Writing flash fiction is an incredibly difficult art form to pull off. Part of the difficulty is that there isn’t much financial incentive to really pursue the art of flash fiction. Depending on what publication you read, flash fiction can be anywhere from under 1000 word to under 500 words. In case you’re wondering how long 500 words is, well — it’s just a couple of paragraphs longer than this article.
Not So Fast
“Oh, that’s more than enough space to tell a story,” you think. Great! Then go and try to write a piece of flash fiction now. It has to be a complete story, remember, not a part of something else, not a scene from a much bigger setting. And it has to make sense. Oh, and it also has to be interesting.
Not that easy, is it?
The Dirty Truth
The truth is, you will put just as much sweat and effort into crafting a piece of flash fiction as you would for a much longer short story or even a novella. Novellas are actually easier to write in many ways as you can go off on tangents, bring in a lot of characters and use some passages to smooth out the bumps of other passages.
You can’t do that in flash fiction because of the tight word restriction. It’s like having to paint in black and white instead of in color. You really have to be more precise in your figures and composition. Every word carries the same amount of weight in a flash fiction story.
This means you have to go over a piece of flash fiction over and over again until you are just about ready to puke at having to look at it again. In between drafts, you really should put the piece of flash fiction away for one or two weeks and look at it with the fresh eyes of your reader.
From start to finish, it can take weeks, months or years in order to sell a flash fiction story. And the average price publications pay for all of your hard work? About one dollar. If you’re really luck, you might get five dollars.
The exciting thing about the art of flash fiction is that it’s becoming more popular. There seems to me more and more publications devoted to flash fiction and flash poetry on Duotrope’s Digest or the Writer’s Market. There is even one publication that began in 2007 that dares to pay $50 per story. Perhaps this is an exciting time of things to come for those who love to write and read flash fiction.
And you do have to love to read flash fiction in order to be infected with the illness to compulsively write flash fiction. Otherwise, you are safe.