I am a novel girl. I love–and often need–to get lost in a narrative. Cathy Day, whom I took two courses with for my M.A., refers to this as the continuous fictional dream. It’s that feeling you get when you really, truly, fall into a book. When the characters become kindred spirits. When you reach the last page and look up with glazed eyes and wonder–what now? How do I go on living my life after that?
So, naturally, when I began taking creative writing courses during my Master’s program, I assumed I would be drawn to long-form fiction. My past writing had always been attempts at novels. Keyword–attempts. I never got much past the first thirty pages or so before losing steam. Life got in the way, or doubt crept into the margins, or something. For whatever reason, I would toss aside the notebook or stop opening the Word document where that little infant novel resided. Hmm–maybe I shouldn’t have kids.
After all those failed attempts at long form writing, I fell into a summer course centered around flash. Every week for five weeks we had to write a piece which could not exceed 750 words. Wait, this is a thing? Mind=blown.
Flash is a bit like poetry. I’ve never considered myself a poet, but after writing in the flash form, I definitely started to appreciate the poet’s work more. Working on something that small, you really get to dig into the language. For me, the process goes like this:
1. Carve out this huge shapeless chunk of rough stone. Don’t worry about the shape.
2. Start chiseling. Cut away the excess. Identify the meat of the story, the kernel you want to express, and remove everything else.
3. Cut the facets. You’re still cutting, trimming away all the extra bits, but now you’re doing it with a laser instead of a pickaxe.
4. Polish. Rub down the edges and hold it to the light. That kernel of truth should shine through every side as it turns.
I think I may return to long form writing eventually, but for now, flash is just so… shiny. How do you write? Long or short? Has it changed for you?