It’s already March and I haven’t progressed as much as I’d hoped on “the novel.” I’ve been too busy rewriting and sending out flashes that were written in December for a chapbook competition. Flash is so seductive that it’s hard to resist. A piece of flash is controllable, doable within a short period of time. A rough can be written in an hour and the piece can be polished in a day or two. A writer only has 1000 or so words to wrestle with and the end result is much faster than say anything with 80,000!
With that in mind, I decided to make it impossible to give into writing flash for my favorite site, Every Day Fiction making The London Eye my last piece there for a while. I bought a pair of wellingtons, donned my mac, grabbed a shovel, and dove into the EDF Slush.
I’ve been slogging along now for a week or two and have a few things I’d like to say about the experience and pass along a few clues to those who want to write and submit flash. These are, of course, my own thoughts on the subject, so feel free, anyone out there, to disagree. But maybe something here will turn out to be a new lens with which to see your work.
I’ve read tons of writing, both as a life-time reader for pleasure and as an ex-English teacher. I feel qualified to do so, but it’s not as easy as it might seem. The trick for the slush reader is to find something encouraging to say and to present the negatives in a way that is both constructive and doesn’t offend. This is harder than it sounds. Many newer writers are clueless in general and many more experienced feel they have already learned it all. The relationship between a writer and a reader, in the slush and out, is always precarious.
The mucky job:
Sometimes encouragement is easy because the writer writes well, his use of words is precise and vivid or his sentence structure is clear and seductive. Reading this material is fun. And I can praise what the writer has done with his prose.
Sometimes I’m intrigued by the originality of a piece, whether the writer has dropped some weird-morphed creature in a workaday world or used an old-fashioned set-up and pay-off in a fresh way. This also makes saying something encouraging easier.
However, rare is the piece that flows with just the right words AND contains fresh and compelling content and if they do both, the piece may still lack one more element.
A good story should possess strong prose, compelling content and that third element, structure. This seems to be the one aspect lacking in most work in the slush pile. When a piece of writing suffers in all three areas: language, content, and structure, it is almost impossible to figure out what to say.
However, flash is the perfect form to master these three skills because of the length and once it is mastered, any form of writing becomes easier to write…and easier for the slush reader to say, YES!
Crafting flash requires a specific mindset in the areas of language, content, and structure and I’ll discuss content that lends itself to flash tomorrow.