Writing Exercises

blue orange black green white adidas soccer ball on green field

Last week, I mentioned I’ve been dabbling in flash fiction as part of my regular writing exercises. This week, I’m on a roll creating short pieces using prompts. This piece is the quick result of using the following five words/phrases: soccer ball, sidewalk, car, blanket, hot coffee.

At this moment, I’d rather do anything than chase a soccer ball around a field, kicking at opponents and crashing into teammates.

Sidewalks are much more conducive to civilized ambulation than grassy fields are. Who in his right mind wants to dash around beneath the scorching sun–on display like an energetic version of a roasted chicken on a spit at the grocery store? Yes, instead of turning in at the gates, I believe I’ll stroll past the field today and engage in a more cultured form of exercise.

Hmm. Now that I’ve decided to play hooky, I think I’ll bundle myself up in the back seat of a car–complete with a flannel blanket and a cup of hot coffee–and allow myself to be chauffeured to the beach instead.

–Pele, on a bad day

What writing exercises do you use?

Flash Fiction and Short Stories

a drink in a glass with green leaf

My hiatus from blogging is now at an end, thank goodness, and I’m dabbling in different types of writing–including flash fiction.

Since November, when my life got a little crazy for a while, I completed a novel and sent it off to a number of agents and publishers. It’s receiving good reviews but not good enough to convince a publisher to buy. Yet.

I’ve begun a new novel, have returned to writing short stories, and am having a lot of fun creating flash fiction. I’ll be submitting some of the shorter pieces to publishers and sharing others here on my blog.

Here’s the first installment of flash fiction. I used a prompt for this piece, which included writing for a total of 10 minutes: 2 minutes each for:

  • A mint
  • A flower
  • A pair of shoes
  • A calendar
  • A phone

Tea Party

The tea tasted awful–like the spearmint leaf floating on top had been soaked in motor oil before being brewed–acrid and brown rather than perky and green.

Perhaps Lorna had allowed the plant to flower, sucking from the herb most of its tingly flavor and imbuing it, instead, with a tang reminiscent of a pair of shoes worn without socks in the middle of summer.

I pulled up the calendar app in my phone and entered a note: Do NOT revisit Lorna’s house for refreshments.

Do You Write Short Stories?

Once upon a time, if you wrote short stories, you could make some serious money doing so. Nowadays, writing short stories isn’t so lucrative. At least not if you measure success in the form of money.

Four years ago, I entered the first short story I ever wrote to the 16th annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. I loved that story but sadly, it didn’t place in the top 25–which it needed to do to receive honorable mention and publication in the compilation edition.

I was really surprised that the story didn’t receive mention, so I decided to conduct some more research into the required elements of a short story. I should have done that in the first place. No matter how much we think we know about writing, or publishing, or the market–things are constantly changing and there’s stuff we simply don’t know. For a smart person, I do some pretty dumb things sometimes…

After conducting my research and taking months upon months for inspiration to strike so I could put that newly learned knowledge to work, I submitted my second short story to the 17th annual WD competition. Mama ranked 15th of more than 4,000 entries. (In reality, it ranked 16th and was fortunate enough to be booted up a place when one of the first 15 entrants withdrew his/her entry because it sold!) It was published in the compilation and has received some excellent reviews.

During the past couple of years, I’ve found writing short stories to be a gold mine in terms of cultivating idea, honing my craft, and … well … telling stories. I’ve taken the first couple of chapters of a book that never got past the first act and turned them into a short story. I’ve taken ideas that simply don’t support an entire novel, and turned them into short stories. Right now, I’m taking a personal issue I’ve had for some time and, I hope, am in the process writing a short story as a form of catharsis.

Will I actually publish it? Who knows? But I need to write every day and since writing these shorts seems to be helping me professionally, I’m fine with that. FYI, I revised that first short story and submitted it to a different competition earlier this year. I should know by the end of the month if it won.

Here are a few tidbits I came up with when research the writing of short stories, followed by some short story markets that interest me. Disclaimer: This is information that appeals to me–it may not appeal to you. Feel free to share resources and info that appeals to you. Other people will likely share your perspective:

  • Word count for short stories is typically between 1,500 and 7,500 words. Having said that, some markets routinely accept stories up to 10,000 words.
  • Flash fiction, or short short stories, are between 500 and 1,500 words. Micro flash fiction can be even fewer than 500 words.
  • Writer’s Digest and Crazyhorse hold annual short story (and other ) competitions, in addition to publishing/buying them.
  • Other markets that publish/buy short stories include Story, The Sun, Fireside, and VQR.
  • The Short Mystery Fiction Society Blog is a great resource, you should check it out.

What challenges have you faced writing, marketing, and/or selling short stories? Want to share your own resources? We inquiring minds want to know…