Six years ago, I published a piece of flash fiction at The Story Shack called “Parking Lot Superhero.” I posted a link on this blog and yadda yaddaed about fiction giving me more freedom for structure. The story was one of the first flash pieces I wrote.
Here’s a confession. I don’t even know why I wrote that about freedom because the truth is that this story is completely true except for the names. So maybe the freedom actually came from changing the names. And by changing the names I was able to change the structure and how I ended up structuring it made all the difference. So, yes, I submitted nonfiction as fiction by changing the names.
Is this a character defect? Or is it just a genre, like a roman à clef (novel where real people occur, but their names are changed)?
Have you ever written nonfiction and disguised it as fiction?
This story is not one of my most well-written (and at some point I might revise it), but it’s still one of my favorites because the hero of the story (not me) was such a larger-than-life character in real life.
Going back to my title–Is it Real Life or is it Fiction?–maybe fiction is often real life, just many different aspects of real life glued together in a different combination and order.
One more thing. Why did I want to come clean about this story being true? Although I published it as fiction to protect “Jack” and his family story, I have felt guilt at not giving him credit for being a hero. I still won’t publish his name, but I feel better letting you know that he is a real living hero.
A huge thank you to editor Clare MacQueen for publishing my three micros in the new issue of MacQueen’s Quinterly. This journal is very special because of how it is organized on the website. It’s a very creative and thoughtful design. These pieces are a sample of what I am working on for my memoir. You might think of them as a hybrid–sort of a cross between micro nonfiction and prose poems. I hope you like them.
Toasting myself (virtually) with a glass of bubbly ;). Non virtually, we had a little family celebration the other day and drank this special prosecco. It’s called Blumond, and it’s made with blue curaçao.
So you want to be a writer? Are you planning on working on the book-length manuscript for as long as it takes? And then market it to agents for as long as it takes?
How about being published in the meantime? Nothing is better experience for the novelist or memoirist than writing and publishing short stories or personal essays along the way. If you don’t have what it takes to go through the process successfully with short pieces, what makes you think you can do it with a longer story? Additionally, earning bylines along the way may help get your first book published.
Windy Lynn Harris has written the definitive book to help you get started. Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published provides valuable guidance for crafting and fine-tuning those shorter pieces, as well as providing a step-by-step plan for getting published. This system includes finding markets, preparing your manuscript, and how to submit those pieces to magazines. She even gives pointers for how to deal with rejection, an inevitable part of every writer’s life.
After you follow the advice in this book, I suspect you will have acceptances, too, as Harris’ information is practical and grounded in the realities of the publishing industry. I suggest purchasing a paperback copy and keep it at hand and well-notated on your desk.
I posted the above review for Windy‘s book on Amazon and Goodreads. But I’d like to expand on the idea of going short before going long. I know I’m going to step on some toes here. A huge number of writers go straight to writing book-length manuscripts. That’s great. They often self-publish and tend to learn from the experience and the books improve with practice. I’ve greatly enjoyed many books that developed from these origins.
But my philosophy is that the best way to learn craft is to start by writing short stories or essays and revising them until they shine. Then send them out and get some publications under your belt. While you are doing this read like crazy. Revise like crazy. Find experienced beta readers who aren’t crazy. I think this is what takes good stories and turns them into literature.
Just realized that my flash fiction piece “Parking Lot Superhero” was published by Story Shack two weeks ago! Yikes, how did I lose track of time? Speaking of time, the magazine gives an estimate of five minutes to read it ;).
Thanks so much to the editor Martin Hooijmans and to Hannah.
This is my first attempt at flash fiction. I like how fiction gives me more freedom with structure than nonfiction does, and the flash length is fun to work with. It’s challenging to be concise but also rewarding to complete a story that is this short.
Do you read and/or write flash fiction that isn’t serialized? Where the whole story has to be read in five minutes? Do you prefer flash fiction or the traditional short story length and why?
Pic of a vintage police car found just outside the Grand Canyon. With a character like Jack (in my story), the protagonist and her friend didn’t need the police.