Archive for the ‘ On Writing ’ Category

Flash Fiction Prompt – Crash Scene

I found the image below striking. It catches a moment of tragedy.
My response was the Science Fiction Story “Crash Scene” submitted to Flash Fiction Online.

What is your response?

Flash Fiction Prompts

Anything can be a prompt for Flash Fiction. I tend to like images because pictures have a way of evoking emotion and memory. This old song works perfectly as a prompt. What does this romantic ballad say to you?

My answer to this prompt became the Flash Fiction story, “It Ain’t Bogey and Bacall,” in submission to Every Day Fiction

Editing To be and it’s Conjugal Relations

A posting on the Wordward Press Blog I found an excellent resource on editing.

THE CASE OF THE COPULA OVERDOSE

I read a book a while back that has stayed with me for many months and has affected the way I write and read, and it’s opened my eyes to a weakness in much fiction writing, even in published books. Douglas Glover’s Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis, 2012) criticizes many aspects of fiction, but saves its most withering scorn for the rampant and indiscriminate use of copulas.

I hear you asking, “What’s a copula?” I admit I had to look it up. Webster’s definition says: “the connecting link between subject and predicate of a proposition.” In most cases, this refers to a form of the word “be.” But what does that mean to us everyday writers? It means banal, didactic, often passive sentences, almost completely lacking in action or depth.

As Glover says: “A copula spider occurs when a student uses the verb ‘to be’ so many times on a page that I can circle all the instances, connect them with lines, and draw a spider diagram. Now there is nothing grammatically wrong with the verb ‘to be,’ but if you use it over and over again your prose is likely to be flaccid and uninteresting.”

An excellent resource for editing.

Rules of the Road for Writing Flash Fiction

1. Study the Form

Flash Fiction is brief, disciplined. A maximum of 1,000 words, they leave no room for complex character development, convoluted plots, or long character arcs. Though the form can be used with any genre, its limitations are best understood after careful study. Flash Fiction pieces can be read in five minutes or less. Spend an hour or two reading stories in your target genre. Make copies of stories that appeal to you to serve as examples.

2. Writing Prompts are Your Friends

A writing prompt, be it an image, a sentence outline of a story, or a character is a rich source of story ideas. You can use your own ideas, but you should not ignore the wealth of prompts that exist. There are many sites on the internet. Spend some time seeking out a source of prompts that can be used for your own stories. Take a few minutes or ten (it’s all good) and choose one that stimulates your story buds.

3. Begin writing “In Media Res,” in the middle of things.

Now, write!

Really, what did you think happens next? You knew you had to start sooner or later. Get a nice cup of something to drink.—It doesn’t have to be coffee, though why the hell not? Assume the position in your favorite writing spot. Set a timer for an hour. (That part is important.) Now, write! Don’t stop! It’s only a 300 to 1000 word first draft. You’re not writing an epic here. Don’t worry about it being good. Get the story down. Make it complete.

Oh, and remember to write in media res because you don’t have time to go looking for the beginning.

4. Limit the Number of Characters.

One is good. Two is optimum. You don’t have time to describe or characterize more than that. In 300 to 800 words, your characters are, at best sketches. Hold the ruffles and flourishes for your regular shorts stories, novels, and epics.

5. Follow Classic Story Structure (AKA Freytag’s Pyramid) (Unless you like experimental, that’s Okay, too)

Give it exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement. Don’t freak out, man. This is classic storytelling, and you’ve been doing this since you told your first story, even if you wouldn’t know Freytag from a Maytag. All these aspects of the story will be there. I bring this up because dénouement, (resolution, revelation, or catastrophe, the untying of the knots of the plot) has a special place. If you end your story abruptly, whether it be through the natural flow of the story or a radical twist that leaves people gasping, you can’t just drop your readers off the page. A little falling action gives readers a chance to think about what they read and gives the change in your character’s solidity.

