Category Archives: Writing Advice

Tracking Short Stories – Readiness, Submissions, Acceptances

confused

If you are even moderately productive, it can soon get confusing to track your short stories – drafts or trunkable, those ready to send, those out, where they’ve been and who has accepted or rejected them, and where to send them next.

I use one online tool and a couple offline. Yes, I use more than one tool. Yes, they are all free except WriteWay, which I upgraded from free to Pro.

I use Submission Grinder to track where finished short stories have been sent and the result. I can sort by market, by my stories, and by date. I can list my favorite markets and see what their response times for many other authors have been. I can find new markets, and quickly link to the guidelines for those markets. It keeps me safe from repeating a sub or sim-subbing if not allowed. Overall?  A

I use Sonar to collect more comprehensive data on each story, including the text of editor rejections/acceptances. I keep data on every story – trunked, draft, out, and ready to send – all easily sorted . I can pull up a separate page for each story to see all its submissions, what kind of (and how long) a rejection it got – similar data to the Submission grinder, but including any notes I’ve made and editor comments. It was very helpful at first to get a handle on my +300 stories, but now I’m using excel and the Submission Grinder more often, and focusing only on the ready to send stories (far far fewer!). Tracking accurately means inputting the information after I’ve already done so (and in an easier manner) on the Submission Grinder – but I have found this software useful. Overall? B-

I use an excel spreadsheet with separate sheets for flash & short stories & a sheet for potential markets.  I have a column for the market the story is at, and a list beside it of the markets that rejected it.  The excel sheet is very customizable (can add columns for story length, genre, market notes, etc), but doesn’t have the collected data the submission grinder has to determine average waits. It also is not automatic, the way the grinder is, so a bit more work. I do like it for quick decision making, and am limiting it to just the few I’m focused on right now – easier to glance through than to log in and sort through stories on the grinder. Overall?    A-

I use WriteWay pro to write & store the actual stories. Even if I write the story in Word or elsewhere, I’ll transfer it into WriteWay as soon as I can. (WriteWay is similar to Scrivener, but simpler) I put each story in its own “chapter” in the book called “Flash Stories”  or the book called Contest Stories, Novellas, etc. Any crits go on “cards” under the chapter, and I can save prior versions of a story if I so choose. I also have some actual novels with chapters going on.  Overall? A

What do you use? If you use any of the above, do you have any tricks to make them work better?

 

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Why Flash?

flash writers

The number of famous authors who have written flash fiction is huge. Googling “flash fiction” brings up pages and pages of information and links to short-short fiction. Why do people enjoy writing flash?  Why is there a market for it?

The fairly recent popularity of flash fiction belies the fact that extremely short stories have been around for years. East Indian mythology in the Vyathaka Puranas and Greece’s Aesop’s fables are two examples.  Complete stories, with a moral – many of them barely filling a page. Speculative fiction has been a leader in the challenge to distill stories to their bare essence since the 1930’s.  In the early 1970’s,  George Hay (founder of the Science Fiction Foundation)  challenged Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke to write a “postcard story.” George’s idea was that stories on postcards with stamp-sized pictures of the author would be mailed around by excited fans, increasing the interest and audience for science fiction.

In the past few years, the availability and interest in very short fiction has risen in all genres. Writers and readers around the world are spending time exploring and pushing the boundaries of extremely short fiction.  From la minificción in Latin America to 一分钟小说 (smoke-long) fiction in China and flash in English speaking countries, various forms of short fiction are being studied by academics and futurists interested in the sociological implications. Why is flash fiction so popular today?  What does it say about our culture and the future of reading and writing?

It reflects our crazy lives – news comes in sound bites, social media has encouraged people to share bits and pieces (and subsequently learn to read bits and pieces of others’ lives). The digital world encourages short attention spans – and although curling up with a fat novel will always appeal to those wanting to lose themselves in an alternate reality, the pleasure of experiencing the epiphanic moments and poetic emotion good flash can supply is eagerly searched out by those with only a “minute” to spare.

Prose poetry, vignettes and mini essays all have flirted with the idea of a short, compelling story with a plot, emotional arc, and sometimes the hint of an interesting setting. Characteristics of good flash fiction include tight writing – every word counts – a story arc of some sort, whether plot or character, and a small nugget – either a small point, a small change, a small heroic result. Readers are satisfied when they feel the story is complete.  The ending doesn’t fizzle out or feel tacked on.

So why write or read flash?  Let me know what you think!

Further Reading:

names for flash