Have You Ever Tried to Write Flash Fiction?

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I know I’ve talked about Flash Fiction here before, but today I want to speak to those of you who are writers. Have you ever tried to write Flash Fiction?

I used to think it would be quite difficult to write Flash Fiction in the genres that I write: my WIP is Historical Romance, however I also like to write Contemporary Romance. Most of the Flash Fiction I have seen and read has been Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or Speculative Fiction. However, if you’ve been reading my Flash Fiction Friday posts, you’ll see that it can be done with Contemporary Romance. The fact of the matter is Flash Fiction can be any genre.

I will reiterate the Flash Fiction guidelines once again. Depending on whose definition you read, Flash Fiction can be anywhere from less than 100 words to 1,500 words. However, many Flash Fiction writers prefer to write 300-500 words. Flash Fiction stories, as all stories, still require the story to have a beginning, middle, and end. (I have a friend who thinks every Flash Fiction story she reads could be turned into a full-length novel. And, she has a good point, if you like to read novel-length stories. I know that I could, most likely, turn all of my Flash Fiction stories into novellas or full-length novels, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to.) Flash Fiction serves a purpose. Just like the renewed popularity of Short Stories in today’s world, Flash Fiction is also very popular because many people don’t want to take the time to read novels anymore. However, that doesn’t mean they want to read an incomplete story that leaves them hanging at the end.

Therefore, that’s why it’s important that your Flash Fiction stories have a beginning, middle, and end; and the end has to feel complete and it needs to satisfy the reader. It needs to bring closure to the story and bring resolution to whatever conflict you created in the short piece.

So, if you’re a writer and you haven’t tried writing Flash Fiction, I challenge you to do so. Why? Because it will definitely help you improve your writing because it will challenge you to write a good complete story in few words. My first Flash Fiction Stories were between 1,000 and 1,500 words. The ones I am writing and posting on my Flash Fiction Friday posts right now are 790-800 words, and these sometimes take a while. I began one yesterday afternoon, thought I had it finished but wasn’t happy with the ending. I worked on it again last night and I’m still not happy with it, so I will work on it again today and maybe tomorrow and another day before I manage to create a 790-800 word complete story that I believe is the best I can do with the idea I have for this story.

Therefore, I will probably continue writing Flash Fiction of 790-800 words for a while yet, until it becomes easy for me to write a complete and satisfying story of that word count. Then, I’ll shoot for 500 words. (I did write one Flash Fiction story of 500 words that I recently entered in a contest that required no more than 500 words. My story made it through the first round of judging, but didn’t end up winning. So, I took it to a critique group, got some feedback on it, tweaked it based on comments from the group, and made it a better 500 word Flash Fiction story.)

Writing Flash Fiction helps you to write concisely and to not overuse certain words or be too wordy. Flash Fiction requires you to write less characters so that you can still create one or two characters that your readers will be able to relate to; characters that are believable and that your readers will want to root for.

If you decide to take the challenge and try your hand at Flash Fiction, let me know if you post a Flash Fiction story on your website. Post a link in the comments, and I’ll visit your site and read what you’ve come up with. It will be fun to encourage each other in improving our writing skills.

The Value of my Critique Partners

I have been in several critique groups: some large, some small; some that meet weekly, some once a month, and some twice a month; as well as an online critique group. Why have I been a part of so many critique groups? Because I believe having a critique group is important because it helps you improve your writing and your story–to write the best story you can write even before an editor gets to work on it. It helps make the editor’s job easier, and helps me not have to pay as high of an editing fee as if I didn’t put all of this work into it first.

After participating in all of the groups above, I have finally settled into one group that I believe is the perfect fit for me. I have read other writers’ opinions about critique groups and have found that most of them say that two or three critique partners is the best size. That is what I have found. The critique group I am a part of meets twice a month and is just two other ladies and myself, although a gentleman does join us over the summer months.

I have found that this group is the perfect fit for me and works best for the following reasons: 1) too many voices giving feedback can set my head to spinning, but two or three voices make sense and are easier to sort through; 2) meeting with the same people and having them critique my work from start to finish allows them to become very familiar with my work, my writing — both my strengths and weaknesses, as well as my goals — what my story is really about–what I’m trying to say.

