Happy Birthday, Sophie van Llewyn, born 9 October.
- Flash fiction is an exercise in brevity: this is nothing new. But this doesn’t mean that flash fiction has to limit its temporal reach to a short span of time. Flash fiction can stretch far beyond the few pages (or the fraction of a page) it occupies. It can encompass hours, days, months, a lifetime or even more.
- There’s also another aspect of time in flash fiction to consider: because of the low word count, there are only so many words than can be used in order to establish a timeline. It’s an art in itself choosing those very words that tell us more about the character’s situation, about his or her personality, while giving us a feel of the atmosphere of the era (this is especially important in the case of historical fiction), or just placing us in time.
- The perception of what makes a writer a writer, and the access to information have changed a great deal. You are a writer as soon as you sit down in front of your computer, or with pen and pencil in hand, and simply start writing. If you want to improve your skills, there are so many courses, and workshops, and wonderfully supportive networks on social media.
- My writing processes, when I approach them, are entirely different. I write flash fiction in a single sitting, and when I edit I might re-write the entire piece a few times in a row, until I’m happy with it. I go over every word multiple times, and check the sentence for rhythm. I read it aloud and edit until it sounds melodious. With the novella-in-flash, I wrote the flashes just like I usually do, but I had a ‘master plan’, based on the intended story arc. And with short stories — I usually write them in a few sittings, weigh and polish every single word. It may take weeks or months to write a single short story.
- I think writing is a journey. I’ve discovered so many things I didn’t even know I believed in. If anything, writing has made me even more opinionated than I was. I think writing brought these ideas I believed in to the surface — and now I’m struggling to put them into a coherent and appealing form.
- I’m a big fan of plot, so when I stumble upon a work of fiction that relies exclusively on character development, I feel a bit cheated. I like to see movement and change, characters in action.
- Keep at it. Snatch every moment you can to refine yourself: read, write, browse social media (yes, even that helps). And find yourself a critique group. Nothing can improve your writing more than the advice of a few friends you trust.
Sophie van Llewyn is a Romanian-born author of historical fiction. Her novel, Bottled Goods, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019. She also writes flash fiction, memoir, and short stories. Follow her on Twitter: @Sophie_van_L
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