Brevity in Flash Fiction

One of my favorite sources for great flash fiction is the aptly named ezine Flash Fiction Online.  Another is the Daily Science Fiction, although they do not solely publish flash fiction.  They prefer shorter fiction for first time buys, so I have always tried to gear my submissions to Daily Science Fiction with that in mind.  In fact, of the numerous tales I have sent to them (16 as of this writing), it was the 11th one that made it to the second – and final – round of selection.  It was also my shortest, at just 273 words.  It has yet to be published, but hopefully a home will be found soon.

I find myself writing more and more flash fiction as the months go by, and my main hang-up is keeping my tendency for verbosity down.  If brevity is the soul of wit then I’m lacking in the wits department!  As frustrating as it can be, it’s a great exercise for a writer to try and be as concise as possible.  The words do add up, whether one is writing a story that’s only a sentence long or an entire novel or series of novels.  There comes a point when you need to rein them in.

Take “Fallout Ariel”, the flash fiction piece I finished the rough draft of today.  It’s a lengthy 1,650 words.  To be considered a flash piece by most markets it will need to be at least 1,000 words.  That’s a lot of shaving, but that’s to be expected from me.  I will probably re-read the rough draft and then rewrite the story entirely.  I have some ideas of how I want to change up the plot to make it a better tale.  After that, the story will need to be tightened.

By tomorrow night I’ll have a tangible example to show of the process I go through from rough draft to revised draft to final draft (Or as many revisions as are needed before arriving at the final draft).  Each story requires different things of me, which is what keeps things interesting.

Suzanne Vincent, the editor of Flash Fiction online, has a great article on managing story length.  It’s been a tremendous help to me, and if you’re into writing fiction (flash or otherwise) you owe it to your self to give it a read.  Not only is it good advice, but it comes from an editor!  You know, one of the people who determines the life or death of your story once you release it into the wild lands known only as “Submitted.”  It never hurts to see how they think and to know what they look for.

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