So, five weeks of writing flash stories, and I now have at least 3 good starts to stories I might be able to sell. I don’t think any of them work the way I want in the form they are in now, but writing sellable flash stories was never my intent. I sort of just wanted to see if I could do it. If a few extra stories fall out the other end, well that would be nice too.
I hadn’t put it down here before, because it felt weird or braggy or something else, but after thinking about it, I don’t know that it is. A few months ago, I applied to join Codex. Codex is a forum and community of neo-pro writers. People who have sold a few stories or completed certain writing courses. Some are full time professional writers, some are part time, or very part time, but all are more serious than hobby level. At least one person there is selling a story or a book ever few days. Dedicated discussions and resources on the ins and outs of professional writing (think basic contract and tax stuff) are almost as common as those on craft and technique. It’s a place where writers hang out. I think I felt weird about talking about it, because I don’t often feel like a writer. I’m a commercial artist that sometimes pretends to be a writer.
Fairly soon after I applied, they started running their yearly flash fiction contest. It’s like a series of writing jams. All the writers are given a set of prompts, and a 48 hour deadline. You need to come up with an idea based on one (or a few) of the prompts and then execute it in under 750 words in under two days. I am quite familiar with game jams, so the vibe is similar. It’s a contest in the same way that Ludum Dare is a contest. There will be a ‘winner’ but no one outside codex will know or care, and there aren’t really prizes. Well, maybe there are.
The real prize, for me anyway, is that over a dozen other writers will read, comment on, and rate your work every week. I have a story published in a literal paper book and I couldn’t tell you if a dozen people have actually read it. If they have, they certainly never told me about it. These stories are all short enough that anyone can buzz through several of them in a sitting. Little 750 word stories.
That’s the first prize, the second prize is that I will read more than a dozen (probably over 2 dozen) stories every week. I am getting a lot of exposure to what works and what doesn’t in these short bursts.
I suppose the aggravating part is, almost none of the stories I have read in the last few weeks have been bad. Some of them are so outrageously good that I can hardly believe they were written in less than two days. I take that back. It’s not aggravating, it’s inspiring. In an aggravating way.
The scores and comments on my own stories have been mixed to slightly favourable. Every week at least one person selected my story as one of their favourites for that round, and every one of them has received a couple of 8 or higher scores. That might not sound great, but trust me, if you read these stories, being anywhere in the top half is extremely flattering. The stories are good, and some folks grade extremely harshly. There are at least half a dozen that I have read that can probably be sold, as is, with no edits. These people are that good.
I just submitted my story for this week. I think it’s okay, but we’ll see. I think it would be better if it were longer than 750 words.