What I Learned From Failing A Flash Fiction Challenge

So, you may have noticed that I got to about day 11 of the FFFTTD and then stopped entirely.  I could make excuses for myself.  I was recovering from a bout of tendonitis.  I was preparing for a giant benefit concert at work.  I was traveling for a week.

 But, truly, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.  I managed my time poorly, didn’t pace myself, and thus burned out halfway through.

Despite flunking out of FFFTTD, though, I still found it to be an entirely worthwhile experience.  Here’s some of what I learned.

 Writing Microfiction is Hard

It is very difficult to write a satisfying story in under 150 words.  One of my major challenges during FFFTTD was trying to keep things short.  I was often so excited about the concepts the prompts would pull out of my brain that I would just want to write and edit for two hours or more.  The trouble is, writing and editing for two hours a day isn’t really sustainable for me.  I need to go to work, and read submissions, and work on contracting projects, and cook food for myself, and call my friends back, and maybe go the gym.

I’ve been really attracted to microfiction as a form and as a challenge to myself, especially after reading great pieces on sites like Wigleaf.  Generally, though, I feel like I need to have a very sharp, compact idea lined up to write a tiny story that works.  I do get ideas like that sometime.  In the past, I used to pack those ideas away because they weren’t big enough to fill 5-20 pages.  Now, though, microfiction feels feels a valid options for those ideas that seem more like a stiletto than a broadsword.

In order to be able to find the right tool for the job, though, it helps to be familiar with all of the tools.  FFFTTD definitely gave me a crash course in the mechanics of microfiction.

Writing Daily Is Not My Thing, But Writing Regularly Is

Sometimes I’m just not feeling it.  My best stories tend to be written in intense, focused bursts.  I enter a state of flow, and before I know it it’s 3 hours later and I have the first draft of a story.  Forcing myself to slog through a piece of fiction makes that state of flow harder to find.

Having a deadline and a sense of urgency, however, was wonderful.  I spent a lot less time after work playing Xbox and a lot more time writing.  Blocking out regular times for writing means I actually get things done, especially the not-so-fun things like proofreading stories and researching markets.  I’m going to try to carry that forward into my future work habits.  I like the idea of committing to planned chunks of writing time that can be spent on research and notes as well as actual writing.

And while the FFFTTD may not have left me with many polished stories, but it did give me an awful lot of ideas to draw from later on.

Community is Awesome

Seriously.  It was wonderful to have a group of people holding me accountable, encouraging me to work, and sharing their own work with me.

Also, reading and giving feedback on the work of other writers gives me energy to work on my own writing.  It’s not a sense of competition, but more like being lifted up by a mutual wave of creative excitement.  The ideal writing community simultaneously encourages you to keep going and pushes you to do better than what you’re doing.  I definitely felt that from the FFFTTD group.

It was also, of course, fascinating to read different writers’ responses to the same prompts.  Even after I dropped out of the FFFTTD, I really enjoyed reading a whole month of stories from the other participants.

I recently joined a bi-weekly writing group down here in Austin, and that’s definitely lit a fire under my shoes.  I’m also hoping to start managing my time well enough to attend a session or two of Write By Night.

Today is both the last day of February and the last day of FFFTTD.  If you missed them before, now would be a good time to go catch up on the work of the other participants.





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