Originally Published in Flash Fiction Chronicles. Read original here
(Link not working while FFC backing up their old posts)
by Nancy Stohlman
Rewind to October 31, 2012. It began like this:
Are you doing Nanowrimo this year?
No, are you?
No, I don’t have a novel in me right now. I’m writing flash fiction.
Maybe I should just write a flash story a day, you know, in solidarity.
I would do that if someone sent me a prompt every day.
And so Flashnano was born—30 stories in 30 days during the month of November, in solidarity with our novel-writing NaNoWriMo brothers and sisters.
I’ve participated in and greatly enjoyed NaNoWriMo many times, hitting the 50,000 mark twice. Mostly I love the marathon of it—writing that much material that fast is a really effective way to elude the inner critic. Granted, much of the material is throwaway, but within that big lump of clay are usually some really interesting insights, twists, phrases, ideas, and places that we may not have written ourselves into if we had gone about writing in our “normal” way.
The same is true with Flashnano—not every story is a winner, but participating in and embracing such a heightened outpouring often midwives stories into existence that may not have been created by other means.
Says first-time participant Nicholas Morris: “One of the great things I got out of Flashnano was that it forced me to live up to all of the creative writing advice I give my students, namely ‘Give yourself permission to write badly’ and ‘Try to write every day.’ It’s very easy to give that advice, but it’s much more difficult to follow it.”
And for those of us already in love with flash fiction, getting to play is one of the particular thrills of the form—since the stories are short, you are more inclined to take risks, trying things you might not try in a longer story or novel. Says participant Yvonne Rupert, “I took chances with my writing, approaching each day’s prompt with a ‘let’s try it and see’ attitude—regardless of what happened the day before.”
In 2012 I posted the daily prompts on my personal Facebook page just for fun. In 2013, when I realized it was creating a bigger buzz than I had anticipated, I got more organized and created webpages devoted to the prompts on both social media and my personal website. I would estimate that 200 writers took the plunge with me this past November.
The most common question I get asked about Flashnano is whether I read everyone’s stories. Absolutely not—whew! I wouldn’t have time to write myself if I did. Participants are certainly welcome to share and ultimately submit the work they produce during November, but I am only the facilitator. And just like NaNoWriMo, there is no judge or jury—ultimately this November contract is between you and your personal writing god.
So mark your calendars: This fall I will again challenge flash fiction writers everywhere to write 30 stories in 30 days. And whether you “win” or not, you are guaranteed to feed off the excitement of a flash fiction marathon and write a whole lot of material that you might not have otherwise written. To me, that’s a win.