Monday, December 17, 2007

Defining Flash Fiction: Mission Impossible

Many of the pieces I find in the slush pile are rejected because they fail to stand-alone as flash fiction. And even though I work with an editorial team that offers brief rejection comments, I suspect many authors still don't grasp why their story was rejected.

Here is one of the rejection notes I wrote last week . . . although the first person narrative structure displays a keen sense of observation, the story is anecdotal and lacks dramatic tension.

What I really wanted to write was . . . this isn't flash fiction.

So what is?

Well, it isn't as easy as saying what is and what isn't flash fiction and for good reason . . . as stated in Pamelyn Castco's article:

Flashes On The Meridian: Dazzled by Flash Fiction:

. . . defining or stating exactly what flash fiction is would be comparable to defining or stating exactly what a poem or novel is. It just cannot be done to anyone's satisfaction.

For my taste/satisfaction, pieces that read as if they have been extracted from a larger work, or stories that have a great deal of static, prologue-style exposition and or an anecdotal, journal/memoir tone, fail to make the cut unless they can effectively convey a complete story in a nutshell--with a beginning, middle and end.

That is not to say many of the well-written, memoir-like pieces I have rejected are not publishable. Indeed they are, but only if submitted to the right markets.

I too, accept that fact that I will never be able to define what flash fiction is to everyone's satisfaction. However, I am more than willing to direct writers to markets that are a good match for their well-written flash memoir pieces.

I welcome any flash memoir market leads, and I will be publishing them here early next year.

Coming soon . . .
Big news about my editorial promotion :-)


bunnygirl said...

Thanks for the info and links to other blogs with flash fiction pointers. I've been experimenting with flash fiction for several months as a way to train myself to make every word count.

For those of us who simply are NOT poets, even amateurish dabbles in the flash format can help us learn to strip a story of fluff and leave only the essentials.

I wonder if a lot of what you're seeing in your slush pile is from people who haven't yet acquired much skill at any length and are under the illusion that short=easy.

If anything, it's harder!

Diary of a Fiction Writer said...

You�re right, Bunnygirl!

Even if a writer is only interested in developing longer forms of fiction like a novel, dabbling in flash fiction and or poetry is a form of cross training.

And precisely because writing compelling flash fiction is NOT easy, is the very reason every writer of fiction should learn the discipline of writing tight.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving us your thoughts on Flash Fiction. Yours is the first description that makes sense to me and makes me feel I might understand, finally! Having said that, I wonder if you might also provide any links to good examples of flash fiction available to be read freely on the net? I'd sincerely appreciate reading some. Thanks :)

Cher'ley said...

Hi Janet,
I couldn't find a guestbook or anything on this website. Thanks for signing my guestbook. I appreciate it.

I also read over all the places you have published. Very cool.

Suzanne Vincent said...

I've enjoyed your blog!

I'm also working as a flash fiction editor, and see the same problems you describe.

It's interesting that the genre we have published the least of is the very genre that most of our editors gravitate toward--speculative fiction.

As hard as it is to write flash well, it's a tremendous challenge, apparently, to write speculative flash fiction well.

We would LOVE to see a great horror or sci-fi flash, but it has yet to come down the pike.

Good luck with your editing. I'm finding it immeasurably enjoyable.

Jannie Sue "Funster" said...

Flash fiction is a totally new concept to me but I am glad the introduction came in its very understandable form, from you.

Congrats on all.


Diary of a Fiction Writer said...

Thanks "funster", and welcome to the very addictive world of flash fiction. Be sure and let us know if you place a story somewhere or come across a story you come across that you would like to point us to. I'm always hungry for a good flash fiction read. :-)