Flash Fiction: A Writer's Guide

Writing for Chronicle

In previous posts, I’ve extolled the virtues of the short story, talked broadly about why curation is important, and (of course) written vehement defenses of why fiction matters. What I do at Chronicle requires that I spend a fair bit of time trawling the annals of the internet, searching through the masses of content for high-quality fiction. In the last 18 months, I have been staggered by the number of people interested in writing contributing their voices. As a writer, an avid reader, and someone who studied literature in college, it warms my heart to see so many people of all ages flocking to the craft of fictional storytelling. It’s a confirmation that what we’re doing at Chronicle is important. It’s such a joy to work with writers who might otherwise never consider publishing their wonderful pieces.

 

Story, Telling

What makes a good piece of flash fiction? This is a question that haunts me, and it’s something that I take very seriously. The short story, when it’s done right, can be a stunning tour-de-force of emotion, a powerful tool for seeing the world in a new way. The advantage it has over the novel in today’s day and age is tremendous: time is the premium product of our generation. But, of course, there’s more to a story than its emotional utility: it should also be fun to read. This mean that considerations of accessibility are at play.

 

Tell it Right, Tell it Fun

Writing, like any craft, requires practice. What this tacitly means, to the behest of many of those who decide to write literature, is that it requires lots of repetition and, therefore, a lot of failure. The danger of flash fiction has everything to do with its advantages: because the barrier to entry is lower in terms of creation, people often assume that it’s easier to write. It’s easy to sit down at your Underwood typewriter and bang out a 200-word piece about heartbreak, or love, or loss, or whichever of those topics one may be going through at the moment. It’s much more difficult to extract fiction from experience than the adage ‘write what you know’ might imply. Rather, the strong writer is the one who works to abstract from experience into falsehood, and in so doing creates something totally new from a lived life.

 

Gaming the System

I solicit roughly 1 of every 50 stories that I read, and I can usually tell from the first paragraph whether I’m going to take a piece. I’m looking for:

1.     Does this story have a clear, interesting voice?

2.     Is this story about something interesting?

3.     Is this story’s take on its subject innovative, interesting, or fresh?

If your story has all of these three things, then it very likely has a place on Chronicle. If it doesn’t: rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite until your fingerprints wear off.

 

Give it to me Now

What it comes down to, with flash fiction, is that a 500-word piece should be rewritten as many times (or, perhaps, more) than a regular short story. Of course, there are different thresholds for different writers, but I’m looking for works that have a clear point, an arc, defined characters, and something interesting to say. Flash fiction, like any craft, is easy to learn but difficult to master. But we’re here to help! When we receive a submission that we see potential in, we’re happy to work with writers to push it to the next level. It’s important to keep writing, because stories matter. Because we matter.