East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing 1000 words

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Between yesterday and today, I wrote and submitted two flash fictions.
The respective mags guidelines were pretty clear: not a single word above 1000.
Now I always have a problem with that… including the title, or not?
But apart from that, why not?

I have been working on polishing my flash fiction skills – for what they are – for quite a while now. I am normally a long-winded guy: I feel more comfortable writing a 4000-words story rather than a 3000-words one, 6000 is even better, 8000 is really good.
Publishers’ guidelines usually leave a certain margin – they tell you 4/6000, and maybe note that the sweet spot is 4500.
Flash fiction does not leave much room for wriggling about – if it’s no-more than 1000, that’s it.

Something I have learned – and that works for me, mind you, might not work for you – is to write 10/20% over the limit while doing the first draft.
The top required figure is 1000?
It’s OK to write a first draft of 1150 words.
Because after that there’s the editing phase.
And on such a short text, editing becomes something very close and very deep.
Away with excess words, in with precision: is there a way I can write this in a single word instead of three?
Going through the editing phase with the clear target of cutting out 150 words helps focusing -and it’s easy to do in a single sitting on such a short text.

It is also a very good exercise, one that teaches a lot about language, and polishing a text, and that can be applied, with a modicum of patience, on longer stuff.

Working this way, therefore I prepared two stories, and mailed them to the editors.
I doubt very much they’ll like them, but this is another nice thing about flash fiction: it’s like spare change, jangling in your pocket. It’s good to have a few shorties ready, because there’s always people looking for short-short stuff.
Maybe it’s just ten bucks a shot, but it’s also an easy ten bucks.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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