QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Monday, June 29, 2009

Flash Fiction - Your Fast Track to Publication

It’s all the rage, but what exactly is it?

Though flash fiction has been around for years, only recently has it become important in the literary community. Also called the “smoke-long” story because it’s just long enough to read while smoking a cigarette, flash fiction has become important largely because the whole story can fit nicely on a web page. Its brevity helps it hold a busy reader’s interest.

Flash fiction is usually written as a single act and is between 300 and 1000 words in length. (In comparison, a short-short is 1000-2500, a short is 2500-7500, novelette 7500-17,500, and a novella is 17,500-40,000.) Flash fiction collections are sold in bookstores, usually as anthologies.

1000 words sounds easy – What’s the catch?

To quote Jason Gurley of WritingWorld.com,“The challenge of flash fiction is to tell a complete story in which every word is absolutely essential, to peel away the frills and lace until you're left with nothing but the hard, clean-scraped core of a story.”

There’s no room for back story, and your characters must be immediately interesting and strong in order to invoke a reaction in your reader. The plot must be tight, the setting conveyed completely with only a few words. The goal is to write something memorable.

For tips on how to successfully write flash fiction, check out this article by G. W. Thomas.

Can you get paid for writing it?

Yes! Flash Fiction Online, for example, pays $50 for each entry it accepts for publication. (It's also a great place to read flash fiction.) Some magazines and e-zines do not pay, but the exposure you get is well worth the trouble. It will help you build your platform as Carolyn discussed last week.

What about flash fiction contests?

Another good way to get your story published! While there are many accepting entries right now, there’s one of particular interest for you agent-minded folk: WOW (Women on Writing) is hosting their quarterly flash fiction contest. The guest judge is literary agent Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency. Be sure to check out WOW's rules – entries are limited and a nominal fee is required.

Where can I submit my flash fiction?

Duotrope provides a full listing of all magazines accepting material for publication. The site is free to use and, with a free membership, you can track your submissions.

Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find a central listing of flash fiction contests. So if any of you are aware of a site, please let me know!

The skinny on flash fiction:

Writing a flash fiction piece is the perfect way to get out of a slump (like writer’s block) and start submitting material. It's a great project that can be done in as little as a weekend. Many mags accept email submissions, so it couldn't be easier.

Can it put you closer to publication of your big project? Absolutely! Agents look for writing credits. You can mention it in a query. This is an easy way for them to see a polished sample of your work, and for you to begin sharing your stories with family, friends, and colleagues.

Now, start writing!

Suzette Saxton's idea of a perfect day includes a picnic lunch, laughing children, and her laptop. When she's not writing books for kids, Suzette can be found gardening, doing finish carpentry in her home, or walking in the canyon in which she lives.


Sherry Dale Rogers said...

QueryTracker you are the best...What ever would I do without you. Big huggs and kisses. MMMWWWHHH!

Suzette Saxton said...

Thanks so much, Sherry. Smoochies back atcha!



Eileen Astels Watson said...

I had actually never heard of flash fiction before. What a way to learn to write tight!

Stina said...

But I love reading and writing long complex stories. I was never a fan of short stories in high school because you never really got to know the characters. Their lives never meant anything to me. When they achieved their goal, I didn't care. Guess I'd better stick with what I do best--because I know I'll suck big time at flash fiction. :0) But it's nice to know, for those so inclined, there are other opportunities.

Jewel Allen said...

Thank you for this post. I want to give this a try. Sounds like a great challenge that fits very well into my bursts of writing schedule :-)

Susan R. Mills said...

Maybe I should give this a shot! I've been in a little slump as of late!

Ana - The Writer Today said...

Thank you for this post. I have heard of "flash fiction" but did not know too much about it. I will definitely look into doing it and participating in some of the contests.

Suzette Saxton said...

Thanks, everyone. :)