Monday, November 2, 2009

from Ellen Parker

With all due respect to those writers who say they revise each flash piece
again and again--and when they say this I assume they mean they write a
draft and then take it out sometime later and look at it and revise it and
put it away and take it out again, over and over during the course of an
extended period of time--I have to admit that I do not always work that way.However, I take a very long time--at one sitting--to write each piece. I
rarely have a piece that just "flies off my fingers." I take hours at a
stretch to write a piece, and all I might end up with is a little flash! But
I revise extensively as I go. I examine each word and sentence as I write
it. I ask myself: Is this really what I want to say here? Are these the
words I want?

I have written a lot of flash and I have read a lot of flash. I know all the
easy ways to take a story. So I ask myself: What can I say here that will go
against the grain? That might surprise people? (That might surprise me!) I
am always aiming for freshness--and unexpectedness. I want readers to go,
Whoa. I didn't know this is where we'd end up. Or: Look at that word!
Sometimes a flash can succeed on the strength of one well-placed word.

Spending hours at a stretch looking into your own head, probing, searching
for freshness, honesty, novelty--see, right now I'm seeking one more word; I
am going to think and think until I find that one right word that I want
here to complete this thought--buffoonery? Drollery? (Sometimes I'm just
looking for funny bit.) Spending hours at a stretch looking into your own
head, probing, searching for freshness, honesty, novelty, drollery--it's
exhausting. Words, phrases, sentences get added and then shitcanned. For
perhaps an entire half-hour I'll just sit there, trying to come up with one
goddamn word! By the time I've written the flash (hours have passed), I've
flipped through--examining, trying out, ridiculing, adoring--hundreds and
hundreds of words.

Then I'll put the flash away for a long time. It might be months. Sometimes
years. And then I'll look at it again and I'll go, Who the hell wrote this?
I can see exactly where it goes wrong. I'll fix it. Then I'll put it away
again. And then maybe an editor or someone I know at Zoetrope might go, Hey, Ellen, what happened to that flash you wrote a long time ago? You know, the one that used the word "chiffarobe"? I'm like, It's sitting in my computer. And they'll say, Can I have it? And I'll go, Yeah.

Bio: Ellen Parker is a fiction writer and the editor of FRiGG, an online literary magazine that runs flash, short stories, and poetry.

Read "So Long" in SmokeLong Quarterly

Read "Something Blew" in SmokeLong Quarterly

Read "Summer TV" in Press 1


  1. I probably mentioned this to you in private, ellen, but what you describe here comes closest to my "process" (risking the wrath or ryan bradley with that word).

  2. I know its been said before: If I had more time, I'd write less.