Thursday, 3 November 2011

Inaugural Guest Post - Cathy Olliffe-Webster - on writing Flash Fiction and a link to a fabulous flash story!

Pull up your laptop and write!

Hi all, Denise here!

I got the idea for RomanticFridayWriters from my weekly participation in #Fridayflash. It is where I cut my flash fiction teeth. However, the stories are usually quite dark at #ff, so I was having a discussion with my Pommie mate Francine and ran the idea by her – why can’t we start a weekly flash fiction group for romantic writers? So, we sprinkled a little fairy dust and RFWer was born!
  I met some absolutely awesome writers in my weekly forays into #fridayflash. (I still participate when I can! It’s where I practise my paranormal, weirder stuff!) The flashiest writer I’ve ever met lives in the woods on the Muskoka River in Canada. Her stories taught me a lot, so I’ve asked her to guest post for us this week. And she’s indulging me by linking to my requested favourite story by her, Ruby Tuesday. She posted it maybe two years ago and it’s still ringing in my head, so that means it resonated with me big time! And it has a romantic element!

Cathy Olliffe-Webster.jpgSo take it away, Cathy Olliffe-Webster!

  Hi there! I'm here today to talk about how Friday Flash changed my life. 
  Really, it might sound a bit cliched, but I can’t put it any different than that. Before Friday Flash, I was an ex-reporter who missed writing and dabbled in blogging. Since Friday Flash I actually have the cojones to call myself a Writer, with fifty-plus short stories to my credit and a novel in progress.
I now have friends all over the world, including Denise who so kindly asked me to write for her – friends who mean as much to me as my childhood friends, as much as family members and colleagues.
  Writing flash fiction in a like-minded group can be a life-changer and, if you have any kind of a writer’s soul at all, you’d be daft not to try your hand at it.
  Jon Strother, the founder of Friday Flash, is a talented writer who blogs at Mad Utopia. He dreamt up the Friday Flash concept as a way for writers to showcase their work, to meet other writers and encourage the writing of flash fiction, much as Denise and Francine dreamt up RomanticFridayWriters to encourage romance writers to hone their craft and have fun doing it in a like-minded group.
  What is flash fiction? ‘Flash’ has nothing to do with taking your clothes off in public. It’s simply a short story, 1,000 words or less. It needs to be a complete story with a beginning, middle and end but other than that, you get an idea and run with it. Being given a weekly theme or prompt as at RFWer gives you a starting place, but that’s all! The rest is up to you to make of it as you will.
  I must tell you, though, writing flash fiction is addictive. Have you found that? I wrote a story almost every week, for an entire year. I wrote one the week I got married. I wrote one on my honeymoon. I wrote when I was sick. I wrote when I was tired. Nothing would dissuade me from meeting the weekly #Fridayflash deadline.
  Some people take an entire week to write their Flash. How about you?
  Not me.
  With a full-time job, two kids, a husband and a great love for the outdoors, I don’t have a heck of a lot of time for writing during the week. Thursday is my Flash night. I start thinking about a story idea on my way home from work on Thursday night. Sometimes I come up with an idea on that drive. Sometimes I don’t. After dinner and dishes I disappear into the bedroom with my laptop, close the door behind me and stare at the blank screen until the first line pops into my head.
  I  write for about an hour and a half. Sometimes less, if it’s a short piece. Sometimes more if I have extra words. (The word limit at #ff is 1,000). Generally, though, it isn’t a long time. When I finish I announce, loudly, “ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!” and haul my laptop into the kitchen where I read it out loud to Dave, my long-suffering husband.
  This is how I edit. By reading to Dave.
  Reading anything out loud is the best way I know of to find mistakes in your flash fiction. They pop off the page when you read them orally. When you read a story to yourself, the mistakes stay hidden because you see only what you want to see. I can’t overstate the importance of reading aloud. Even if there’s nobody else in the house, it’s important to hear the words.
  But having a husband willing to listen and say nice things is very, very nice.
When the quick edit is done I post it on my blog with the Twitter hash-tag #fridayflash. I see you have similar options at RFWer. Social networks are the stuff of dreams for memes! (Yes, we have poets at #ff just as you have at RFWer, but I'm not one!)
  It’s important to travel around the blogosphere to read other writers’ stories after you've posted you own. I comment, then I hype their stories  on Twitter. This cross-promotion is also important to the group process. It helps your work, it helps other people’s work. It’s just win-win all over the darned place.
  If you write to a regular flash meme as at Fridayflash and RFWer, you will eventually begin to see a group of writers whose tastes are similar to your own. You will naturally gravitate to them and eventually you will find yourself in a supportive, friendly circle of people who are just like you.
  I haven’t written a flash for a few months, only because I’m in the middle of writing a novel. I miss it though. Miss the excitement of reading people’s comments about my stories. Miss reading other people’s stories. Miss the camaraderie and party-like atmosphere of Friday nights, a flurry of Tweets and woots and exclamation marks.

