Tag Archives: flash fiction

Keep it Simple

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

Keeping things short, sweet and to the point has not always been my strong suit. I was the one who always wrote the novel length email or card or essay answer. I was the one who needed extra room to write on the group birthday card.

Recent jobs have cured me of this (almost) in favor of the super effective, and easy to browse through when busy, bullet point version. You may know what I am talking about here, your co-worker writes the dreaded super long email when you are busy, so all you really wanna do is cut them off and ask them to just give the bullet points. What do you really need me to get so I can move along to the next task?

It’s not always easy to break it down simply but it can usually be done. The same is true of our non-business related writing. It’s not easy to make our prose tight or our poetry lean, but the writing is usually better for the time spent making it cleaner.

This last week on my personal blog post, I accepted a 99 word flash fiction challenge. I knew 99 words (no more, no less) sounded challenging, but after a few tries I realized just how few words that meant. The resulting flash fiction was an interesting first attempt, but the lesson I got from having to cut down my words was a helpful one.

Words, lines and paragraphs began dropping away as I tried to pare down what I had written so that I could get my story within the constraints of the word ¬†count limit. It felt much like a puzzle toward the end – what pieces needed to be there and which just didn’t fit? What if I were try it this way instead? The result wasn’t perfect, but it did finally work, and it read far easier than the original versions. It was cleaner and less bulky.

Keeping it simple will be something I will have to work toward. I have to remind myself that simple doesn’t have to mean ordinary or plain. It does mean I need to avoid letting things get unnecessarily overdone.

Do you struggle with making your writing (or your life ūüėČ ) too complicated? Ever think it may be time to keep it simple? Please feel free to share in the comments. I always love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading! Have a great week!

~CJS

I Triple Dog Dare You

Yes, I’m late today, but at least I’m not as late as I was last Monday.¬†Today I want to talk a little about writing challenges and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

There are a lot of writing challenges available for writers of all sorts to participate in on the web. Some take place annually, such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo which I participated in).¬†Some are weekly all year long, such as The Daily Post’s Tuesday challenges and Charli Mills 99-Word Flash Fiction weekly challenge over on her blog Carrot Ranch Communications (which our very own AJ takes part in). Really, just google “writing challenges” and take your pick.

So why are there all these challenges? Why should you elect to participate in one?

No one says you have to do anything you don’t want to do. But, how are you to know your limits if you don’t test yourself? That’s something a challenge will do for you. Challenges, by definition, are a sort of call to action. To take part in something, to question the truth or validity of a thing, to invite someone to engage in a contest. When you participate in a challenge, whether for writing or anything else, you are questioning your ability to accomplish a task. Can you do what needs to be done? Are you good enough?

The problem with challenges, or at least participating in them, is that we tend to doubt our own abilities. We can’t do it so we don’t even try. We’re comfortable writing what we’ve been writing and we don’t want to try anything else. And that’s when your writing gets old and stale, and you find yourself in a writing rut. Then you ask why isn’t anyone liking what you write.

If you don’t push yourself to write, if you don’t try something new, your writing becomes a dry, crusty piece of bread that no one wants to eat. It ends up in the trash or food for birds. Committing to a challenge isn’t even necessary. Just challenging yourself to write something, even just a grocery list, can be a challenge in itself. Try just sitting down once a week with a piece of notebook paper and a pen (no computers) and filling in the entire paper. It doesn’t matter what you write as long as you fill in the paper. The challenge can be just writing once a week or just actually sitting your butt in the chair to write (something a lot of writers have trouble doing). And no one ever has to know whether you succeed or not.

Get out there and look up challenges this week and just see if there might be anything that catches your eye. You might find yourself attempting to write out of your “normal” genre, or maybe attempting poetry. But no matter what you challenge yourself with, keep challenging yourself and pushing your limits.

Jesi

Counting Your Words

Writing can come in many different forms; novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, flash fiction, nonfiction, children stories, or articles. It all has to be written to be read. 

