Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Should I mention my novel started as flash fiction?

I love writing Flash Fiction, using the variety of the challenges as a way to practice my writing while expanding my horizons. In addition, if I see some theme or a group of characters reappearing, that's a signal that there may be a novel in there too. I publish these little stories on my blog, along with the topic involved, and have received helpful feedback on many of them. In addition, hopefully I have encouraged others to try them too.
When I do use some of these as a base for a novel, I re-write and expand the stories, along with the addition of much new work.
However, before I start sending my novel to agents, should I delete all the original stories online? (1)
Should I leave them there and advise the agent about them?(2 and 2a)

(1) no
(2) sure
(2a) no

How you come up with your ideas for your novel is not something I need to know about and often it's not something I WANT to know about.  Kind of like making sausage, or Donald Trump's hair. The less I know about how it's made, the happier I am.

When you query me, I'm interested in whether you've written a book I want to read. That's pretty much the extent of my interest.

Later in the process, when you're doing promotion for your book and interviewers ask where you get your ideas, you can talk about the value of flash fiction.


Anonymous said...

Morning Janet and all the other woodland creatures.

"When you query me, I'm interested in whether you've written a book I want to read."

Janet, what book would you like to read. Let me know and I will write it.

Unlike other things in this world, a book is worth more than what someone is willing to pay for it.

nightsmusic said...

Sitting in the dark at night while picking your toenails and zenning out when you're hit with a lightning bolt of an idea isn't something I think too many people would care about. What they want to read is a great story. I have one I've been working on for a few years based on a special on the History channel on the Galveston Hurricane. I doubt anyone will care how the idea struck, but I think they'd want to read it because it's a great story. Or at least, I think it is and I'm trying to write it as one. The only time I believe there would be any problems with where an idea came from is if there is plagiarism involved. In that case, you're in trouble.

Sam Hawke said...

OP, this will make an awesome blog post once you're published and looking for ways to offer content! :)

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Awww, you mean even if Opie won a Flash Fiction contest here at the Reef, it doesn't even merit a mention in the query?

On a serious note, congrats Opie, for finishing a novel and being ready to send it out. That's great. I can understand why you'd want to write about your inspiration for your book somewhere. We all have intriguing stories to tell but that telling belongs with family or friends or maybe crit groups or, as the Shark mentions, later in the process when you promote your book.

The story of inspiration just doesn't belong in the query. Not in the synopsis either.

Stephen G Parks said...

I actually went the opposite direction from the OP - I had a couple of ideas that I thought were book-length but were driving me crazy. After picking up the flash fiction bug from this site, I re-purposed them as flash fiction. Made a couple of semi-pro sales off of them.

I guess my point is that even shorter works are marketable, if you want to make the effort. But you can’t publish them on your own site first (Learned that one the hard way).

LynnRodz said...

I would say, agents (as they sit in their darken dungeons near a blazing fire, cackling as they read the first few pages of our manuscripts, then tossing our words into the flames like discarded peanut shells) don't give a hoot where we get our ideas from, but at most author signings someone will always ask the inevitable question, "Where did you get the idea for your story from?" (Just 69 words in that sentence.)

Agents don't care, but a lot of readers do. Just my 2¢.

AJ Blythe said...

Sadly I don't think there is a link between writing awesome novels and awesome flash fiction. At least, I'm desperately hoping so, because I can't write decent FF to save my life.

But as Sam said, the story will make great blog fodder. Or you could save it and when the novel is published use it as "extra content" for your web page. I bet hordes of readers of your book would love to read the FF that started it all =)

Best of luck with your queries!!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

My WIP novel opens with an expansion on one of my flash fiction entries here. It wasn't a story on its own, but Janet said she'd keep reading if a novel opened that way. It seemed like good advice to take, even if the novel isn't something Ms. Reid would represent herself. Plus, okay fine, I wanted to know what happened next too.

I don't know, I kind of thing it best to not explain all the time where your stories come from. Like making sausage, it's best left to the maker. Which is making me think of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and how, who was it, Teddy Roosevelt? read it and tossed his breakfast plate out the window (that might just go under the heading "interesting lies my teacher told me").

Megan V said...

