How writing flash fiction helped me write a novel

the-sisterWhen I started writing in earnest two years ago I created this blog and stumbled across a weekly flash fiction challenge called Friday Fictioneers. A photo would be posted each week and participants were invited to use the prompt to create a hundred word story.

It sounded fun and a good way to kick off my blog. Writing the first story was difficult. It took me ages to edit it down to 100 words. It was nerve wracking sending my first story out into the world but if I’m honest, I didn’t expect anyone to read it, but read it they did. I was soon enveloped into a supportive writing community who have critiqued with kindness, encouraged and soothed every step of the way on my journey to publication, commiserating with every rejection and celebrating my first two novels hitting No. 1 on Amazon. I am so grateful to those bloggers. I don’t feel my writing would be what it is today without my love of flash fiction.

Creating a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end in only a hundred words is far harder than it sounds. Every word needs to count. Every action needs to be clear. Superfluous words stripped away. There is no place, no space for waffle, irrelevant backstory or those annoying adverbs that can sometimes sneak into a longer piece, no matter how vigilant we are. Writing becomes tighter, clearer, pacier.

My first attempts were pitiful. At that time I didn’t know past and present tenses were different things and my writing was muddled. Sifting through the comments each week I rewrote my pieces. My writing became sharper. The intent behind my words became more apparent. And gradually I found I needed to explain my stories less and less. I became more selective about the language I used. Choosing words for maximum emotional impact. Bringing in the senses. My vocabulary expanded and my voice began to shine through.

Sometimes I’ve loved a piece of prose I’ve written for a Friday Fictioneers so much I’ve integrated it into both The Gift and The Sisterthe-gift

The last prompt was a photo of a cream tunnel with a grey floor. This was my contribution: –

“There are grey spaces in my mind where my memories used to be. Even now, I can’t quite remember the events of that night.

 That’s what I tell them anyway. Regret stings yellow and sour at the back of my throat as I swallow down my lies.

 It was an accident. It must have been.

 Except it wasn’t.

 My shame burns red.

 Green was the colour of the carpet I loosened at the top the stairs. Blue was your language as you tumbled to the floor.

 White are the lilies I lay on your grave.

 My soul is black and weeping.”

This photo produced pieces ranging from sci-fi to murder and part of the fun for me once I’ve posted mine is reading everyone else’s stories. We all interpret things in such a different way.

If you love writing why don’t you have a go at joining in? Every Wednesday Rochelle will post a photo with instructions on where to post your link when you’ve written your story so it’s visible to everyone. You can find Rochelle’s blog here.

41 thoughts on “How writing flash fiction helped me write a novel

  1. Dear Louise,

    I can’t tell you how affirming your words are. I found that writing flash fiction was the same for me. It teaches you which words are important and which ones add nothing to the scene. It had a profound influence on my novels as well. I’ve never regretted taking on and, ultimately, leading the challenge. Congratulations on your successes. 😀



    • Thanks Rochelle. I’m so grateful for you taking the time to still run this challenge despite your novel writing. It gave this new writer the confidence she needed to dare to try and I know I am not the only one.

  2. Yes! Yes! Yes! You’re so right, Louise. Writing flash has brought my own writing on no end – it really does teach you how to write economically, which was something I really needed to learn. And Friday Fictioneers is the very best prompt around, with some hugely talented, giving, supportive writers.
    Your success is amazing – a testament to your talent, but also your determination to get the craft right too.
    Brilliant stuff

  3. I have to agree. When Sarah Potter suggested I try my hand I thought she was nuts. I am no writer, I just blog stuff… She proved me otherwise as have all the fabulous members of our troupe! I finished The Sister (review on and GoodReads 😉 ) and am looking forward to reading The Gift! – after I finish Trent’s book of short stories and Claire’s Swimming Lessons!
    I don’t have time to write my own, I’m too busy reading all of your (published authors) books!

  4. Pingback: Flashing into the Unknown  | The Diligent Dilettante

  5. I have learned the same things from writing flash fiction (and poetry). There are literary magazines that publish flash fiction too, which has helped me get my work noticed while working on my novel. I’m glad you wrote this. There are a few people whose blogs I follow who participate in Friday Fictioneers, and I’ve thought about trying it. I don’t write my flash fiction based on a prompt though, so I have been hesitant about trying it. I’m not sure how successful it would turn out. It sounds fun though.

  6. Thank you SOOOOOOO much for sharing that there is a path from flash to a novel. I had fears that my enjoyment of flash might compel me to stay in one spot and not be encouraged to venture out farther. THANK YOU!

  7. What a great post!! Thank you for sharing your journey and giving all of us hope that one day we’ll be published too. I’m hoping to get my first novel down this year and FF certainly helps 🙂

  8. Thanks for that post, Louise. I’ve also become a fan of the tight discipline of flash fiction. I blgged about writing flash fiction a couple of months ago. I also read and loved The Gift a few weeks ago, My review is on goodreads if you haven’t seen it.

  9. Friday Fictioneers has helped me snap-up my stories, too. Now when I submit something to my critique group they say things like “Stellar writing! Tension and interest in each sentence” instead of “Really? It took three pages for your characters to walk down the hill?” This post says it all, Louise. Plus I love your writing. Must read The Gift.

  10. Lovely piece- you played so beautifully with the colors….I have never tried flash fiction myself….but I stumbled upon your post on facebook and after reading this, I really want to try it…..Thanks so much for the inspiration…..:)….

  11. Flash fiction is a really amazing way to learn the basic structures of storytelling, both writing it and reading it. I love the piece in this one:) Great post.

Thanks so much for reading!

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