I’m happy to announce the publication of my flash fiction story “Shall We Dance” in Splickety Love, a wonderful online (and print) magazine that specializes in sweet romantic flash fiction.
This particular volume focuses on the theme of firsts: first encounters, first dates, first kisses, etc. In my story, it’s a first dance. The clumsy, funny heroine is a student in a dance class, and the instructor falls for her, despite her hopeless dancing skills.
Writing an entire story in just a few words is a good challenge. This particular story started out at 800 words, but had to be trimmed to 700 before I could submit it to Splickety. In fact, limiting the story to the original 800 words had been difficult in the first place. Just when I’d think I was done, I’d get another good idea that had to go into the story, but only with a trade-off. Something else of equal length had to be taken out. Then, when I was finally done, at a lean 798 words, I realized I had to trim out another 98 to bring it down to 700.
So I did.
It’s humbling, I won’t kid you, but it turns out the story was better at the shorter length. Turns out there are always new, shorter ways to turn a phrase, that are usually better. There are sentences (or even whole paragraphs) that can be removed without really missing them, and without altering the content or the mood of the story.
And then the story went through two edits, and now it’s down to 657!
I love writing flash fiction, in part because, when I get bogged down in a big project, I can dash off a little story in no time and be done. (By “no time” I actually mean a week or so. Even with a little, bitty story, there are rewrites.) And I love that an entire flash story can be built around a single idea. It’s the same thing I love about writing a blog, except in fiction.
But I also love writing flash for the discipline. It’s good practice to write against a word quota. It requires clarity and conciseness, and being very honest in recognizing flabby writing.
I have a friend who is a retired English teacher, who used to have the seniors write college entrance essays as an assignment for her class. The students were limited to 1000 words, and she demanded that the writing be polished and tight. And then, when the students were done, she made them trim the essays to 500 words. The shorter versions were always better.
Obviously there is a sweet spot. You can’t reduce your story length forever, or you’ll end up with a blank page. But I like 700 or 800 words. It’s a good length to write, and a good length to read. A nice two-minute break for romance.