Monday, January 2, 2012

Flash Your Story

I am a writer.  I have authored more than 300 non-fiction articles, mostly on various aspects of astronomy (my day job is the director of the Kirkpatrick Planetarium of Science Museum Oklahoma).  I have a few articles on the subject of ghost hunting, a passionate hobby of mine.  I’ve published a few short stories – science fiction, of course – and a couple of poems.

Last year I published my first book.  It’s a children’s picture book “Why Am I Me?” (  I have spent countless hours and many thousands of words writing science fiction novels.  And though I love reading the genre, I just don’t seem to have the patience to write one.  I get a great plot, but I seem to get bored about half way through. “Why Am I Me?” has been in my brain and heart for several years as I watched my son go through the kind of self doubt that this book teaches kids how to overcome. Writing it was more of an exercise on writing: I wanted to see if I could write a 400 word book, since I had so much trouble writing 80,000 word books.

One of the methods I use to kickstart my hesitant creativity (what we sometimes call writer’s block) is to flash my current project.  Well done flash fiction excites me like few other forms of writing.  I learned about flash fiction writing from Harvey Stanbrough ( when I took a workshop on this process a few years ago.  We have kept in touch off and on since then.  Unlike some forms of flash fiction, which are often defined as stories under 1000 words, Harvey claims it must contain less than 100 words.  I call this very strict flash version “micro-fiction” although that just doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as flash fiction.

The way I use this technique is to “flash” whatever manuscript I am currently on.  The way I see it, if I can write my story, novel or article in 99 words or less, then I really understand the piece and where it is going.  If I can’t get the essence of the story in that number of words, then I am likely as confused as any of my readers would be if I didn’t improve the manuscript.

I haven’t published any of these micro-fiction efforts.  In fact, I really haven’t even tried to.  The point of these stories is to improve my writing.  But by now I have a decent sized collection of them.  Maybe I’ll put them in an anthology sometime.

This one of numerous tricks I use to re-ignite my artistic juices.  I will share this and other block-busters with the attendees at the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation annual conference May 3-5 (see And, hey, even if my ideas don’t excite you, there are a number of quality speakers coming to share their writing secrets.  And you can meet with and even take to lunch any of a number of editors and agents.  Make plans; it’ll be a great weekend.

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