Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why All Writers Should Write Flash Fiction

When I teach a course, I often give my students a writing exercise to start out the day. Most instructors give a prompt and say go (usually something about the topic for the day). But I decided that wasn't very fun and freeing.

So I changed it up. I give them four to five words and tell them to write me a short story using all the words... in ten minutes.

Of course I get the *gasps* of horror.

"Write? You want us to write a story?"             Yep.

"We only have TEN minutes?"                         That's what I said.
"Are we getting graded on this?"                       Perhaps.
"Do we have to read them aloud?"                    Oh, definitely.

Yes, they panic like all students do, but let me tell you that they end up creating some very good shorts! Once they settle in (and settle down), they surprise themselves (and me) with what they come up with. 
I think watching my students go through this experience time and again is what pushed me to start writing flash fiction. 

I had no idea flash fiction even existed until I entered the Tweetosphere. There is a wonderful community of writers who support and challenge each other. One of the ways they do this is through several different flash fiction challenges.

If you are a writer, you probably write long works of fiction or non-fiction. Chapters upon chapters. With flash fiction you are not bogged down by length. Instead, you are challenged to limit yourself with a 100 to 300 word cap. This insistence on word count was difficult  at first, but once I practiced a few times, I found I truly enjoyed the exercise.

Flash fiction helped pull me out of a writing rut - one of those horrible slumps that every writer has experienced. I was forced to write almost every day of the week because there is a new challenge for EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK! It is awesome! Thanks to these challenges, I have written over 1500 words on my current work in progress. I feel a renewed sense of momentum and inspiration. This benefit alone should get you going.But there are other perks with writing short - learning new words, really honing in on what you want to say, discovering punctuation rules that free up more space,  and learning how to cut out the fat (something we ALL need to do with our writing).

Below is a list of a few blogs that host a flash fiction challenge. Please visit and read some of the lovely things people are creating with 300 words or less.

Five Sentence Fiction 
Menage Monday
Tuesday Tales
Visual Dare
55 Word Challenge

So if you have not tried it, PLEASE DO!
If you have, post a comment with your blog address showing your flash fiction efforts.
Also, if anyone knows of more challenges, mention those as well. Remember, I am new to all this awesome-ness!


  1. Like you Rakel' I was amazed at the writing community on Twitter and discovered fantastic bloggers with writing challenges... At first I wasn't sure if 'just anyone' could join in, but they're such a friendly bunch and I started with Five Sentence Fiction' and found it so inspiring and flexible that I took a break from editing and got my brain to work in a less crowded environment!
    I try to do the ones with a bigger time scope...being in the UK, I don't always catch the daily timed ones, which is a pity.
    I also like just finding pictures on Pinterest and using them for my own fiction. Right now I've only posted fiction attached to an online challenge, but I've enjoyed some of your short stories so much I might put some up in the future!

    1. I hadn't thought about the time difference issue. Glad you noted it! I want to try the Five Sentence Fiction next. I love that you use Pinterest for inspiration. This was new to me also. Oh - and please post some short up! I'm sure I'm not the only one that would love to read them.

  2. Wow, you captured this so neatly for me -- both the teacher aspect of things (I've elicited those gasps of horror from my kiddos too), and as a writer. You honor me by including the Visual Dare in the line-up - it was the Five Sentence Fiction challenges and Cara's Menage Mondays that inspired me to offer my own spin on a weekly writing prompt.

    Like you, I am constantly amazed at what my students AND my Twitter/blogging cohorts come out with when challenged with a simple prompt. More than that - I am amazed at what falls out of my own head when I make myself meet the challenge as well! (I am notorious for needing to cut TONS of fat from my writing!)

    Great post! Thanks so much!!

    1. Thanks!
      We teachers have to do what we can to keep our students interested in writing these days. :) I have been reading the Visual Dare posts from writers. Very good stuff!

  3. Thank you for including Menage Monday in your post, Rakel', and congratulations on your win!! :D I'm always happy to see new folks in the challenges.

    Here are some of the other challenges and hosts:

    #MotivationMonday / @WakefieldMahon
    #5MinuteFiction (Tues) / @nicolewolverton
    #ThursThreads / @SiobhanMuir
    #FridayFictioneers / @MadisonWoods
    #FridayPictureShow / @JenD_Author
    #SatSunTails / @jocastaelizabeth

  4. Ooo. I will have to try these! Thanks for the info!

  5. Wonderful post! I agree completely. I recently did a little guest blog post on KD Rush's site and talked about how flash fiction and writing challenges have really opened up fiction writing to me. I would like more writers to do these. I think it strengthens our writing no matter what level we are at.