Writing Flash Fiction

I’m on my third revision of the flash fiction piece I’m writing for the Florida Keys Flash Fiction Contest. Who knew writing 500 words would be so tricky? I suppose I should have expected this…most writers can churn out hundreds of words even on topics we know little about. The inner workings of your computer? How to change the oil in your car? What is the primary difference between Democrats and Republicans? Even if we’re clueless, a little internet research peppered liberally with our imaginations and you’ve got articles titled, “Getting your niece to fix your computer,” and “Who has time to change their own oil?” or “Politicians are all the same and here’s why.”

My family and friends are quite used to getting 100 word answers to questions like, “Did you feed the cats?” Yes or no answers must be accompanied by explanations. I was always the student who loved writing essays. Multiple choice tests gave me anxiety and true/false were the worst. Because, it could be either one if….

So, naturally, writing the story for this contest was easy. Too easy. It was well over 700 words when I noticed the word count and made myself stop writing. With each edit I’ve been able to cut words and make the story tighter, but I still have over 100 words that need to go bye-bye.

Good thing I have until the end of March to submit the story. Because that’s another thing most writers can do all day long. Revise. I will probably revise this story every day until submission. I can spend hours revising the declarations of love I’ve written in my husband’s birthday card. In fact, I never actually write in the card – any card – until I’ve tweaked it on paper about six times.

We hate revision because we never feel confident that whatever we are writing is “done.” It can always be made better, right? Maybe we should find a different word for happy. Or this sentence is stupid, it needs to go. Now I need another sentence to replace it. Pretty soon, you’re re-writing your grocery list because you don’t want fish sticks next to the grape juice because, yuck, what a disgusting combination!

All of this makes writing flash fiction quite challenging. But it’s an exciting challenge. It forces me to think and write carefully. Is there another way to say this that I can save myself a sentence or two? Is this detail really important? If I put this into conversation instead of the character thinking it in her head, will it help my word count?

Now that I’ve sat here revising this post about seven times, I have to let it be done. I’ve got a contest entry to tweak. But let me just read this post one more time…just to be sure…


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