I was recently browsing the Bath Flash Awards website when I came across an interview with this edition’s (March-June 2019) Flash Fiction Award Judge, Christopher Allen. You can read the whole interview here.
It was the final question and answer that has mesmerised me all weekend. I quote the question and answer here:
- Any final suggestions for writers entering our award?
Yes. Write from the heart. Edit it and edit it and edit it. Have other people read it. Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something? Write something you think the world needs.
So much advice in so few words, a true ‘flash answer’ to a complex question.
My thoughts on this priceless and concise advice:
‘Write from the heart’
Inspiration is entwined with emotion. Whatever we write should spring from passionate feelings about an issue. That’s an easy one to fulfill. Most of us write stories about people, places and events that are meaningful to us.
‘Edit it and edit it and edit it’
First drafts are necessary, but also messy and too long. Most of us need to ramble to ourselves to get to know our characters and understand their thoughts and actions, and yet those ramblings need to be carefully edited, more than once, thus the repetition, before they can be shared with readers.
‘Have other people read it’
We all know and appreciate the invaluable task of alpha and beta readers, friends, agents, editors, proof readers, and an array of generous and professional people who are usually acknowledged by authors in their books.
Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something?
Words need to go beyond an aesthetic use of language in order to make an impact on the reader. It’s not only about organisation, expression, wording, pace, and grammar, but about the inspiration and feelings conveyed in the writing.
Write something you think the world needs.
Finally, the most important attribute which distinguishes good writing from outstanding writing, the content or message of the text.
Is there an intention beyond entertaining readers? And secondly, is the idea worth writing about? Do readers need to know or think about the characters or issues in your flash/novel?
Christopher’s answer is great advice for writing, a haiku, a birthday card, a flash, a letter, a short story, a novella, a novel and everything else.
If it’s worth writing, it’s worth doing it from the heart.
My twenty-word flash conclusion:
Write with passion about a meaningful issue, edit, aim for emotional impact, edit, share and test, edit, publish. Start again.
And now, let’s finish that flash/novel and start the next one…