Flash fiction packs the best parts of storytelling into brimming, pint-sized packages. But stories scaled back to a handful of words also give the reader what Lydia Davis—a master of the genre—calls a “less usual offering.” For her, flash fiction is more than a typical narrative. Shirking convention, flash fiction can look like almost anything, Davis says—from meditation to logic games to extended wordplay to diatribe. What’s more, a story so short requires you, the writer, to delve into the truest essence without wasting words. “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.”
This month, dear writers, gather your briefest bits of story, combine them with your poetic impulse, and give us "a work of art carved on a grain of rice," as Tara L. Masih says. Celebrate the art of concision, and write a story in 99 words or less.
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.
WORK THE WORD COUNT. Your submission must, in its final form, be under 100 words. 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.
Who is Eligible?
Young writers ages 13-18
99 words (or less)
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)
What’s Different about Write the World Competitions?
Prizes: The winning entrant 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 14th and get feedback from our team of experts—authors, writing teachers, and educational professionals.
August 7: Competition Opens
August 14: Submit draft for Expert Review (Optional. We will review the first 100 drafts submitted.)
August 18: Reviews returned to Writers
August 22: Final Submissions Due
September 1: Winners Announced
Our Sports Journalism Competition opens Monday, September 4th.
Stay tuned for more details!