Flash fiction, micro-fiction, short-short fiction, call it whatever you want. It’s fiction that’s shorter than 1000 words. Or 1500 words. Or between 500 and 1000 to separate it from the Drabble. Whatever, Flash is short, flash is fun. Which is the first reason.
1. You get results fast
Writing flash fiction is done in a flash. You can clunk out a complete, polished, finished flash in an hour flat. If you’re on a roll you can finish it in ten minutes. I’ve done that. And it was fun. And it got published.
2. You learn brevity
“Brevity is not just the soul of wit; it is damned hard work.” – Mike Resnick.
Well, Mike’s got it right[note]He’s also got 5 Hugo awards, but that’s another tale entirely.[/note]. Writing flash is hard, especially if you like to meander. Learning to write flash, to cram an entire story into so few words, will clear out a lot of bad habits. That lengthy coffee-drinking scene in le petit bistro? Gone. Your MC thinking about cows in boots? Erase-O. Your stories will be leaner, meaner and a lot more noteworthy once you polish up your flashing.
3. You learn to pick the lighting over the lightning bug
That’s a Mark Twain quote. Twain wrote a lot of short stories. And he got very, very, very good at the whole “difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug” thing.
4. Its so short you don’t have time to think you suck
I suck. My writing sucks. I know it about two hours after I start writing. Which is why flash fiction is so great – I never have the time to run out of awesome before I finish. Every new idea is great, fresh, amazing – and then the story’s done. No impostor syndrome. No doubt. My flash is great!
5. If it sucks you haven’t lost much time writing it
OK, sometimes my flash sucks. So what? I only spent an hour on it. I could write another one right now. I don’t even need to do anything with that old one. Hey, I’ll just toss it into this drawer until the doubts fade, all right?
6. If it sucks you can file it away as “practice” (with a clear conscience)
Sometimes my flash sucks giant lemon balls[note]That’s citronella for those of you who live in mosquito infected places[/note]. But that’s OK. It’s just practice, like a 5 minute speed writing burst before starting a writing session. And if I learn to write a complete story in those five minutes, so much the better, right? Practice makes perfect.
7. No need to outline – you can pants all the way
Come on, you really going to outline a 2 page story? What, can’t find the semicolon without a map? Just write, dammit!
8. Try outlining a flash – it’s great practice
All right, outline it. Outline a flash story. I dare you! I double-dare you! MWAHAHA, you’ll learn my minion, you’ll learn the ways of the outline.
9. Doing a flash with a 3 act structure is insane
Yay, yay, yay, 3 Act Structure in 939 words flat. Awesome story. And the Moscow Metro did open.
10. Experiment, experiment, experiment
Give me your weird stuff. An ensemble cast featuring only a schizophrenic coprophage? A ode to a plastic sushi bowl? A spaceship built of cats? Try it out and write it down. No pressure dude, it will be over in a flash.
11. There are actual markets that buy flash
Yeah, real money. Check this list.
12. If you post it on your blog you don’t lose much
Write it and post it, you’re not losing mucho dinero anyway. Show it to your fans. Show it to your cat. Show it to your grandmother. OK, maybe not the coprophage one.
13. Two words: Flash Fanatics
Where else do you think National Flash Ficiton Day comes from?
14. You can finish, polish and submit in one afternoon
15. It’s way easier to get critiques for an 800 word manuscript than an 80 000 word one
Dude, critique my mammoth fantasy epos. It’s got, like elves and trolls in it. In hats, yeah?
16. Easiest way to “Collected Works of …”, evah!
17. Great way to build interest in your longer works
Hey, it’s a given. Spread a bunch of flash fiction stories about Shallon Hamfist, the one legged monk of Nah and suddenly people will love your Hamfist vs. the Evil Noodle Ninja novels. True. Works. Real writers do it all the time.
18. Great way to play around when writing longer works
Toss that novel in the towel and wrap your head around a short, short story. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s still writing. And you’re honing your skills, so don’t mind that nagging novel-loving muse you’ve got, yah?
19. Great way to get even with characters
Don’t like where your protag is heading? Did your sidekick just claim center stage? Just kill them in a flash. Torture them. Maul them. The put the story in a drawer. Next time they argue, pull it out and wave it at them. They’ll get in line fast. MWAHAHA.