There seems to be a repurposing theme this week.


Methinks it's time to scour through ye olde manuscript dust bin.

Back to OP though, congrats on writing a novel based on your flash fiction. It's great to see you upcycling your work into something else. And I'll bet that original FF is great for drafting your query.

Colin Smith said...

Lisa: I think a Contest win is worth a mention when you query Janet, though I'm pretty sure she would recognize a winner from the name or email address. She's talking about mentioning that a piece of flash fiction inspired the novel, and that's what she doesn't care to know in a query (or ever).

Have I written flash that I thought could be a novel? I don't know. I've written such a lot of flash (and 26 more flash pieces are about to hit my blog throughout April) it's hard to keep track. But if I did, I don't think I would mention the fact unless asked, or unless the novel became a bestseller. After all, this information doesn't make the novel any more appealing. I don't know why an agent would be more inclined to read my novel knowing it used to be flash fiction, so it's a waste of the precious query word count.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I have done the opposite. A lot of my flash fiction came from my backlog of novels and novellas sitting in my drawers and attic. But don't tell anyone.

And I am totally mentioning my flash fiction win in my queries. It may be the only redeeming bit of my query.

Karen McCoy said...

Adding to Lisa's question: a Reef Flash Fiction win is probably a redundancy in a query to the QOTKU, but what about other agents? Perhaps an afterthought in the brief bio at the end? Or is it better to omit altogether?

That said, I agree with Colin. The flash as a mere idea probably wouldn't hold water at the query stage.

Karen McCoy said...

Darn, E.M. I wish I'd seen your post before I posted mine!

Janet Reid said...

I did neglect to say that mentioning a flash fiction win is a good idea. It IS. I read a ms from a former contest winner, loved it and signed it. I'm looking forward to selling it! And no, I'm not saying who it is. That's his/her story to tell, not mine.

As for whether other agents care, I'd say probably not.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Every once in awhile, in the writing of a short story or a flash fiction piece, my gut tells me that the story can't be contained in 100 or 1000 words. I don't necessarily know where it's going to go, how the plot will twist and turn, or you know, anything useful like that. It's just this sense that it's meant to be bigger. When that happens, I just make notes then put the whole thing away for a bit. My current WiP is based on a story I wrote years ago, one I didn't finish because I felt there was more to it. Fingers crossed I'm right!

And I am so mentioning my flash fiction win in a query to Janet, no matter how long ago it was.

Anonymous said...

One concern is whether it may count as 'previously published work', but I think that would only be the case if there were several stories were cut and pasted 'as-is'.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oh, Janet, never forget you are QOTKU- I can think of 1 or 2 other agents that might care about that flash fiction win. If they don't, well I am collecting quite a nice barrage of form rejections. I will be framing them one day.

Slightly, ever so slightly off-topic, please don't throw me in the Carkoon Pit of Despair, are any Reiders participating in the A to Z blog challenge that starts Friday? I am and would love to follow other Reider blogs that are participating.

Sorry, back to regularly scheduled discussion.

Karen McCoy said...

Noted! And I agree with E.M. wholeheartedly.

I am too buried this month to do the A to Z blog challenge, but it's definitely a winning idea. Perhaps some time in the future, if they keep running it at regular intervals.

Dena Pawling said...

Dear future agent –

I got the idea for my story Misery while I nursed my previous agent back to health following a car accident. I REALLY hope you like it.

Signed, Unbalanced Writer

Er, not so much. Aren't we all a bit unbalanced, like the sub-header says?

I agree that the backstory of where the story came from can be interesting to future readers as blog posts or interview topics. However, sometimes the inspiration for our stories should stay in the dark recesses of our minds.

Yes, I'm participating in AtoZ challenge. This is my second year. Hope to see some of you there.

Colin Smith said...

"As for whether other agents care, I'd say probably not."

Janet, your modesty is charming. Everyone knows this blog is industry standard reading. :)

Colin Smith said...

*waves hand* I'm doing A-to-Z too! :)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

I am debating over the Challenge, because I burned out last year. If I do join that monkey train, i'm greatly consigning myself to short, easy posts.

Mister Furkles said...

