Many of you, dear readers, have not attempted a short story since that college writing class taught by the flaky professor chick wrapped in scarves. After all, novels are what the public is buying these days. Right? Or perhaps you believe one of the following myths:
- The characters crowding my brain have stories that are too big to fit in 25 pages or less.
- If I don't spend every ounce of writing energy on novels, I'll never finish.
Many of the books on marketing novels stress the importance of having numerous publishing credits. This is a good idea not just to make your query shine and to get your name out there, but also because small victories are important for morale. And low morale is a creativity crusher.
There are a number of established and emerging forms I thought I'd bring to your attention. The beauty of these very short forms is they force you to write very, very tight, a skill every writer should develop. They don't require the elaborate plotting of a 300+ page mystery thriller either. Short forms can be a way to explore an intense moment, or try out a new genre or style.
up to 500 / up to 1,000 words
Definitions vary from publication to publication, but most agree 1,000 words is the upper length limit for flash fiction. That's just four pages, folks.
My crit partner Simon argued very well in his guest post on Carol's Prints that the flash fiction form is something every fiction writer should try. He also explained how you might be able to mine your current WIP for material that could be turned into a stand-alone short piece you can market and publish.
There are over a thousand publications seeking flash fiction, including genre markets! The nonpaying markets are usually very open to new writers, but don't fear the paying markets including Flashquake, Every Day Fiction and The Shine Journal. Go to Duotrope's Digest and select "flash fiction" from the "length" drop-down menu to learn more about flash markets.
Drabble is a story that must be exactly 100 words. For some examples, see Boston Literary Magazine and Flashshot (SF, fantasy and horror). Some other exact-word-count forms longer than Dribble (see below) are 55 fiction and 69er.
Like Drabble, Dribble is an exact-word-count form, but even more limited--just 50 words. To see some examples, go to 50 to 1 e-zine and Boston Literary Magazine.
up to 140 characters
Are you a champion tweet writer? This might be the form for you. Go to Nanoism to see some bright gems in 140 characters or less.
Two Sentence Stories publishes, oddly enough, stories of just two sentences.
Vestal Review publishes "Dirty Dozen" stories, which are 12 words long.
PerContra magazine featured this helpful roundup on microfiction, including some editor input about what makes a story publishable.
PiF magazine featured this excellent article on craft considerations of microfiction.
Here's my challenge to you: try one of these microfiction forms and submit a piece for publication by July 31. Are you game? Which forms have you/will you try?
Are you not game? Why (aside from being too busy)?