Sick Of This Cold and Stir-Crazy? A Friday prompt from Going Short:

Are you stir crazy and sick of being cold?

Are you losing it a little bit? (me!)

Going Short is ready to snuggle and do some writing.

“I can’t get enough of your love, babe.”

Prompt: Bribing the Muse: On Your Mark, Get Set…

A great trick to create urgency in a flash fiction story is by using another constraint: Time.

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.

You can use 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?

Because only you can write your stories.

Happy flashing and stay warm, friends!

Love, Nancy

P.S. Want your own copy?

Order Going Short from Ad Hoc Fiction

Order Going Short Amazon/Kindle on Amazon UK  or Amazon USA 

Or get a signed Going Short from me here

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“Going Short” featured in Reader Views Book Reviews

Posted on  by Reader Views

“an energetic, comprehensive guide….If you like the short form, as a reader or writer, make sure Going Short is part of your must-read library.”

Readers VIews

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (Master Class Series)

Nancy Stohlman
Ad Hic Fiction (2020)
ISBN: 9781912095797
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (01/2021)

“Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (Master Class Series)” by Nancy Stohlman, is an energetic, comprehensive guide that teaches writers how to write flash fiction.

Some readers like long, luxurious stories, while others like them short and sweet. Writers are no different. Some enjoy writing the long novel, while others enjoy the shorthand style of flash fiction. Some, of course, prefer to do both. If you’re a writer who’s never dabbled in flash fiction but wants to, or one who has but would like to take a deeper dive into the process and take your writing to the next level, then this book is all you really need. Stohlman takes you through the basics–what flash fiction is, what it isn’t, and what it could be when done well. Anyone can write a super short story. But does it still make an impact? Is it as entertaining and moving as if you’d written it long? This book will help you explore that and will give you hands-on instruction on how to make your flash fiction the best it can be.

We writers have all heard the advice “write tight” or “write lean.” But flash fiction is more than just being concise. It’s creating a meaningful story in a short amount of space–still satisfying. Still moving. It has nothing to do with short attention spans or a lack of time. It means you enjoy really short fiction, for its own sake.

So You Wrote a Book? Francine Witte

Dressed All Wrong For This, Francine Witte’s new book of flash fiction and winner of the Blue Light Fiction Award, is a smorgasbord of poignant absurdity, expertly navigating the delicate line between pure whimsy and subtle, sometimes devastating truth. This book will make you laugh at the same time it takes your breath away.

Francine Witte

Nancy Stohlman: Your work is whimsical and absurd, almost slapstick at times, just the way I like it! Where do your ideas come from?

Francine Witte: I get my titles first, for the most part. A phrase might pop into my head and I go from there. The story usually unfolds as I am writing it. I rarely know what the story is going to be about until I start. Just letting myself go where the story takes me often allows for the absurd to happen.

NS: There are so many memorable moments in these stories. This one from the story “Flag” stood out for me:

The waiter brings the Coq Au Vin.

This is chicken, Janie says

I thought it would be something more.

You might also say that about love, the waiter smiles.

This passage is the perfect example of what I love about your work—just when you think it’s pure silly, you swiftly rip away the tablecloth to reveal the truth underneath. Talk about the relationship between absurdity and truth in general and in your writing.

FW: To me, when something is absurd, it’s because it’s true. So very often as I’m thinking of writing how people are getting along in a restaurant, in love, in just about anything, I’m also thinking, what’s really true here. What aren’t the characters saying? In the above passage, it seems absurd that a waiter would just randomly say what he says, but it’s also true.

NS: There are so many recurring themes in this book, including food, betrayal, and of course, chicken. Why chicken?

FW: Betrayal is my go-to theme. It has conflict baked in. I have lots of guys leaving lots of gals for no reason, or lots of reasons. Parents cheating on each other. Friends stealing each other’s boyfriends, and on and on.  It never leaves me. As to food, it seems to be what people do. They eat. Anytime people are getting together there is food. And if there isn’t food now, there is food later. And I suppose that chicken is kind of an easy food to reference, being as ubiquitous as it is in our culture. Also, I think the word “chicken” is funny.

