Are you familiar with flash fiction? Have you dismissed it because you write novels or screenplays or something significantly longer? Well, don’t give up on it just yet. Writing and publishing flash fiction can help in ways you probably weren’t aware, as Gila Green is here to explain.
Book publishing is a tough, competitive business. Still, there’s no reason to make the road harder to travel. Enter flash fiction—an excellent way to break into both fiction and nonfiction book publishing.
Flash fiction pieces are very short stories that still include their own character development and plot. Other names for flash fiction include nano fiction, micro fiction, postcard fiction, and sudden fiction. Usually anything under 1,000 words is considered flash, but it can be as brief as fifty.
If your goal is to publish long, you may be thinking that writing short is a waste of time. I’d like to share five ways writing and submitting flash fiction can shorten the road to novel publication.
Practice Working with Editors
In publishing you absolutely cannot have enough contacts. When you publish flash fiction you will be dealing with an editor—at least one, and sometimes two. Occasionally, you’ll correspond with an acquisition editor who accepts your work and directs you to the editor of that specific genre, or that specific issue. No matter how short your pieces are, that experience working with editors is valuable. You will be that much more polished when communicating with a potential novel editor one day.
Contacts, Contacts, Contacts
If you get particularly lucky, there will be a well-established guest editor for that issue, and you’ll have that editor’s direct contact e-mail and a reason to communicate. This happened to me recently. Imagine my delight when my piece was accepted and I received a personal email from Alicia Elliott with her comments on my work.
You might ask yourself how connecting with editors on very short pieces can really make a difference to you. First, remember that most editors of literary magazines and anthologies are published writers. When your book is under consideration and you receive that all-too common email asking about your marketing plans, you can include that editor’s name as a potential contact.
Second, if you send that editor a polite and personal email, he or she might in future consider giving you a blurb for your novel or a recommendation for a writer’s retreat, advice, or news about industry events.
Examples of a light, personal touches you might include in such a message:
- “It was a pleasure working with you and I hope we have a chance to work together again soon in future.”
- “Please add me to your mailing list for future issues and events.”
- You might also join the publication’s social media and interact in a positive way. I have continued to ‘like’ magazines that have published my work and to communicate with editors on LinkedIn, briefly sharing news. You can also expand your writer’s community this way, far beyond the editor who accepted your piece.
Another point to consider is that flash doesn’t stop at magazines; there are also flash anthologies. Some of those magazines and anthologies are linked to small presses like Akashic Books—a publisher who asks for themed flash fiction and then puts out themed story collections.
This means one short piece could land you as an author in an anthology from a respected press. Not only will that be on your bio, but all of the writers published with you will be pushing that anthology. That’s a lot more marketing partners than you’d have on your own, and it is great exposure for a future novel.
Contrary to popular belief, flash isn’t always associated with fiction. Writing a memoir? There’s a micro-memoir online magazine waiting for your submission. There’s nonfiction flash essay and flash event writing, too. Erika Dreifus has put together a fantastic list here. The wonderful versatility of flash applies to genre as well, including crime flash, romance, horror, and most other categories.
Finally, flash fiction is an excellent way to develop your skills as a writer. You have to make the reader fall in love with your story very quickly, and that takes ability and talent. It’s worth practicing and will improve your novel writing, making it that much more publishable.
Flash Writing as a Dress Rehearsal
I’ve met more than one novelist who told me her novel started with an admired flash piece that she decided to expand. Don’t be surprised if you end up ditching the novel you’re struggling with and stretching out your flash piece to full-manuscript size once you see the micro version of it up on a popular site. There’s nothing like applause to stir up some imagination and motivate you to write more.
In conclusion, no matter what novel genre you’re writing, flash fiction can help you break into publishing your longer works. The most prestigious magazines, including The New Yorker, are big flash fans. If the biggest names in literature are excited about it and publishing it, it’s worth a second look.
Canadian Gila Green is an Israel-based writer, editor, and EFL teacher. Her collection White Zion is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press (April 2019). Her novel Passport Control is published by S&H publishing (August 2018). Her first novel is King of the Class (NON Publishing, 2013). Her short stories have been published in dozens of literary journals. Her fiction has received seven award nominations. She teaches flash fiction at WOW-womenonwriting. Please visit Gila at www.gilagreenwrites.com.
Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling.
Mary Ann De Neve SLavcheff says
Great advice. I discovered I’d rather sell a short story to an established magazine than invest over a year in a novel that gets lost in a sea of self- published books by untrained authors. Nowadays any five year old can write a book. Writing a well crafted short story and selling it to a real editor takes talent.
Gila Green says
That’s a valuable perspective, Mary Ann. I agree that ideally you would sell your short stories but it is worth publishing in some magazines that don’t pay if you want to build a publishing history. I wouldn’t necessarily limit myself to paying markets, in particular for flash if the magazine has a wide circulation and a good name.
Mary Ann SLavcheff says
Agreed. It’s not about making money. It’s about creating art, and establishing a good name as a writer. I discover new authors in the pages of magazines. I then buy books by these authors.
Gila Green says
Yes, I do remember those days.
True, that is no longer the case with mainstream magazines (just as most mainstream magazines and newspapers used to have far more book reviews). However, there are actually way more opportunities for writers to publisher short fiction today on the internet and far more contests. There’s even a national flash fiction day–June 16.
Remember when magazines used to have one or two short stories per issue? That ended decades ago 🙂 Made me sad. This is all good info, so thank you, Gila 🙂
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I have never written flash fiction, so this was an eye opener. Thanks, Gila!
Gila Green says
I’m so pleased you discovered this new vehicle for your writing, Angela. Best of luck. There are more opportunities out there for Flash every day. You’re very welcome.
April Bradley says
Excellent article and advice, Gila!
Gila Green says
Thanks very much, April. It’s gratifying to read you found it useful.
Paula Cappa says
Hi Gila, great post today. I agree short stories and flash fiction are important paths if you are a fiction author. I have several short stories published in journals/magazine/anthologies and now have republished them on Amazon as Kindle Singles. What has helped me, more than connecting to editors, is connecting and building readership through my short stories for all my fiction.
Gila Green says
This is an excellent point, Paula. I’d be curious to know how it went with the Kindle Singles on Amazon. I hope it went well.