Verbosity: NaNoWriMo Help for Flash Fiction Writers

BONUS TIP: Since we are well into November, we’ll give you some bonus tips for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those in the dark about it).

by A. Francis Raymond

For those of us accustomed to writing short fiction (such as the 500-word Iron Writer challenge), NaNoWriMo can be especially difficult. A flash fiction writer is trying to scrunch a story down into less than a thousand words — including characterization, plot, etc. But NaNoWriMo wants us to spew out 50,000 words. Quickly. That’s like 100 flash fiction stories! An insane idea, for sure, to those of us used to writing short fiction.

This is my fourth (non-consecutive) year as a NaNoWriMo participant, including this year. I won two of those years so far. The year I didn’t win, last year, I was simply thinking too much and writing too little — a fact I now regret only because I would have loved to write that I won all the challenges I participated in so far.

The point is, I know from first-hand experience what this challenge is like and that we all need coping mechanisms, and even a little help to make it through the month. And as an Iron Writer, I’m keenly aware that writing 1667 words a day is like writing a little more than three complete flash fiction stories a day!

What’s a writer of short fiction to do? Here are 4 tips for when you’re stuck:

1. Indulge your character in a monologue. This can be any character in your story. Or all of them. Give your character(s) the opportunity to stand on a soap box and say whatever comes to their mind. What do they think about the story and what’s happening to them so far? This is material that might not ever see the light of day, but it all counts to the 50k goal and you might even learn something about your characters, too.

2. Write your character’s back story. What were they doing a year ago? 10 years ago? Again, this might not be material for the final revision, but we don’t care about that now. We care about every last painstaking detail. Tell us about the shelf of stuffed animals your character’s mother kept out of arms reach and prompted your character to develop a phobia of furry things. Tell us about your character’s teenage days and every band t-shirt she owned.

3. Dive into any and all descriptive details. Your character is in a room, a foreign country, a starship. What do the surroundings look like? What objects are there? What can the characters see, hear, touch, smell? Get out all those details, no matter how mundane they might be. One might be the key to your story later. Don’t limit yourself to the setting either. There’s still more you can write about your character. What do they keep in their purse or wallet? Their fridge, medicine cabinet, glove compartment, and junk drawer?

And when all else fails…

4. Kill off a character. Remember, folks, it’s all in the details. There’s danger lurking everywhere. Use it to your advantage. Kill off (or at least seriously injure) any character, even your main character. Not only is that going to be a few words, but now you’ve given the rest of your characters a new problem to deal with.

Make sure to keep that inner editor, and even your inner filter, turned off. Verbosity rules this month.

Now stop reading this and get back to the 1,667 words you need to write today!

Writing Prompt 10

In Week 25 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) Writing Prompt 2involving the following elements.

  1. A Wishing Well
  2. Chopsticks
  3. A Tow Truck
  4. The National Tax Code in the country where you live

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a novel based on these elements, or even a novella or long story, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

Eliminating All Unnecessary, Unneeded and Useless Words

by B Y Rogers

William Strunk Jr., wrote in his Elements of Style:

“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

Strunk nails it. A problem that many nascent writers have is the irritating habit of excessive explanation by the use of redundant wording. I know I did, and probably still do especially in first drafts.

Let me demonstrate.

“David lived in close proximity to his ex-wife.”

Do you see it? ‘Close’ and ‘proximity’ are synonyms. Now, it is probable the writer knew this, but the lack of attention during the editing process missed it and the sentence is longer than it needs to be.

Additional examples. I trust you can see the problem.

“He was surrounded on all sides.”

“The little girl’s coat was red in color.”

“I need to free up some space in garage.”

“My personal physician told me to reduce all the carbs in my food diet.”

“The policeman said I needed to continue to remain on the sidewalk.”

“Let me make this crystal clear.”

“It was twelve midnight on a dark and stormy night.”

“It is absolutely essential.”

“Ian felt winning her heart was an added bonus.”

Any of these errors would be acceptable if used as dialogue. But in the prose it burdens the reader.

There is a great book titled Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. One of the lessons I learned from this book is you only need to say something once. Why use two words when one will suffice? I apply this to a sentence, paragraph, even the entire story. Too many sentences with these mistakes and the reader will be lost, possibly without knowing why. The end result is the writer lost a reader.

Writing Prompt 9

In Week 2 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) Writing Prompt 2involving the following elements.

