Guest Post J. Scott Coatsworth for Impact!

OS: Welcome J. Scott!

So You Want to Write Flash Fiction – Common Mistakes
J. Scott Coatsworth

So we’ve been doing these flash fiction contests on Queer Sci Fi now for five years, and we’ve learned a few things about how to write a good flash story (and how to write a bad one). I thought I’d share a few tips about the latter from some our previous winners.

1) Keep the personal details to a minimum: “Unless it’s really important that I know the length of their hair or the style of their clothes, I’d prefer to know what they’re doing and why.” —Cari Zee. Say it with one word instead of three. Cut out adverbs. Tighten your prose—it may take you longer to write a good 300-word flash story than a 10,000 word one.
2) Give us a whole story, not a scene: “It shouldn’t be a snippet of a larger tale — or, at least, not a snippet that has not conclusion.” —Jenn Burke. So often, we see stories that are just opening scenes for a longer work. The flash fiction story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Consider this classic piece of micro fiction: “For sale. Children’s shoes. Never worn.” In six spare words it conveys a whole story. Do that, and be happy you get 300 or 500 words to work with.
3) Meet the theme… and exceed it: “Figure out what the most common interpretation of the theme is, and write NOT THAT.” —J. Scott Coatsworth. If you are writing for a contest, be aware of what the theme is, and make sure your story qualifies. But also back up a bit and think about what folks are likely to submit, and find a way to write a story that approaches the theme in a unique way.
4) Don’t be weird: “You don’t want to try too hard and pen something utterly weird, just to be different.” —Clare London. Sometimes authors go way overboard to be different. You want your story to be unique, and to grab readers from the start. But don’t make it so esoteric that no one will understand it.

I hope you’ll consider submitting next year—every year, we crown new winners, and many of them have written very little fiction before or are relatively unknown. These tips may help push you to the top. ☺

Impact reveal
Queer Sci Fi is releasing its fourth flash fiction anthology: Impact. The book has just come out!



1) One object colliding with another

2) An impinging of something upon something else

3) An influence or effect on something or someone

4) The force of a new idea, concept, technology or ideology

Four definitions to inspire writers around the world, and an unlimited number of possible stories to tell, but only 110 made the final cut.

A difficult choice to be made. An object hurtling recklessly through space. A new invention that will change the world. So many things can impact a life, a society, or a planet.

Impact features 300 word speculative fiction ficlets from across the queer spectrum from the minds of the writers of Queer Sci Fi.

Welcome to Impact.

About the Series:

It’s hard to tell a story in just 300 words. Each year we ask writers to take the challenge, turning in stories across the queer spectrum. The rules are simple. Write a complete sci fi, fantasy, paranormal or horror story, include LGBTIQA characters, and do it all with just 300 carefully chosen words.

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Queer Sci Fi is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win:

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Since this book is composed of stories of no more than 300 words, we can’t really do a standard excerpt, so we’re offering you the teaser first lines from a number of stories.

“She’d needed new oil. She felt her joints grow stiff, her muscles grow tight, her follicles thickening. If she didn’t get fresh quarts soon, people she passed would start calling her sir, asking, Where’s your gun?” —Crossville Station, by Nathan Alling Long

“The mallet’s impact on the hard, bright disk shattered the silence in the talking chamber. The resulting deep tone reverberated through the vault, through Saskia, as she fidgeted beside her lover.” —Settled, by Aidee Ladnier

“This is how the world ends, or so they say. From where I’m standing, it simply looks like a rolling darkness as distant lights flicker and die.” —Visitors, by LJ Phillips

“’What have you done?’ The mechanical eyes came to rest on his face, the droning beepsounding loud in the small room.” —Identity and Change, by Jo Tannah

“’Once upon a world, we were the same,’ he said, lifting my hand to his lips; the ground shaking beneath us.” —Impact, by Jack Ladd

“I been a tinker and soothsayer long enough to know this country’s at the cusp of war. They stir up hate easy as breath. And, oh, it pains my soul to see it. “ —Impact of Intervention, by Patricia Scott

“All lives begin with a messy impact of some kind. The crash of zygotes and gametes. Splats of silica gel between cybernetic synapses. Two women slam into each other carrying full cups of coffee.” —Quintessence, by E.M. Hammill

“If I venture far enough into the house, I’ll find my closet.” —The Closet, by K.S. Trenten

“It touched Ligaya when she was a child. Or she touched it. A half-glimpsed shape under her bed.” Mas Mabuti An Answang, by Foster Bridget Cassidy

“Jam zipped down the neon track, feather-light in low gravity. She rocketed forward, a glowing haze in her starred helmet, and shot past the pack. “Space Jammer!” echoed as she neared the line. Time to rack up the points.” —First Bout: Andromedolls Vs. Crotch Rockets, by Ginger Streusel

About Queer Sci Fi:

At Queer Sci Fi, we’re building a community of sci fi, fantasy, paranormal and horror writers and readers who want a little rainbow in their speculative fiction. We run a great discussion group on Facebook, a twitter feed, and have a website full of useful materials, news, and announcements for readers and writers of queer speculative fiction.


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