Friday, December 14, 2012

Six Questions for Jean Martin, Editor, Free Flash Fiction

11/2013 Duotrope declared this market permanently closed.

Free Flash Fiction is an online magazine featuring excellent flash fiction stories in all genres, monthly writing contests, and weekly writing prompts -- all completely free! Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?

JM: The first thing I check for is whether the writer followed the guidelines.

The second thing I look at is the overall quality of the writing. Stories don't have to be perfect, but they should at least be written well enough to get an A in an undergraduate English class.

The third thing I look for is uniqueness. I love stories that are a little quirky. I also try to imagine what I'd think if I read the story in a magazine or collection of short stories. Would it stick with me? Would I tell a friend about it?

SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

JM: The top reason that a story is rejected is lack of plot. People seem to think that flash fiction is so short that it doesn't need a beginning, middle, and end. Flash fiction does need an entire plot. I don't accept stories that are just a description of a person or place. Stories can even cover a very short time span as long as the story has a beginning, middle, and end.

The second most common reason for rejection is that the story isn't written quite well enough. If I really like the concept of the story, I'll request a re-write and point out a few things that the writer can improve upon.

The third most common reason for rejection is that the story just isn't a match for the publication. I accept a wide variety of stories, but some topics are rarely accepted. For example: a description of the end of a relationship, extreme gore/violence, extreme raunchiness, or a story that is overly depressing.

SQF: Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important.

JM: I think this is something that could go either way and will always depend on the particular story. But if I had to, I'd choose plot over character, because I think that the way the character reacts to the plot shows the reader a great deal.

SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission in Free Flash Fiction?

JM: Read the guidelines thoroughly. Yeah, it's kind of a lot of text, but it tells you everything you need to know. Don't just skim the page. The information is there to help you be successful.

I'm not going to tell you to "read the publication first" because that's actually counter-productive. I don't want you to submit the same stories that I've already published. Submit something new and interesting.

SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?

JM: The main thing that I've learned is that being in a creative field is tricky business, because the writer has to find an editor who happens to have the same taste. The same goes for any other kind of artist -- a painter has to find a gallery owner who happens to like his style of painting, and a musician has to find a producer who happens to like her style of music. This can obviously be very hit-and-miss, and it's easy to get disappointed.

As far as actual writing goes, I will say this: correct spelling and grammar goes a long, long way.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

JM: How about this: What is the difference between flash fiction and longer short stories?

I fell in love with flash fiction because of its snappy nature. It has no room for meandering. The writer must pull readers in with the first line, and keep them interested until the end.

New flash fiction writers often try to do a couple things that don't work:

1. They try to write a shorter version of a standard short story. This doesn't really work because flash fiction doesn't allow for lengthy introductions and a long climb to a climax. Flash fiction almost requires a different structure entirely. The reader needs to know a lot about the main character and the point of the story from the very beginning. There can still be a build-up to a reveal, but the story has to start immediately.

2. They try to write a description of something and call it flash fiction. Flash fiction still needs a whole plot, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Thank you, Jean. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 12/18--Six Questions for Sarah Estime, Editor-in-Chief, Elbow Pads Magazine


  1. I've tried to get onto your site in several ways (even the link on this article) and with several different service providers. It's incredibly slow to load, and sometimes won't load at all. I've tried to use the contact page but received a message that it was unavailable. I'm just mentioning this because you might not be getting the full publicity benefit from this interview.

  2. Thanks for sharing your difficulty, Sandra. I tried connecting to the post using multiple devises and different providers with no problem. Hmmm... Have you tried clearing your cache?

  3. Hi Jim, thanks for responding. I'd tried using three different computers over the last few days and it was the same. However, today it's so much quicker, both on mine and one of the others I'd tried, so maybe it was a glitch over the holidays. But I cleared my cache anyway... good discipline, thank you. :) Interesting site so I'm glad the problem seems to be over.