I’M A SHORT-FORM WRITER, MYSELF: blog posts, personal essays, flash fiction … and, for publication, writing about tarot. Even when I’m embarked on a book-length project, I tend to think about it as being composed of a series of short pieces. It keeps me from being overwhelmed. You know: forest, trees. Or, as Anne Lamott puts it in her book of the same name, “bird by bird.”
This approach can work for folks who are writing novels or memoirs, too. In that case, creating a list of scenes—short forms in themselves—based on a well-considered outline can break down a book-length narrative into bite-sized pieces.
And then there are the super-short forms of fiction, from flash fiction (typically under 1000 words) to those variously named forms (well-described in an article in The Writer Mag: Expert Tips for Writing the Best Flash Fiction) that require a writer to get their story-telling job done within 100 or even 25 words!
While writing shorter forms is less daunting than, say, embarking on a 100,000-word novel, to do so successfully, it helps to know rules that make these forms work.
I found Susan Doran’s discussion of flash fiction and other micro fiction in her article “Lean Mean Writing Machine: Flash Fiction and Other Short Fiction Forms” helpful. But, as I reviewed her tips, and those on Creative Writing Now’s short-short stories page, I was struck by how applicable the guidelines for writing short-shorts are to longer forms of narrative writing.
Which sort of brings me full circle. Even for longer projects, breaking things down into micro units can make what seems an elephantine task digestible. And if you have some rules for those micro units? All the better to eat you with, my dear!