I hate writing short. In fact, the idea of writing a short story is scarier to me than the concept of a full-length novel. I’m an overwriter with a tendency to push too-big concepts and themes into small spaces, far better suited to twice the word count. While I’ve certainly improved at writing small, I have a far way to go in understanding how to simplify ideas and concepts to their core and eliminate the extra fluff.
One of the very best ways to do that is to write microfiction.
Forget short stories. Forget four-digit word counts. Microfiction makes you work for it. Microfiction is a type of flash fiction, but even smaller. While you’re obviously the master of your own word count destiny, know that microfiction tends to run around the 300 word count cap. For the full effect, try to limit yourself to just 100 or 150 words.
Why on earth would you do that? How much of a story can you possibly tell in that short amount of space? Well, for anyone who has read the six-word story by Hemingway, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” you’ll know an awful lot can be said with an awful little.
Here are just a few reasons to give microfiction a try.
You Can’t Fudge Your Word Count:
Do you write florally, poetic prose with a tendency towards gratuitous adjectives and adverbs? (I do, I do!) With microfiction, as with Twitter, you have to make every single word or character count. The value of your words increases with their rarity, and suddenly you can’t fake the story with pretty words, but you need to get down to what really matters.
You Have to Face Your Plot:
Ugh, plots are hard. For me, they’re the hardest part of story telling. With 100 words, you don’t get to meander to some philosophical concept through deep introspection and forest dwelling. You have to get there, which can then be applied to the novel or short story you may be struggling with.
Because Microfiction Gets Down to Basics:
Write out your book in 100 words or less. What is the takeaway? What is the fundamental element of the story? If you can write that down in a way that doesn’t add any fluff or extra, you’ll find the actually storytelling comes far more easily.
It Helps With Writer’s Block:
In addition to the above element of narrowing your book down to basics, microfiction can also just break the logjam of writer’s block by simplifying every piece of the storytelling process. Once you’ve gotten a handful of micro stories out of the way, you’ll probably find your writer’s block has disappeared.
It’s a Writing Challenge:
Microfiction takes you out of your comfort zone as a writer and makes you face some hard facts about your own style of writing and what can be changed or improved. Trying something new and different is an important way to keep your writing chops fresh.
You’ll find yourself telling stories you didn’t realize you wanted to tell. And maybe something will come of them and maybe not, but if anything, you get to walk away from the exercise with a brand new short story.
Microfiction is a great tool for professional and aspiring writers alike. It’s also a fun shared activity. Take turns writing first sentences for stories and trading them with your other writing friends. The package may be small, but you might just be surprised by just how big your ideas are. ♦