6. Editing

You know the drill, spellcheck, grammar (it matters), go over the story for errors. If you have a friend or belong to a critique group get them to read it. (I belong to an incredible group on Facebook where people line up to criticize me.)

Second drafts are better drafts, and it’s only 300 to 1000 words.

6. Editing – Make Your Title a Hook.

In a Flash Fiction Story, every word must work for you. This is doubly true of the title. The title will be the first words consumed, and you want them to taste delicious. Put your best effort to edit your title so that it contributes to the story and draws a reader in.

7. Editing – The End: Make Your last line memorable

The last line is that rare chance for another first impression. When the readers finish your story after about an average 3.5 minutes, you want to leave them a reason to remember your name.

8. Submission

Not to me. As a writer, you are your own person. No, there are hundreds of places to publish your Flash Fiction. Check out Writer’s Digest. (You can find them in books stores.) Look for markets. You can also Google “Flash Fiction Markets” and check out one that sounds good. (Or just close your eyes and throw a dart.)

Many of the markets use the “Submittable” application. There is no more painless method to submit your stories.

9. What Next? (Jeez, Do I Have to Tell You Everything?)

Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

Set a goal per week, from one to however many you think you can do. Writing a novel or larger project? Flash Fiction takes an hour or two a week per story. They will teach you to start and finish stories.

Well, don’t just SIT there. WRITE SOMETHING!

A Plan for Flash Fiction

There is a huge market for Flash Fiction, much of it unpaid, but a published story is a published story.

Today, I wrote another Flash Fiction piece, “The Box.” (300 words) As a writing prompt, I used an image of an old fashioned, black analog dial telephone. Memories of my grandmothers party line and the old Phone Exchange numbers, individual rings brother out a story about loss an dealing with death, particularly of my mother.

It could be considered Magical Realism. I have no problem with that.

Over the next three days, I will write more, and then submit them to Copper Nickel or elsewhere.

Informal Journal – Submit or Perish

Writersmarket.com – I have been a member forever, though I go through extended periods of time when I ignore its existence. Completing a piece of flash fiction, led me to the decision to submit. You know, when you submit you must have a market. Searching for “Flash Fiction Markets” in Google was not satisfactory. Then, I thought I lost my password, but I found it. Now, I am back. Long story edited for length, I will submit “Annotated Shopping List” to “Copper Nickel.”


Annotated Shopping List – Story is ready to submit, but you can submit up to three Flash Fiction Pieces, so I am considering writing two more. Decisions, Decisions!


The Traffic Stop, a second Flash Fiction, is adapted from the opening scene of a novel sitting on my hard drive. I cut it and stripped out plot items for the longer story. It works as flash fiction, if a bit longer than my previous story. Once edited, it will be the second story in a submission package of three to Copper Nickel.
I can’t help but wonder, where is number three.


Snitch was the last of the three, and they have been submitted. I suspect this is the first of many submissions for these stories, but it is necessary to start, somewhere.

Self-Publishing and Twitter Advertisements

I have not self-published but am moving in that direction. This article about Allphageek, aka Joshua Smith, by  is a great source for using Twitter to advertise.

How To Set Up Twitter Ads For Your Books: A Complete Guide By Alfageek

I intend to buy it.

Over-Prepping – Light Bulb

Writer, Lara Lalalynn, (Facebook Friend) posted today about the perils of Over-Prepping, by which she meant TOO MANY PREPOSITIONS.

To-whit

Over-prepping is using superfluous prepositional phrases–often redundant, but also just unnecessary for meaning/clarity. And as with all evil things, it adds to verbosity and will kill pace.”

By Lara Lalalynn

I have this problem. In my latest work, it isn’t so bad, which shoes I’ve learned something, but in this process of going back and editing earlier works, I’ve found myself addicted to prepositional phrases. Good writing means we use the right word and no extra words. Those markers of good writing are in conflict.

Going back to edit, I can look for prepositions, and make sure that each one is necessary.