Three benefits of writing flash fiction
Flash fiction is a growing fad and art among writers. What is flash fiction? It’s short fiction. The most common definition I’ve seen is it’s a complete story with a beginning, middle and end that comes in under a thousand words.
I have recently started writing flash fiction. I post it on this site. I started doing flash just to have something to do on here. The challenge facing writers is what to blog about. Writing about writing, attracts other writers. I want readers to come to my site, readers who might purchase my books. My flash fiction writing was meant for them, to draw them in and give them a taste of my writing.
As I have started writing, I am discovering that flash fiction is a great exercise for novel writers. Here is why:
Fewer words are harder, but make for better writing.
The fewer words you write, the more each word counts. If you doubt it, ask a poet. In a sixty thousand word novel it’s easy to get lazy as the words flow out. A poor word choice here or there can be overlooked and ignored. When you are writing something short each poor word choice stands out.
Writing flash forces you to look at each word critically. You have to make hard choices. You have to seek the exact write word for the situation. Nothing else will do.
And that makes you a better writer.
Every piece of flash fiction has a beginning, middle and end. So should every novel scene.
One of the rules of flash fiction is that each piece should stand on it’s own, with it’s own beginning, middle and end. There might be a story arc. There might be pieces that are needed to understand the story arc. But they all must have their own storyline. They must all have a life of their own.
But the same is true for novel scenes. As I am editing my current project, I am seeing my own writing with new eyes. Too many scenes start or end abruptly. It’s easy to forget in the middle of the novel, when you are into the story, that every scene starts somewhere and ends somewhere. It might be no more than a paragraph setting the scene or a line of dialogue closing it. But it needs to be there.
Every piece of flash must have drama, an emotional appeal that makes it worth reading. So should every scene in your novel.
When writing flash fiction you have to grapple with the same issues you deal with in any story. Why are you telling this story? What is the reader supposed to get from it? Why is it important or compelling?
You have probably already answered these questions for your novel. You understand why you want to tell this particular story. You know what you want to show about each character. You have found some reason to keep the reader coming back to finish what you’ve written.
But have you done that for each scene? Have you taken a hard look at all of them? What are you trying to show in this scene? Where is the drama?
Have you ever been reading a novel and thought, you know I like this story and these characters, but I can’t seem to get into the book. The overall story line is good but the book seems to wander, fails to keep your attention. A lot of mediocre writing is like that.
This is why. Each scene must have a purpose. Each scene must have its own drama. Re-writing each scene as its own flash fiction can take your writing from mediocre to great.