The Flash Writing Technique is something I’ve used over the years to help new writers to relax and trust their muse, and help seasoned writers stop over thinking and get out of their own way. It is a combination of rules and suggestions from other authors, most notably Natalie Goldberg, the author of one of my all-time favorite books on writing: Writing Down the Bones, and discoveries that I’ve made while teaching hundreds of writing classes.
Although this site is devoted to flash fiction, the Flash Writing Technique can be used for any type of writing: fiction, non-fiction, short articles or novels.
Write in timed 15-minute bursts
Discipline means writing with a deadline. Deadlines for some writing projects last weeks, months, even years, but a flash fiction deadline is 15 minutes. If you don’t think you are ready for 15-minute writing sessions, start with 10-minute sessions instead.
Use an egg timer, a watch alarm, an online stopwatch or the timer on your microwave and set it for a 15-minute countdown. Pick a topic and write a story.
Why write in 15-minute bursts? Nothing inspires creativity like a deadline, and even an artificial deadline can be helpful. The countdown adds pressure to your writing. This pressure doesn’t give your Inner Critic time to criticize your writing, question your objectives, cross out your words, or correct your grammar.
Speed is the important thing here. Do not let your logical, critical mind take charge of the writing process at the beginning. Writing fast gives the Inner Critic little time to react and insert itself into the writing process and tear down your first draft.
With only 10 minutes to put together a draft of an entire story, you have to write fast! Don’t pause for inspiration, don’t cross anything out or even think. If a word doesn’t seem like exactly the one you were looking for, write down the word that is there now (or leave a blank to fill it in later) and keep going. There will be time to polish and rewrite the story later.
The important thing in this stage is to get the draft down on the page. Nothing else matters—not grammar, spelling, comma splices, or dangling participles.
Don’t judge the work
When you finish a timed writing session, do not reread the work that you’ve just completed. Don’t let your Inner Critic convince you that what you’ve written is inferior, strange, or terrible. Right after completing a writing session is where the Critic will be working his hardest, trying to get you to ball up the page, or rip it into hundreds of pieces.
This is the first draft. The goal of this draft is just to get something down on the page, not to judge, edit, or polish your work. Write it and wait awhile before you look at it again.
Write on several topics in one session
Write on one topic and quickly move on to the next one. This allows your mind to distance itself from your work on the previous piece and accelerate the detachment process. This allows you to see your work with a more objective eye and assess its merit without the fear of the moment from the Critic.
Plus, if you write one stinker, you have several other chances to write something that might be good. I suggest writing in two to four 15-minute blocks in one writing session… If you can do it.
Come back on Friday for the Flash Writing Technique for Creative Writing (Part 2)