How to Make Your Flash Piece Better–R&R
The problem with improving any piece of writing is that a change you make in one part inevitably affects another part. Revision has to happen to wholes, never to parts.
Once you bypass the fear of the snake that swallows itself–the fear that omission is self-mutilation rather than self-improvement–the rest is fairly easy. In fact, the rest is much easier than writing. Writing is hard. Good thing then, because the rest involves just that — REST!
I’m serious. If you’re reading this because you’ve got a piece of flash that you’ve tagged in your mind as being in need of some revisionary overhauling, then the first thing you should do is put that sucker away for a week or more. Just park her like a rusting jalopy right in front of the house on the front lawn. Go ahead. Your neighbors won’t mind.
As long as it takes for that jalopy to become strange to you again. You want to look at it without the subjective or emotional interference of familiarity. You want to look at it the way you look at other people’s writing. You know the way I mean…
those flashes other writers show you whose flaws are instantly recognizable to you.
After enough exposure to the alienating rays of frontyard sunshine–or to the shadowy corners of a drawer, wood or web–it’s ready for the dissection.
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and recharge your writing batteries. Go find published flash pieces that are similar to the kind you’re writing and READ as much as you can. Take notes on what works and what doesn’t.
That’s the two step process of revision: R&R. Rest and Read.
During the reading stage, think of the pieces by other published writers in terms of the categories of revision that you want to use for own pieces. Look for their use of language (style, syntax, diction, dialogue, lyricism), their structure (beginnings, middles, climaxes, conclusions).
Ask yourself if there are patterns to the characters you find in them, or to the creation of tension, events, actions, scenarios, premises. Heck, you should even be studying little things like punctuation, paragraphing, and titles–anything that strikes your fancy.
Your job at this reading stage is to re-focus those eyes of yours. You want to make them truly fresh when they return to gaze upon that piece resting in its alienating juices.
Name and then claim those qualities for yourself that you see in other strong pieces of flash.
If there’s a particular type of opening that you prefer to read in flash and which you like to write in your own flash, you ought to have a name for it. Write your own encyclopedia entry for it in your notes.
You want to be the expert bird watcher of that particular type of opening. You’ve got sketches of its shape and color. You can do imitations of its song. You’ve got sub names for the different variations of the species.
Become expert in the things you like about flash to this degree and just watch the amazing flight of the flocks you’ll send up to the airy heights.