Writing is often a solitary endeavour, so supportive writing communities, like the Rough Writers at Carrot Ranch, led by Charli Mills, are invaluable to authors.
They’re a safe place where we can express our creativity, receive and offer feedback, and feel we belong to a greater worldwide community we would never be able to reach on our own.
Rough Writers are an encouraging and friendly group who often comment on each other’s flash fiction. There are usually lively discussions on the weekly prompt day and the round-up, as well as comments on each other’s posts.
My first contribution to the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge was in February 2015. It’s been a great pleasure to have contributed with almost fifty stories over the past three years and to have read hundreds of other stories. I’m always amazed at how many different approaches the rough writers come up with to the same topic!
The first flash fiction anthology from Charli’s Rough Writers over at The Carrot Ranch was published in February, 2018. I am honored to have been part of that anthology, which was made possible by the participation of over thirty regular contributors to Carrot Ranch’s weekly Challenge, as well as Charli’s enthusiasm as group leader.
A very special mention and thanks to Sarah Brentyn, the fabulous editor of the volume, who made sure all our contributions were perfect (she certainly helped me make the most of mine! Thank you Sarah).
The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 is available for distribution in 17 countries worldwide.
It’s available now in print and e-book versions: preferably via book baby; and also on Amazon US, Amazon UK
I’d like to share with you the one most important lesson I’ve learnt from writing Flash Fiction:
Make every word count.
The more I unclutter and draw my readers straight into the story, the higher the chances they’ll keep reading.
Contemporary readers are both busy and impatient, and their attention spans are shorter, because they’re more used to multitasking and online reading. I know this because I’m also a contemporary reader and I interact with many others! A great deal has been written about this, for example this article in the Guardian, Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write.
Writing flash fiction (and poetry, but that’s for another post!) have both increased my confidence as a writer by:
· Improving my writing style,
· Enhancing my creativity, and
· Boosting my word power.
How to Make Every Word Count?
Whatever I’m writing, be it a poem, a flash or a novel, the first draft is all about finding and creating my story, so I write to my heart’s content, the more words and information the better, because at this point, I’m telling the story to myself.
It’s later, with the subsequent edits, when I start thinking of my readers, that I edit consciously and viciously. I ditch or combine scenes, shorten paragraphs and chapters, tighten sentences and ultimately, cut out words, or rephrase to clarify and get to the point.
In flash fiction, for example, a lot of the first draft will be brainstorming ideas, scenes, whole sentences, ignoring the word count.
Once I’ve completed my first draft, I start again and ask myself these questions about every single word:
· Does the word move the story on?
· Does the word tell the reader something essential?
· If I read the text without the word does the sentence still convey my intended meaning?
· Can I include the idea behind the word in another shorter way, for example with another expression or a different verb?
· Is there a more direct and clearer way of writing a sentence?
· Am I satisfied that each word conveys my intended meaning? There’s always a perfect word and I need to find it. I still have my original Roget’s Thesaurus, which I bought in 1980 on my desk, plus all the online tools available to activate all the vocabulary my brainpower can recall.
· Finally, I prioritize. I may need all the words, but I have a word limit. I must decide which words, or groups of words, even whole lines, are more essential than others to convey my meaning.
This is why it takes me less than thirty minutes to write the first draft of a flash or poem and several hours, often days, to come up with the final version.
With a novel it takes me about three months to write a first draft and at least six more for the subsequent drafts and edits.
Before concluding, I’d like to indulge in a short trip down memory lane and include my first contribution to the Carrot Ranch 99-word Challenge.
Aunt Lucy (Published on 9th February, 2015).
“Your sister should have married.”
“She’s perfectly happy on her own.”
“I suppose you can’t blame anyone for not wanting to live with her, can you?”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s as mad as a hatter.”
“What a horrible thing to say! She’s not mad. She’s just different.”
“Look at her clothes and her sixty-year-old hippy friends. They still smoke pot, for crying out loud! Thank God we had the sense to adopt her child so she could have a normal life.”
The door opened.
“I wondered when you were going to tell me Aunt Lucy was my mother.”
Here are my other contributions to Carrot Ranch’s Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge
Here’s a previous post I wrote about how flash fiction has improved my writing.
You might enjoy visiting these other Rough Writers who have taken part in the book launch and tell us about how flash fiction has influenced their writing.
Irene Waters in Australia
Susan Zutautas in Canada
Norah Colvin in Australia
Sherri Matthews in the UK
Sacha Black in the UK
Ann Edall-Robson in Canada
Anne Goodwin in the UK
Geoff Le Pard in the UK
What’s your experience of writing flash fiction? Has it helped you improve your writing, too?