Monday, March 28, 2011

Flash Fiction and Making Your Words Count

I’ve been drifting away from writing advice in the past couple months. It’s a topic that I believe is a bit overdone by fledgling writers and unqualified people like me. There are some real experts out there who can give you great writing tips, but take it with a grain of salt when someone claims to be an expert. That being said, I would like to share something that is working for me lately.

In an effort to be more concise, I have been trying to create more flash fiction. Most of my stories end at around 1,500 words. This seems to be the absolute lowest limit for most publications for standard short stories, and most want around 3,000 to 5,000 words. There are plenty of markets that accept fiction at 1,000 words or less though, and some of them even pay pretty well.

I looked over a short story that I wrote a few days ago, and it was stuck  around 1,400 words. I didn’t want this story to sit in submission, getting rejections for not quite being the write length, so I went scorched earth policy with my red pen, and dropped it to 1,000 words exactly. When I reread it, I found that the pace was much better, and that I hadn’t taken anything away from the story. I’ve had a few people read it, and they have agreed with this assessment.­

It may have taken flash fiction for me to realize it, but I understand now that I need to apply this policy to all of my writing. It might significantly reduce the length of a novel or short story, but by keeping it concise, I hope that I can keep the reader’s attention.

 I would encourage all of you to try it sometime. Take your most recent work in progress, and ask with each sentence if it moves the story forward. If it doesn’t characterize or move the story, strike it out and move on.

Have any of you had experience with this? What tactics do you use to trim the fat from your fiction?

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