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12 Tips on Writing Flash Fiction

A guest post by Claire Fuller

There’s something liberating about creating flash fiction. Writing a story of under a thousand words, or even one as short as a sentence or two can often let you be more creative. It can spin off in any crazy direction, there isn’t space for too much description or character development, and the limited word count means the reader’s imagination has to play a big part too.

Here are my top twelve tips to get you started with writing flash fiction…

  1. Set yourself a word limit and keep to it.
  2. If you’re stuck with how to begin get a friend to write down the name of a relative (e.g. My Great Uncle Claude, or My second cousin’s husband Tim), and a place they’ve never been to. Use these two bits of information to start your story.
  3. Write your first draft knowing no one else will read it. Be as creative and crazy as you like. Have fun.
  4. Write your first draft long. If your word limit is 100, write 150 or 200 words.
  5. Try to write a story with a beginning, middle and end.
  6. Twists are always good in flash fiction, but don’t treat the ending like a punchline. You’re not writing a gag.
  7. Writing the first draft should be one third of your overall time. The remaining two thirds should be spent revising and editing.
  8. Be ruthless when editing. Cut adverbs (and not only those ending in ly, but almost, rather, often, just etc), adjectives, and whole sentences and paragraphs where necessary.
  9. Be specific with your language. Ambled, rather than walked slowly. Oak, rather than tree. Starlings rather than birds.
  10. Make sure every single word earns its place in your story.
  11. Read your piece aloud to yourself and then to someone else (it’s amazing how much an audience makes you want to edit some more).
  12. Put your story away for a week or a month, and then read and edit it again.

Claire Fuller is a British writer. Her debut novel Our Endless Numbered Days won the Desmond Elliott Prize, and her second is Swimming Lessons (2017). Her latest novel is Bitter Orange (2018). Follow Claire on Twitter and Instagram.

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