Last night, I wrote an 860 word short story tentatively entitled To Whom It May Concern. I’m pretty with happy with the result. Over the next few days, it’ll get a few tweaks and edits and then goes out on submission.
My writing tends long and I used to have a hard time writing short shorts or flash fiction. But of late, I have started writing more very short pieces and it’s working out surprisingly well for me. Very short fiction has a number of advantages. It’s quick to write and only takes one or two sessions. It allows me to stretch my writing chops into an area that usually wasn’t one of my strengths. Not to mention that these days there are a lot of markets for fiction of 1000 words and under. What is more, short shorts and flash are ideal for experimenting with different techniques, styles and ideas. And they can do things that longer works cannot do. To Whom It May Concern, for example, wouldn’t have worked as a longer piece.
I often use shorts to stretch my writing muscles and break through blockages. Because the stakes are low (at 1000 words or less, it doesn’t really matter whether the piece works out or not), inhibitions are lower as well. Plus, shorts are a great way to break through writer’s block.
For short shorts and flash, I usually turn to some kind of prompt or generator for inspiration. For example, I like Andrew Bosley’s Brainstormer. Another technique I sometimes use is go to an online dictionary site like Beolingus, hit random search or random entry* and use whatever comes up as a prompt. Ignis Fatuus started out that way. So did To Whom It May Concern, which began with the two words “stroll” and “compensation”.
Talking of prompts, words and inspiration, Lynn Viehl of Paperback Writer has a great post on story hubs.
* You can also use Wikipedia, but the risks of getting something really obscure are higher.