What Shall I Write?

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What a great time to be a writer.

There are so many things to write about, so many forms to write in, so many ways to share your writing.

What more is there to write about now than there was ten, twenty, thirty years ago? A hundred years ago?  Quite apart from all the scientific developments there have been that we could write about, just as the Industrial Revolution opened up opportunities for travel, so with the Technological Revolution, opportunites to travel without travelling have opened up. We can learn about almost anything or any country, almost any city in the world without setting foot outside our home. We can see photographs, videos, even take virtual tours of places of interest. We can watch people of every nation dance and sing, cook and juggle. We can talk to them face to face from opposite ends of the globe. With the press of a button, the touch of a screen, the whole world is at our fingertips, to research and write about.

Okay, so let’s say we choose something to write about, how will we set it out? We can write a poem, a sonnet, a novel, a short story, an article, an essay. There have always been these forms of writing and many more besides.

But what about Flash Fiction; how long has it been popular? According to an entry in Wikipedia, one of the first known usages of the term “flash fiction” in reference to the literary style was the 1992 anthology Flash Fiction: Seventy-Two Very Short Stories, in which editor James Thomas stated that the editors’ definition of a “flash fiction” was a story that would fit on two facing pages of a typical digest-sized literary magazine,

In China the style is frequently called a “smoke long” or “palm-sized” story, with the comparison being that the story should be finished before the reader could finish smoking a cigarette.

While there is no set word limit to Flash Fiction as a general category, the point of it is brevity. Often the word count is set by the  market or competition to which it is to be submitted, sometimes a few hundred words, rarely more than a thousand. Longer than that, it begins to fit into the Short Story category.

The name Flash Fiction may only be a little over twenty years old, and didn’t come into popular usage till about the year 2000, but the form goes way back into antiquity with writers like Chekhov, O. Henry, Aesop’sFables, Kafka, and Hemingway writing short, short stories which nowadays would qualify for the Flash Fiction label.

What about the Drabble? Is it a newer form of writing? It’s probably less well known, but, no, it has been around a long time too, though not always by that name.

A drabble is an extremely short work of fiction, exactly one hundred words in length, usually not including the title. The purpose of the drabble also is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space. ~~~ An excellent writing exercise.

Again according to the Wikipedia entry under “Drabble”, we read: “The concept is said to have originated in UK science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the 100-word format was established by the Birmingham University SF Society, taking a term from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book. In the book, “Drabble” was described as a word game where the first participant to write a novel was the winner. In order to make the game possible in the real world, it was agreed that 100 words would suffice.” ~~~ How very Pythonesque.

Going shorter still, we also have 55 Fiction.

A literary work will be considered 55 Fiction if it has:

  1. Fifty-five words or less. However some publishers actually require exactly 55 words, no more and no less.
  2. A setting,
  3. One or more characters,
  4. Some conflict, and
  5. A resolution.
  6. The title of the story is not part of the overall word count, but it still cannot exceed seven words.

There is even the popular Six Word Fiction, arguably the most famous one being Hemingway’s  “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn”, which, it is alleged, he wrote to win a bet.

So why do I say this is a great time to be writing? What makes it different to any other time?

Surely it is the opportunities to find an audience for your writing? Never before has it been so easy to put your writing before a vast public readership. The same means by which the world is brought into your home is the one that gets your work out into that world to be seen, to be read and, hopefully, to be enjoyed.

Perhaps for the first time in history, there is a level playing field. Whatever you choose to write about, whichever form you wish to write it in, there is the opportunity to publish it. It doesn’t depend on who you know or who regards your work as good or bad, it doesn’t even depend on whether it actually is good or bad. It only depends on yourself and your commitment to share what you choose to write.

It is then up to the reader to decide if your writing is worth his time and commitment to read, so…

Learn your craft; respect your readers.

19 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. monalisaestherlash
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 03:57:08

    Well put, Christine.

    Like

    Reply

  2. rcprice
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 04:10:23

    It is a beautiful time to write.

    Like

    Reply

  3. Yolanda Isabel Regueira Marin
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 10:57:08

    Great post Christine …. Such diversity in writing available at this time and much easier access to readers.

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    Reply

  4. glenperk
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 17:11:59

    Respect your readers. That’s the most important part of your entire post, Christine. Too many lose sight of that and just publish.

    Glen

    Like

    Reply

  5. Christine Campbell
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 18:20:00

    Thank you, guys.
    Yes, I agree, Glen. Nothing beats good old-fashioned hard work to make your writing the best it can be. It should be a matter of self-respect to want to give the readers the best we can.

    Like

    Reply

  6. Marc
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 19:35:06

    Cool! I really appreciate hearing about the shorter writing styles! They are a challenge and great exercise. Thanks, again. I must now go do some fast writing quickly!! ::zooomswish!::

    Like

    Reply

  7. Devin Berglund (@devinberglund)
    Aug 25, 2013 @ 22:16:25

    Christine, I found your blog on Support-a-Writer (Google + Group)

    Loved the little video at the top of your website. Found myself chuckling a little too when you both were laughing. How cute! haha…

    I am excited to follow your writing. Hello from Minnesota, USA. 🙂

    This post was super interesting. Thanks! 🙂

    Like

    Reply

  8. Christine Campbell
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 01:18:34

    I’m pleased you enjoyed my vlog, Devin. As you can perhaps imagine, we had a lot of fun making it. Thank you for watching it and for reading the post. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Hope you visit again. 🙂

    Like

    Reply

  9. Katie Cross
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 13:42:16

    Drabble is a new one for me! I do like the six word challenge though, I remember hearing about it on NPR one day. Lovely post, thank you!

    Oh, and I’m obsessed with flash fiction. Truly. I actually just posted a new flash fiction story today. It’s my new favorite thing to write, especially when I need a break from my current WIP.

    Like

    Reply

  10. Vashti Quiroz-Vega
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 20:00:00

    Great post Christine! It is a great time to be a writer. I like all the info. you included about the short writing styles.

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  11. Anonymous
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 15:17:27

    I read this at the beginning of the day and felt inspired for the rest of it!

    Like

    Reply

  12. mdeluca12013
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 15:24:10

    Oops, I posted the previous comment and forgot to identify myself!

    Like

    Reply

  13. Trackback: Why I Chose to Be a Writer | Nicoles Voice
  14. Winfield Ly
    Sep 14, 2013 @ 14:07:50

    Great post! =) I’m surprised that there are even shorter writing forms other than flash fiction. I learned something new today. Haha. I too agree that we should put out the best quality of writing to the readers since they are taking their time to read it. Mind as well be the best it can be.

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    Reply

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