Monday, September 16, 2013

The Challenge of Writing Flash Fiction

I’m all about challenges.

I like to be challenged by the world around me. But even more so, I like to challenge myself. So when I started writing flash fiction (super short stories that are usually less than 1,000 words), I challenged myself to write at least one new story a week.

In order to hold myself accountable (because as much as I’m all about challenges, sometimes I can be all about excuses), I created Little Write Lies (

When I launched the site, I told my family and friends. I posted links to it on Facebook and Twitter with the tag line “Weekly Short Fiction." Despite my being terrified that my stories would fall flat or readers would criticize my writing, I told everyone I knew about the site. I did this because I wanted to grow as a writer and - more importantly - I didn’t want to let myself quit before I had given myself a chance to excel. I knew that if I had people watching to see if I either succeeded or failed, I would succeed.

And I did. I’ve been posting for nearly half a year now, my readership has been growing like crazy, and I can feel my writing evolving with each story.

“But why flash fiction?” some of my readers ask. “Why so short?”

Because: challenges.

Writing flash fiction is a challenge. It’s tough to write a complete story - beginning, climax and resolution - all in such a limited space. I’m not saying that it’s easy to write a novel or a traditional short story. I’m just saying that flash fiction presents a different type of challenge. One that most writers don’t encounter too often. By trade, we writers can ramble on as much as we want. That’s the beauty of art: the freedom to say whatever you want to say and to take however long you want to say it.

But slap a word limit on your story and suddenly it becomes a whole new kind of art. Each word becomes so much more important. You start to question the necessity of entire paragraphs. You obsessively weigh the merits of ‘the’ versus ‘a’. You spend hours editing only 500 words. No matter how short a piece of flash fiction is, it is never simple. And that, in itself, is the challenge.

The most challenged I’ve been in my writing has been in flash fiction. But with each completed story that I post on Little Write Lies, I feel a deeply satisfying sense of accomplishment.
What I'm getting at here is this: challenge yourself. Take something you love, set the stakes a little higher than they already are, and watch yourself succeed.

About this Guest Poster:

Taylor Eaton is a writer and linguist who is constantly fascinated by language. Playing with words makes her far happier than it should. Her flash fiction can be found at and in the forthcoming issue of Em Dash Literary Magazine. Between bouts of writing, Taylor tweets about words, wine and Southern California at


  1. I love that you give yourself accountability as well as a challenge. It's so easy to make big goals and then have little to no reason to follow through. That's why I've found that my writing friends are so important to me. Before I had writing buds, I'd written little and published nothing. Knowing that people are reading what I write and waiting for more puts just the right kind of pressure on me not only to write (which is hard enough on its own), but to write better as well. Yay, peer pressure! :D

    1. Yes! Definitely, Jill! A while ago, I viewed writing as a solitary thing. Now that I've discovered the kind of motivation that comes from connecting with readers (and especially from my writing buddies), I can't imagine writing without it! Thanks for the comment :)

  2. I've been writing flash fiction for around 2-3 years now and have even gone down to as low as 50 words. I agree it is a challenge but it's also a tool for improving one's writing. It teaches you not to waffle, get rid of superfluous words and to maintain the reader's interest. I've learnt a lot in writing flash and this helped me when writing my three novellas.

    Being part of the flash fiction community has also helped me learn and hone my craft not to mention the comradeship one gets from a writing group. ^_^ Enjoyed your post.

  3. Agreed! I've learned so much about the way I write (and how to write better) from practicing within the flash fiction length.

    So glad you enjoyed the article - if you have a link to some of your flash fiction work, I'd love to read it!

    1. Sure. You can find my blog here and all my flash is under the category flash fiction - there is as a category for drabbles (100 word story) you find the category button in the side bar. Do leave me a comment if you read anything ^_^

    2. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I'll go check it out! :D

  4. I love this post! I love the concept of littlewritelies... maybe I need something like that to motivate myself, haha.

    This post itself is written very well, too, and I love that you kept it short--it kind of embodies the whole spirit of flash fiction and challenges and limitations in and of itself!

    Great job, and I can't wait to read your work in Em Dash!

    1. Thank you, Cristina! So glad you enjoyed the article. :)
      After I wrote the post, I realized how short it was. Now I wonder if I can even write anything long anymore!