One Writer’s Guide to Flash Fiction Success

Flash fictionThe purpose of this article is to share my method for obtaining more votes in flash fiction competition. My hope is that this article will give other writers an approach to improve their results in competition, and the reward of continuing to craft interesting stories.

A little background first. When I learned about the Indies Unlimited site in early 2012, one of the things that interested me most was the weekly Flash Fiction competition. Many of the weekly picture and story prompts would beckon a story.

There was a feeling of accomplishment when I finally had complied with the 250-word constraint and had something I was proud of. However, after weeks of non-winning results in the weekly voting, I was ready to put my efforts elsewhere.

Life presents many opportunities and someone came to my rescue, and encouraged me to continue entering. I studied what I might have been doing wrong and realized it was not about the quality of my story; it was about not getting enough votes to win. Most of us know ‘Dancing with the Stars’ is not just about the three judges’ votes, it is about viewer votes. Realizing this Flash Fiction competition was about reader votes set me to having more supporting readers.

Here’s what I did that changed many of the stories into winning entries.

First I established a support group. I set up distribution lists using email. These were friends, relatives and even old classmates (now, really old classmates).

When it was time for readers to vote, I sent an email message that I had entered the weekly competition. Respecting their time, I stated I had entered that week’s competition, provided them with IU’s title, along with a description of K.S. Brook’s picture, and the actual story prompt by Stephen Hise. Then I included my story and usually a separate title. This is important – I also included a link to the voting and asked them to read the entries and vote for the entry of their choice.

After the winner was announced, I sent another email with the link to the winning entry announcement. I also thanked them for supporting independent authors, and if they voted for my entry, a special thank you. I should note that some weeks I received email responses that they voted for a different entry, and I can respect their choice.

The thing I recognized is that I didn’t write winning entries – I wrote stories that they made into winning entries. Each week there are many author entries that do not win, but should have, and more importantly, should be read by a wider audience.

There were some special weeks when I wanted a wider audience to read my story. There is one story that still brings emotions to this day. That week I needed to remind them about the voting, and if they liked my entry, to share it with a wider group of friends.

After I started using this approach I won eleven competitions in the latter part of that year. This year I have entered fewer times, but win more often.

There are some benefits to the weekly competition. There are many people accessing the IU site and who read the weekly entries. Whether you win or lose, your name is getting known to those readers. However, when you win, your entry is included in an anthology published by Indies Unlimited, which gets you even further read. For new authors – that is priceless!

I have also taken all of my entries, along with some other non-submitted stories, and published my own anthology, including some stories from other authors who have made a difference in my writing. The other thing that this competition has done for me is to help make my novel chapters more succinct and poignant. It has also reinforced the feeling that I can create an interesting story.

My analysis of this years flash fiction voting is that the average number of votes needed to win is 23, but it always has taken more than 6. It sends the wrong message to readers if at the end of the competition your entry has not even one vote. You must always have at least one vote, or why did you spend all that time to craft a story and enter it?

My hope is that if you apply this approach it will reward your entries with more votes, and even make some of them winning entries. More importantly, it would be a shame if you gave up entering, as those stories are worth reading whether they win or not.

[Note from the Admins: Dick has many good points here – don’t forget, there are different definitions of winning. Check out this post to learn about an author who enters purposely to lose these competitions.]

Author: Dick C. Waters

Dick C Waters is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the Scott Tucker mystery novels; Branded for Murder, Serial Separation, Scent of Gardenia and Fragrance of Revenge (soon to be published). For more information please see his Author Central Page

13 thoughts on “One Writer’s Guide to Flash Fiction Success”

  1. Dick, thank you for sharing this valuable information. I really needed a fire under my feet to continue entering the weekly Flash Fiction. I won’t give up, and will try my best to employ your methods. FF definitely stretches the imagination:)

    Congratulations on all your successes.

    1. You’re welcome Lynne. The folks who follow IU are great people, and their stories are even better. I learn quite a bit, but still have much more to learn about the writing business.

  2. Thanks for the tips, Dick! The timing of it is perfect, as I am in the middle of competing in a short story contest this week and will definitely try your techniques. Will let you know how it goes. 🙂

  3. I will be out of touch and unable to reply to further messages. If this post is successful, I would hope our – 115 different authors entering, our 321 entries and almost 2900 votes would look like grains of sand on a beach. There I go again getting carried away in a story. Best regards to all!

  4. So, in other words, quality doesn’t matter? Having fun doesn’t matter? Wow. I have seriously been going about this wrong. I’ve had friendly competitions with other writers in the FF, but never established a “support group” to help win a friggin’ contest.

    Since that’s the case, I am hereby swearing off the Flash Fiction contest for the duration of 2014. I can’t see there being any point to it. I got more important things to do that enlist a bunch of folks to vote for me, when we could be using that time and energy knocking over liquor stores or something fun and useful. .

    1. Dude,

      First, I am totally down for that liquor store thing.

      But on the flash fiction challenge, I have to disagree. If valuable prizes were at stake, or it was a contest judged by a panel, that would be one thing. The real prize is in participating. Yes, it should be fun, but it should also help stimulate creativity and develop writing discipline.

      As far as asking people for votes, I actually hope people do: I’d LIKE people to invite their friends to IU. Maybe some of them will stay a while and discover this great community of writers. Maybe some of them will enter the flash fiction challenges and discover a writer in themselves. Maybe even a few of those people would like some top-notch and affordable formatting services (ahem).

      There’s a lot more to the flash fiction challenge than meets the eye, and I think it’s all good.

      P.S.: Need details about that liquor store thing. 😉

  5. I wish I was as organized as you are Dick! I am getting better at promoting my entries, but it’s still an uphill struggle. Thanks for sharing your secrets. 🙂

Comments are closed.