Writing flash fiction was one of the ways I trained myself to write a book. I made a few attempts at writing a full-length novel just over ten years ago and failed on multiple occasions.
The problem was I hadn’t fully prepared myself to write a book. First off, I hadn’t created an outline. Secondly, I didn’t know my characters. I just knew that I wanted to write a book, so I dove right in.
I don’t necessarily think this was a mistake. The alternative may have been to continually talk about wanting to write a novel without actually sitting down and doing it. Instead, I envisioned the first scene, had a general idea of where I was going and proceeded to fail miserably.
A couple of years after my first attempts, I encountered flash fiction and sat down to write a novel-length work of microfiction. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the perfect training for writing novels.
I got to the point where I could write about 1,000 words (or one piece of flash) in about an hour. It was an exercise or preparation for what I started to see could be scenes or a portion of a chapter.
The next time I tried to write a novel, the word count came to 90,000 words. The trick was that I wrote it 1,000 words at a time. In this way, I was able to complete a much longer work. That novel wasn’t very good and was full of fatal flaws, but it was a step in the right direction.
In short, writing flash helped me get over a hump. Even if it was only the discipline of sitting down every day to write a flash fiction piece, I learned how to break a larger work into much smaller chunks. My hope is that this gives each chapter an arc that feeds into the larger narrative.
photo: Kristopher Roller