Because of those reasons my writing continues to improve because of their comments, suggestions, and encouragement. Just a few weeks ago, one of them said to me, I don’t like where you’re going with this. There are too many new characters, and you’ve gone astray from the main goal of your story. (Or something very similar to that.) I left critique group that day feeling a bit frustrated. I’ve been working on this manuscript for over two years already–I want to finish it and move on to the next story! I don’t want to spend years on every book I write. (But, at the same time, I want every book that I write to be the very best it can be.)

However, because I value the opinions of these critique partners and have built a good, trusting relationship with them, I had to contemplate what she said, and I did. I took a week or two to mull it over and came to realize she was right. As a historical romance writer who loves history, I was trying to include too much history, and if I continued on the current path, my book was going to be too long. She was also right that I had lost the main goal of my story.

Once I came to that realization, I had to go back to find where I had veered from the proper path–eight chapters ago! Ugh! Well, I printed everything from chapter 17 (where I was last on track) through chapter 25, and I started writing from the end of chapter 17 again with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. I am still going through the other eight chapters to see if there is anything I can salvage and keep in the story, which my critique partners also assured me that I can, and they pointed out what they liked that still kept to my story goal and made it interesting.

Now, in just a few short weeks, I am writing my new 21st chapter and I love the direction the story is now going–much closer to my intended goal, and my critique partners have assured me that they are loving the new chapters and that my writing is better, stronger, and helps them to relate to the characters so much more.

So, if you’re a fiction writer, and you don’t have a couple of critique partners that you trust and meet with regularly, I greatly encourage you to find some. It will do your writing and your confidence in your writing a world of good!

LCW Super Saturday is Coming!

If you are a writer, or want to be a writer, and you live in or near, or can travel to Lancaster County, PA, I highly recommend this one-day writers’ conference, and this year’s promises to be the best yet, just look at the line-up:

LCW SUPER SATURDAY 2018  April 7, 2018  (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.)

WORKSHOP DESCRIPTIONS/FACULTY BIOS

MARLENE BAGNULL— Conference speaker and director Greater Philly and
Colorado Christian Writers Conference; author, Write His Answer; editor and
publisher, Ampelos Press

WORKSHOP: Hook ‘em from the Get-go and Hold ‘em to the End. With
over 1,000 sales to Christian periodicals, Marlene Bagnull has developed a
checklist to help you create, rewrite, and edit your articles so that you can be
certain you’ll hook ’em from the get-go and hold ’em to the end.

DONNA BRENNAN—magazine and technical writer with
numerous short stories, interviews, and nonfiction articles published online and
in print magazines including Thriving Family, Encounter, Splickity, and
Christian Fiction Online Magazine. A member of American Christian Fiction
Writers (ACFW) and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG),
Donna has served in various capacities on the GLVWG board, including several
terms as Conference Chair.

WORKSHOP: Make It Personal: Mastering Deep Point of View: What is
meant by “deep point of view” and how does it affect your writing or your
reader? Can you only attain deep point of view in first person writing, or is it
possible in third person? In this interactive session, we’ll discuss what is and
isn’t deep point of view and study examples. And then we’ll all try our hand at improving several
samples of writing by going deeper with the point of view.

PIERRE EADE—pastor, conference speaker, and author of Born to
Grow and Our Good Father. Pierre’s personal mission is to inspire,
educate and empower people to grow. Pierre enjoys writing on the
topic of spiritual growth on his website and blog. In both his writing
and speaking, Pierre is a gifted communicator who uses the power of
personal story and humor to bring the Bible to life.

WORKSHOP: The Power of Story: Using Personal Anecdote and
Humor to Write Compelling Non-Fiction. “Then I witnessed the most
amazing thing happen with my dog!” Capturing your audience’s
attention. Bringing a smile to their face. Landing your message with a
powerful punch. All of this is possible through the power of story. In
this workshop, you will not only learn the why and how of creative storytelling but get a chance
to put it into action. And maybe hear the astonishing true story of how Pierre Eade’s dog was
healed through the power of—peanut butter?!

