Can you write a story in 99 words or less? Flash fiction draws on the brevity of poetry and the story-arc of novels, compressing the very best parts of fiction into very small packages. But a low word count isn’t limiting—it’s freeing! “There was more room to think,” wrote novelist David Gaffney on becoming a flash fiction convert, “more space for the original idea to resonate, fewer unnecessary words to wade through.” Stories of the sudden/skinny/mini/micro variety pack a powerful punch. So come celebrate the art of concision, dear writers, and write a story in under 100 words.
Who is Eligible?
- DON'T SWEAT THE WORD COUNT (AT FIRST). Write with abandon, letting your story unfurl and wander as necessary. Then start the editing process. Clip a sentence here, prune a paragraph there, shaping your story down to its essence.
- NARROW YOUR VIEWFINDER. With just 99 words, flash fiction that focuses on a specific event/experience/memory is often most captivating. Let “depth over breadth” be your mantra. Rather than including multiple scenes, for instance, give your attention to one dazzling vignette.
- DIVE INTO ACTION. You don’t have time to wax poetic for a paragraph before getting to the heart of your story, so jump into the juicy stuff in your opening lines, sketching in the backstory later if necessary.
- LEAVE BREATHING ROOM. Like an iceberg, flash fiction only reveals part of the story. Celebrate the power of suggestion. As you write, ask yourself: What thought or question or feeling will this sentence leave the reader with? How can I open a door without revealing everything on the other side?
- MAGNIFY MOOD. A small space doesn’t lend itself to elaborate plots or a cast of characters. But you can create mood. As your narrative develops, step back and consider what feeling you want the story to elicit in your reader, and then choose your words carefully to help conjure that mood or atmosphere.
- WORK THE WORD COUNT. Your submission must, in its final form, be under 100 words (99 words or less!). Cutting down a long draft might sound like an arduous task, but concision will help you hone in on what’s most important and find the most essential story.
Young writers ages 13-18
99 words (or less)
Tara Lynn Masih
is editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction
and founded The Best Small Fictions
series. Tara received a finalist fiction grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and an Inspirational Woman in Literature Award from AITL Media. My Real Name Is Hanna
, her first novel for young readers, is the recipient of a Florida Book Award, a Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award, and a Skipping Stones Honor Award. It will be translated into Slovak in 2019.
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
- Best Entry: $100 (winning piece + author interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
- Runner up: $50
- Best Peer Review: $50 (reviewer interview will be featured on Write the World’s website and blog)
- Prizes: The winning entrant(s) will receive $100, and the best peer-reviewer will receive $50.
- Professional Recognition: The winning entry, plus the runner-up and best peer review, will be featured on our blog, with commentary from our guest judge.
- Expert Review: Submit your draft by Monday August 12th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
August 5: Competition Opens
August 12: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
August 16: Reviews returned to Writers
August 20: Final Submissions Due
August 30: Winners Announced
Our Personal Narrative Competition opens Monday, September 9th.
Stay tuned for more details!