Seriously? Donald Trump's hair is one of the great mysteries of the world. It's deserving of much scientific research. One day you'll be watching the Science Channel and the entire scientific controversy will be covered in a two hour special. How can you not want to know?

Jenz said...

OP, why aren't you trying to sell those flash stories? That could give you a more impressive publishing credit than posting them on your blog.

And just in case anyone else is thinking about trying this, if you post a story on your blog, that counts as published, and markets won't want it after that. If that's all right with you, great, just be aware of what you're doing.

Craig F said...

Dear Prudence:

The Moon sang as the wind blew and the Planet Earth died a violent death. Only the three hundred reached sanctuary on the ship.

Our hero, an adventurous adrenaline junkie, surfs the currents of space once around Venus and twice around Mars looking for a new home. He only has six months to find it before the three hundred children are born of the joyous survivors.

CHANSON POUR LES PETITS ENFANTS is a 99.200 word fiction novel. It is a blending of Parrotheadism and Issac Asimov. Only 99,100 words separate it from the wonderful Flash Fiction story you sponsored.

Colin Smith said...

Jenz: I'm not Opie, but my jaw dropped when I realized there were places that buy flash fiction. When I think about the hundreds of flash pieces I've written over the past five years (and not all for Janet's contests), I could almost cry. All that potential publishing credit, given away. *sigh* And I'm about to do it again, 26 times over! :)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I think the only caveat here is that if one of your flash fiction stories gives away a twist in the novel, it might not be a bad idea to hide it. Sure, it's unlikely that readers would dig through a long archive of flash fiction for a hidden clue (although, if you sell well enough, it's certain possible!), but it still might be worth hiding.

And Jenz: there's an old saying about never doing something for free if you could get paid for it, but I disagree. Blog posts (and forums, and fanfiction sites) are good places to practice and get feedback. Sometimes, that can be more valuable than publishing credits.

Cheryl said...

So what I'm getting from posts like this one is that querying is like testifying in court or being questioned by the police:

Answer only the question you were asked.
Don't offer information you weren't asked for.

Dear Captcha,

You asked me to identify tea. Empty teacups are not tea. Also, I suspect that one picture was coffee.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Cheryl, Captcha always gives me these existential crises when it has that extra security check. First it asks, "Are you sure you're not a robot?"

I respond in the affirmative.

"Prove it."

"Yeah, sure. Identify all the pictures with food... is that bread or a corgi?"

"You said you weren't a robot."

"Of course I'm not a robot! There are just a lot of unclear pictures here."

"That's what all the robots say."

And then I get all huffy and offended, and I have to go into sleep mode or I'll overheat. It's just a mess.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Mr. F, I wonder what they'd find during the two hour special about Mr. Trump' s hair. I believe that upon close examination they might discover Amilia Harheart and Jimmy Hoffa. And, perhaps the Oak Island Treasure and the ARK. One thing they won't find is common sense and that is where I will stop.

Cindy C said...

What an eerie coincidence--just yesterday, out of nowhere, I found myself thinking about something I wrote for a FF contest here years ago and coming up with ways to turn it into a longer story. So thanks, Opie and Janet, for asking and answering a question I would have asked in the future!

Lennon Faris said...

Perhaps a caveat here might be an inspiration that is relevant to the story? Like if you were a former FBI agent and you are writing a crime novel. I'm sure you'd get a lot of inspired stories driving home from a job like that and you'd probably have some authentic insider perspective from it.

EM & Colin & all else involved - have fun participating in the A-Z. I briefly considered it, sort of like the moments when you consider quitting your job, or moving to Hawaii. I think I must be the slowest writer in the universe sometimes. Every 2 weeks is my goal, and I feel good when I get that! If i can snag some moments I will definitely snoop around your all's though.

BJ Muntain said...

Flash fiction is often a writing exercise as much as a story. A lot of published fiction was originally a writing exercise. Even if that original exercise is published on your blog, the full novel isn't. Yes, 'how I got my ideas' is an interview answer, not something to be included in a query. Much like, 'this is my first/second/99th novel' and 'the character is based on my third grade teacher, Mrs. Crabapple'.