LYNN EIB—award-winning newspaper reporter-turned-award-winning
author with six titles published by Tyndale House, including bestselling
When God & Cancer Meet and Peace in the Face of Cancer, 2017 Golden
Scroll Nonfiction Book of the Year. Her journalism career includes awardwinning
reporting stints on The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The York Daily
Record, as well as many published articles in both secular and religious
magazines. As a longtime cancer survivor and patient advocate, she has
provided emotional and spiritual support to tens of thousands of cancer
patients and caregivers around the world. Lynn is also founder of The
Cancer Prayer Support Group, the country’s oldest such faith-based group.

WORKSHOP: Faith-Based Writing Both Believers and Seekers Will
Read. Do you want your writing to not only encourage believers, but also
draw those seeking God closer to true faith? If so, you need to write so
those readers will read and can understand your message. Learn to think
like those readers think, appropriately choose a title/book cover, avoid
Christian terminology, and use Scripture powerfully, yet wisely. If you have a heart for your
work to be an evangelistic tool, you will want to attend this workshop.

GAYLE ROPER–Has been in love with story as long as she can remember, whether reading or writing one. She has authored more than fifty books and won numerous awards including RITA Award, Carol Award, and Golden Scroll. Romantic Times Book Report has given her the Lifetime Achievement Award. Christian Writers’ Conferences including Mount Hermon CWC, Florida CWC, and Greater Philadelphia CWC have cited her contributions to the training of writers. She lives in Southeastern PA and can be contacted at gayle@gayleroper.com; http://www.gayleroper.com.

WORKSHOP:  But I Love Her! Making Your Characters Live. What makes a character on paper more real than the person sitting next to you? Characters your reader cares for and knows are the keys to successful fiction, whether plot driven or character driven. We will discuss personalities, markers, layering, and consistency.

WORKSHOP:  Before You Write–Theology and Philosophy of Christian Fiction. You can’t wait to write your story. You have a great plot and wonderful characters. But who are you writing for? What’s your world view? What about pattern and principle? Verities vs. distinctives? You should know so you can write from a solid base.

LOREE LOUGH— Bestselling author of more than a hundred books
that have earned countless industry and Readers’ Choice awards,
including fiction and non-fiction for kids and adults, with nearly seven
million copies in circulation and seven books optioned for movies. Loree
also has 68 short stories, and 2500+ articles in print. An oft-invited guest
of writers’ organizations, colleges and universities, corporate and
government agencies in the U.S. and abroad, Loree loves sharing
learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry.

WORKSHOP: Don’t Waste That Research: Turning Your Extra Data into Writing Income.
Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, writers spend countless hours reading and interviewing in preparation for a well-researched article or novel. In this fun and practical workshop, Loree will show you, step by step, how to turn that research into extra dollars. Now, doesn’t that make “cents”’!

SHAWN SMUCKER— Co-writer of many nonfiction titles and author
of YA speculative novels The Edge of Over There and The Day the
Angels Fell, 2018 winner of Christianity Today’s Book Award in
Children and Youth category. He lives in Lancaster, PA, with his wife
and six children.

WORKSHOP: Writing Out of This World: A Practical Guide to
Speculative Fiction from Concept to Publication. Are you thinking of
diving into the emerging genre of speculative fiction? Does your new
book idea involve elements of supernatural realism? Join Shawn
Smucker, recipient of Christianity Today’s 2018 Book Award for his
YA speculative novel The Day the Angels Fell, as he explores the
process of moving your “out of this world” story idea from concept to
successful publication.

JEANETTE WINDLE—president, Lancaster Christian Writers,
investigative journalist, freelance editor, award-winning author
of 21 fiction and non-fiction titles, including Forgiven, 2016
Christian Retailing Best Award and ECPA Christian Book
Award finalist, and All Saints, also a Sony film.

WORKSHOP: Life’s Good, Bad and Ugly: Making Fiction
Ring True. Writers can only breathe reality into their words if
they know intimately of what they are writing. From an author
who has been there and done that, learn how to use the good,
bad, and ugly of your life experience to give your fiction the
touch that will grab editors’ attention and make your story ring
true to readers.

