Thursday, April 28, 2011

5 ways writing flash fiction can help you finish your novel

Guest Post by a.e.Tyree

When a writing teacher first suggested I write Flash Fiction, I thought she was crazy. Write a complete story in under 1000 words with a compelling setting, interesting characters, a conflict and resolution. Impossible!

But when she explained some of the ways it could help me complete my current novel, I was willing to give it a try. Several flash stories later, I’ve become convinced it can help anyone become a better writer:

  1.  Ruthless editing - I admit I have been guilty of keeping in witty dialogue or a morsel of description that doesn’t advance the plot. (Okay - maybe a lot). But every word counts in flash fiction, and ruthless editing is an essential skill. The tools I’ve developed in writing flash have helped me cut over ten thousand flabby words from my current WIP. Chiseling down prose can help your story flow better, move faster, and pack more emotional punch.
  2. Trying new genres - No matter how much you love the novel you’re currently writing, sometimes you need a break. I’m writing a paranormal mystery, but every now and then I want to write a story that doesn’t feature fangs. With flash, I’ve written contemporary romance, literary fiction and a historical piece. Flash is perfect for stepping outside your comfort zone and exercising new writing muscles without making a commitment of months or years.
  3. Exploring backstory on your novel - Flash fiction is great for fleshing out backstory incidents for your novel’s main characters. I’ve discovered amazing things about my characters and their motivations using this technique. Understanding more about your characters can lend added depth and texture to your novel.
  4. Expanding  your possibilities for publication - As attention spans get shorter, and more people turn to e-readers or the Internet for fiction, the demand for flash fiction has exploded. A quick search today on Duotrope’s Digest netted over 900 publishers currently looking for flash stories. And that number grows daily. It’s a great way to get some published bylines while waiting to finish and publish your novel. There’s nothing better than seeing your name in print.
  5. Instant gratification - I saved my favorite reason to write flash fiction for last. Working on a novel can take months or years to complete, edit, and publish. But writing flash fiction is a little slice of instant gratification heaven. I can get a rough draft done in 30 minutes. A couple hours of follow up thinking and editing gives me something ready to show my flash fiction critique group. It’s a perfect way for me to feel like I can finish something on those days when it seems I’ll never finish my novel.
If you want a taste of flash fiction, head over to Every Day Fiction and subscribe. You’ll get a new flash fiction story emailed to you every day.

Have some flash stories that you want to publish, search on Duotrope’s Digest to find hundreds of places that publish flash fiction.


Growing up, a.e.Tyree wanted to be many things: a WWI Flying Ace, Captain of a space ship, jockey of a Triple Crown winning horse. But without a time machine (or a stricter diet) those dreams were not likely to come true.

She earned degree in Creative Writing and promptly abandoned her love of writing to make a living as a corporate executive. After years of writing non-fiction training seminars, and running two different companies, she has finally returned to her first love – fiction writing. Thankfully, anything is possible for a writer. And now, thanks to the click of the keyboard, there are no limits on her dreams. Connect with her as @aeTyree on Twitter and visit her website to learn more about her and see examples of her work.


  1. Flash Fiction does sound fascinating, even though I'm as terrified as you were. I may just have to experiment outside my comfort zone. That's always good for writers, isn't it? Thanks for the links.

  2. Yes, Cleemckenzie, I do think it's great for us to get out of our comfort zones. And the fantastic thing about experimenting with Flash fiction is it takes so little time.

    Try a few stories, and check out a few sites. If you're on twitter, try checking out the hashtag #flash or #flashfiction, and follow a few writers who do nothing but flash. It's a good way to get more exposure to it.

    But mostly, have fun with it. If writing isn't fun, why do it?

    a.e. Tyree

  3. Ok, this explains much. I have seen flash fiction mentioned here and there- mostly on Twitter- but never as fully explained as here. You make a compelling case. In fact, it sounds down right fun. And if I did write a flash fiction story that had something to do with a character's back story or something else, then what's to stop it from becoming part of a bigger work later on? I'll definitely be exploring this. Thanks!


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