Two summer flash fiction workshops!

Flash fiction workshops from beginner to advanced!

For more info and Earlybird Discounts CLICK HERE

WRITING FLASH FICTION

June 13-July 3

So you want to write flash fiction? Flash adorable_tiny_things_640_23fiction is redefining how we tell stories, and by embracing this compressed form, all writers–from poets to novelists to nonfiction writers–are cultivating a new set of skills and creating an entirely new kind of story.

In this workshop we will generate original flash pieces, examine what makes successful flash fiction, and try to differentiate flash from its cousins, the prose poem and the vignette.

LEARN MORE

 

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SCULPTING FLASH FICTION

July 11-July 31

Editing is the most important part of the writing process. As serious writers, you know it’s through the editing process that we begin to refine and sculpt our messages. But just as writing flash fiction requires a
bonsaidifferent set of skills, so does editing flash fiction.

In this workshop we will use the tools of ambiguity and implication; we will learn the different between chipping and chopping; we will learn how to shrink-wrap text, and most of all learn how to achieve the specific needs of flash fiction as I guide you and other participants to edit your real works in progress.

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Summer Resolution #1: Finish That Manuscript online workshop

An Online Workshop on Re-visioning, Taking the Next Step, and Falling (Back) in Love with Your Vision.

Starts April 27!

Are you or someone you know working on a manuscript? Are you stuck in the writing phase or in the revision process? Or have you “finished” but not gotten the response you wanted out in the world? Are you not sure what comes next? Most of us are better at starting manuscripts than we are at finishing them. But it’s only when we can conceive, create, and bring our projects to fruition that we begin to master the longer form known as a book. Each book we write brings us closer to understanding how to write a book. What phase of the finishing process are you in? And what do you need to cross the finish line and get it out into the world?

Are you ready? Find out more

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The Great Shuffle: Ordering a Flash Collection vs. an Anthology

I hear a lot of authors asking for advice on ordering their collections. My first question to them is: Are you ordering an anthology or a collection?

Having done both, I believe what is required is very different.

Firstly let’s get our terminology straight. By anthology I mean a book of stories written by many different authors. The editor of the anthology conceives, solicits, judges, and orders the pieces into the final product. By collection I’m referring to a single-author collection where the author is putting their own stories into one book.

images (3)Ordering an anthology is a little bit like taking a 3rd grade class photo: you gotta get everyone in the picture. You might have pieces that are wildly different. You might have four kids wearing green sweaters. Your job is to make everyone look good. Whether you decide to put all the talls in the back or go boy-girl-boy, you are working with a lot of disparate pieces and are ultimately limited by your materials–your job is to try and place them in the most interesting and pleasing order, showcasing each and creating a solid whole.

When I edited Fast Forward: The Mix Tape back in 2010, I channeled the 1980s “mixtape” style (and we even had reader flip the book halfway through: Side A, Side B). It’s of course not the only way to order an anthology. You might put your most famous authors first. You might chunk the stories by theme, or style or even size (The Incredible Shrinking Story was organized largest to smallest).Mix Tape Cover

But if an anthology is a little bit like a Greatest Hits Collection, then the single author collection is The Concept Album.

I’ve edited four anthologies, so I thought I was all set to order my own collection. But right away I realized there was a far more potent and more dangerous power available to me now. Now I didn’t just have artistic license over the order—I had artistic license over the whole thing. Now I had the possibility of manipulating the actual stories as I built the collection—something that would be a cardinal sin in an anthology. And this is why I’ve come to the conclusion that the mixtape or any other approach that works for an anthology might fall short in a single author collection. In a collection you are also manipulating the vibrations of story next to story to create a greater whole.

Think about it: Anthology readers have no qualms about reading the stories out of order—in fact, we almost expect them to go straight for the Table of Contents, look for their favorite authors, and start there. But the reader of a collection will often enter the book with story #1, and in this way a collection must behave like a novel, enticing the reader to keep turning pages in a way that an anthology doesn’t have to.

