‘Tis the Season

Hey folks,

I’ll leave you with a Christmas trifecta as we head into the New Year. On New Year’s Day, we’ll return with some “New Year’s Writing Revolutions,” since resolutions don’t cut it. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The world might end. Christmas might be cancelled this year. But if not:

Writing Good Christmas Cards — If you haven’t done this yet, here’s how to do it like a boss. 

Writing a Traditional Christmas Letter — You haven’t done this yet, (cue George Zimmer voice) I guarantee it. There’s nothing more delightful than sending a “traditional” humbraggy letter letting everyone know just how awesome you have it. Take advantage, because it’s the most (and only) wonderful time of the year you’ll be able to do it.

Gifts for Writers — You can rack your brains all you want OR you can do this the easy way and just buy what the writers in your life really want. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

-H2

Forsaking Flash Fiction

Flash fiction.

It’s the writing world’s distorted way of saying “You can be good at something without really trying.”

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong,

What’s the best approach to writing flash fiction?

—Gemma Rosedale, Glastonbury, CT.

(Note: Flash fiction is a short tale, often a complete story confined to 50-100 words.)

The best approach? Don’t approach it.

*cue a chorus of boos from writers who don’t want to lose what little relevance they have*

What? Whaaaat? People, writers, this is something you don’t want to hear. But you need to hear it. Flash fiction, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. I like writing. So should you. It can be good practice, a quick sharpening of the penning knives, cleavers, sabers.

But flash fiction has become useless, deceptive, vapid, shallow, and counterproductive. *cue more boos, closing of blog* Still here? Good. You need this. Here’s why:

1. Flash fiction makes it too easy.

Many (all) will argue: “But it’s supposed to be easy! That way, everyone can do it! You’re such a jerk.” And that’s the point: if everyone is “special,” then no one is. Setting the entry bar that much lower only fools “writers” into thinking the craft is much easier than it is. And any writer worth his salt licks will attest that it’s not easy.

2. Flash fiction is too much effort for a low yield.

Unless you’re writing (and selling) a flash fiction collection (which you aren’t), then it’s worth your lasting effort to write poetry, haiku, or spend more time on a short story. Or a long story. Or an idea. One that will lead to poetry, short stories, long stories.

3: Flash fiction devalues art, overvalues community.

Because everyone wants something read by someone. When I read clusters of flash fiction, I hear only cries of “I am relevant too! I’m throwing my dusty, frayed hat in the ring! Hey everyone, look at how compact and clever I can be! Look how original I am! This is where I’m making my name, because this is easy! I CAN WRITE TOO!”

4: Flash fiction is eating a “thrown bone.”

Famous bloggers, for their coliseum amusement, throw out bones of “flash fiction contests.” Huddled masses want in. They gnaw that bone, and they’re happy. They present their crusty, dimly glinting wares, praying for the passing blessing of a glance from the Emperor Writer of the Blog. Some may be graced with a comment. This is the highest praise. The next mass of masses find themselves strung on the same drug. The cycle continues perpetual.

5: Flash fiction overtrains for a under-needed skill.

So you can encapsulate a fiction in under a hundred words? That’s great! Now let’s move on to something beefier. The big boy weights are over here. No, you want to keep doing isolation curls with five-pound jogging dumbbells? Why? Because you like them? Well, yes, they can be part of the writer’s workout, but—oh, ok, have it your way then. You get really good at those then. I’ll be working on a cinquain.

6: Flash fiction isn’t a gateway drug; it’s a gated community. And it’s lousy.

Because flash fiction stresses the encapsulated form, you’ve a complete work that doesn’t provide the satisfaction of development. Your goal is squishing juicy things into a box and being all proud of that. “Yes! I smushed it good! I like this smushing writing! I want MOAR SMUSH NAO!”

7: Flash fiction will never make you lick your wounds.

February is FlaFiWriMo. And everybody wins. Except writing. You’ll never walk away from FlaFiWriMo feeling like you need to improve, need to step up your game. Nope. With NaNoWriMo? It pummels the weak, grinds them to powder, sizzling their puny innards over the skillet of spite until golden brown. That’s worthy of your time. FlaFiWriMo’s winners are losers.

