I've been writing this blog with the thought that many of my first readers would also be writers. Perhaps you found me through the comments sections on the agent and author blogs I frequent. Perhaps I'll finally get around to promoting myself through my favorite podcast for wanna-be fiction writers. At any rate, I've been thinking about ways to keep writing and stay motivated during the in-between times. When all your work is out on submission. When you're too tired or busy or sick to focus fully on the next project. When, as was my case, you've been working on a single project for so damn long that you're finding it incredibly hard to let go of one set of characters in order to make room for another. What can a writer do to get jump-started again?
My solution was flash fiction: short stories of 1,000 words or less.
I recently gave myself a nice boost by writing an entry for a bi-monthly Writer's Digest competition called Your Story. They give you a prompt, and you get a maximum of 750 words (in my case, about 550 words felt right). I didn't win, but I had a nice 2-page burst of energy that made me feel like I was creating again, when I'd been in editing mode for way too long.
Think that might help you, too? Or just wanna try your hand at a super-short format? Enter my first-ever Flash Fiction Contest.
- POST in the comments, to let me know that you're participating.
- EMAIL me your entry before the deadline (see below). You can find my email address in my blog profile.
- Your ENTRY must be: 500 words of fiction or fewer.
I'll give you two weeks -- until next Thursday at midnight, EST. I'm leaving the writing topic totally open, but if you feel that you need someone to narrow down the options for you, go check out the blog for that favorite podcast of mine. Mur Lafferty has been posting some writing prompts lately, and I'm sure you can find suitable inspiration in one of them.
My favorite contest entry will be posted in this blog, compete with a link to the website of your choice, plus I'll send the winner a cool little stationery item (of my choice) similar to the ones for sale in my Etsy store. (The protagonist in my novel is a graphic artist, so there's kind of a book tie-in here. Stick with the blog. All will be revealed in time.)
If all goes well, I'll try to repeat a similar contest on the first Friday of every month.
And in the meantime, here's my own recent flash fiction attempt. I wonder if my use of expletives hurt my chances at winning the contest? Ah, well. I had to write it as I saw it. If you don't want to read the f-bomb (twice), don't read this story.
Writer's Digest Your Story Contest #18 prompt: Finding Strength. A police detective is assigned to a case involving arson at several Krispy Kreme doughnut shops.
(Oh, and you can find the winning story here.)
I’m never going to be able to get used to that smell.
The usual smell of a Krispy Kreme storefront is sugary and tempting enough to begin with, but now… now there’s that caramelized quality to the air. And there’s a boiled-over vat of chocolate sauce visible through the shattered windows, the smoke-dark shards of glass framing the image as beams of light dance and bob and weave through the store, courtesy of the evidence collectors waving their Maglites around…
“Jones! Detective Jones!”
I rip my gaze from the blackened remains of the donut conveyor belts and turn to see Lisa Pelham -- better known to the Maryland cops as Lisey -- waving her arm at me. I nod, and the uniforms let her under the yellow tape to come over to me.
“So,” she says. “Second one this week?”
“And eight altogether,” I say. “The whole northeast is getting hit; one in New York, plus the D.C. store, and two each in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The Rockland location’s the only one left in the state, and it’s under guard now.”
“Still no casualties?”
“No. All the jobs done at night after closing.” I don’t mention that there’s a 24-hour Krispy Kreme in Alexandria, Virginia. I’m worried about them.
“We are currently pursuing a number of leads and feel confident that the perpetrators will be brought to justice swiftly.”
“Aw, come on, Natalie.” Lisey’s shoulders slump. “Don’t give me the party line. Off the record, okay? What the hell is going on? Competitors? Those no-trans-fat nutjobs from New York?” She gives the store a glance over my shoulder, simultaneously pained and disbelieving. “I mean, come on,” she says again. “Who would do something like this?”
I resist the urge to look back. I’m sure the evidence guys are taking the photos and collecting the samples we need. I’ve already walked through once. That’s enough. I’ll come back again when the place is cold… if I have to.
I look Lisey in the eyes.
“I don’t know. The people who run the Cinnabons and the Dunkin Donuts… they’re scared. Maybe there’s someone else we haven’t talked to, but the ones we’ve met are being straight with us. There’s no way they’re behind it. And the trans-fat types you’re talking about clearly prefer legislation to…” I pause, and I get the smell in my nose again. Smoke. Char. Burnt paper and sugar and dough. “Well, to this.”
I catch that pained expression from Lisey again, and I know that it’s only years of police training -- and years of poker playing -- that are keeping the same expression from crossing my own face.
I touch Lisey on the shoulder. “I’ll let you know the second I get something. You. And we can talk about what gets reported afterwards.”
Lisey nods, and walks back towards the yellow tape.
A still-smoldering bale of napkins gets shoved outside the store’s front door.
Fucking diet. You’d think losing the stores would make it easier, but now, knowing that I can’t just go get one, even if I wanted it…
The glazed at Dunkin don’t even come close.
I wonder how long a drive it is to Alexandria.
I wonder if there are any Weight Watchers meetings this late at night.