All my own work: reading for a flash fiction collection

I started a new project this week, something I’ve been thinking about for a little while. As I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for the Secret Notebook paperback proof to plop through my letterbox, I figured I might as well get on with it.

The project is to see if I have enough good flash stories from the last two years of writing to make a small collection. I started off writing flash fiction, partly because Mark A. King dragged me into it (it’s all his fault!), and partly because as I was working full-time then, it was great to embrace a form where I could actually finish something. So after multiple stories for Flash Friday, Angry Hourglass, QuickFic, FlashMobWrites, etc., I have a bulging flash-fiction file.

The downside to putting a collection together is that this involves reading two years’ worth of my own work. So on Tuesday I gritted my teeth and sat down at the computer (well, Monday was a bank holiday), opened many many documents, and began to read.

I think I read over 100 stories that day. That might sound like fun; however, when you’re reading your own work with a critical eye and making notes on each story as you go, it’s hard going.

However, it was also instructive. By mid-morning on Wednesday I’d gone through all the eligible stories, and a good half had fallen by the wayside.

Here’s what I found out along the way:

  • Two years is a long time. In quite a few of the early stories I can see what I was trying to do, but it wasn’t coming off. There are some that I still like and which I think hold up, but most have been discarded, although at the time I was pretty pleased with them…
  • Reading flash is much more tiring than reading a continuous narrative. I was jumping from light funny stories to ones that made me blink, and then back again, and flicking between medieval France, a pod in orbit, a red carpet, a county show, a drawing of a dog on a kid’s bedroom wall, a sports bar, ancient Rome… That made me think about how I could group the stories to make the flow a little easier. Hopefully my beta-readers will let me know if that’s worked or not!
  • The stories which got the best feedback at the time (and/or got published) aren’t necessarily the ones I like best, or think are the best. There are a few stories which I never managed to place, but still love, and some which I got paid for which I’m keeping in for now – and if the betas don’t rate them, they’re going.
  • Some stories which I liked just didn’t fit with the rest, so I’ve waved them goodbye. There are still some which stick out a bit, and they may suffer the same fate, depending on beta feedback.

The next step, now that I’ve wrangled the remaining flock into some sort of not-final order, is to re-edit the lot before I unleash them on the beta-readers. I’m very lucky in that several people who beta-read the Secret Notebook for me have agreed to do it again, and I’m asking a few more people if they’d mind lending a hand. My list of favours to repay is already way longer than my arm!

Hopefully in the next blog post I’ll be posting photos of the Secret Notebook paperback – but for now I’d better get my head down and my red pen out, metaphorically speaking. See you next time!

The featured image is Reading by Sarah, and is shared by permission of Creative Commons license 2.0. And no, none of my beta-readers are cats (as far as I know).

One thought on “All my own work: reading for a flash fiction collection

  1. Pingback: Cover reveal: Coming soon…Bitesize! | Wordster

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