but that’s basically how it works. It’s comparable to modeling or acting gigs––you usually need an agent if you’re going to “break in” to the business of writing.
The task of powering through a novel and finishing that first draft is not the topic of this presentation. Instead, I’m going to offer you a temporary alternative that may alleviate the stress of finishing your novel: WRITE A SHORT STORY, then get it published.
I mentioned that Splickety Magazine features what is considered “FLASH FICTION.” There are other types of short fiction. For our purposes, I’m going to define them as follows:
- Short stories are typically from 1,000 to 10,000 words in length
- Flash fiction (as I’m defining it) is 300 to 1,000 words
- Micro fiction is anything below 300 words
- Nano fiction is less than 100 words, and often only a sentence long.
Maybe you’ve read this one by Ernest Hemingway? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” That’s nano fiction at its finest.
WHY WRITE SHORT STORIES?
There are lots of reasons why writing short stories is good for your writing career. First, I’m going to share a couple of those reasons with you, and tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to write a good short story.
To begin, if you’re writing a novel, stopping to write a short story can give you a respite from your novel (oftentimes a much needed one).
- Not only do you get a break, but you also get a sense of accomplishment when you finish a short story, something which you won’t get from your novel in its fullest capacity until you actually finish the thing.
- That self-satisfaction can spur you on to jump back into your novel, fresh and ready to crash through the obstacle that’s been holding you back.
- If they see you’ve had a short story published, they process that information in a unique way that affects their opinion of you as a writer (and as a potential client).
- As you know, agents/editors can’t represent/publish everyone.
- The publishing industry has layers of filters to make sure only the best, most marketable writers get published (in theory).
- Getting a short story published moves you through some of those layers because it shows agents/editors that your work is high quality.
- They see that someone has already taken a chance on publishing you.
- In other words, someone has done the initial work and taken the initial risk of publishing you.
- Being published strips away some reservations they may have toward you as a new writer.
Now that you know WHY you should write a short story, come back tomorrow when Ben presents: HOW TO WRITE a good short story.
Please click here to download a FREE issue of Splickety Magazine to familiarize yourself with stories that have sold.
Stop by tomorrow, or subscribe to this blog and the posts will automatically appear in your email inbox.