Now hurry over to: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JMRwT9RXQ46IzkN9v3GNEPhWnwgID9fT/view

and register! I hope to see you there!

The Importance of Your Voice

It’s been a while since I posted anything truly writing related, and I experienced something recently that really got me thinking about the importance of your voice in your writing.

Since each of us is unique, it is important that we use our own unique voice in our writing. That is what will define our writing as our own. Therefore, it is important to develop and use your voice in your writing. It is also important not to let anyone change your voice, not even your editor or publisher.

Yes, an editor and publisher know what works and what doesn’t in stories, and they know what’s selling. They may require edits, revisions and rewrites which will improve your overall story, your characters, or your plot. But be sure you understand what “voice” is, and don’t let them change your “voice”, for that is what makes your story uniquely yours.

Do you have a favorite author? If you were to read something by that author that didn’t identify the author, would you still recognize that it was written by that author? Of course you would. That is the author’s voice. It is everything that makes that author’s work unique to that author in such a way that his/her readers recognize it.

You can find lots of wonderful, helpful information that explains “voice”, both the author’s voice and the character’s voice simply by Googling “Voice in Literature”. I don’t want to get into a lot of the technical aspects of “voice”. That’s not what this post is about.

This post is about encouraging you to find, strengthen, and use your voice in your writing, and to encourage you to stand strong and not let ANYONE change your voice–that part of your writing that makes it uniquely yours.

Here is what I have recently experienced that has taught me the importance of my voice. One of my recent Friday posts of a poem was read by a friend/fellow writer who thought my poem was too “wordy” and wanted it to have more “imagery”.

Now, granted, I know that painting mental pictures with good, brief description is something I need to continue to work on in my writing. However, I do not claim nor aspire to be a poet. My poetry is something I just enjoy dabbling in and sharing here, and if you like it, that’s fine, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine too.

So, anyway, my friend/fellow writer rewrote my poem to take out what this person felt were my un-needed words to make the imagery stronger. Then this person read her rewritten version of my poem to me. It was quite nice, but as I listened I realized that it didn’t sound anything like me, but it did, indeed, sound like this friend/fellow writer.

I understand this friend/fellow writer was simply trying to be helpful, and I am always open to feedback and suggestions on my writing, and I was not offended or angry in any way. As a matter of fact, I often seek this friend’s opinion of my writing out and appreciate this friend’s feedback, and I always consider this friend’s words/suggestions. But as the rewritten version of my poem was read, I just thought “that wasn’t my voice”, so even though the friend said, “It’s still your poem”, it didn’t feel like my poem, and it didn’t sound like my poem because it had lost my “voice”.

That is why I say, always be open and willing to hear advice and gentle criticism of your writing, but be sure your writing NEVER LOSES YOUR VOICE!

An Upcoming Writers’ Conference

I know, if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter, you will be seeing this as a repeat of a Facebook post and a Tweet I shared last week. However, for those of you who follow my blog but not my Facebook or Twitter, I don’t want you to miss out on this news. There is a one-day Writers’ Conference coming to Harrisburg, PA on Saturday, October 21,2017. Mike Dellosso, who is a wonderful writer will be teaching some great workshops. I would love to meet some of your fellow bloggers/writers at the conference. Find out more about it, by clicking “Creative Writing for Everyone”.

I will definitely be there, so if you can attend, please be sure to introduce yourself to me and let me know you follow my blog.

If you want to know more about Mike, I did an interview with him here on this blog two years ago: “Meet Author, Mike Dellosso”.  I’ve also done some reviews on books he’s written. You can find them by clicking the following titles: Centralia, and A Thousand Sleepless Nights, which he wrote under his pen name, Michael King.

I’ve heard Mike speak at conferences as a keynote speaker and as a workshop teacher and he always inspires me. I look forward to attending this workshop and hope to meet you there.

A New Literary Journal

As a writer, I am always looking for opportunities to expand my writing, and I recently discovered that there is a new literary journal in the works, first issue to be published September 1st.  The title is “Echo Literary Journal”.  They even have a contest planned for winter already! No, they don’t pay for publication, but they allow you to submit your story or poetry other places after they publish it, if it is accepted for their publication.