AJ: Flash fiction and novels may require similar skill sets, but also different ones. Both need a facility with language. But flash fiction needs to give a full story in a flash. A novel needs complicated plotting and character development, and about 80,000 more words. I do find, though, that both help to develop your language skills in different ways. Don't give up on the flash fiction, and don't let it get in the way of your novel.

Ravens: A flash fiction piece is completely different from a novel. And as I've learned here on the reef, publishers don't care if bits and pieces of novels are posted elsewhere. Short story markets do, because why would readers want to pay them for a story they can read it (or most of it) for free on the author's blog? But it's hard to fit an entire novel in a blog post. Not sure how much of your novel you should post, but I'm pretty sure Janet covered that at some point. But posting a flash fiction that became a novel isn't a problem.

Cheryl: Funny! I see a query letter more as a sales blurb (I've written a few.) It comes down to: Why would this person want to buy it? So you give them a short blurby thing to entice them to buy. Then you tell them a bit about your work (how long it is, what genre) and a simple bit about yourself that might show that you're publishable and not a terror to work with. The end. You don't want to put anything in there that the agent might say 'so what?' about. You want to keep their attention.

Lennon: The former FBI writing a crime novel isn't inspiration. It's background. That would definitely go into a query letter, because it shows the author knows what they're talking about. It gives them Authority.

Some year I plan to do the A-Z challenge. That will not be this year, I'm afraid.

There are many flash fiction markets. Some will even pay - some token amounts, some pro or semi-pro rates. Me, I see flash fiction as a writing exercise (see above). If I can get paid for such an exercise, cool! But I'm not going to lose sleep over posting one online. You can find some of these markets on

JulieWeathers said...

Heaven Help me, I read a story about Trump's hair and how he achieves the look. He doesn't allow anyone to touch it except certain hairdressers. I have a theory that it is actually spun sugar. Tell me I'm not right.

I might have to disagree with the Queen a bit, but what do I know? There are no Julie Weathers books on the shelves.

When I was querying Dancing Horses it started out: Horses, expensive horses, are dying. Farm manager Colton Edwards doesn't think it's an accident. Now he's next on the list.

It went into the story from there. At the end, I said I was inspired to write this after it was discovered Olympic riders had hired horse hit men to assassinate horses who weren't performing. By making them look like accidents or malicious attacks, the owners could collect insurance.

I had several agents who were interested in the story call and tell me they looked up the stories. They were amazed. Of course, mine was completely different, but there was the inspiration.

That was back when agents would call if they were really interested because everything was by pony express.

Having lived on a farm and a ranch, I know how sausage is made. Ours wasn't that bad. The only whole meat we kept on hogs was hams and bacon. That's a lot of good meat going into sausage along with lean venison. That's good homemade sausage, though. I don't think about commercial stuff. It's for the best.

JulieWeathers said...

A-Z Blog Challenge. That would mean I got very few words done on the WIP this month. I don't know. I normally spend a lot of time on blog posts. If I did blog, it would be about Civil War stuff, such as the Moon Sisters and Civil War horses posts.

It would be cool to have some kind of badge. I used to have a cookie selling badge and blue ribbons for my baking.

I don't know. It's a big commitment. About the only commitment I have lately is butt in the chair writing daily, but do I want it to be for a blog? I mean, it's not even a handsome blog.

Colin Smith said...

As I understand it, a flash fiction piece doesn't, by definition, have to be a complete story. That's one of Janet's rules for her contests. But there are other places that will accept anything that's short ("flash") and made up ("fiction"). It can be a complete story, a scene, dialog, or whatever. Granted, the better pieces of flash will be stories, or at least something thought-provoking. But I've seen beautifully-written non-stories do well in flash contests elsewhere.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, and a really quick point about the A-to-Z Challenge: it's good if your A-to-Z articles are short. There are, at the moment, 1,670 participants--that's a lot of blogs to choose from! You're more likely to get repeat visits if you keep the posts short.

And that 1,670 figure is a big reason to participate if you want your blog to get more exposure. People will visit. Participants are encouraged to visit at least 5 new blogs per day.

JulieWeathers said...


One thing they won't find is common sense and that is where I will stop.--

It's because spinning round and round to get the spun sugar on his head forces air into the brain. All you have left is an airhead.

