WRITING KNOWHOW Make your flash fiction a competition winner


How can you make sure your flash fiction entry sticks out above the rest? Sally Doherty shares her experience in the second of three KnowHow posts on writing flash fiction.



It’s not too difficult to write a flash fiction piece that’s an enjoyable Victoria sponge. But if you want to sub to competitions and online magazines, the chances are, they’ll be receiving a lot of other submissions too. So how can you turn your Victoria sponge into a chocolate gateau with cherries on top? Here are the key elements that can take your flash to the next level:


Originality ­– This is particularly important when competitions have a theme. Don’t go with your first or second idea. Think outside the box. If the theme is water, don’t write about a river, lake or sea. How about writing about tears or rain droplets falling in a bucket in an attics? 

Title ­– Flash titles should not be a summary of the piece like with an essay. Instead, they should play a part in their own right. Perhaps the piece doesn’t even make sense without the title? The flash world loves long and quirky titles so have fun!

Stephanie Hutton's 'You Don't Have to Talk About Your Daddy in Counselling If You Don't Want To' is a great example.

Heart – Without heart, flash can feel flat. Perhaps you can bring emotional depth through your character’s backstory? Why are they collecting rain in a bucket? Can they not afford to fix their leaky roof because they’ve lost their job, divorced or are a carer?

Last line – Nailing your last line can make or break a flash. It should bring some conclusion to the piece whilst also leaving it to linger. 

Check out After the Funeral and The Way Home for last line inspiration.

Have a go at writing lots of flash – can you share your pieces with a writing friend and critique each other’s? Make sure you add those chocolate sprinkles to your cake mix and give the reader a gateau to remember.





Sally Doherty lives with her husband and three-legged rescue dog in leafy Surrey. She’s had flash published by Reflex Fiction, Spelk Fiction, Ellipsis Zine and Funny Pearls, and has won Retreat West’s micro fiction competition four times. She is also the judge for WriteMentor’s quarterly flash competition.

Primarily, Sally writes middle grade novels. Her debut TOBY AND THE SILVER BLOOD WITCHES was published in July 2021.


Twitter: @Sally_writes

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sallydohertywrites.com

Writing blog: www.sallydohertywrites.com

Author website: www.sallydohertyauthor.com



Jo E. Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures’ KnowHow editor. 


Got an idea for KnowHow, or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let me know at knowhow@britishscbwi.org.

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