I often joke that I write novels because I can’t tell a short story. Non-writers may assume that fewer words = easier to write, but I’ve never found that to be the case. I think it’s much harder to tell a whole story in just a few thousand — or hundred — words. Each word has to be perfect, and often pulls double or triple duty, conveying not only the basic meaning but also the tone, voice, and rhythm of the piece. That’s a lot of pressure on one word!
No matter what length you’re writing, the ability to be concise is a good skill to have. That’s why I’ve started writing flash fiction. Forcing myself to tell a whole story in 100 words has helped me hone my craft, and has made it easier for me to write queries and synopses. If you’re looking for a fun, low-pressure way to get into flash fiction, Janet Reid frequently hosts contests on her blog. The community there is really supportive, and even if your entries don’t make the long lists, it’s fun to read those that do. I’ve yet to be a finalist, but I’m learning so much from these exercises and from reading others’ entries.
Do you write flash fiction? What tips do you have for writing short pieces?