My University is currently running a Flash Fiction contest. 500 words based on a visual cue. After years of writing 60000+ words in a month, that sounded pretty easy to me. But the shorter the fiction, the more condensed and coherent the story needs to be, the less time you have to get the reader interested and involved, the more you have to imply rather than state… In short, it needs a lot of editing.
In the past, I’ve put up one short story on Wattpad, and submitted another to an anthology, and though it was nicely rejected (i.e. I was told my submitted story was not the right fit, but please send more), I believe that changing things up has helped me gain a fresh perspective on writing long fiction. I have never had a problem with vomiting words up on paper, but stopping at any point under 10000 words with a coherent story line, now that’s a big challenge.
If you don’t have a specific goal, like a contest or anthology, which informs the kind of story you’re writing, then it can be quite hard to determine what kind of story you’re writing. Sometimes you can write thousands of words, only to find it works brilliantly condensed as a 400-word flash fiction. Sometimes you start writing with the intention of creating a short story, only to find your characters or story is so interesting it deserves to be worked out into novel length. As long as you recognise this, nothing is lost. All stories you put out there add good vibes. All stories, properly edited, will help your profile, get you some publicity, show your writing style to potential agents. Will this turn into book deals? I have no idea.
Writer’s block courtesy of Calvin & Hobbes
From a psychological perspective, people are often told to try a different medium when they’re stuck. If you can’t figure out what to paint, then draw or write or knit.. Since I can’t draw and am terrible at knitting, my main medium changes have to take place within writing. This leaves me very few possibilities for dealing with writer’s block; stop writing, switch genres, or switch length. Out of these, to stop writing is death, and I’m not very good at switching genres (sci-fi has turned back into fantasy in the past), so that leaves changing things up. Hence the short stories, and now the flash fiction. I hope this works for other people as well, but everyone has to find these things out for themselves.
For my part, I just hope that I’ll be able to get my short stories (self-) published at some point, and I’ll still be able to write long fiction when I get back to it next month.