Despite being labeled as a flash fiction author (quite rightly, it’s what I do and what I’ve been doing for many years) I very, very, rarely set out to write something small. When I sit down to write a story, the most important thing by far is to do the story and the idea that generated it justice – to turn it into the best thing it can be. To make it interesting. To make it affecting. To make it, if at all possible, good. Word count is never anything I worry about, nor is how long it’s going to take me to finish. For me, it’s all about the story.
But what’s happened over the past few years (I think my first flash was published in 2008, over at the wonderful Smokelong) is that the stories I’ve written have ended up being short. And often that’s surprised me. Often, when writing them, or working on them, or spending days and days tweaking and polishing and (sometimes) starting all over again, the stories feel big. There have been a few occasions when I’ve finished and gone to check on the word count and been surprised, thought: Really? Is that all?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disappointed when something I thought could have been a few thousand words is actually a few hundred. If I thought about it (which is something I don’t often do – I’m only doing it now because I’m writing this for the great National Flash Fiction Day) it would make me happy. It’d mean I’ve got rid of everything that doesn’t need to be there, and that the story’s as concise and efficient as I can make it. It also means – and I think this is the point – that story actually IS bigger than the number of words I’ve used to tell it. I like to think of it as something similar to a kiss; it can last a moment and a lifetime too.
And that is the point. It’s not about the number of pages or the number of words that dictates a story’s size – it’s the story itself.
And, as we’re talking about kisses and stories, the next post is a story called ‘Kiss’ (from NotSo Perfect).