Why Write FLASH FICTION?

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:

  1. A novel is a huge project that is not easily finished
  2. 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.

Second, if you write a good short story and can get it published, that will go a long way with agents and editors who might be interested in you.

  • 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.

 

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Comments

  1. Linda Bonney Olin says:

    This is great advice. While I’m working (and working, and working) on my first mystery novel, I stop occasionally, as the spirit moves, to write short stuff–in my case, Christian poems, dramas, devotions, bible studies, and songs. As Ben says, this refreshes me and my writing, plus the small stuff has given my fledgling writing career a few publication credits, which = credibility. Now that I can point to my work in magazines and online sites, and to my song book on Amazon, my saying “I’m a writer” gets a lot more respect than it did before. Earning a few bucks here and there doesn’t hurt either. 😀
    I’ve never written short stories, but I’m eager to see Ben’s How-To. You never know …
    Linda

    • I’ll post HOW TO write them tomorrow and an exercise on Wednesday or Thursday. Let me know if you submit one and get it published. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great post. My first success in writing came from short stories. Going over to check out Ben’s website. Thanks Michelle!

    • Hi Pat! You should dig those short shorts out and submit them to Ben for publication. Do it!

  3. Hi, This site is fabulous! Now that I have won the Best Juvenile fiction book across North America I feel I am able to share my thoughts with such a plethora of talented writers. I really am just an author like every person on this board. I try and write and think and create something so surreal and fantastic that will be read over and over again. I hope! My point is, sorry for the waffle; I have several short thought provoking stories of real life which could happen to anyone. Please contact me if you would like to see them.
    Kind Regards
    Rayner Tapia
    http://www.theadventuresoftommcguire.com
    http://www.booksbyrayner.wordpress.com
    07946 516942

    • Hi Rayner! Thanks for visiting RANDOM and commenting here. I’d love to read your shorts. (I think I see them in my inbox. I hope so.) I’ll visit your sites soon, too, and get back to you. Congrats on willing the BEST JUVENILE FICTION book. Wow! Maybe you’d like to guest post here. I’ll get back to you soon.

      • Thank you for your kind comments and interest. Of course I would love to submit my short stories and I would love to post them onto your site. I am not making any financial gain as yet so if my writing only gains interest then perhaps this is more of a real payment. Logic there somewhere 🙂 Plus everything comes to those who wait!. Let me know when and where to post my short stories and I look forward to recieving your questions or phone-call maybe.

        • Rayner, read the rest of the posts this week on Flash Fiction. Instead of posting your shorts here why not try to submit them somewhere for publication and compensation? I’d be happy to post a short story here, but I think my readers might be more interested in your writing journey, how you won your award for The Dream Catcher and a little about self-publishing. I’ll get questions together soon and send them your way. Thanks for your interest!

          • Hi Michelle

            Yes I would love to submit my stories. I would also like to as you suggest submit information and prehaps assist on the someimes ardeous journey in self-publishing. I look forward to hearing from you. Keep in touch.

            Rayner

  4. Vie Herlocker says:

    Michelle, I love reading your blog–excellent information as always. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series.

    • Hi Vie! Nice to see you here. Thanks for your comments about Random. I love to hear the content is helping others.

  5. Robin McClure says:

    Love your reasons for writing short fiction. Makes tons of sense. 🙂

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