Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Ultimate Flash Fiction: The Zero-Word Story

Not satisfied simply to keep up with trends in flash fiction, I aim to get ahead of the curve.

Most folks agree that stories of 1000 words or less meet the definition of flash fiction. As more writers get onboard and push the envelope further and further, we are regularly seeing stories of 500, 250, 100, 99, 50, 25, 10, and even 6 words.

Simple extrapolation tells me what the next wave will be: the zero-word story!

I am already working on my first zero-word story. It’s coming along nicely, if I do say so myself.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to share it with you because, well, it has zero words. Trust me, it’s in my head.

And it’s pretty good.

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If you insist on stories with words, please join me on Flash Fiction Magazine and Facebook.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

To Pic or Not to Pic: That is the Question

The wacky world of fiction writing is wide open. You can do whatever you want. Its great!

But I have a question for one small corner of the fiction-writing world. It deals with the phenomenon known as flash fictiontelling a story within the confines of a tight word limit. It could be 1,000 words or 10 words. Whatever it is, you must tell your story in that very small space.

Should a fiction writer include a picture with his/her flash fiction story?

A pic may provide a useful visual for the reader, allowing the writer to fill in the blanks with prose. This may provide context and make the story more meaningful and enjoyable for the reader. If its good for the reader, it must be good for the writer. Right?

But wait a minute.

If the objective of flash fiction is to challenge the writer to present a coherent story with extreme brevity, the pic may be sidestepping the challenge. If Im writing a 250-word story and attach a pic, some might say I actually submitted 1,250 words. Everyone knows a picture is worth a thousand words.

So, heres my take on it.

Pic whenever you want unless youre participating in a challenge, whether self-imposed or part of a competition of some sort. When the primary objective is to promote creativity and develop or test story-telling skills under very small word limits, I say no to the pic.

Thats my opinion. Whats yours?

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Why Fiction Writing and Golf Don't Mix

My advice is to pick one. Don’t do both. Fiction writing and golf don’t go together.

The reason can be stated in one simple word:

Tension.

Fiction writers thrive on tension. They seek it out in life so they can observe and understand it. Then they exploit it in their story telling. Without tension among characters, fiction would be boring. A writing group I follow is working on creating more tension and twists in their story telling. It’s essential for fiction writers.

Golfers avoid tension like the plague. Tension causes muscles to tighten, thereby ruining the fluid swing needed for good golf. Golfers constantly try to reduce tension. Golf magazines I read contain articles and “how to” tips on eliminating tension in the grip and swing. It’s a killer for golf.

Trust me, you can’t turn this tension thing on and off as you move from your writing desk to the golf course.

Having said all that, I’ll probably ignore my own advice and continue to muddle along doing both.

At least now everyone will understand that my deteriorating golf game is not my fault.

That’s my story, anyway.


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Monday, April 21, 2014

"All In" for Flash Fiction

I’m trying my hand at a very challenging form of fiction writing known as flash fiction.

Flash fiction is characterized by extreme brevity. It’s also known as micro fiction or short short stories.

While there is no hard and fast word count that qualifies a work as flash fiction, generally it’s less than 1,000 words.

I’ve gone All In, as they say around my neck of the woods, and embraced the 100-word story. Yep, I’m trying to tell meaningful stories about college or sports in 100 words. Exactly 100 words for each and every story.

This is going to save you a lot of time. I’ve already done the math and figured out that it will only take you 24 seconds to read one of my 100-word stories. (You can thank me later.)

I’ve hooked up with the folks at Flash Fiction Magazine to create a site for sharing my 100-word stories and blogging about the experience. Every blog entry and every story at this site is exactly 100 words.

Stop by and check out my flash fiction site. That is, if you have 24 seconds to spare.




Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why readers are always right

Most experienced fiction writers probably already know this. It took me a little while to figure it out. Once I did, I’m perfectly fine with it.