  1. A Tucker Turret
  2. Ruby Red Slippers
  3. A Russian Olive Treet
  4. A mermaid

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a novel based on these elements, or even a novella or long story, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

Fancy a Quickie?

by Scallywag

Since the reign of Mamie of the Big Hair has ended, there has been an irratic yet abundant orgy of quickies from the Queen of the Bordello, DL Zwissler. Depending on her voracious mood and availability, quickies now happen on Saturdays, Sundays and even Mondays. Will this feast of revelry continue or will she become tired and worn out from all the action?

DL Zwissler, prolific erotic writer extraordinaire, said, “The best times for me are when Earl is busy doing some DIY around the house and the kids are asleep or mucking about outside. Only then can I slip away for a quickie…”

Frequent users of the quickies are starting to feel the pressure under her supremacy and dominance. Jordan Bell, who was always ready for a Mamie quickie, has been tired out. Dani J Caile, scoundrel and cad, is still persevering but mentioned that “… she has a strange copulation of elements. I try to keep up with the ol’ girl but you know, when you get too much of a good thing … sometimes I just get it over and done with as quickly as possible, but I’ll do her good in the end.”

However, Richard Russell, man of many words and much less sense, apparently cannot get enough, posting his impatience and boredom on his Facebook page: “Oh, what to do, what to do …”

As to whether quickies are a passing fad or some literary heavy petting is still to be seen, but when they happen, there’s always something exceptional to see.

A TIW spokesman stated, “I don’t see what all the huff and puff is about, really. Interest in quickies has waned recently, but I’m sure DL Zwissler has the right equipment to whip up a storm and get us all into shape.”

Writing Prompt 8

In Week 31 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) Writing Prompt 2involving the following elements.

  1. A live Griffin
  2. A peanut butter and banana sandwich
  3. A ventriloquist
  4. A Delorean

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a novel based on these elements, or even a novella or long story, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

Writing Prompt 7

In Week 42 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) Writing Prompt 2involving the following elements.

  1. Synchronous Fireflies
  2. A buried, silver Julep cup
  3. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
  4. There must be two main characters and one must be responsible for the death of the other

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a novel based on these elements, or even a novella or long story, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

NEWSFLASH: Where is Maureen?

On Monday 22nd September 2014, there was growing concern for the whereabouts of a certain Ms Maureen Larter, Aussie extraordinaire and longtime member of the TIW community. The disappearance of said member Maureen had many members talking as to where she may have gone. Some say, being an Aussie, she had gone on a ‘walkabout’, a traditional aboriginal journey to find oneself, a journey which could last for an indefinite time, perhaps even as long as 3 days. Others mentioned she may have joined an expedition group to find the heart and soul of the lost capital of Australia, Canberra, something which many have tried before but have failed miserably. A small minority of the TIW community have also mentioned that she may only be out shopping for wattleseed and witchetty grubs and lost her way between the jumping kangaroos, climbing koalas and running emus within her neighbourhood. Much to the picturesque efforts of Bobby ‘Salmon’ Salomons and infantile taunting from Brian Rogers, founder of TIW, Maureen still has yet to reply to any tagged comment or post. If she does not reply soon, the community will send out Tony Jaeger to look for her. If he does not find her, then at least he will bring back some mushrooms. A TIW spokesman, when asked about this strange disappearance said “It’s difficult to contact anyone who lives in the Outback at the best of times, let alone when the Fosters and Vegemite sandwiches run out. Maybe we should put some more prawns on the barbie.”

UPDATE: Maureen has been found safe and well, sipping a concoction of homemade lemonade and gin under a Gympie-Gympie tree.

Writing Prompt 6

In Week 46 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) Writing Prompt 2involving the following elements.

  1. A High Diving Horse
  2. An Haboob
  3. Birmingham Jail (The Song)
  4. Jetman

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a novel based on these elements, or even a novella or long story, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.

Writing Prompt 5

In Week 76 of The Iron Writer Challenge, four authors were asked to write a 500-word story (give or take a few words) Writing Prompt 2involving the following elements.

  1. A Pink Fairy Armadillo
  2. A Mason jar
  3. Mount St. Helen
  4. A Wii U

The key to incorporating the elements is not to try to find a common denominator of all four. Find a common link between two, and then weave in the other two after the first or second draft. And don’t just throw in an element for the sake of including it. Make it count, make it important.

If you can get it within 500-ish words, that’s great but write as long as you can. If you’re inspired to write a novel based on these elements, or even a novella or long story, more power to you. The important thing is you are writing.

Once you’ve finished your new piece of work, set it aside for a few weeks or a few months and come back to it for a re-edit.

Good luck and write.