I personally am a novel writer; I like big stories with backgrounds and lots of words. On occasion, I like to practice with flash fiction. I find it helps me tighten up my writing and getting the story across in a matter of fewer words.

How do you know what category your writing falls under?

Word counts.

It all boils down to the amount of words used in your precious blood, sweat and tears. There are guidelines that determine what constitutes as a novel verses a novella, or flash fiction versus a short story. Even in poetry, there are certain types of poems that require certain counts ‚Äď a number of syllables, a number of lines in a stanza. In all of these words, numbers matter.

It can be a bit overwhelming if you are new to the writing circus. Hell, it can be overwhelming no matter how long you’ve been honing your writing tricks. Making sure that your manuscript fits into the right sized word box can be difficult, no matter how long you have been writing.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown…

Novel: 50,000 words and higher РDepending on the genre that you are writing in will greatly determine the word length.

Novella: 15,000- 50,000 – Your story can be written under any given genre, but at this length, it will be considered a novella or novelette.

Short Stories: 1,000 to 10,000 ‚Äď When submitting to contest, there will usually be a word count listed.

Flash Fiction: 100 to 500 – This seems small, because it is. Flash Fiction is considered such because it is just a flash of a story.

Picture Books: 500 to 700.

Once the breakdown is written down in front of you,¬†it isn’t quite as daunting. It even seems manageable. Some days. What I believe¬†really matters at the end of the day is… do your words count?

Not in the idea¬†of numbers.¬†Who cares if you can’t fit your piece inside the box? Just write what flows out of you and worry about the little stuff, like word counting, for a later date. If what you are writing means something to you, then that is what you should concentrate on. That is what actually¬†counts.

Till next time,

~AJP

P.s. Check back at a later date for the breakdown of genre word guidelines for novels.

Impromptu Prompt

Some days, no matter what I do, my writing can start to fill stagnant. It could just be a scene that I am bored with, or a character that I just find boring.

When this happens, and it does, I have to walk away from my story line and think outside of the box. The only problem is, I tend to think of new and exciting stories to try and write. Then I am left with a shelf of half finished first drafts which accomplishes nothing long term in the writing world.

So what do you do when you are stuck elbows deep in a story that you generally love but need a break?

Do a quick writing exercise. Try a prompt.

What is a prompt?

A prompt can be anything- a word, a picture, and paragraph – to spark an idea that you move forward with creatively.

Where can you find a prompt? 

That is the beauty of the internet… anywhere. Try your local library or used book store. Another great thing about a prompt, they can never really go out of style.

Writer’s Digest posts a weekly prompt here, and you just post your 500 word piece into the comments.¬†Wordpress, Tumblr, and Blogger both have bloggers who dole out weekly/daily prompts. Just type in prompt in Tags and it will pull up a plethora of blogs giving you a prompt to try out.

My favorite is the Carrot Ranch weekly prompt given by Charli every Wednesday.¬†This past weeks prompt was to write a 99 word flash fiction piece about the day the world turned brown.¬†Here was my contribution to last weeks prompt…

Thirsty

We stood on the bridge looking down into the sandy abyss littered with long forgotten lost belongings and decaying fish.

‚ÄúThis¬†isn’t¬†good.‚ÄĚ

I shook my head. There was nothing else to be said, we both knew what was coming next. It had already begun. Dehydration crept up the embankments as though the Earth was looking for a drink, and sucking the life from anything in its path.

No one knew how long we had, but we all knew what was coming. Without water, there could be no life.

We watched as the last lake took its last breath.

It was a simple piece, something that I will file away and maybe use for another day. It doesn’t fit in my book right now, but I never know when it could fit somewhere. The point is, I was able to think outside of my box for an hour and think of a brown world.

Now my homework for you… A quick prompt. You have new neighbors that just moved in. Write out a scene 200 words or less and see where it takes you. Extra points to see just how twisted you can make it… For all you know, it could be a new chapter in your current WIP.

Let me know in the comments what you come up with.

Till next time,

~AJP