I used to write flash fictions. Miniatures, mostly. I guess I had some kind of mental block about fiction fragments, which I kind of regret now. Probably because I have a folder in my filing system called “Loose Ideas” that is pretty much nothing but fragments and broken notions, that I occasionally dip back into, to see if there’s anything useful in there. For some reason, I have less self-consciousness about non-fiction fragments — but I tend to resist putting an incomplete thought out where other people might see it.
Over twenty years ago, now, I wrote around fifty flash fictions on an early social network. All miniatures with simple closures. There was a scattering of other micro-things in other places. And then I seemed to stop doing them. I’m not sure why.
I’d been thinking over the last couple of years about “short fiction” again, as I like it, but my thinking was limited to the 5000-15000 word region. Which requires from me a chunk of time and planning. I wrote the 10,000 word DEAD PIG COLLECTOR in a week – Molly told me she thought it was the best thing in prose I’d done — but those bolts of lightning don’t happen often.
And then, last night, I read a piece in the Times Literary Supplement about Piece Of Paper Press.
Piece of Paper Press was designed as a lo-tech, sustainable publishing platform used to commission and publish new writings, visual and graphic works by artists and writers. Each book is made from a single A4 sheet that is printed on both sides, and then folded, stapled, and trimmed by hand to create the book. There is no schedule; titles are published when they are ready.
The books are printed on a photocopier or domestic printer, and assembled and trimmed by hand. Titles are never for sale and they have no ISBN numbers. Editions are simply made (and made simply) and then given away. The project would—I thought at the time—never need any funding or financial support in order to continue. Each book is made from a single sheet of A4 paper, which is folded, stapled and trimmed to give a roughly A7 format and sixteen pages including front and back covers. If the project were any more complex in either production or distribution I would probably have given up years ago.
There is no earthly reason why this wonderful little project – which includes Michael Moorcock, M John Harrison, Elizabeth Magill and Courttia Newland in its number – should make me think about flash fiction again. And, obviously, I’ve never seen any of these little books and never will, except for the occasional photo. But it got me thinking again, there in the dark, about how flash fictions worked for me as, variously, scratching at an itchy idea, planting a seed or, very occasionally, building a stem.
I’d toyed with the idea of starting a paid newsletter for fiction, because I have really been feeling the itch for prose again, but in ways that don’t suit print publication. But, to make (say) five dollars worthwhile for a reader, you really need to provide five dollars’ worth of work a month. NORMAL was 25-30,000 words and cost a fiver on digital, so that’s my yardstick. That’s a hell of a lot to generate every month. And I already have a stack of work on deck.
So what I’m thinking about today is creating a category here for flash fictions. Miniatures and fragments. Before I lose the use of that particular muscle entirely. (I stopped drawing regularly thirty-odd years ago – tried to pick it up again four years ago and found out it was completely gone, the simplest marks are out of my reach and no amount of practice brought them back.) I’m a writer trained to compose at the keyboard – my notebooks just capture shorthand notions that then get expanded and tested at the keyboard – and it may prove a nicer way to meet that wish to sketch again.