Friday, August 28, 2009

A Question of Titles

Some people have a natural gift for titling their stories. Most do not. As the Editor-in-Chief of Flash Me Magazine, I see hundreds of story titles every month. Most of them are bland, many are too telling, some are too long, a few don't fit the story at all, and the rest are usually okay, but not stellar. While a story's title does not influence whether or not FMM accepts a story, it should be more than just okay. A story's title should make you want to read the story. It should make the reader curious. It should hint at what's to come, but not give everything away.

Think of the title as the gift-wrapping of a present. You just bought the perfect gift for someone you want to impress. Will you throw it in a paper bag? Wrap it in the business section of the Sunday paper? Use Christmas paper for a birthday gift? Or do you want to use the perfect paper with a coordinating ribbon? It's the first impression, and you want to see a look of glee on the person's face when they see the package. Have you ever received a gift with paper so pretty you had to open it carefully so you could save the paper? That's what your title should emulate. Something so perfect it can't be tossed aside, ripped to shreds, or ignored.

Bland titles don't illicit instant excitement. They don't do a story any favors and indicate a lack of writing pizzazz. If the title is bland, the reader usually expects a bland story. It's human nature. There are a few words that scream "bland" that should be avoided in story titles: ordinary, just, and another. If it's just another ordinary day, why would I want to read about it? I see these words often in titles, and they never inspire joy-joy feelings.

Some other bland titles involve oversimplifying. The _____. or The ____ and The ___. The Pot. The Dog. The Boy. The Day. The Dog and The Cat. The House and The Rain. Not only are those titles bland, they are telling, as well. The Dog. A story about a dog. Joy. The Bad Dog. Not much better. The Bad Dog Who Became a Superhero. It's just getting worse. I now know everything that should happen in the story, so why read the story? The Bad Dog Who Became a Superhero After His Owner Died in a Fire. Oh, my. Now we're bland, telling, and too long. You may think that's a ridiculous example, but I've seen many, many titles this long (or longer!). At FMM, many titles feel longer than the stories. Not good.

It's harder to describe titles that don't fit the story. These are titles that, after reading the story, just don't seem to have anything to do with what I've just read. You don't want telling titles, but they should relate, somehow.

The best titles, in my opinion, are the ones that you either only understand after reading the story, or titles that quote words from the story - preferably words near the end or from the climax. Some examples? Sure!

From the FMM archives:

“Especially the Rooster” by Mark Fewell from FMM's first issue, July 31, 2003. The title made me want to read the story. It tells me there's a rooster (hopefully) in the story, but otherwise is obscure. The words Especially the rooster are in the story three times, the third time being the last line. Nicely done. Ties in nicely, and I only understand the title after reading the story. Doesn't give too much away and isn't too long. Perfect.

"Survivalist" by Kevin Brown is the current issue's Feature Story, July 31, 2009. The title is concise and hints at what's to come, but doesn't give too much away. Who survives what? I wonder. Well, I had to read the story to find out. "Survivalist" isn't a direct quote from the story, but the word ties in perfectly with the ending. Perfect.

Look for something that hints at what's to come, but doesn't give it away. Think about elegant gift wrap that doesn't have the words "Happy Birthday" on it. Balloons are okay, as are cakes with candles, but what about something sparkly or special that, if you were carrying it down the street, people will assume is a birthday gift but won't know for sure. Be creative and have fun with it.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fantasy Slush Update

So far we have received 139 submissions:

We have accepted 1, held 9 for voting, and have rejected 89. We still have 15 before the editors, and 25 more in our inbox.

We have not reviewed any submissions received after August 18th.

FMM Staff

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fantasy Slush Update

So far we have received 109 submissions:

We have accepted 1, held 6 for voting, and have rejected 59. We still have 21 before the editors, and 22 more in our inbox.

We have not reviewed any submissions received after August 12th.

FMM Staff

Rewrite Requests

Flash Me Magazine often sends stories back with a rewrite request. These are stories we liked, but thought they needed more work before they were publishable. We include editorial feedback, often with suggestions for improving the story.

Sometimes we see those stories back and sometimes we don't. When the revisions come back, sometimes they are better and we end up publishing them, but more often, the story still doesn't work and we pass on it (and further revisions).

Today I came across a great link I thought I'd share about whether or not you should rewrite a story based on an editor's request.

The flowchart is fantastic, and I agree wholeheartedly. We never want to force our suggestions onto a story. We also realize some stories just can't be reworked into something publishable. So, if you receive a rewrite request from us, pull up the flow chart and ask yourself those questions. It's better for you, the story, and the editors.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Flash Fiction Boot Camp

Registration for the next Flash Fiction Boot Camp is now enabled:

Flash Fiction Boot Camp is a 12-day intensive course for serious writers taught by the Editor-in-Chief of Flash Me Magazine, Jennifer Dawson. She is joined by the Senior Managing Editor of Flash Me Magazine, Elizabeth Hull.

Each participant must have three unpublished short stories under 1500 words that they have submitted and had rejected from at least two markets* prior to enrolling in this course. Registered participants must send their three stories and rejection letters to the instructor prior to the first day of the course.

Every participant will: 1) have one story edited offline by the instructor, 2) have one story reviewed online by peers, 3) use one story in a variety of exercises, and 4) be challenged to write new stories through daily writing exercises. At the end of each session, selected stories may be published in the Special Features section of Flash Me Magazine.

The next session is scheduled for September 14-25, 2009. Registration will begin August 15th and be open until September 1, 2009. Participation will be limited to the first fifteen people. We will also have a wait list in case any participants withdraw prior to the first day.

This is a time-intensive course. Participants in the first session reported spending one to four hours per day on writing and reviewing. Participants need to understand the time requirement prior to enrolling.

Click here to see what past participants had to say.

For more information, please contact Jennifer at ffbc @

* I have waived this requirement in the past so please don't let this keep you from registering. The goal is to have stories you feel are ready for publication, and proof of that is a collection of rejection letters.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Fantasy Slush Update

So far we have received 97 submissions:

We have accepted 1, held 4 for voting, and have rejected 47. We still have 15 before the editors, and 30 more in our inbox.

We have not reviewed any submissions received after August 8th.

FMM Staff

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fantasy Slush

So far we have received 74 submissions:

We have accepted 1, held 4 for voting, and have rejected 42. We still have 17 before the editors, and 10 more in our inbox.

I won't lie; I'm very disappointed by the amount of submissions we've received so far for the fantasy issue. With the submission deadline a few weeks away, this is by far the slowest quarter we've had in years. If submissions don't pick up here at the end, we won't have this special issue next year, which is disappointing. Fantasy is my favorite genre.

I'll keep my fingers crossed...