Flash fiction contests can do a lot for writers, but it should come with an addiction warning.
We’re coming up on the anniversary of my first submission to FlashFriday, and my first honorable mention. I went from writing sagas to writing not just short stories but… really short stories in no time flat.
What I like about flash is the fact that it has forced me to narrow my focus and cut away even more ‘fluff’ than usual. It has also taught me how to get to the heart of the story. I’ve learned that to keep things short– you usually have to eliminate secondary characters, and find what really matters.
I’ve also learned that there are times when a prompt will leave you cold– and that’s all right. The problem is: I’ve been focusing on the short form while my long form anguishes in edit.
Flash Fiction has been defined as ‘fiction you can read in a flash’ and I’ve met some people who feel that it can also be written in a ‘flash’ (which I think is the equivalent of two ‘jiffies’ and a ‘just a sec’ but don’t hold me to that).
This may work for some people but not for me. I write the heart of the story- then I, the self dubbed queen of sparse writing, usually have to cut words. I was joking around with a fellow writer and said it usually goes “I have to cut 45 words… then 39… 58… add 20…” but there is more than that.
I’m prone to edit errors, where I change the wording and then either drop a word, or leave a word in, which leads to some rather ‘interesting’ typos. This means I have to edit, then read it out loud and if I have time– hand it off to someone else because I can never see my own errors unless I take a break and come back fresh (which is usually a day later and most flash contests I’ve entered are over in a day).
It’s a hassle and the pressure builds up quickly, but you get faster feedback on your work, and though judging is partially subjective– when you get an honorable mention, or that coveted ‘first place’ or ‘winner’… it’s addictive.
Novels take time. They take time to write and then even longer to edit, and polish and smooth, and there’s the lure of instant gratification just a post away.
This week I didn’t enter FlashFriday because I didn’t have the time and didn’t come up with a decent idea until Saturday, and it took me until Sunday as I wanted to check and see how I’d done that I truly realized… I’m hooked.