NS: We first shared pages in Tom Hazuka’s wonderful anthology Flash Fiction Funny. Do you think comedic writing is taken less seriously in the writing world?

FW: Humor in writing certainly has less gravitas, even though it’s much more difficult to do well. Maybe humor tends to be more topical, and therefore has a specific shelf life. I love humor and absurdity is like a quieter form of humor.

NS: Talk a little about your journey to flash fiction. Did it choose you?

FW: I started as a poet, and most of my formal writing education, my MFA, etc. is in poetry. I wrote and published poems in the late ‘80’s. Then in the early ‘90’s, I ventured into playwrighting, and wrote a few full-length plays and many, many one-acts. I liked the one-acts more because I love the compression of them. Also, I liked that there are more things you could do form-wise in a short play. That’s pretty much the same as flash fiction. I started to write short-shorts (as they were referred to then) and immediately fell in love with the language and possibility of such a short story. You can set a flash on the moon, for example. That doesn’t work as well in a longer story. I took a class with the great Roberta Allen, who was the only person teaching flash in the late ‘90’s (that I’m aware of.) I started sending my stories out, and got them accepted into the print journals. And that’s how the journey happened.

NS: You are widely published in both flash fiction and poetry. How do you navigate/separate between the two? Or do they bleed into one another?

FW: Flash fiction and poetry have similarities in their language, but for me that’s where it ends. I feel like they do very separate things. Poetry is a meditation. It doesn’t need a story, and if there is a story to the poem, that story’s purpose is the speaker examining a moment and how it helps the speaker learn something. Poetry has an inward movement. Flash fiction, on the other hand, is the unfolding of events that the narrator is living in that moment. The narrator is in a state of discovery as the story goes on. An outer movement.

I always know what I am going to be writing when I sit down and have never wondered if a flash fiction should be a poem or vice versa.

NS: Dressed All Wrong for This was the winner of 2019 Blue Light Book Award: congratulations! How important do you think awards are for writing careers?

FW: Thank you. For me, awards have been important as three of my chapbooks got published as part of a prize. Often, contests are the only avenue to book publication. It’s also nice to get the recognition. I don’t know how important it is to one’s career. I think it’s more of a nice thing than a necessary thing.

NS: What’s it been like to be a writer in New York City during the year 2020?

FW: There is such a vibrant writing scene in New York City. In fact, many writing scenes. Downtown, universities, etc. You could go to a reading every night. Sometimes two. So, the closure of these readings made a significant dent in the networking and socializing aspect. Also the promotion aspect was affected. People who had a book launch in 2020 were kind of screwed. But I don’t think these limitations are distinct to New York. I do shudder, however, to think what we would do without zoom. Online readings have enabled worldwide connections that would have been otherwise impossible. So, while we missed out on in-person readings, a whole other kind of reading, the online reading, was born. Talk about lemonade.

NS: Lemonade indeed! Advice to someone writing a book?

FW: I can only speak to books of flash and poetry. I would say to write and publish the pieces and let the book come together from that. I’ve never sat down to “write a book.” Rather, I put all my favorite poems or stories together. I would find a way for them to tell a story, because usually they did. I do have a novella, The Way of the Wind, but I wrote it as if I were writing flash stories that had a plot tying them together. Most important thing – every story or poem should be a 10 (at least to you.)

NS: “Every story should be a 10.” I love that because, yes, we do get attached to our darlings. Thank you so much for hanging out with me, Francine! Can you share some links to book and other promo links?

Dressed All Wrong for This on Amazon Dressed All Wrong for This: Witte, Francine: 9781421836393: Amazon.com: Books

The Way of the Wind on Kindle The Way of the Wind (Novella-in-Flash) – Kindle edition by Witte, Francine. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Or in paperback Ad Hoc Fiction  The Way of the Wind : Francine Witte [978-1-912095-93-3] – £9.99 : Ad Hoc Fiction, Short Short Fiction Press

Poetry books, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh available on Amazon

Flashboulevard.wordpress.com (a web journal of flash that I edit)

Follow her on twitter @francinewitte

Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Passages North, and many others. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and (The Theory of Flesh.) Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) will be published by ELJ September, 2021. She lives in NYC.