  The absolute best thing about being in a group like Friday Flash or RFWer? It hones your ability as a writer. My stories aren’t always fantastic – sometimes they are downright embarrassing. But the steady business of writing every week makes me a better writer. Gives me confidence. And besides, two or three of those stories I wrote were pretty darned good. If I do say so myself.
  And, of course, I do.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster is a writer and graphic artist living in a log cabin on the Muskoka River in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada.

Thank you Cathy for sharing with us today. I wish you all the best for your novel and the NaNoWriMo experience!

Here is the link to Cathy’s amazing story, Ruby Tuesday.
  • What do you think? Did anything Cathy shared resonate with you?
  • How do you go about writing your flash fiction?
  • Has writing for RFWer made you a better writer?
  • What is the best thing about RFWer for you?
Please share your thoughts...

Denise (L'Aussie)


  1. This was interesting. I am surprised how little time she has to work on these short stories. Sounds like the way I work; jotting down stories on an envelope and then typing them into the computer when I can. The only difference is that she has a husband for whom she can read her stories aloud. That's almost more important than a computer!
    I guess I should read my texts aloud for my cats!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes,

  2. Anna: Yes I started doing the aloud thingy awhile ago and actually acting out my scenes in longer stories, but I'm a Lone Ranger. I don't like to include Tonto in my editing phase, ha ha! I'm sure your cats would be entertained! Go for it! It's a great way to get rhythm happening. I'm sure the poets read out loud!


  3. This sin't really a post for me as I'm a reader not a writer but I just wanted to say how much I enjoy reading them every week. I'm in awe at how you manage to consistently write great stuff.

    Also, that story was beautiful.

  4. Hi Cathy,

    Nice post and interesting reflections on your Flash-Fiction experience! Lovely story, too.

    I came to flash-fiction by way of RFW and Denise' begging for RFW posts to be flash-fiction pieces rather than always putting forth snippets from novels. :) But, for moi, writing flash-fiction is a fun thing, whereas getting stuck into a novel/la is my writing life-blood: it's the vampire of my soul and all consuming.

    Best of luck with your novel.


  5. Sarah: A reader may eventually become a writer. Can't wait for your metamorphisis!

    Francine: Well, a little flash fiction never hurt our writing! It is nice to read some stories that are written especially on occasion.


  6. Hi Anna! Yes, read it to your cats! They'll think you're paying attention to them and will get all purry and happy.
    I think I write quickly because of all my years as a reporter. Having those daily deadlines really taught me to be fast. Of course, fast isn't necessarily good but I do try my darnest. Thanks for reading! And good luck with the cats!

  7. Sarah, thanks for the compliment and Denise is right. WRiters are all birthed from readers. Looking forward to seeing your work some day.

  8. Hi Francine! Love your vampire analogy. That is EXACTLY how I'm feeling right now. Bloodless – and the novel is only half done. Let me know if you know anywhere I can get a blood transfusion when I'm done! Best of luck on your own writing and thanks for reading my story. I sincerely appreciate it.

