Reply To: Exercise 1

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Shari Heinrich stared at her blank page, that challenge to begin another flash. Another flop, or could her determination make this one end differently? Each time she’d participated in her writer’s group challenge, one hour to write a flash, she’d created a run-on story that exceeded the word limit; often, she rushed the ending. Every score, last or second-to-last. Until she stopped doing them.

She’d make this time different. She would. So she gazed out the window instead of the screen. A panoply of fall colors invited creativity, a fresh start. The sugar maples, a mix of brilliant yellow, eye-catching orange, vibrant red. Green, the trees stubbornly refusing to bow down to nature’s original schedule given the warm fall. Majestic red, the sister sassafras now soaking in more sun—the windstorm of ’20 had KO’d mama sassafras. Shari took solace from baby sassafras, planted in fall of ’20, extending the forest’s border and taking more land out of the mowing rotation as she naturalized it.

Centered, she turned to the exercise at hand. Opening, check. The “why” of this writing? Easy enough! She had too many characters chatting in her head. Surely a few of them had short story potential, or flash potential. Because she had way too many characters in her head, and novels take time. As a skill, writing concisely with impact could translate to more oomph in novel chapters.

Like all the other best intentions, practicing flash fell by the wayside along with practicing poetry—an acre to maintain, a garden to tend and harvest and turn into canned marinara and salsa every few years, an acre to naturalize into lower care in the long run took more care in the short term. With a class to give better ideas of the how behind good flash, she could learn, the same as she’d learned the concepts behind novel writing, going from six abandoned novels to 4 completed novels, one with a revise and resubmit request.

Although the From the Heart website said she’d missed the deadline by one day, she messaged. With a go-ahead, she signed up. Mission one, accomplished. She’d never met a course she paid for that she hadn’t given her all to. In December, as busy as she was with cards and making gifts, she would enter her writing group’s bi-weekly challenge. She’d put her new knowledge to work, and see if she could create that thousand-word story in the space of the hour. If she failed? No biggie. She’d have created another story idea. She’d pull out her 6-month writing calendar, and add post-it notes for goal weeks to keep participating.  She’d add the post-its for NYCM FFC. For her third year entering, could she get into round three? She’d been close the year before, when she’d been in a 3-way tie for fifth that she’d lost doubly? And by five years out, well, she’d have half a dozen more flash pieces in her story folder, making the rounds of markets, which she’d be noting down as her writing group friends who also wrote fantasy had shouted out their acceptances or rejections. She’d either be agented for her novels, or she’d have self-published two of them. She’d have written at least two more first drafts of new novels.

One flash at a time, one novel at a time, she’d hone her craft.


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