I ended up spending nearly as much time ordering my collection as I did writing the pieces themselves, and as I continued to shift and flip my stories, watching for the telltale vibrations to jump the synapses, there was a pliability that had never been available to me when creating an anthology; I now had the creative permission to write the gaps, change the tenses, sync the characters, manipulate the narrators, and otherwise match or contrast the stories as needed. And they began to take on second and third layers of subtext–no longer just individual stories but part of a greater symphony telling an even bigger story that I had never even considered.

A friend of mine told me for her collection she threw all her stories on the floor, picked them up, and that was the order. And I must admit that part of me likes the simplicity and divine randomness of that method.

But I’d like to propose that the act of ordering a collection is as precious as the act of writing it. Writers who are too quick to “get the ordering over with” in their collections might miss a lot of untapped potential in their work. I believe the work of ordering  is just as delicate, just as nuanced. And can be just as revealing.

 

Nancy Stohlman’s books include the forthcoming flash fiction collection The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (forthcoming 2014), the flash novels The Monster Opera (2013) and Searching for Suzi: a flash novel (2009), and three anthologies of flash including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape (2010), which was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is a founding member of Fast Forward Press, the creator of The F-Bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series in Denver, and her work has been included in The Best of the Web.

Check out her upcoming Writing Flash Fiction workshop here!

Guest Blogger David Wagner: On Being a Writer

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On Being a Writer
by David Edward Wagner 

The Reality of Being a WriterThe aim of this blog entry is to give a bit of friendly advice and insight into the mindset and processes of the professional (or honestly, even the non-professional or the trying-to be-professional) writer.

The simple question, what is a writer is simply answered, “A writer is one who writes.” The similar question, what does a writer do, is similarly answered, “A writer writes.” But, alas, as we all know, things are seldom if ever so simple.

So, with this in mind, I will answer the question as thoroughly and straightforward as I can.

In reality, the simple question, what is a writer, is properly answered, “A writer is one who plans and creates through the methods of thought and writing.” And the question, what does a writer do, is accurately answered, “A writer plans, writes and edits.” It is this second question that I will focus on (as the first question is embedded within it).

A Writer needs time

While simply writing is surely the foundation and prime aspect of a writer’s life and career, it is not the only thing he or she must do and it is, in the end, only of shared importance with the tasks of planning and editing one’s work.

In my own life, I have struggled, sacrificed and fought to keep ahold of the one thing most important to the writing process: Time. That is your most valuable asset and tool as a writer.

All of the imagination, all of the great ideas, all of the valuable connections or amazing insights you have do not mean a thing if you cannot carve out and maintain the long hours necessary to bring your thoughts from intangible mind to the actuality of words and paper (or sure, digital document).

This is a simple truth: a writer needs time.

Perhaps the most important question then becomes: how do I use this time I have? Maybe even better, you could ask how do I use this time wisely and efficiently? This is the best question because writers in general (and I am a great example) are known to be some of the world’s most triumphant wasters of time, pissing away the hours with flights of fancy or organizing their bookshelves or cleaning their fingernails or… doing anything but writing.

So, do not despair, this is another thing I have at last learned and become comfortable with. A writer, if truly a writer, never truly wastes a second. They are merely fulfilling one of the three aspects of their writerly labor. Perhaps it is best if I just dive into those three aspects and explain each one as fully as I can.

To begin, let’s talk about planning, as it is the most vague and easily misunderstood.

A Writer Plans At All Times

While writing and editing are rather straightforward in their explanations, the various types and levels of planning a writer needs to do in order to be successful are a bit more complicated.

To begin, writers need to plan their time properly. Loose but self-regulated weekly schedules are used to keep projects properly juggled and moving forward, with flexible (unless otherwise noted) long-term deadlines for the completion of individual works spread out over the coming months.

Even more, basic daily schedules are necessary for carving out the space to give each current project its due and proper focus at specific times.

If you want to support yourself with your writing, the odds are great that you will be working on and needing to finish more than one project at any time until it is necessary to focus on completing one, and you need to remind your artistic self that generally, when people want to support themselves or their family, they have to get a job. It’s the modern world still, and you can’t pay the landlord or bank with good intentions.

That means you have to get comfortable with the fact that your art is a job and you have to treat it with the same mindset you have when working for wages at the great time-sucking company of your choice. You are a business, your mind and your personal effort, and you have to show up at your job regularly and do your work efficiently and with inspiration.

