I had a few alternate titles in mind for this post:

  • How I got the flash bug and why I’m in no hurry to get over it (gag)
  • I write flash, and you should, too (even worse)
  • A flash a day keeps insanity at bay (true, but way too rhyme-y)

[Attention: This post contains no animated GIFs of celebrities freaking out. It does, however, include an awesome photograph by Morgan Sessions via Unsplash for those who appreciate the beauty of stillness.]

So I went with something shorter, sweeter, and all multiple-entendre-ish. Consider it my gift to you.

Great things from tiny sparks

I got all nostalgic the other day last month here on Le Blog and put up a few links and pics of the short stories I grew up with. You won’t find them on your ten-year-old’s school reading list, which is too bad. If more kids read Shirley Jackson and Stephen King, I think we’d live in a better world. Especially if all of Jackson’s and King’s work was in cursive.

But I digress.

Flash fiction is a gift. Mostly to myself, maybe to my readers. (I don’t know about that latter bit, but I have nice writing pals and they tell me I write good stuff. It’s possible they’re being overly kind.) In the spirit of rational self-interest, though, I’m gonna leave them out of it and talk about what flash does for me as a writer and how it just might do the same for you.

I’ve written before about the glacially-slow nature of the publishing industry. My writing pals said it, my agent said it, everyone else in the world said it. So, naturally, I dismissed it as a myth.

The inbox-checking. Been there. The finger-crossing. Check. The constant dread of the weekend when no one does anything. I’ve been there, too. On most days, the only thing that happens is jack shit. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the query trenches or happily married to an agent, at some point you’ve been down the waiting road. And you know what it’s like.

Sooner or later, you’re gonna come upon a fork in that road, clearly marked with a signpost. To your right lie the hamlets of Waiting, Fidgeting, and Insanity. To your left is the great, shining metropolis of Writing, along with its many suburbs. The road on the right is paved, flat, and straight, but it leads to nowhere (trust me on that). The left road is a trail more suited to a billy goat than to a biped, and the Big City is an unknown distance away.

Take the left road. Stop for a night (or a weekend or a month) in Flashville. Here are a few of the gifts you’ll get while you’re there:

  1. A break from that 80,000-word novel you’re writing/revising/waiting for feedback on. You need this break. (Oh no I don’t!) Oh yes you do.
  2. Your own private writing class. Try a dialogue-only piece one day, dream up a kooky experimental form the next, write a story in the form of dictionary entries or text messages over the weekend. Need a prompt? Check out the calendar of themes and contests on Duotrope.
  3. Publications (if you’re writing isn’t crap–or, in my case, if you pray to the gods of Tenacity and Brute Force). They won’t be listed as major deals on Publishers Marketplace, and they’ll pay–if they pay at all–a few cents a word. Believe me, when that first five-dollar check comes your way, you’ll feel all Lovecraftian and Heinleinesque. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling.
  4. Fantastic, freakish, flash-minded friends. Look for them in the publications you sub to, on Twitter, in the flash group on Scribophile. They’ll inspire you, cheer you on, and teach you a thing or two. They’ll even pick you up when you’re down.

So there. It’s sort of like the gifts of the Magi, except there are four of them.

What does writing in the short form do for you?

2 thoughts on “The gift of flash

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