8: Flash fiction feeds and sustains the lazy.

Ah, the argument of “If it’s short enough, people will read it.” Cool story, bro. If you want an audience of a five-second attention span, then you’re—hey, are Tropical Fruit Skittles® making a comeback? I love those things!

9: Flash fiction too often discourages variety of form, diversity of writing.

I’m a man of simplicity. When I buy a bag of Variety Chex Mix®, I demand variety. Writers should demand this from themselves. If you’re an accomplished writer, you’re likely not noodling in flash fiction and nothing but flash fiction. Don’t be that one bag of “Rye Crisps Only” Chex Mix®. If you’re flashing fiction, diversify that Chex Mix® portfolio. Don’t flood it down with penny stocks and ignore the long-term bonds, cash, and illicit drugs.

10: Flash fiction keeps the poor writers poor.

Because it does.

Are you a defender of flash fiction merits or a defeater of its heresies? Do tell.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong). He writes flash fiction about flashbulbs.

Writing Contest? Duh, WINNING!

Most of you may not know this, but writing can translate into a few pecuniary benefits. Sometimes even monetary. You really don’t have to do it for free. But outside of cashing in on wordspew, the next best thing you can wing is winning. Contests, limerick slams, plein air poetry airing, whatever. People compete with this business, breaking out the arsenal and making communication a written race-to-the-top.

But does the best writing always win? Nope.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

There’s a writing contest I want to enter. 250-word minimum, and I really want to win! HELP!

—Daphne Green, Fairmont, W.Va.

Didn’t we just get over this contest thing?

That’s not a question.

In a perfect world, I could say, “Write your best,” and that would do it. Cartographic psychoholic thriller? Should be a surefire winner. Borgesian short story with a metaphoric denouement? Hand over that store-bought trophy. A perfect world. Not happening on today’s planet.

No, the contest is rigged with more wires, catches, and detonations than a maniacal professor’s Bomb Diffusement 405 final project. It’s a trapdoor that trips under the weight of greatness. If you write well, then you’re cheating. Contests are meant to reward the mediocre, not herald anything worth reading or writing. So how do you win without coming at it like a natural dunce with a swell of dumb luck?

Know the contest.

Not just rules. They publish rules. Know the people, know who’s judging, know the contest creators. If this is Highlights for Toddlers you’re writing to, keep the meth-strung, zoo-liberating, black-caped unicorn out of the narrative. The Student Siren? Nothing profound. Won’t wake most from a booze-soaked stupor. Go for the flashbang in the wrought-iron pan.

Know the judges.

Make them smile or cry. They’ve got to smile or cry. That’s the sad part about appeasing these flighty judges. The best writing should be a combination of scalpel and machete, writing so good it cuts into your innards and works surgical voodoo. Writing so good it makes a clean chop through brush, crop, and limb. A “whoa, that’s one heck of a blade omigod where’s my arm?” kind of strike. In a perfect world, I want to be maimed by deft writing, wounded. Or I want that scalpel cutting new pathways into my cerebrum, leaving me more room to think when I’m no longer under the literary ether. Judges? No. Make them think too hard and that five-pack of two-dollar blue ribbon goes elsewhere. To the cheeky entry that got an “Oh, that’s cute, I like this” or an “Oh wow, that’s so special I wanted to cry” out of them.

Know thyself.

Every subjective contest (writing, cooking, ice dancing, interpretive sleepwalking, etc.) ends up being a popularity contest. It just makes sense to continue awarding those whom most people like. If you’re the popular kid in class, then just submit something without any glaring errors, and you’ve got yourself a winner. The key to winning is winning the hearts, minds, and fickle affections of your peers, judges, and by proxy, the contest arbiters.

If your worthy writing entry falls ever short to those of Suzie Perfect and Eric Awesome, let it slide. Popularity is fleeting. Art is forever. Winning everything isn’t the only thing.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com), followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong), and voted in Women’s Digest’s annual “Write Me A Man Made Like How You Like Your Coffee” contest.