Writing 281 words in just a few minutes.

First things first, it’s been a while since the last update. Without getting into the details, the recent pandemic and such has left me somewhat distracted and this blog was the first to suffer. That being said, we’re all well here and adjusting pretty nicely now so I ought to make more of an effort.

In fact, my writing suffered a little bit too. For a month or so I could barely summon the enthusiasm to put finger to keyboard, but one thing that kept me going was the BestSeller Experiment #BXP2020 challenge. I didn’t want to break my daily writing streak and so I made sure I did at least the minimum of 200 words a day and frequently that led to me doing a lot more. As a result my streak is now at 115 days of writing without an interruption, and a total of 76,640 words.

The last 281 of those are a flash fiction story that I wrote today in just a few minutes. It’s rough, unpolished and yes I’m still quite happy with it. It has a beginning, middle and an end. That’s all thanks to Mary Robinette Kowal, who I’ve written about on this blog before. She’s an incredible writer, and always very keen to share her experience and knowledge with others.

I found this video through a Facebook group, and have been meaning to watch it for a while. I finally did that today and wish I had done so sooner. In the course of 45 minutes she will take you through some of her methods for ensuring a story is satisfying and consistent, which would be worth watching even if she didn’t share anything else. But in fact she walks you through creating your own ‘flash fiction’ story right there in the classroom.

For those unfamiliar, flash fiction is a term generally taken to mean stories of under about 1,000 words and in this case we were aiming for about 250. I ended up on 281 but then I’ve always been verbose!

I’m honestly surprised that I got something I’m happy with as a result of this exercise, and would definitely recommend you watch the video and try writing alongside. There are points to pause the video to write, but you never need to do more than 2-3 minutes at a time. Give it a go!

Here’s what I came up with. I’d normally go back and edit it, but in the spirit of the exercise I’m sharing exactly what I wrote as it came out.


The ship hurtled towards Mars. He flinched, limbs flailing in zero-g as the port at the base of his skull sparked. The representation of the engines in D-space appeared before him, mangled and glitching. “Three minutes to turnaround,” the monotone voice in his head said. “Engines offline.”

The reboot hadn’t worked, but he tried it again to buy some thinking time. The engine-analogues vanished, reappeared briefly before collapsing inwards on themselves. The port-side motor glitched for a few seconds and then vanished entirely. “Shit.” The space where the engine should have been was smooth hull plating, no signs of fuel ports or any other evidence an engine had once existed. No bug could cause that. No matter how badly an engine crashed it always left traces.

No time to dwell on it. He dove through the outer casing of the starboard engine, yanked the CPU and held it up. Small insects crawled over every inch, analogues of the malware that infested the circuitry thirty decks below. As the spray from the can on his tool belt hit them they curled up, shrivelled and fell to the floor, vanishing on impact. With the CPU back in place the glitching engine reformed into its usual sleek shape. “Engine one online. One minute seventeen seconds to turnaround.”

Screw it, it was Hail Mary time. He floated over the spot the port engine should inhabit and sprayed widely. Shimmering metal swam into view as the liquid splashed, intact and beautiful. He spun and turned to spray every millimetre, finishing just as the voice intoned “Engines online. Turnaround in 3… 2… 1…” His body in the real world slammed into the deck as the engines fired.