Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flash Fiction is Fun! And I learned something...

How much fun was this week’s flash fiction challenge for the Platform Building Campaign? 200 words was the biggest challenge for me. My first draft was 648 words. So, yeah, a teensy little bit of editing was required. And it was hell. I really had to work hard to cull the last fifty words, but I’m glad that I did it. It forced me to strip the story down to the bare bones. I tore through my writing like a razor gang, and what I learned will become one of my new rules for writing:

Cull every unnecessary word.

This isn’t a new rule, of course. It’s only new for me. Until I had a word limit that forced me to try harder, I just assumed every word I wrote was necessary. Now I know better!

In other news, my entire extended family is in China for the next three weeks. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to wallow in abject loneliness, I’m using it as an opportunity to write for three whole weeks with no familial obligations hanging over my head. All I have to do is keep this jade plant alive for my nephew Tom:

And write!

In other, other news, I’ll be drawing the winner of Possum Magic in a few days. If you want to enter, leave a comment letting me know either here, or on the original post here. I will be using a random number generator (bits of paper in a hat) to pick a winner.

So, what’s everyone else up to this week?

And what did you learn from the flash fiction challenge?


  1. Many authors, like Stephen King, try to cut at least 10 percent, but here you went and cut over 30. No wonder it's so loaded.

    Like whiskey - the more you distill it down, the stronger it gets.

  2. Flash fiction really teaches you the power of tightly controlled language. It's a very good editing tool!

  3. I was out of my comfort zone with the flash fiction challenge too, but I'm trying very hard to embrace the 'less is more' mantra :-)

  4. "Cull every unnecessary word."


    If all fiction was written like that I would likely never read a new book again.

  5. I learned I can write in class and still (somewhat) pay attention. Causes a headache, but now I know what to do instead of skimming the news next time I'm bored in class.

    I actually had problems initially getting up to 200 words then pruning out 10 or so words. Underwriting is almost as hard as overwriting.

  6. Jen, I thought the same thing! My first draft was approx 280 words and I had to go through and make some significant cuts to my flash fiction. But as a result, it really tightened the overall story.

  7. I've entered a couple of Janet Reid's 100 word count story contests and the same thing happened. Great exercise for learning to pare things down.

  8. @ MC, I'm fairly sure most of my original 648 words were crap, but I was pleased with the end result.

    @ Miss Cole, true! I think in future for editing I'm going to set myself a word count and see what happens. It definitely makes me work harder, and that's not a bad thing.

    @ LOL, Sarah! I loved it! It wasn't an easy way to write, but it forced me to consider every word I was using, and whether or not it could be cut. I needed the discipline!

  9. Steph, as long as it looks like you're taking notes, you should get away with it! I struggled with the last ten words as well. I think it took about thirty minutes of wrestling with it to get it to the 200. Actually I got it to 199, but then stuck in an adjective to hit the 200. There was no way I was not going to hit 200 exactly after all that effort!

  10. TL, It's going to be my motto from now on: Cull every unnecessary word! I can't believe how it tightened up the story!

    LG, I've just discovered a Flash Fiction Prompter app on iPhone. I'm think I'm going to download it and set myself homework every day!

  11. I would love to be in China. And I agree that culling words is the way to go. I've been reading some self-pubbed fiction and it has been kind of tedious because too many words made it through muddying up the sentences. It's not bad, but it's not stellar either. Just kind of "meh".

  12. Excellent points! Looks like the first challenge left you with some awesome mental take-away's:)

  13. Oooo! Possum Magic! WANT! The only good possum is a cute fictional painted possum.

    I'm working on a short story this week. The thing about unnecessary words is, different words are unnecessary, depending on the length of your piece. When you get used to writing flash, it gets hard coming up with necessary words to flesh out the bones. :)

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  14. @ Michael, I wish I'd gone to China as well! I'm very jealous, but at least I'll get some nice presents out of it. I agree with your assessment of a lot of self-published stuff. You can generally pick the writers who used editors, and those who didn't. Self-publishing should be seen as an alternative, not a short cut.

  15. @ Lindsay: I hope I learn as much from the next challenges!

    @ Marian. I will put your name in the hat for Possum Magic. It's a great book! I've never written many short stories -- I just don't feel that the format suited me -- but I think I'm ready to give them a go. Anything that is a challenge has to be a learning experience.

  16. I hear you! Cutting down words can be worse than pulling out splinters. Good for you for buckling down and getting it done!

  17. Thanks, ER! It was hell, but it was a valuable lesson!

  18. brinkka2011 says: Love your post . Really

  19. oooh cutting out the 'dead wood' awesome stuff.

    As for having family away. My new husband is off to India for a month on a medical elective placement leaving me alone to move into our first house (by myself) *sniff*

    I shall forget the unpacking, live of steak and vegies and get some writing done.

    Put that time to good use :-0

    Happy writing

    Sarah (from Brisbane)

  20. Wow, Sarah! Moving by yourself sounds awful. You'd better get some great presents out of that!

    Good luck with the intensive writing. That's me as well -- going to the shops whenever I run out of food, going to work, and spending every other waking moment writing.



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