Sabbatical Part 3: Flash Fiction is for nurfherders

15 10 2010

I think I should offer some sort of positive advice here, but I would just be winging it and though I am not at all opposed to winging it, I feel like the present mood of my exile demands, or at least offers another approach. I want your advice.

Let’s talk terms. This here is Duotrope’s handy lil’ reference guide (under their glossary of terms which you can find HERE)

Flash Fiction Less than 1,000 words. The publisher may restrict this further. For example, to 100-500 words.
Short Story 1,000 to 7,500 words. The publisher may restrict this further. For example, to 2,000-4,000 words.
Novelette 7,500 to 12,000 words. The publisher may restrict this further. For example, to 8,000-12,000 words.
Novella 12,000 to 40,000 words. The publisher may restrict this further. For example, to 16,000-24,000 words.
Novel Over 40,000 words. The publisher may restrict this further. For example, to 60,000-80,000 words.

There are a few departures from reality here- Short story lengths have been really trending toward a (recommended) 6k word cap, and I have been hard pressed to find anyone that believes in the existence of the Novelette anymore- just really long short stories. Furthermore, the length of what constitutes a novel is very much restricted by the publisher, but this ain’t the seventies of sci-fi and the 50k word novel is having its pages rapidly mineralized in the literary strata just above where paleontologists find large carnivorous birds. This is the age of the 100k novel. Mores the pity really. I just picked up a really nice bound anthology of Phil Dick’s work containing five slim but compelling novels. A future Random House Vernor Vinge anthology would need to have print defined in terms of microns to fit more than Peace War and A Fire Upon the Deep side by side. But as the Duotrope folks say, these are general guidelines with plenty of wiggle room. My point is the first. Flash Fiction.

There are so many places that want flash fiction right now it’s a wonder that they don’t just change the word to “fiction.” 1000 word? I really can’t do that. I find it hard to park a story under 5k most times. But I am up to a challenge! I am going to spend the next few sessions at my word processor trying to play with stylistic Spartanism. (My coinage, so hands off)

I would appreciate any notions you might have, my loyal friends. I am taking my own favorite advice and diving into some heavy flash fiction reading. I am starting with Scott W. Baker’s The Drake’s Eye, from the site “Everyday Fiction” because Scott reads and comments on my trash and he owns a wiener dog which makes him and I like second cousins.

So that’s the SoF

Wishing you all well from the home of Blackbeard the pirate (no shit)

Andrew Clark Porter (that’s right)



One response

16 10 2010
Scott W. Baker

Flash is great to read with limited time. And you’re right, the market for it is huge right now. It can be fun to write with the right, sufficiently condensed idea. However the economy I’ve learned for flash has made it very tough to work on novels.

I might recommend Flash Me magazine or Daily Science Fiction for higher quality flash. EDF pays pretty low so doesn’t always get the best. It’s a fun zine in its own right, run by my friend Jordan Lapp.

I’m thrilled you’re reading my stuff. “How Quickly We Forget” is probably a better story than “The Drake’s Eye”.

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