Last week's entry earned him the grand prize, so I asked him some questions
When do you start thinking about your entry? Do you start with writing?
In general, I start thinking as soon as I see the contest posted. Usually I'll jot the five words down and start noodling over ways to manipulate them. I like to break them into multiple words the most. That's actually my most effective way to come up with the story. I'll play until I get a word or a phrase from contorting the prompt that triggers the story idea. Once I have that jumping point, I just spit the story out, usually out of order. And I prefer ideas that make me laugh. (Although there were a few times when I had an idea of how to play with form (like left/right or up/down couplets), and that drove the story.)
How many drafts did you write?
I'm going to say two? It's tough to say, because these flash entries are usually a very fluid first draft, where I'll be scattered in the sequence of sentences. But once the first draft is down, the second is all about trimming words, replacing phrases with a better single verb, etc, until I'm at 100 words. It's generally just a single sitting, though.
Two? TWO? That odd sound you hear is me howling with envy.
Do you read the other entries before you post? (you're first so often that I think that question is kind of ridiculous!)
Never. I don't want to subconsciously be influenced by someone else's entry. And I definitely don't want to steal anyone's prompt fiddling. Plus, I always write my entry on Friday, so it's sitting overnight, ready to post Saturday morning. (I'm compulsively punctual, so I feel like I should be logged in to post it at 8:30.)
How long have you been entering the flash fiction contests here on the blog?
My first guess was 10 years, since that's about how long I've been reading the blog. But I just checked and official Contest #1 was 2010, and I participated in that (albeit not my finest hour), so the vast majority of them since #1.
What, if anything, have you learned by writing flash fiction?
Making every word count. Having the tiny word limit means you must get your point across, show the action, cut that phrase in the fewest words possible. Learning how to trim, replace, eliminate repetition has been the best thing I've taken from these contests. These are amazing practice for tightening prose. Use better verbs! Oh, and way back in the beginning I had to learn that a vignette does not a story make.
What kind of book are you working on?
The kind that's not getting enough attention from me the past few months, to be honest. With two young kids and two trips into the job market this past year, my mind's been all over the place and it shows in my writing. I've been jumping between two WIP - a caper with a sort of "Psych" (the TV show)-esque vibe, and a nostalgic treasure hunt. But I always eventually drift back to my crime novel roots and chip away at that. Any volunteers to focus me?
What are you currently reading?
I'm currently in the middle of "Hellbent" by Gregg Hurwitz (just finished his "Survivor", as well). Other than that, I'm reading waaaaay too much Elephant and Piggie, Mr Men/Little Miss, and astronomy books for kids. But hey, my kids love to read, which is great!
Astronomy books for kids!!!
Have you seen Mission to Pluto?
This week's contest results will be posted tomorrow.
I was waylaid by travel stuff on Sunday.