Last weekend I was lucky enough to get a place on a free flash fiction workshop. It was held as part of the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival, at a building called Number One Riverside. I’d read somewhere that the building houses the town library, so when I came face to face with this I was rather stunned! The inside didn’t disappoint, either.
I was quaking and more than a bit starstruck because the workshop hosts were David Gaffney and Sarah-Clare Conlon, flash-fictioneers supreme (although David mentioned fairly on that he prefers the term micro-fiction). Anyway, they were both absolutely lovely; they even brought biscuits! The other participants were friendly, lively and interesting, and we soon got down to reading and discussing some excellent flash fiction stories, before having a go at writing our own in twenty minutes and reading them out to the group (which as some of you may recall is my very favourite thing – not).
Among the things we talked about were different viewpoints and distances from the story, how many characters is too many, and length. It became clear just how much of a perfectionist David is as his favourite length is EXACTLY 150 words – to the point where a hyphenated word leads to revisions!
During the workshop both David and Sarah-Clare gave us lots of great tips and suggestions, but here’s the one that really resonated with me:
Start in the middle
This is the thing I struggle with; telling a story in non-chronological order. Another tip was to put the ending somewhere other than the end. I sometimes manage to do that, but starting a story anywhere other than the beginning is a killer. On really bad days it turns into and-then-this, and-then-that (at least before I start cutting). It’s odd because when I used to write English essays, I always began by writing what I thought would be the conclusion, just to get started, and usually ended up taking the essay in a completely different direction from the one I had in mind at the start. And, usually, it worked.
So I have a mission; to try and start a story properly in the middle. I’ve written a few flash stories since the workshop and I think I’m getting closer, but I haven’t leapt over the edge into full-on achronology yet.
Watch this space!
The image of Number One Riverside has been shared from the Rochdale Borough Council website; I did take my own photo on the day but it was rubbish, and this one gives a much better idea of the scale and general coolness of the building. Link to the original page: http://www.rochdale.gov.uk/planning_and_building_contro-1/regenerating_the_borough/number_one_riverside.aspx