OK, done politicking. I can't wait to vote Tuesday. Pollsters have been calling me. I bet they can't wait either. They seem shocked by some opinions.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Flash fiction and blogging are great ways to practice your craft. Anyhow, for me, writing anything is helpful. Even though blogging and flash fiction are not work on my WIP- for me, they help me work through blocks and clear my creative palate sort of like that bite of white bread you might have between wines at a wine tasting.

I will echo Colin (again) in the A-Z blog challenge. Just read his last comment.

I do think, for me, this is a good opportunity to build a bit more discipline with my writing. I always feel better when I write- even if it's when I feel too exhausted after long day at dread Day job to squeeze out anything. I really do want to make a living as a writer. Hence, I must write.

Janice Grinyer said...

I've been inspired by a lot of physical flash non-fiction...does that count? :D

Read a very inspiring quote today - "If you can't live longer, then live deeper" - Italian Proverb.

Opie, thank you for reminding us that stories are everywhere, and good luck on your querying!

Kate Larkindale said...

I am doing the A-Z challenge. Not quite sure how or why since I start a new novel on Friday too and have pledged to write 40K in April. I guess I'm insane.

BJ Muntain said...

Kate: Read the subheader. Insane is normal, here. :)

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Craig, I love it. I know someone who named their girl Prudence. She'll probably do extreme sports or some other prudent.

Colin and anyone else who wants to sell FF, take a look at Write1Sub1 (also called W1S1) There are lots of stories in paying e-zines and other literary journals. I found 6 word stories — — through W1S1. I'm not sure they pay some do. Most of them use Submittable.

OP, I bet QOTKU knows where her authors get their inspiration and maybe that's why she doesn't want to hear about it.

Donnaeve said...

There's a couple FF's (actually more now I think about it) that I think could be novels.

One, in particular, that always comes back to me - except I don't write dystopian type stories, SF or any of that - does anyone remember the one I wrote about the little red-haired girl named Jasper Sinclair? That's the one I always think about. I really liked that story...and if I set out to write a very different kind of book, that's the FF story I'd turn into a novel.

Alas, it only garnered a "you guyz are scaring me to death," from QOTKU. (Colin you were in that group that day too, and a couple others)

Anywho, if FF can turn into a book, yeah, like everyone else is saying, unlikely anyone would really care how it came to be, only that it's GOOD! Explaining how you got to it is like a salesman explaining to a new car buyer how they built the car. New Car Buyer doesn't give a hoot (least I wouldn't) I just want to drive it!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Janet, just to let you know, our family makes about a hundred pounds of sausage a couple of times a year. Pork, spices and enough garlic to make a garden of babies breath stink, the house reeks of garlic for days.
Fresh homemade sausage is yummy.
Best part, (disregard Tony Soprano's Satriale's Pork Store episode), we know what, (not who), goes in it.

DeadSpiderEye said...

'...make a garden of babies breath stink' that's one I'll be plagiarising, sue me when I'm rich.

Anonymous said...

Colin: A flash fiction story doesn't have to be complete?

Well then, I am going to try and win this weeks Flash Fiction Contest.

Well if Janet does one this week. I need a win this time!

Hey is the golden ticket that Janet gives you for winning the flash fiction contest good to use at the Hertz space port on Carkoon? Because these vamps here are awfully depressing, now that I heeded your advice, and depressed them to the point of complacency.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Congratulations, OP, not only on completing novels based from flash fiction origins, but also on thinking ahead and asking the question about deleting the original stories (I'm assuming because of 'previously published' issues.) And thank you Janet, for answering so concisely. That's one less thing this little woodland creature has to worry about, so yay!

EM, Colin, Dena and Kate, I've signed up for A to Z as well, my first year at the attempt. I'm currently number 1036, but apparently the number changes as people drop out or are removed? Anyway, it should be an interesting month. I look forward to reading your posts!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

So, Craig, forgive me. Did you just toss that off, or is that a novel/story which exists. Because it sounds pretty rad to me!

french sojourn said...

Quick note, too rushed to read all the comments.

But my second m/s at 110k words started out as a flash fiction entry on your site.