They are looking for heart-warming short stories, essays, and poetry. They publish the following Fiction genres: Suspense; Crime; Detective; Thriller; Mystery; Western; Women’s Fiction; Historical Romance.

They accept submissions by email by the 28th of each month.

Now, some people have already been grumbling about the fact that they don’t pay for publication. Well, first of all, let me say there are a lot of publications, especially magazines, that don’t pay for publication, and some of them are fairly large publications. However, this publication is brand new; just starting. Sometimes writing isn’t about the money but about encouraging and supporting someone’s dream, and it’s not like you’re not getting anything out of it if you submit your writing and they publish it because you’re getting the opportunity to reach readers you may not have reached before or any other way.

As a follower of Christ, I just want to say, “It’s not all about me”. I am part of the body of Christ, as well as part of a community of writers, editors, agents and publishers, and I believe that the community will only survive and be successful if we work together and support one another, especially with the multitudes of publications out there competing for our attention.

In addition, the Chief Editor, Ellen Owens, is a single mom of two young boys who has dreamed of doing something like this for years. For ten years she worked for a small town newspaper publisher–her duties included writing, editing, selling advertising, layout and design, and distributing. In addition, she has written feature stories for several biweekly and weekly newspapers on a regular basis.

For all of the reasons above, I plan to both subscribe to and submit to this journal and I hope that at least some of you who read this will do so as well. Here is a link to their direct website, where you can read more:

https://silentecholiteraryjournalblog.wordpress.com/

 

Enough Time to Write

If you’ve been visiting or following this blog for long, you probably already know that in addition to being a writer, I am a homeschool mom and I am doing my best to live a healthy lifestyle – eating the Trim Healthy Mama way and exercising.  This means making everything from scratch, no processed foods. It also requires protein at each meal, low carbs and no sugar. It’s going well, but it can be time consuming to make everything from scratch, though not overwhelming.

My family has to take priority over my writing during this time in my life, which I know is the right thing, but I sometimes get frustrated because I WANT to write everyday, but that is just not possible right now.

Then, when I attended the Super Saturday writers’ conference this year, the keynote speaker, Mike Dellosso, addressed this very issue. He works a full-time plus a part-time job, is the father of five daughters in a homeschool family and writes books, and, like me, his family comes first, so his keynote speech was of great encouragement and help.

You see, I’ve been frustrated and feeling guilty because I’ve had so many people say, “If you really want to be a writer, you need to write everyday, AND, you need to treat it like any other job, which means you can’t NOT do it. You have to schedule time and park your behind in your seat and write — no excuses!”

Well, that’s fine for those whose children are grown and no longer living at home, but that is not where I am at. Therefore, when Mike talked about how we have a dream for writing much more than we do, but that might not be God’s plan for us right now, that made sense.

Mike reminded us of the story of Joseph from the Bible and how he had dreams that took twenty-two years to come to fruition, but that during that time, Joseph kept his faith and remained patient and made the most of each and every circumstance. (This was both encouraging and a bit discouraging to me because as a 50+ woman, I want to complete as many books as I possibly can before I am either unable or unavailable to do so anymore.)

However, Mike went on to say that wherever we are on the road in our writing, that’s where God’s want us at this time, and we should simply be content in that AND do our best with the time we have.

So, that is what I am trying to do in my writing life right now. I am trying to be content with the time that I have to write and use it to the best of my ability. I am working on cleaning out our spare room to organize my books on the bookshelves in that room and put my little desk up there, so that when I have time to write, I will have a place where I can go and not be distracted by other things that might need doing, or by interruptions and other distractions, so that my writing time will be as fruitful as possible. I am also trying to write at least twice a week and the first chance I get at the beginning of each month, I try to write and schedule a month’s worth of blog posts, so that I can concentrate on my WIP for a month at a time, since I normally get about four hours of writing time twice a week for the most part. That plan seems to be an encouragement for me as I actually feel like I am accomplishing something and making progress.

What about you? Where are you at in your writing journey?