Do my published stories deserve 5 stars, 4 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars, or 1 star?

The correct answer is probably all of the above.

It’s up to the reader. The reader of fiction interprets a story based on his or her perspective. Each reader may mentally process a story differently. What some readers may relate to, others perhaps don’t. What may be humorous to some may be too irreverent for others. The message in a story may strike a nerve for one reader and be a complete miss for another reader.

But if given honestly, there is no such thing as an incorrect rating or review of a published work of fiction. The correct rating is whatever the reader believes it should be.

Spending most of my working life as an academic researcher, this was new to me when I began writing and publishing short fiction in retirement. Academic research involves peer reviews that critically examine all aspects of the submitted work: the problem investigated, the literature cited, the methodology employed, and the conclusions drawn. Academic researchers are not only allowed to respond to the reviewers, they are required to do so. And in some cases the publication decision rests on the ability of the author/researcher to convince the editor that the author is correct and the reviewers are not.

Fiction writing in the world of self-publication is much different (and better). Authors write what they want to write, the way they want to write it. Consumers read what they want to read and, if they are so inclined, provide honest feedback in the form of ratings and/or detailed reviews.

There is no way a reader can be wrong in this process.

Fiction writers may or may not adjust their style based on ratings and reviews of their work. This is a complicated point. It’s up to each author to decide.

If all ratings and reviews are negative and sales/downloads are tanking, clearly something is wrong and the author would be foolish not re-examine his/her approach. But a mix of low and high ratings for a given work may simply indicate readers with different perspectives receive the piece differently. This may indicate the author has identified and addressed an interesting or important topic about which readers care enough to read and comment. That is not a bad thing for the author or the readers.

Department store founder Marshall Field is among those credited with the famous saying: The customer is always right.

So are readers of fiction who rate or review what they have invested their time to read.

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Short Stories Don't Just Happen

As I’m sure you can understand, security regulations prohibit me from offering in-person tours of my short-story writing and publication facilities. However, I decided to use this month’s blog post to do the next best thing.

What follows is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at my self-publishing empire.

A brief summary is given of each department and its role in the development and publication of a story. As with most things in life, teamwork and communication are critical.

Research Department (Me)
Most story ideas start here after painstaking research into current issues in higher education and college sports.

Writing Group (Me, myself, and I)
This is where the actual story writing takes place. The door is usually closed, and from the outside you can hear periodic sounds of ping . . . ping . . . . ping. These are crumpled sheets of discarded manuscript pages being tossed across the room at a tin trashcan. About one-third actually hit the can.

Art Department (Only me)
Cover designs are created here. I have to admit there is some creative tension between the Art Department and Writing Group. It seems the Writing Group wants more input into cover designs.

Legal Department (Little ole me)
This department must sign-off on all stories before publication to ensure we don’t get sued. (I had to jump through all kinds of hoops to get approval from the Legal Department to write this summary for my blog.)

Marketing and Promotions Department (Me and only me)
This department handles all pre- and post-publication marketing. The most mundane dribble is made to sound interesting and exciting.

Accounting Department (Just me)
Bean counting takes place here. This department continually hounds me about the cash flow challenges created by offering free stories.

Quality Assurance (Yours truly)
Everything is checked here before it goes out the door. This department is always saying Quality is everyone’s job. I’ve never understood why we need a separate department for this.

IT Department (No one but me)
All technical issues are addressed here. This department lets everyone know we can’t publish an eBook without them. All my technical support requests seem to be greeted by the same refrain: Are you sure it’s plugged in and turned on?

Unlike most business entities, we don’t have morning staff meetings. Instead, we opt for happy hour around 5 PM. We hash out our differences, mend fences, and get back after it the next day.

That is, unless it’s a bright and sunny day.

Then we all hit the golf course or the lake instead.

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P.S. The Marketing and Promotions Department would be very pleased if you hit the LIKE button on our Facebook Page.