Dragonfly and Mir...but alas it's been shelved for a new project.

I will review the previous comments tomorrow.

Cheers Hank.

Anonymous said...

Just signed up for A-Z.

In the meantime I will wait for the Shark to review my latest QueryShark revision.

AJ Blythe said...

BJ - I'll keep trying with JRs FF contests. At least now she has a countdown on her blog I know when I have to have it ready (although, confession, sometimes it's so abysmal I don't sub anyway).

Okay, there has been so much talk about Donald Trump's hair here I've had to google... wow, I'm now starting to wonder if his hair is under consideration for election or him! There's even a Business Insider Australia interview (video) with a hair transplant surgeon to find out what's going on. Hilarious.

Actually his hair reminds me of the 'puppies' from The Goodies episode Frankenfido (for those of British/Aussie heritage who may remember).

AJ Blythe said...

Forgot to add... I'm not A-Zing this year as I don't have the time, but good luck to all those who are.

french sojourn said...

Just another quick note:
I thought it would be of interest to see a 100 word flash fiction that worked it's way into a 110K word story:

Nika and Mir, her Reeker rat, reached the rocks.
The reports of five shots echoed.
“Ha, gonna take more than that to stop a sand shark.”
She opened her rucksack and took out the gel-pack claymore. Then placed it in the sand.
Mir raced around, scenting the sand.
Nika patted the sand five times and the sand shark approached.
She placed her hand in the sand shark’s secondary mouth and calmed the shark.
With her right hand she activated the gel-cap, the shark although placated by Nika’s pulse knew she was trapped as the gel-cap took hold.
Nika’s new bodyguard.

This turned into three warring worlds that never got along, then they had to band together to fight a new enemy.

So this is how 100 words turned into 110K words.
Thanks for your indulgence; or my indulgence?


Celia Reaves said...

I'm doing the A to Z Challenge this year for the first time. I picked a theme that I think will be easy to keep up with and, if I'm lucky, fun for my readers. We'll see how it goes!

CynthiaMc said...

Thanks for reminding me - when I did the FF about my uptight not child-friendly Federal agent assigned to ferry two troublesome teenagers in the Witness Protection program and trying to stay a step ahead of the killers trying to do them in I could see the movie in my head as I was writing it. I need to work on that.

My poor blog has cobwebs all over it. I haven't updated it since Southern Comforts. Been concentrating on things that will hopefully lead toward additional income and maybe a beach house (you're all invited).

Timothy Lowe said...

Anything that inspires beautiful stories is a beautiful thing, and there are certainly some inspiring flash fiction stories on this blog, and I'm sure in other places. Every good novel at its core has a singularly haunting, gorgeous image. I'm still looking for mine for my WIP.

Carolynn, did some research into the Oak Island mystery 10 yrs ago for a long-forgotten MS. One of the less-explored theories is that Shakespeare's long-forgotten, unknown manuscripts are buried there. There's some kind of catchy blog-quotable idea in there (the idea of a "money pit" with unpublished manuscripts, guarded by ingenious water traps devised by devious pirates). If I wasn't too much on vacation I'd think of it.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yup, flash fiction, love it.
Always a know the rest.

Colin Smith said...

Jason: Clarification: Janet's rules dictate that flash fiction entries in her contests must be complete stories. But generally speaking, flash fiction can take many forms. When submitting flash fiction anywhere, always read the submission rules to be sure you're writing the kind of "flash fiction" they're asking for.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Hi Celia! You're posting your A to Z entries on your blog, correct? I couldn't find you in Colin's "Carkoon's Most Wanted" list, so followed your name linky thing...

John Frain said...


If you can replicate that with fishes and loaves I think that'll leave you just one miracle short of sainthood. Good luck! (And nice job editing in 109,900 words to your flash novel.)

Dena Pawling said...

This is exciting! I have an entire window open [with LOTS of tabs] for all the AtoZ blogs I'll be visiting starting Friday. I just added all the blogs I found for everyone here who posted they'll be participating.

I like Fridays just on basic principle, but now it's much better =)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

All right, I'll do A to Z this year, remembering the lessons I learned last year.

Wanna know something cooL? Romance Spinners is blog number 1701. Nyah.