The Art of Refinement

A writing tip from Camille Griep

Once upon a time, during my very first writers’ workshop, an instructor said, Flash is a waste of time. Even though the distillation of language is a powerful skill, I’ve found writers tend to subconsciously rush flash drafts to avoid the appearance of frivolity, even though excellence in the form demands superlative scrutiny.

Writing good flash is about creating space, character, and imagery with an economy of words. For most of us, economy earned, not innate. Rereading my own first drafts, I’m guilty of repetition, passive voice, weak word choices, and inadvertent clichés.

If we think of our flash as a rough sculpture, each editing pass is a refinement wherein we deepen curves and accentuate lines. If our stories are cluttered with the jagged and the awkward, readers can’t feel the swift punch or deep ache—the magic that makes them sit back in their chair with a satisfied nod and say, Yes. This.

It’s tempting to submit flash immediately after completion. I combat the urge with virtual folders, moving pieces between them for scheduled three, two, and one-week editing passes. Sometimes, a call or contest disallows the luxury of weeks of editing. In that case, enlist fresh eyes to find places your editing chisel has missed. Take the assistance humbly and gladly and offer to return the favor.

Flash can serve as both writing exercise and grand exegesis. Allow your smallest pieces to be intricate, careful, and exquisitely crafted, and they’ll repay your writing in kind.


Camille Griep’s writing has been featured or is forthcoming in WhiskeyPaper, The First Line, Boundoff, Treehouse, and Punchnel’s. She serves as fiction assistant for The Los Angeles Review, assistant editor for The Lascaux Review, and as president and program chair for the board of Cascade Writers. She is the 2013 winner of the Lascaux 250 flash fiction contest.

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