A flash in the pan.

Leeds based writer Vicky Pointing talks about her experience of taking on a 35 day flash fiction challenge.

Flash fiction, for anyone who isn’t familiar with it, is generally defined as a short story of fewer than 1000 words. Beyond that, you can make your flash as miniature as you like, with some writers creating 140 character masterpieces – short enough to fit into a tweet.

Personally, I like my flash fictions somewhere between 250 and 750 words, as I found out when I decided to write 35 of them in a row, one per day, as a bit of a personal challenge. I’d been inspired to do this after hearing about other writers going through the same thing, but I hadn’t written a lot of flash fiction before, so to make sure that I stuck to my plan, I set up a blog and posted my stories there.

At first I was nervous, worried that I wouldn’t be able to write anything good enough, and that I’d run out of ideas after the first week. But on day one my brain came up with the goods, and in less than half an hour, a piece of flash fiction had appeared on the screen in front of me, and was duly unleashed onto the internet. As the days went on I was surprised to find that I kept coming up with decent stories, not 500 words of rambling nonsense, but actual proper fiction with plot and characters and occasional clever or funny bits.

I did get stuck once or twice, having written stories that I didn’t like or didn’t think were good enough to be allowed out of the house, but when that happened I just took a break and then tried again, until I had a piece that I approved of.

By the end of the first week, I was starting to really enjoy myself. My head began to buzz with ideas – images, phrases, curiosities. It seemed to take around 24 hours for an idea to turn into a story, but some flash fictions were quicker to form than others. Sometimes I would just sit down at the laptop and write a sentence that I didn’t expect and then follow the idea to see where it took me.

I was learning to trust my writing brain, and it delivered, time after time, for 35 days. By the end of the challenge, I felt much more confident about my ability to write regularly, to hit deadlines, and to experiment without being afraid of occasionally producing rubbish. And because of that, I would recommend a flash fiction challenge to anyone.

In fact, I might have to start another one myself…

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