If you're an aspiring author like me, then you're constantly grappling with what to write and how to write it. It's a daily struggle for me, a person who knows she wants to write, but doesn't know where to start. Enter: The Very Short Story Starter.
I stumbled across this workbook of sorts one day while perusing the university bookstore for as many pieces of varying writing styles and subjects as I could. I had magazines, literary journals, and a memoir or two all in my possession at one point or another when I wandered over to the "Writing and Publishing" section. There I found this book, unlike any I'd seen before, just filled to the brim with creative writing prompts with unique starters, and limits. If the prompt says keep it to 500 words, you need to figure out a way to make that happen. If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that I often struggle with brevity, with getting to the point as quickly and effectively as possible. As I thumbed through to land on prompts such as "Imagine you are on a train or at a train station when a murder takes place" and "Go to a local coffee shop, order your favorite drink, and write a story inspired by an incident in a coffee shop before you finish your drink" I knew it was coming home with me.
NOW, let's talk about the book's effectiveness. This is not necessarily a quick activity book. While you are prompted to write short works of prose, the assignments you choose are meant to make you sit down and write. And that's a good thing. Many of the prompts provided are entertaining and thought provoking, and really help to get the creative juices flowing. And if you're worried about whether or not this book may lean heavily on the side of fiction or non-fiction, rest assured that there are plenty of prompts that can benefit anyone. My advice? Write in pencil. You never know how very small a number 500 is until you're writing in pen and getting dangerously close to 430 with no story ending in sight.
The good: This book offers an enriching opportunity to hone your writing skills and think creatively. If you're struggling to get started in the world of writing, or just want to jump-start a stagnant writing project or two, this book does wonders to get your brain back in the proper mindset.
The bad: While the book's introduction section does go into detail about why flash fiction has started to gain in popularity (we live in a busy world, and people like short reads they can easily digest on their daily commute, or on a park bench while sipping a latte), the book sort of throws you right into the deep end without easing you in with some simpler prompts to get you ready.
Bottom Line I've thoroughly enjoyed this book so far. It's forced me to put down my phone, turn off the television, and just write. Some prompts have been more compelling to follow-through on than others, but overall, it's done exactly what it has promised: get me problem-solving my writing projects in a way that makes me feel creative and productive. All my aspiring writers should TOTALLY take advantage of Gillard's fantastic resource.
You can buy The Very Short Story Starter: 101 Flash Fiction Prompts by John Gillard HERE.