  9. Cathy: Thanks for stopping by again. I hope that novel is going well...


  10. A lot of this resonated with me.

    I didn't join RFW because I'm a "romance writer", but rather to learn how to incorporate that element into my stories. I'm such a cynic . .

    But I did join 3WW for the same reasons as the Flash Fiction incentive; like minded authors writing on a theme. I cannot, unfortunately, keep up the weekly writing schedule. An hour and a half - wow, that is amazing to me. I am always impressed with what other writers can produce in such a short time. Me, I agonize over every word :(

    I have to set aside an evening - and entire evening - to think, and write, then edit, then stress, then edit again . . LOL; I'm a messed up writer without a specific plan :)

    I've learned a lot about the art of romance here at RFW. Its not, as I'd previously thought, all fluff and happily ever afters. Even if my writing has not improved, at least I'm more open minded about the art of romance writing. I commend those who can sustain that level of optimism in their writing.

    I'm a believer that learning what you cannot do is as important as learning what you can do. I've always wanted to write romance - something about the genre just draws me - but having writtent to the prompts for time, at least I realize sustained romance writing is not in my future. Seriously, I'm ok with that. But, I also know now that I can incorporate a romance theme into my writings without compromising the overall story concept. That has been a valuable lesson for me.

    The best thing about RFW? It has allowed me to experiment; and to expand my writing skills. I almost feel I shoud be paying the site for the writing lessons :)

    I've enjoyed my time at RFW, and hope to continue whenever time and the prompts allow.


  11. Donna, it's great that you've experimented with a little romance and you rightly say it doesn't all have to be what most people might describe as 'formula' romance. Writing to a prompt has obviously been valuable to all of us, that's why we keep coming back for more!

    Even if you don't see yourself as writing a full on romance novel, I hope you'll continue with us to practise your craft and extend yourself.

    I take quite a few days to write my stories for RFWer. I get the idea, then I fiddle with it off and on. Cathy amazes me, but as she says, it's the journalist in her.

    Hoping you'll share in our December photo prompt!


  12. And I forgot to say I'm missing having a RFWer story to plan this week, even though I'm writing so many other things!


  13. I agree flash fiction is a great way to hone one's writing because it needs to be crisp and tight to make the story resonate.
    I also get hubby to read it aloud to me because it gives me great feedback about how it sounds and how it is interpreted too by the emphasis he places on the words that are often different to how I might read them.

  14. Madeleine: Interesting that you use hubby too. Whatever you're doing it results in great writing.


  15. Hello all. Happy Monday to you!
    What a fascinating & informative guest post. I hopped on over to read "Ruby Tuesday" before I posted here. That story was written so beautifully, it had me in tears!

    I'm still in the school of writing my expressions on paper as they occur to me...I haven't yet progressed to think & type. I probably never will. This is where my wife comes in handy. She doubles as my listening partner & my trusty Executive Assistant who has the wonderful (or not) job of trying to decipher my scrawls & crossings out. When she's finished typing, we'll read together & edit again & again until we're both happy.

    I sincerely believe being a part of RFW has definitely had a positive impact on my writing. I didn't even know what flash was until I joined & started reading some awesome stories. You guys are good...real good. Of course I love the interaction with everyone & I've been exposed to a world that I probably never would have had a chance to explore if it wasn't for RFW, so for that alone, I take my hat off to Denise & Francine. I'm a creature of habit & even though it's only temporary, I'm going to miss our RFWer soirees.

    Wonderful guest post!
    Thanks for sharing Cathy & Denise.

  16. Andy, was wonderful to hear from you. Yes, it is sad not posting every week and I'm missing it too. Looking forward to December 2!

    Interesting to hear how you use your wife to sound off ideas with. You make a great team!

    Glad you learned something from our guest post. Cathy is an amazing person/writer.

    You've been such a treasure to have on RFW!


  17. Great post. I usually write my flash story the night before I post it. No good ears around here to read to though.


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