Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kurt Vonnegut's Advice on Writing Short Stories

We will defer to a 20th century master for some more advice on writing short stories:

The rules work for flash, too.

In other news, if you want to win a free copy of Tainted: Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, head on over to Aaron Polson's blog.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Advice on Writing Flash Fiction Part 3: Muscle Up Your Verbs

Verbs, especially in flash fiction when words are at a premium, lend writing both power and color. When I write, I keep a little cheat sheet of muscular verbs nearby.

Some examples:


Some of these words carry extra meaning and imagery. Snap isn't just a verb, but a sound as well--the proverbial two birds with one stone. My cheat sheet acts as a personal passcode into more vivid language, and it expands each time a new verb weasels its way into a story. I steal vivid verbs everywhere, keeping a notebook handy while reading another author's work.

Next up: kill the tags

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Advice on Writing Flash Fiction, part 2: Verbs and Adverbs

Ed asked me to write this toned down version of a post from my blog, The Other Aaron.

I am by no means a professional writer, and I don't claim to be. I have more to learn about writing than I know, but I'm working on it.

What I am, professionally, is an English teacher. I don't claim to be very good at that, either, but it does afford an opportunity to notice things.

Today's observation: vivid verbs make writing better, and adding adverbs often hurts a sentence.

This observation might seem elementary, but vital to flash fiction where words are at a premium. When the verbs do most of the work, when they are forced to carry most of the meaning, everybody wins.

Think about a simple verb like "run". Suppose your MC needs to vacate the premises, post haste. Maybe the thing in the basement is creeping up the stairs. Does the MC "quickly run" (snooze) or does she "sprint" or "bolt"?

"Janice noticed the black tendrils at the basement door and bolted for the exit."

or "Janice noticed the black tendrils at the basement door and quickly ran for the exit."

In my humble opinion, the first option has better rhythm--it paints a vivid picture in fewer words. Verbs can be your best friends. Adverbs can hinder action.

You have a space limit in flash. Say more with less.

Next up: More Vivid Verbs


Aaron is a high school English teacher and affiliate member of the Horror Writer's Association. His flash fiction can be seen in Macabre Cadaver, Every Day Fiction, and the forthcoming Northern Haunts anthology from Shroud publishing. He was nominated for Kansas Teacher of the Year in 2006. Aaron admits flash is not his favorite thing to write because "it's so damn hard."

Advice on Writing Flash Fiction, Part 1

Before the official launch of Fifty-Two Stitches, the editors would like to offer some advice. Take it or leave it.

If you have never checked out Postcards From...(Hell/Uranus/the Woody End), you've missed something special. The market is closed, but remains up for the time being. Read what they have in the archive. They also have a good article about writing flash, with some helpful links. Read that here.

Best of luck crafting those tight little stitches.


Thursday, October 2, 2008


We are currently closed to new submissions.

Guidelines: What is Fifty-Two Stitches?

First of all, this publication is one year of weekly "horror bits"-flash fiction stories with a dark theme. Each Monday morning, we will post a new story. In the late summer/fall of 2010, all collected stories shall be published in trade paperback format.

We are interested in chills, crawling flesh, psychological, creature, or supernatural horror and dark fantasy. We are not interested in a 500 word description of disembowelment or detailed descriptions of torture and/or rape. (in other words, if your story relies on blood and guts, try somebody else) Remember, this is flash fiction: make every word count and hold off on the adjectives/adverbs.

A hint? This isn't the market for crime fiction or fiction from the first person POV of a killer/psycho.

Word Count: up to 750 (approximately, i.e., 780 is okay-825 is not)

Format: .rtf-rich text format; no other formats accepted

Payment: $3.00 via Paypal upon publication on the web; discount on print copies for the anthology (authors may also choose to make a donation to Duotrope's Digest or, or donate back to the project)

Rights: first serial rights & reprint rights for the anthology

Multiple submissions: not right now...give us one thing to look at at a time, please. We will only accept one piece from each writer this year, so send your best.

Simultaneous submissions: okay, but let us know

Reprints: no thanks

Cover letter: not necessary (in fact, they can be tedious)

Response time: ASAP (form rejections will most likely be sent...with a few notes when possible)

Reading period: CURRENTLY CLOSED

Any questions? Okay, start writing.

Send your best bits to 52.stitches(at) (replace (at) with the @ of course)

Thanks, Aaron Polson, editor.