My name is Ben Warden and for three years I’ve been running a flash fiction competition on Twitter, called Serious Flash Fiction.
The project runs from early May for around 8-10 weeks and challenges anyone brave enough to write a flash fiction story in just 129 characters (that’s about 25 words). Each year I take the best of the entries and create an anthology, giving a host of people a publishing credit (often their first publishing credit for a number of the people involved).
Why did you start your publication?
During my MA in Creative Writing I got fascinated with alternative forms of writing and just generally challenging myself to play and create different things. It wasn’t long before I found twitter fiction, which was emerging at the time. I thought it was great. The variety, creativity and inspiration out there was really amazing. However, what I found at the time, was that there wasn’t many hashtags, or communities pulling all this great fiction together and it was really hard to find. So I set-up the Serious Flash Fiction project as a forum to encourage more people to give twitter fiction a go, to pull some of the stories together and, as the project went on, I started to produce the anthology as a way to pull the content out of twitter and offer it to a wider audience.
What is the most gratifying element of publishing the written word?
For me it’s all about getting people involved, giving them a creative challenge and making it as widely accessible as possible; both for the writers and for the readers. I love storytelling and I believe it’s a core element of what makes us human. Some forms of literary storytelling (like poetry, traditional novels, novellas) have historically been seen as something for high society, something that not all of us can do or have access to. I love how the internet and the rise of self-publishing has broken that down and how more people feel able to contribute to culture. My drive is to make something fun that helps push that change on.
What are your happiest memories in your writing/publishing career?
In my writing career it was putting my first novel out on Amazon. That was a huge thing for me. I originally did a film degree and fell in love with scriptwriting. I love storytelling but I’m also dyslexic, so having a way to tell stories without the barrier of the written word was great for me. However, what I quickly realised was that with scriptwriting you had to get so many other people on board to make your story a reality and it was really hard to get anything to an audience. When I decided to take the plunge to write a book, it was mostly just to see what people out there thought of my storytelling. Of course the book was far from perfect and it got a mix of reviews, but mostly it was really well received and people enjoyed it.
In terms of publishing and the Serious Flash Fiction project my happiest moment was having the York Literary Festival except my proposal to speak about flash fiction as one of their festival events for 2018. We’re yet to finalise a date, but I’ll be there sometime in March and that will be huge for both me and everyone who has contributed a story to the project in the last three years. I can’t wait.
How do you handle success and failure?
My Dad always said that you only get so many big ‘win days’ in life and you have to enjoy them, so I always enjoy the successes and make a point to celebrate them – even though I’m not the most social of beings. (What a writer that’s not an extravert. Surprise!?). As for failures, you learn quickly that they come with the territory. You will write rubbish, you will have people criticise your work, you will get a thousand literary agent rejections before one comes good. I figure that if you don’t try, you don’t get better and you’ll never know what you could do.
What makes you write when you’re exhausted and your fingers ache?
I think good storytellers need to absorb stories, so when I run out of things to write I just stop and put more of my energy into reading, researching, listening to music, watching films; really anything I can get my hands on (including hours of youtube). When you put your energy into soaking stuff up you’ll always find something sticks and starts to turn into an idea of your own. And if you are really stuck, go do the most mundane thing you can think of and that will let your mind wander. Personally I hate ironing, but I have some great ideas at the ironing board.
What is your advice to young and new writers?
You’ll only get better if you write regularly and you will lose a bit of your edge if you stop for too long. Make it part of your day-to-day; find a routine that works for you and be prepared to change it as other things in your life change… AND don’t be afraid to show anyone anything. You need opinions and other voices to get better.
Are you a traditionalist or a digital? (paper or eBook)
Both. I love eBooks for their accessibility and the fact that their cheap. I can buys loads of eBooks and read them on my paper-white in the middle of the night without annoying my wife. Having said that, nothing will ever replace the feel of a book in your hand and there is nothing better than seeing your own work in print to realise you’ve done something pretty cool.
Do you blog?
Not as much as I should, is the honest answer to that. Blogging is a great outlet for creativity, it’s a great way to build interest and it’s a fantastic way to meet more people who will help and support you as you progress. I will definitely be trying to amp up my blog presence in 2018, but I said that in 2017.
Do you self-publish?
I do. My novel was self-published and the two anthologies I have created for the Serious Flash Fiction project are also self-published. In fact without Amazon’s self-publishing I wouldn’t have found that audience I was looking for when I decided to write a book, I wouldn’t be able to make the Flash Fiction anthology as accessible and I certainly wouldn’t have sold as many copies of either.
If you have a publication or promotion – tell us.
Serious Flash Fiction will be kicking off again in May 2018. It will be a really interesting year for the project, as Twitters new word limit means that our original 129 character challenge has been increased. I’m really hoping that people try to keep their stories short and it’ll be fascinating to see if the bigger limit brings an increase or decrease in the general quality and diversity.
I’ll also be at the York Literature Festival in March speaking about the project, about flash fiction and giving people the chance to have a go a creating some flash stories of their own.
Finally, if you’re not sick to death of hearing from me yet, you can find my (sparse) blog, other projects and some more about my writing at www.benwardenauthor.com