20. Did I mention practice?
21. You don’t need any preparation to write a flash
Hell, you don’t even need to write. You can tell it to a friend. Dictate it into a phone. Start right now. Dude, Gal, show some nuts and pet your squirrel. Pick up that keyboard and type away. Please.
22. You can write a flash in 10 minutes flat
Come on, it will only take a couple of minutes.
23. No pressure – it’s only flash fiction
You don’t have to worry. Just write.
25. Writing prompts
Seriously. Get a writing prompt right here and start right now.
26. A flash a day keeps the doldrums away
Writing a flash is a great way to jump start your creativity. Just imagine your hero in the bath. A chocolate bath. With sprinkles. In the cave of a dragon. Who wears a chainmail bikini. Hmm….
27. Teaches you to focus on the story instead of the words
You can hammer away at your words as much as you want but flash fiction is a short story. Story. Don’t forget the story. Without a story you’ve got a modernist reinterpretation of a Shakespeare sonata[note]Yes, I do know the difference between a sonnet and a sonata.[/note]. Focus on the story. You’ve got to tell an entire story in 1000 words flat. Did I mention practice?
28. Teaches you how to end a story
Look, in a novel you can drag out the ending for pages. Chapters even. Flash don’t do that. Flash ends. At the right spot. And you’ve got to find it Every. Single. Time.
29. Teaches you how to hook a reader
No loitering. You’ve got to hook them in the first sentence or your story is over before it’s even begun, capisci?
30. 30 days, 30 stories challenge
It’ll change your life, promise!
31. Teaches you how to keep the pace
A slow flash? Doesn’t exist. You can’t give them a breather because they’re not invested in your story yet. No five-previous-chapters-to-build-interest. Keep it rolling or the readers will bail.
32. Kills your fear of failure
Flash enough and you won’t be afraid of flashing. Lots of your flashes will suck. Lots of your flashes will be great. Lots of your flashes will mean that you’ve written a lot. Keep doing it. You’ll wear that fear away.
33. Kills your fear of perfection
It’s just a flash, it doesn’t mean anything. Who cares if it’s perfect, it’s just practice.
34. Teaches you to find the core of the story
No spare meat in flash fiction. You’ve got to pare it down, remove all the subplots, hint at distant mountains and focus, focus, focus. Yeah, you’ll learn to handle a plot. You’d better or you’ll never write a flash in this town again, mister!
35. In late out early
ILOE. Trim that sucker down, girl! Start at the last possible instant before the nuke goes off and sends Princess Welmina to Mars. Cut it as she slogs the mutant prince in the nuts. Everything else is novel. This is Flash.
36. Forces you to focus your descriptions
What does a cucumber taste like? You’d better have an answer quick or else cut the cucumber. Focus your descriptions. Flash that lightning bug.
37. Forces you to focus your dialogue
As you know, James, the art of telling a good flash story relies on the dialogue being well composed. Bite you, Bob. Writer, cut that sucker!
38. Shows where you stink
Bad writing is much more visible in flash fiction than in longer work. In a novel you can hide bad writing behind a clever subplot, or a chapter of good writing, or the readers really, really caring about your characters. In a flash it will stick out like a sore thumb on a Vegas steer.
39. Shows you the plot flaws
When you see your entire plot laid out on a single page, that’s when you spot the flaws in it. Guaranteed. A flash is like an outline except it’s a complete story as well.
40. Bragging rights
Where else can you brag that you’ve written over a hundred stories?
41. Flash is fun
Key point here. Flash fiction is fun. No pressure means you can do crazy stuff without feeling any guilt about it. You get to spread your wings and jump from the Eiffel tower in nothing but a neon tracksuit and an extendable thong. Wheeee-splash!
42. You forget them fast
When you write a flash, especially when you write a flash a day, you tend to forget what you’ve written real fast. That means that you’re not reading from your memory when you look back at your stories, you’re seeing what’s actually on the page. No need to put your novel on the shelf for three months so you can edit it, a flash will be fresh the next time you touch it, guaranteed!
43. You forget them fast
Forget your mistakes and your lingering doubts. That horrible stinker? Good riddance, yesterday’s news. A new flash awaits!
44. You forget them fast
Others forget them, too. So you can show your story to others without embarrassment. It’s just a flash. Something I tossed together over lunch. Noting big, you know, me being a writer and all. And if you don’t like it, I’ll show you another one tomorrow.