Hide, Show, Expand: Story Revision

Our 23rd Award ends this coming Sunday, 5th February. Results out by the end of February, when the snow drops will certainly be out, if they are not already. And we’re heading again for the Last Minute Club. Those submitting on the final day, get a (virtual) badge. There’s still six days to finish a flash but many of us flash fiction fans frequently ignore the best ways of getting a story ready for submissions. I certainly do. It’s not as if I say a stubborn ‘no’ to a great idea. It’s just that good advice seems hard to remember.

So here are three things I have learned from others and remembered to put into practice recently. Think of my list like ingredients in a recipe. Sometimes you like to follow methods in a cook book. Sometimes you want to do your own thing.

Hide Your Story Away
In the recent event for Writer’s HQ where I was honoured to be on a panel with Kathy Fish, Christopher Allen, Matt Kendrick and Sara Crowley, (if you have access to the Writers HQ video, I suggest looking at that) Kathy suggested not to rush out a piece just after writing it in a workshop. It’s tempting. That story written fast with group energy is great. But Kathy reminds us when she judges contests, it’s clear when a story has been sent out too soon. It’s better to put it away and look at later. Even if later is only a day or two. I found an old story, like that today for a last minute submission. It’s one I might have sent out straight after dashing off. I stared at it for a while. It wasn’t right but I didn’t know quite how to fix it. Then I followed one of the next best pieces of advice…

Show your story to a trusted writer friend (or writing group).The usual scenario here is that your fellow writer(s) doesn’t give your piece the critical feedback you imagine in your head, but gets interested in what is being said or trying to be said. After sharing that old story, I’d hidden away for a while, I can see how it needs expanding to make the full impact. It was just too compact. Another couple of stories I am going to submit to National Flash Fiction Day’s micro contest closing in a couple of weeks, need tightening up. That was obvious when my writer buddy read them outloud. Another person reading out your story is probably even better than reading it outloud yourself. A story that had been longlisted in a couple of places but not got further had this treatment a few weeks back. Some revisions at the beginning and cuts in the middle and it’s now being published in Fictive Dream’s Flash Fiction February

How Far Can You Go?
I’m fascinated by the ways I can expand my stories to have many resonances but I don’t always make the effort to make that happen. On February 18th I’m running ‘Reach for The Stars’, a two hour workshop for The Crow Collective, Sage Tyrtle’s marvellous enterprise. I’m asking participants to bring an early draft of a flash to find out how, without forcing it, a very short piece can have personal, family, national, international, universal and philosophical resonances. We’ll be looking at examples of stories where writers have managed this feat in a story of very few words.

Jude, January 30th, 2023

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