My own example that has truly changed my life and my relationship with my own creative process is as follows: I plan my week day by day, working on one project in the morning until lunch, (sometimes at noon, sometimes at 2pm, sometimes at four pm, depending on my outside responsibilities and level of inspiration). I eat and then switch gears, working on another project for a few hours, always less than the earlier project. Then, I will generally be burned out after four to eight hours of writing, writing, writing. I take a break and spend the final hour or so of my workday on non-creative projects I call ‘busy work:’ updating websites, formatting completed manuscripts, researching online, submitting completed work to magazines, contests, publishers and agents. Then I go to my job or cook dinner for my wife and me, depending on the day.

I want to turn my passion into a suitable career and so I treat it like a full time job, giving 30-50 hours a week towards directly working on my ‘product.’ Part time opportunities are also available.

But beyond that, you have to plan the work itself. Trace story arcs, plot points, major events. You have to develop compelling characters and keep timelines straight and make sure everything is coherent and cohesive.

This takes pages of notes, sometimes charts, as well as research in books and on the Internet.

And between the time to work and the work itself, you have to plan the projects in general, keep a running list of the story and time worthy ideas you come up with at random times, crossing them out with each precious ‘The End.’ The more ideas the merrier and as the movie says, “If you build it they will come.” Keep adding to your work, everything you can, different mediums and styles, different genres and formats, just keep writing and stretch your limits and virtuosity.

For you non-writers reading this blog entry, or even to you writers reading it, in your defense, I can honestly say that a writer is always planning, always working mentally on that one part, that one character flaw or upcoming cool moment when you can’t quite get your story from here to there in a logical way and you know you can if you can just think of that one missing piece, that one crucial decision…

The most intangible parts of planning for a writer are those seemingly blank and lazy times when you are sitting doing nothing to the outside observer, when you feel scattered and lost in your own house or neighborhood while your brain works through some idea. To the outside world it looks like you are idle, spacing out and being weird again, but do not fear, you are working. You are wracking your brain and doing real, honest, roll-up-your-sleeves creative work. Simply because it is abstract does not mean that it is intangible; concrete results come only from such mental endeavors.

Planning is an important part of writing and the writer’s life, and it should be remembered and taken seriously.

Writers write as much as they possibly can

As I mentioned, the idea that writers write and edit their work is a pretty straightforward and logical notion. With this in mind, I will keep the rest of this blog entry mercifully short.

Here I will just say that you have to write, write, write. Just get it out, don’t loose your momentum on a project just because that transition from act one into act two doesn’t quite work and doesn’t really make sense. Just power through, keep moving, make a few notes where it feels choppy or poorly paced and just get to the end. Write it all out and type ‘the end.’ Get it completed in any fashion you can. This is the first draft, it’s not supposed to be perfect, just finished.

This first draft is simply carving the rough shape from the blank white marble of page and mind. You’ll never know where you’re going if you don’t arrive there in some shape. Don’t forget, you have time and you have your third necessary responsibility in your life as a writer: editing.

Writers edit like their lives depend on it.

The title of this section pretty well sums up the truth of editing. You edit like you life depends on it because it does. If you want to support yourself by writing, you have to be willing to tear your work apart, killing your favorite line or paragraph for the sake of the whole, change and retool everything and anything that suddenly makes you realize you are reading something and not experiencing something.

You have to condition yourself to step outside of your own creative ego and wear the separate hat of an objective, non-partial editor. And then when that first draft is more presentable, you need to send it to at least one second pair of eyes, get their feedback and typo findings, and decide what insights you will apply to your further drafts.

Do this at each stage until the final draft, but be aware that everybody you are sending drafts to also have lives and time issues, and may not want to or be able to read four drafts of the same novel. So widen your pool of friendly and interested eyes for your own sake.

I generally begin each daily session by re-reading the previous few pages and editing and note-taking as I go, sliding gently into the flow of the days work as I near the end of what I wrote yesterday. Then it is only forward towards the ever-shortening distance between here and the end.

Editing is vital and the true work of successful writers. It is also the most nerve-wracking and difficult part. But do it. Love it. Know that it is the difference between great writing and plain old everyday schlock. Do it with pride and patience.

Conclusion

Get to work. And have a good day.