“How small can you go?” – A workshop on writing Flash and Micro Fiction with Tracy Fells

Tracy Fells


Fancy scooping $20,000 for a 100 word story? Tracy will talk about the myriad of opportunities for flash fiction that now exist & how to find them. She’ll explore how flash writing can help your editing skills and even get your writing mojo back when you’re blocked. The focus will be on how decreasing word counts are the new big thing. There will some time to write your own micro story … and maybe have a go at winning that big cash prize.

Tracy Fells has won awards for both fiction and drama. Tracy, a former scientist, has had over sixty short stories published in national magazines, journals, online and in anthologies. Competition success includes Regional Winner for Canada/Europe 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, short-listings for the Willesden Herald, Brighton and Fish Short Story prizes. Tracy is a fierce flasher and last November wrote a new flash story every day. She has been shortlisted for Fish Flash Fiction Prize and recently read several Flash stories at the Bath Festival.



Review of the Meeting

Tracy Fells gave us a most informative, interesting and fun evening of Flash Fiction. She challenged us to consider ‘How small can you go?’ with writing a complete story. She described flash fiction as a process of ‘word loss’.

A show of hands revealed that not many of the attendees have written Flash. It’s Tracey’s secret passion. She said that micro fiction helps you to get your ‘writing mojo’ back. It can be a good way to warm up before writing bigger pieces of prose.

What is Flash Fiction?

Tracy described Flash Fiction as Word Loss and did a flashy evening, which is reported in flashes:

1. Flash Limbo is a way to limber up for writing.
2. Not a way to get rich. The only way is to get money is to enter competitions.
3. Mini Competition – write the first sentence of a story, put in box over break and win a prize.
4. Tracey read first sentences from George Orwell’s 1984 ‘… clocks Strike 13 …’ and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice ‘… a man in possession of a good fortune …’
5. She read the opening line of The Lottery, a famous American short story: ‘The morning of June 27th was clear and sunny …’ and recommended that we read it.
6. We heard examples from National Flash Fiction Day, which is every June and we heard just under 100 words from Always One by Tracy.
7. Tracy defined Flash Fiction as: ‘Up to 500 words with beginning middle and end’.
8. Bridport define flash as ‘Fiction of extreme brevity’.
9. Its what you leave out that adds to and tells the story
10. Quotes from Kit de Waal, Nula O Connor, Lorraine Mace.
11. International Short Short Story Magazine – everyone who loves flash wants to be in it.
12. Starting at the FLASH point, as Tania Herschman advises consider 'every word, every comma etc.
and see if it really needs to be in your story'.
13. Read a lot of flash if you want to write it well.
14. Lots of flash is on line and on Twitter. Enter competitions to get your work ‘out there’.
15. Flashing is FUN – let your imagination go. Flash can be serious fiction, not just a joke or a punch line.
16. Experimenting gets you out of your comfort zone.
17. Try one-sentence stories, dialogue only, reverse stories, mash up genres, list stories or whatever you
like to get short fiction to work for you.
18. Poets can try combining and/or convert poem to flash or vice versa.
19. Flash improves a writer’s editing skills.

20. Editing Tips, help with flash and other fiction:
a. Cut the first and last line
b. Adverbs adjective- reduce ‘feed them to slugs David Gaffney
c. Choose container
d. Chick out weasel words – really, very etc.

21. Writing Practice Tips:
a. Use a Timer
b. Just write and don’t word count
c. Write fast
d. Write long then cut back
e. Start in the middle

22. Inspiration and Ideas
a. Friends
b. Earwig in cafes etc
c. Read/watch: tv/films/dvd/Netflix
d. Photos
e. Notebook always
f. Internet prompts - photos etc.
g. Sites with prompts/keywords/competition themes
h. Keep a good library/Instagram etc.

23. Activity 1: Write two or three sentences as opening of story – all stories have beginning, middle and end so write story in three paragraphs. We had five minutes to write the opening of a flash.

24. Tracy had some handouts for us and they will be available on the WSW web site and be published in the newsletter. It would be a good idea to buy Writers Magazine, as they do good competitions. Tracy was second recently and got £200 as a prize. Read past-winners to see what the magazines and competition organisers like. A flash of exactly 200 words is a Drabble (excluding title). Consider books that can be scanned so you can hear the stories as well as read them. For example, 'Cowboy Bill', Dr. Suzanne Conboy Hill, has published Finding Fiction on her blog.

26. Tracy read some of her own stories: Inheritance, Always One – ninety seven word story, Multiple Choice – fifty word story and a six word story that Hemingway wrote on a napkin, ‘For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.’

27. Activity 2: Write two to three sentences as the middle of story – we had four minutes.

28. Where to find flash outlets? Tracy recommends Writing magazine, Writers Forum, Mslexia and praises their Guide to Indie presses. You could consider doing flash at open mics. Maybe write a NOVELLA IN A FLASH – I fancy it, how about you? Flashers is an on line group that organises thirty days of flash, a bit like Nano write.

After this stupendous ‘flash through flash’, Tracy reminded us to write our opening sentences on the pink slips she had provided, so that she could review them during the coffee/tea break. Thanks to Cherrie Taylor and Lesley Katz for making the hot drinks and doing the washing up afterwards.

After the break Richard Buxton announced the Flash Fiction Competition that Tracy has kindly agreed to judge. The word limit is three hundred and there is an open theme. Tracy will be at the December WSW Meeting to award the prizes. The deadline for entries is 25th November 2017.

Other news on competitions: The WSW/Steyning Festival Short Story Competition will open on 25th October 2017 and close in the middle of March 2018. This competition is open to people who have lived and/or live in Sussex. There is a word limit ‘from 1500 -2500’ with an open theme. Writers are free to use the ‘revolution’ theme of the festival. The entry fee is £5 for one story and £8 for 2 entries. The first prize is £200, second prize is £75 and third prize is £50 with three commended stories being recognised as well. The first six placed writers will be given a free ticket to the Awards/Celebration Dinner, catered by the Sussex Produce Co. Ellie Griffiths and the WSW President, Simon Brett have agreed to be the judges. WSW would like three volunteers to help with the early rounds of judging. Tell Richard if you would like to help. After the 80th Anniversary success, we look forward to a great Awards Evening at Steyning next summer. Lots of local groups are participating. Information about the festival and the competition will be on the WSW web site.

Phil is giving a talk at the November meeting about topics like marketing books, writing on line, mailing lists, designing and advertising. He will update the anthology this month, so tell him if you have spotted any errors. We would like to design a new logo for WSW, so tell Phil if you have any ideas. We drew the raffle next, with two books donated by Tracy as prizes. Russell took a nice bottle of bubbly home for his wife. Ian reminded Liz that the hall management do not allow alcohol on the premises, so that is the first/last and only raffle wine folks. Thanks very much indeed to Rhona Gorringe for managing the raffle so efficiently, as Paul was off sick.

Activity 3 Tracy opened the second half with instructions for us to add to our STORY OPENING with a middle and end. Lots of excellent flash stories were read out. I think this was mine, with a Gregory Crewdson theme, or is it? Comments welcome. The girl drops her white slip by the log cabin. It rains on her bare breasts. Bare feet crunch leaves. The man unravels his scarf, reaches for her throat. Thunder sounds like screams and she runs to the hollow. He turns and sees her rifle barrel.