By Katriena Knights–
Flash fiction is to short story writing much as haiku is to poetry. It’s an even more condensed form of an already condensed storytelling method, requiring the author to choose words carefully to ensure each syllable makes a meaningful contribution to the whole.
Flash fiction is also experiencing a surge in popularity as magazines and collections spring up dedicated to this form. Maybe it’s because readers’ attention spans are shorter, but flash fiction seems to have never been more popular. Locally, we even have a theater group that performs flash fiction on stage.
What Is Flash Fiction?
Flash fiction is a very short short story. Guidelines generally place any story under a thousand words into the flash category, though some prefer even shorter pieces. Six-word stories or 140-character Twitter shorts are other subgroups.
How to Write Flash Fiction
When I write a piece this short, I often think in terms of a “punch line.” Not necessarily a funny ending like the punchline of a joke, but a tight conclusion that either neatly ties everything up or creates a reversal so the reader realizes something is not what he initially thought it to be. The more surprising the ending, the better.
Ideally, I’ll have this punch line set in my head before I sit down to write the story. That way everything I write can lead up to that moment, creating exactly the experience I want for my reader. In this way, flash fiction is very much like any other type of fiction writing. You find an idea, develop that idea, then hone it until every word contributes something to the story, giving it the most power the story can carry.
Lengths of Flash Fiction Stories
Most flash fiction markets state a thousand words or less. Others go a bit higher or want shorter pieces. Since the definition of the form varies so widely, keep a close eye on your submission guidelines. There’s no point sending a thousand-word story to a collection of 140-character Twitter tales, after all.
Markets for Flash Fiction
Markets for flash fiction can be disappointingly low-paying, and unfortunately a good number of the markets don’t pay at all. But there are markets that offer decent pay. They’re usually flat rates, so I make sure to work out the per-word rate before deciding to submit. After all, $5 for a short-short can seem fair, but when you do the math, it’s only a penny a word for a 500-word story. So do your due diligence before submitting.
Some good markets for flash fiction include:
Vestal Review: http://vestalreview.net/About.html. Publishes only flash fiction. Pays 3-10 cents/word. All genres except children’s stories and hard SF.
Nanoism: http://nanoism.net/submit/. This is a Twitter market. Stories cannot exceed 140 characters, or the maximum length of one tweet. Pay is $1.50 per story–that’s a bit over a penny per character or roughly $.05/word. Prefers literary fiction and also accepts serial stories. Previously published tweets will be considered, but pay at $1/story.
Electric Spec: http://www.electricspec.com/submissions/submitting-fiction/ Speculative fiction. Not an exclusively flash fiction market, but will accept stories as short as 250 words. Pay is $20 per story, so the shorter the better as far as your per-word rate. Note issue-specific deadlines.
Abyss & Apex: http://www.abyssapexzine.com/submissions/ Speculative fiction. Particularly interested in stories under 1500 words. Pays $.05/word. Note reading periods before submitting.
For more flash fiction markets as well as additional information on the form, how to write it, and examples:
BIO: Katriena Knights is the author of several paranormal and contemporary romance novels, including her latest, As If You Never Left Me, from Crimson Romance. Her flash fiction story “Clockwork” was chosen by Stories on Stage in Denver as part of their March, 2013 show Very, VERY Short Stories: The Sequel. Visit her at katrienaknights.com or katrienaknights.blogspot.com