After Flashathon 2012

Well, I meant to write this post yesterday, but life got in the way in the form of Hurricane Sandy socking the east coast. That’s appropriate, as life getting in the way was something of a theme to this year’s Flashathon preparation. I hope the event didn’t feel nearly as slapped together last minute as it was, but now that we’re over I can admit…yeah, kinda slapped together last minute. That’s what having a baby less than two months before the event gets you. The biggest visible effect of this was fewer prompts from established writers and more of me trying to put together a wide variety of usable prompts. In the end we had one prompt from Bud Sparhawk, one from Matthew Hance, two from Day Al-Mohamed, a double prompt from Linda Adams, two from my wife, and the remaining eleven came from me. So if you didn’t like a particular prompt, there’s a fantastic chance it was my fault.

It’s hard to judge this year over last year. By some metrics the size of the event went up, by some it went down, so overall it was about a draw. I was hoping for some growth over last year, but again, considering the last minute nature of much of the event, this didn’t surprise me. Hopefully next year I can grass-roots this event better and hopefully bring in a few more people. I think Saturday is a sticking point for a lot of people, but I also can’t imagine doing the event on any other day.

That said, there are some elements of the event that may get revisited and revised. For one, I’m tempted to take the focus away from this being entirely a flash fiction event. While I enjoy that element of it, the emphasis on flash fiction (while attempting to stress the voluntary nature) does close the event off to other writers. And especially coming as it does just before Nanowrimo, people preparing for that event may not want to pull themselves away from that story to work on flash fiction.

To that end, I’m considering dual tracks for next year’s Flashathon. One track would be Flashathon Classic, hopefully returning to prompts collected from notable individuals rather than just myself. The second track would be the Nanowrimo Prep Track. As I currently envision it, this track of the event would be an outlining marathon, with different focuses on different hours. For example, one hour could be a character sketch of the protagonist. Another hour could be an overview of the journey and changes the main characters undergo. This is largely something I’m spitballing as I go. From that angle, I’m curious if anyone would be interested in such a side event (which might be hosted here in parallel posts, or on another blog like Unleaded).

Finally, I’d like to thank those people who participated in any or all of this year’s event. I’ve collected out the names of those who posted their participation in comments:

  • Jen Brinn
  • Day Al-Mohamed
  • Linda Adams
  • Dana Gunn

The list is similar to last year’s, but I’m glad that means people had enough fun that they came back.

So, take some deep breaths. Job well done. Let me know about the separate outlining track. And let me know if there are ways that I can make the event better for you in the future. Prompts you liked, prompts you hated, all that fun stuff. Leave a comment!


  1. avatar

    #1 by Linda Adams on November 3, 2012 - 9:25 am

    An overall comments on prompts: I like ones that aren’t too vague but also aren’t too specific. A few in the grouping were a little too vague. Several would have required research before I could do them at all. And I’ve run into “too specific” elsewhere:

    1. I tried Writer Unboxed’s summer seven, which consisted of seven picture prompts. They got all but two from one artist, and that artist like creating pictures of children. The prompts then required the children to be in the story, which turned out to be an unspoken rule I discovered after I left the child out of my story. I don’t write about children, so what resulted was that I did four and had to beg off of the last three. It turned something that was supposed to be fun for me into something frustrating.

    In a description workshop I took, I was at the time working on thrillers and the rest of the writers were fantasy or scifi. The instructor was a fantasy writer. She gave writing prompts like character occupations and said to write descriptions. Every prompt was for a fantasy writer. Worse, she couldn’t tell she had done it — she actually thought she was tailoring for a more general crowd! So I think some genre biases do creep in.

    So a suggestion for future to draw more people (other than maybe timing, since this may have been impacted by being close to Nano) is to shoot for prompts that have a character slant. If it’s about characters, it’ll appeal to more writers because no matter the genre, characters are universal. I think this could even be done with photo prompts, where it isn’t just looking at the picture but additional text about a character slant.

    I’d also suggest planning them out much further in advance and maybe having a few alternates (in case you look at one and suddenly realize it’s not going to work). I know there were other issues here (new baby in the family and the timing of Capclave), but a few months out means less chaos near the end.

    • avatar

      #2 by DLThurston on November 3, 2012 - 5:55 pm

      Planning time was absolutely a failure, though fortunately one of the easier ones to correct next year.

      Interesting thoughts on the prompts. I was aware several leaned a little more genre than others, which I suppose was my own assumption that most people coming in would be doing genre stuff. I’d be curious which specific ones you felt required research, just so I know what to look out for in the future. I was attempting to provide as much information as I thought necessary, but if I didn’t that’s on me.

  2. avatar

    #3 by Linda Adams on November 3, 2012 - 8:29 pm

    These six felt like I would have needed to do research to figure out what to write:

    How do you explain the hummingbird’s bizarre tongue?
    How Will Humans Get to Alpha Centauri?
    The story of wine corks is a lot more complicated than you thought
    How much does a shadow weigh?
    An ancient mode of transportation that could work on other planets
    Why slime molds can solve mazes better than robots

    I couldn’t make an intuitive leap off those those without the research because I’m not a science person. I would have needed to do extensive research just to find a direction I might be able to take.

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