On the blog today, I’m delighted to have Amanda Quinn, a North East based freelance writer and tutor. I met Amanda when we both creating our new websites as part of New Writing North’s Digi Tech programme.
Amanda specialises in writing flash fiction, short stories and poetry and has had her work published by Shooter Literary Magazine, Open Pen Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Butcher’s Dog, Papaya Press, and Spelk Fiction among others.
She is also a qualified adult education tutor and teaches creative writing for the Workers Educational Association and other organisations, and offers a mentoring service for adults and young people so they can make progress with their writing. She is, in her own words ‘passionate about the benefits of reading and writing for all.’
I’m gong to hand over to Amanda in a moment to talk about her work, but wanted to say that she has also, kindly, recommended a range of writing resources that she has found particularly useful. The ones connected with flash fiction are listed at the end of this piece and I will be adding them to my Resources for Writers’ pages on this website. I’ll be posting Amanda’s recommendations for short story writers in the next blog post.
So … Amanda ….
Thanks, Hazel. I’ve been wondering why it is I’m particularly drawn to writing flash fiction. To begin with it was partly a practical decision. I started writing after my son was born so producing a paragraph felt manageable amidst all the playgroups, soft play and pram pushing. It also enabled me to get published at an early stage which gave me the confidence to keep writing. Having said that, I think I would have always been drawn to the form. I’m a naturally concise writer and enjoy seeing how little I can put on the page while still making sense. I’m interested in the gaps – what isn’t written or said – and how the reader has to bring their own assumptions and interpretations to produce a final story.
Flash fiction stories often rely on small details that hint at something bigger and I love anything like that in real life too – dedications in second hand books, overheard conversations, Facebook posts. I’m writing this in a coffee shop and the woman next to me has just told her friend, ‘We didn’t have sweetcorn when I was younger.’ I’m now completely distracted by what this means. Vanessa Gebbie has described flash fiction as being like seeing a darkened room lit up for a second and I think this is a brilliant way of explaining how these stories work (you can read more from Vanessa on writing flash fiction at www.bridportprize.org.uk/blog/flash-fiction-all-you-ever-wanted-know-were-afraid-ask)
I also like that anything feels possible in flash. Your only restriction is word limit and this forces you to investigate different ways of telling your story. I’ve read flashes with fewer words than their title or set out like board game instructions. Stories written backwards or as an internet search history. A good flash writer can do this without it feeling gimmicky. I also love stories with a more traditional structure. One of my favourites is ‘I am the Painter’s Daughter’ by Kit de Waal. It’s a beautifully written story which I often use when teaching as it illustrates how a short piece can still have room for the traditional elements of plot, character, conflict, resolution, etc. You can read it at http://www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk/2015/10/flash-fiction-i-am-the-painters-daughter-by-kit-de-waal/
There are lots of places to read and learn about flash fiction and I’ve shared some recommendations below. But, in brief, my tips are:
- Experiment with different ways of storytelling. When you have an idea write a list of 20 different ways of telling it – be bold and think about how to make an impact.
- See how little you can get away with. Edit ruthlessly and read back to see if it still makes sense. You can double check by getting someone to read it and comment only on whether they understood the meaning.
- Read flash fiction. There’s also an active and supportive flash fiction writing community online: follow writers on Twitter and get involved with events such as National Flash Fiction Day or the Flash Fiction Festival.
If you’d like to read and listen to some of Amanda’s prose and poetry, you can find it on her website here
And follow her on Twitter @amandaqwriter
Flash Fiction Resources
My favourite places to read and submit flash fiction include:
www.paragraphplanet.com (they publish a 75-word story every day and it’s easy to submit your own stories)
www.nationalflash.org (New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day)
Plus… it’s always helpful to read any of the winning entries in competitions such as www.bathflashfictionaward.com
www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk (there are lots of resources on this site and it’s also worth looking at the #flashflood on their Twitter feed and their print anthologies which are pretty much a Who’s Who of current flash fiction writers)
The World in a Flash (How to Write Flash Fiction) by Calum Kerr
Sawn-off Tales by David Gaffney
Micro-Fiction: An Anthology of Fifty Really Short Stories, edited and introduced by Jerome Stern
Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, by James Thomas, Robert Shapard and Christopher Merrill
Thanks, Amanda, see you back here next time for your recommendations that short story writers will find useful …