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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Milo James Fowler on writing short and making every word count


Milo James Fowler writes short fiction. I mean short. No, even shorter than that. He's really good at it and has published a great deal. I asked him to discuss this skill for brevity.

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Small Packages

I used to be verbose.

When I was a kid, I wrote 300-page novels and never felt the need to revise. I was having way too much fun for that.

But revision is important. Cutting and polishing are very good things.

So's a writing challenge every now and then.

When I started Write1Sub1 in 2011 to follow in Ray Bradbury's footsteps (writing and submitting a story a week), I couldn't halt the ideas once I opened the floodgates. While I didn't have time to flesh them all out into full-length tales, some were so evocative that they stood well enough on their own, despite their brevity.

Once I discovered microfiction and sci-fi/horror-flavored haiku, it was like the heavens opened and I saw into the glorious beyond. Microfiction—6 word stories, Twitter fiction, 6 sentence stories, drabbles—became a new creative outlet for me. I started jotting down mini-stories that could later become full-fledged tales of their own, and I brainstormed other ideas in a more poetic form through haiku.

Then I sent them out into the world in search of good homes.

Some of my favorite micro and haiku publications are Trapeze, Scifaikuest, Cuento, and 101 Ficton, and I've enjoyed sharing my byte-sized tales with their readers. What writer doesn't like being published?

But I also appreciate the challenge—particularly with drabbles and haiku. 101 Fiction publishes 100-word stories with 1-word titles. Cramming a Captain Quasar tale into 100 words has been a lot of fun, and as far as haiku goes, I'm a stickler for the 5-7-5 syllable count—not because it really matters anymore in English language haiku, but because it provides me with a higher hurdle to cross. Next month, I'll be the featured poet in the winter issue of Scifaikuest with 11 of my haiku included in their print publication. I'm super stoked and can't wait to get my contributor's copy in the mail.

Will all of my micro tales and haiku eventually become full-length stories of their own? "Identity Thief" started out as a haiku and became a short story available from Musa Publishing. "Grandpa's Bluetooth," published by Liquid Imagination, started out as Twitter fiction. Maybe the rest of my small packages will evolve in like manner; maybe not.

I'm okay with that.

I don't have to be verbose all the time, after all.

But I can keep challenging myself to make every word count.

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You can learn more about Milo James Fowler on his website.

You can purchase Maikro, his collection of haiku and microfiction, on Amazon.

15 comments:

  1. Wow, it sounds like you've found a fun unique talent! Congratulations!

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    1. It can be challenging, but in a good way -- like solving a puzzle.

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  2. The crisp kind of writing is the best. Congrats on being published on Scifaikuest. It sounds very cool! (As a Ray B. fan, too, I wish you all the best in your Write1Sub1 journey, Milo.)

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    1. We just started the 3rd year-long leg of our W1S1 journey, and you're more than welcome to join us!

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  3. I love writing short! Although I have been changing my ways and working on a novel or two lately. I do miss the sense of satisfaction that comes with completing something and seeing it published in a relatively short amount of time. Congrats to Milo on letting these challenges in form inspire your work! I'm a big Every Day Fiction fan, and I know I've read your work there =)

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    1. Haiku & microfiction are a great way to keep the creative juices flowing. Thanks for reading my EDF stuff!

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  4. I'm a natural "short fictionaire." I can even relate to six-sentence stories. But six-word? When it works, it pure genius, which is beyond my human ability.

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    1. Hemingway is reported to have said this was his best work: "For sale - Baby shoes, never worn."

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  5. Very interesting! Writing short word counts really does teach you a lot.

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    1. With haiku in particular, I've had to find multiple synonym options for a word due to syllable count. I like to think I'm expanding my vocabulary in the process...

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  6. THAT... is tight writing. I'm incredibly impressed. The most adventurous I've gotten with microfiction is writing a drabble. Those are fun, but the tight word count is amazingly tough (for ME) to adhere to. Good on ye, Mate!

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    1. With drabbles, cutting is the hard part -- which words can say the most? They get to stay.

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  7. I've been focusing on brevity in my editing. I have heard about the write 1 sub1 challenge before and think it's a great idea to get a good kick in the pants. I love Ray Bradbury's essays, and think it's time I check out his short stories.

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    1. His prose is so poetic -- something I plan to emulate.

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  8. Thanks for dropping by my blog, Anne. While I am not verbose, As a picture book writer, among other genres, I have had to learn brevity and loved this post and possibilities.

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