Flash fiction: brain workout

February 8: Winners announced!

There is nothing quite like a tight deadline to focus your writing and sharpen your skills, whether it’s part of your job as a daily newspaper reporter or a self-inflicted challenge like a flash fiction contest.

For the past few years, I’ve challenged myself to write a few hundred words over the course of a couple of days to submit a story in the University of Iowa Alumni and Friends Flash Writing Contest.

I nearly talked myself out of it this time around once I saw the choices of writing prompts, which aren’t revealed until the Friday before the Sunday deadline. Having to choose between historical fiction and romance genres, which aren’t among my top favorites, I mulled it over before giving it a shot, choosing the historical route and a story that had to include:

  • No more than 1,000 words
  • A specified character: dog walker
  • An object: paper clip

After submitting my entry a couple of hours before the Sunday afternoon deadline, I’m confident that I now know a whole lot more about the history of paper clips and popular dog names from 100+ years ago.

I also have a new appreciation for what it takes to write historical fiction. Research, research, research, and I submitted somewhere between 500 and 600 words. Imagine writing a book in that genre! When it comes to writing fiction, I’ll stick to contemporary.

We’ll find out who wins in the multiple age categories in a few weeks. I always look forward to that, not because I expect to win – as fun as that would be – but because we all get to read a lot of flash fiction written by children as well as other adults. That’s a reward all by itself.

Write on,