If you follow my blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about writing one-hour flash fiction. It’s something I do every other week in a group writing exercise and friendly competition, and, I shit you not, it’s one of the “secrets” to my publishing success. The exercise is simple. Someone in the group posts a writing prompt, usually a photo, but it can be a phrase or even a short piece of music, and then everyone, at the same time, has one hour to write a story of no more than 1,000 words. Then, we read all the stories, give a little feedback, and choose the one we like best. The winner gets to pick the prompt on the next go around. I first encountered the one-hour flash competition on the Shock Totem forums, and when it faded away there, I introduced it to my writing group, and it’s been quite a hit.
Look, I know; writing a complete flash story in an hour seems daunting, and it is, especially at first, but I think there are huge benefits to timed and prompted writing exercises. Before we get into the reasons I think the one-hour flash competition could be good for writers, let me tell you what it’s done for me. I’ve participated in 107 one-hour flash challenges. I have gone on to publish 39 of those stories. Some I’ve expanded into short stories, but the bulk of them remained flash and not too much different than their one-hour incarnations. So, clearly, one-hour flash works for me; now let me tell you why.
Now, of course, this is why the flash challenge works for me. It might not work for you, but I’d recommend giving it a try. A lot of folks I know who never believed they could write anything coherent in an hour have become enthusiastic supporters of one-hour flash. It’s important, though, that you find a supportive group that shares your writing goals. The one-hour flash challenge can get, well, ugly in the wrong hands. So, as always, vet your writing groups carefully.
Thoughts on the one-hour flash challenge? Have you ever tried it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.