Nancy Stohlman, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bribing the Muse: On Your Mark, Get Set…

Sometimes our stories fall flat, without that “pop” of tension. One great way to create urgency in a flash fiction story is by using another constraint: Time.

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For almost a decade now, all my college classes have begun with a 10-minute timed writing. Timed writing is nothing new. We know that it helps us transition us into the writing space, like stretching before a workout. We know that it forces us to stay present and dig deeper—writing past where we might have naturally given up. And we know that keeping the pen moving quickly, without crossing things out or rereading, is a great way to evade the internal critic and uncover fresh ideas.

But I discovered something else through years of this practice: 10 minutes of writing without stopping is also the perfect amount of time to draft a flash fiction story idea from start to finish.

It makes sense: Flash fiction is defined by a (word) constraint, so why not create under a time constraint? Having that clock ticking while you furiously try to reach the end of an idea gives the piece a natural sense of urgency. And writing from the beginning to the end in one sitting also creates a sense of continuity—we see the end coming as we embark on the journey.

I do most of my timed writings longhand, scribbling. But it works with typing as well. And you can use a timed writing in many ways. For instance, you can:

  • Set the timer while writing to a prompt.
  • Set the timer when you’re feeling stuck and don’t know what to write about.
  • Set the timer and rewrite a “flat” story from scratch while the clock chases you to the finish line (my favorite)

And as a daily practice it’s even better.

Besides, you can do anything for 10 mins, right?

Regardless of how you use it, a 10-minute burst of writing can break you through resistance and lethargy. And creating something to push against allows inspiration to bulge and balloon in interesting and unexpected ways.

~Nancy

(How did it work for you? Share in the comments below!)

Nancy Stohlman, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Flashback: 30 Flash Fiction Prompts from FlashNano Year One

The year was 2012.

The Mayan calendar was ending.

We were all preparing to die.

And FlashNano was born.

FlashNano

FlashNano, flash fiction’s answer to NaNoWriMo in November, challenges writers to write 30 flash fiction stories in 30 days.

Can’t wait until November? Try one of these flash fiction prompts from Year One:

1: Write a story in which something transforms into something else.

2: Write a true story that is so ___________(insert adjective here) that no one would believe it’s true. But it is.

3: Find a story you’ve written that isn’t quite working. Chop it down to exactly 100 words. Give it a new title.

4: Write a story that is based in or uses elements of mythology–any mythology from any culture or time period.

5: Bibliomancy–open the dictionary to any random page, place your finger on any random word and poof! That is the title (or part of the title) of your next story.

6: Write a story from the point of view of someone much older than you.

7: Write a story about or featuring a body part. (Heads out of the gutters, people, there are other body parts!)

8: Write a secret, preferably one you think no one could relate to.

9: Write a story in which something important is lost.

10: Use a dream or pieces of a dream to create a surreal, alter-reality story.

11: Find a story of yours that’s not quite working. WITHOUT rereading it (this is key), rewrite it from scratch, letting it morph as necessary. Then compare the two and blend to taste.

12: Write a story that begins with, and consists mostly of, dialogue.

13: Write a story that deals with or includes some aspect of a taboo.

14: Write a story that has happened to you but write it from another person’s point of view.

15: Write a story that’s happened to someone else, but write it as if it happened to you.

16: Write a story that involves a reoccurring and/or deep dark fear.

17: Write a story that has some reference to a current event.

18: Write a story that involves an animal.

19: Write a story in which you “spill the beans”. Disguise as necessary.

20: Write a story that takes place in an empty landscape.

21: Rewrite a scene from history.

22: Write a story that involves time travel.

23: Write a story that contains at least three of these elements: body lice, gasoline, a Hostess product, a childhood hero, an outdated slang expression, a song title or your favorite flavor.

24: Write a story that contains elements of a real holiday memory.

25: Write a story that takes place over breakfast.

26: Write a story that includes a humiliation, real or invented.

27: Write a story that involves a celebrity.

28: Write a story in which the impossible is now possible.

29: Revisit a story you’ve written. Count the words. Now reduce the word count by half.

30:  Write a story with a theme of “The End.”

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Happy Writing!
(P.S. Want to join FlashNano in November? Get on the mailing list here)