Pen To Print

Click "Enter" to submit the form.

Write On! Features: My Journey Into Flash Fiction by Thomas Nixon

by Thomas Nixon

In the late spring of 2021, I was at a crossroads. I’d recently finished work on a series of short stories I was immensely proud of, having worked on them every single day over a significant time period.  From this triumph, came a serious desire to create more fiction and build up my collection of credited stories. But I was also completely exhausted. I’d been writing these short stories on top of working a full-time job and, while I was in a strong, consistent habit of writing, I’d also unwittingly drained myself of the energy I needed to write stories in the future. As such, my work ethic was there, but sheer mental exhaustion meant the ideas simply weren’t turning up.

It was the day after I finished my fourth short story (titled Urban Archipelago: an as-yet-unpublished piece about five New Yorkers tackling the everyday issues in their lives, with the perspective being swapped at the end of each chapter), when I found myself sitting at my laptop, eager to create something but, instead, staring at a blank screen. If you’re a writer, and a self-professed overworked writer at that, you’ll know exactly what I mean. It had occurred to me some days before this point that, if I wanted to maintain consistency and keep delivering high quality products, then I’d need to change the way I did things.

Several months earlier, I had been given a list of writing competitions by a friend of a friend, who had reviewed my earlier work and shared resources they used to keep up with the literary market. I’d since bookmarked the website containing the details, but had never given it much thought. Until that day.

When opening the page, I saw that many of the competitions were quite niche and open to demographics which were exactly that (i.e. not mine). Naturally, I began scrolling, when my eyes fell upon something that wasn’t a competition at all, but a website, The name itself was intriguing but what I found myself fascinated by was its accessibility. No longer would I have to spend days crafting a single story, when I could write one in a matter of minutes. It was a lot easier said than done (as I’d find out later) but, at the time, the spark in my imagination had been reignited. 

On the website, there was a submission form and, after experimenting with a few opening lines, I’d created my first piece of flash-fiction: Freedom’s Wish, a story of a dying man and his granddaughter at his bedside. To this day, I’m not really sure what the story is about, only that it was written with unfamiliarity and a raw eagerness to test this new branch of creative writing. I’d find out in the months later (the site receives a lot of story submissions) that Freedom’s Wish had been rejected. By then, though, I’d written over 300 stories, each one equalling 101 words. The seed had been planted, and my appetite for this new form of writing was growing by the day.

My new hobby soon turned itself into a passion project. By the summer, I’d envisioned Windows: A Collection Of 101 Stories, with a synopsis involving sneak peeks into different lives, as well as other worlds. The title was supposed to give the reader’s impression that they were only allowed to glimpse into these strange and prospective places before the window was shut and they had to move on. It was an interesting idea and, one I thought I could turn into a book before the end of the year. This initial optimism was driven by the fact that I believed everything I wrote was the bee’s knees. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t! 

By September, I had around 350 stories, but only around 50 of them were what I’d call exceptional and another 50 were merely good enough. I showed my first iteration to some friends and colleagues, and got some modest praise. The general consensus at the time was: It’s nice, it’s unique, but it’s not blowing my mind. And even then, some people didn’t even read it. I jotted the names of the non-believers down in secret, so that I could exact my revenge at a later point.

In the meantime, I kept working. The great thing about flash fiction is that you can write something in about five minutes, so it doesn’t take too much time out of your day and you don’t feel overwhelmed with meeting a specific word count. I’d recommend flash fiction to any writer who feels ‘under-challenged’ or overworked, as it really forces you to think about the words you use, constricting anything and everything that isn’t absolutely necessary. That said, the drawbacks are strong in their number also. Trying to fit a story inside a specific box, taking so many words away that it ends up being confusing, or staring at a 102 word count and being unable to find that last word.

As I wrote more and more flash pieces, an interesting construct began to emerge for me. Every time I felt I had enough worthy stories for a collection, I’d look back on my old work and find it lacking. In brief: my quality control improved the more I wrote. While this definitely lead to my work improving, there was a continuous frustration in seeing that my work was never good enough. Oh, and as an aside: be careful if you decide to edit flash fiction while keeping a specific word count. It can be quite arduous.

On top of this, ironically, I was getting quite tired of writing flash fiction. Turns out, when you limit yourself to certain words every day, it can also be exhausting. To combat this, I wrote a novel in the spring of 2022, typing 85,000 words over a three-week period. Starting as a short story, it grew into a feverish passion project that couldn’t be contained. Then, once it was done, I took a three-month sabbatical and went back to writing flash again. 

By last winter, I’d amassed over 900 flash fiction stories, and had reconfigured the collection to contain 181 of them in total. The rest of the stories ranged from diabolical, nonsensical, ludicrous and basically all right. It’s important to note that not every story idea can fit inside flash fiction. Some concepts are just too big and can’t be contained inside a specific word count. For the 100+ stories I had, however, almost all of them were of a high quality. 

When I sent Windows out again to colleagues and friends, the reviews were much more reverent. For the first time in almost three years, I felt I had something of real potential, something that could change people’s perceptions of what a book could be. Something that could find a publisher and be sold to a unique audience: young adults with short attention spans, parents and workers with busy lives, people who would love to read a book, if only it wasn’t for all those words! The potential was real. So, you’re probably wondering what I did next.

I stopped writing.

That’s right. In fact, I don’t think I’ve written flash fiction in about a month. I’m taking a brief hiatus, reflecting on feedback, and giving the project time to grow in my mind before I take any further steps. In the meantime, I’ve been on a new writing journey: writing anywhere from 300 to 1,500 words every single day and keeping a log of it for motivation. It’s a welcome change. After all, I’ll always have the desire and passion to write but, sometimes, doing the same thing on repeat can be exhausting. 

So, keep writing, but always be open to experiment with what you write, and how you write. Because you never know what opportunities trying something new might bring.


Thomas Nixon is a working-class writer from Sunderland, who specialises in immersive flash fiction. He recently interviewed renowned actor and novelist Paterson Joseph for Write On! and has produced several audio dramas in association with Sunderland Culture. He currently works closely and makes regular contributions to Pen to Print and Write On! Audio.


Issue 20  will be out on 10 April. Find it in libraries and other outlets. ln the meantime, you can read issue 19 online here and find previous editions of our magazines here. 

You can hear great new ideas, creative work and writing tips on Write On! Audio. Find us on all major podcast platforms, including Apple and Google Podcasts and Spotify. Type Pen to Print into your browser and look for our logo, or find us on


If you or someone you know has been affected by issues covered in our pages, please see the relevant link below for ​information, advice and support​:

So keep writing, but always be open to experiment with what you write, and how you write. Because you never know what opportunities trying something new might bring.