Category Archives: Flash Fiction

Short Story: Assailing the Void (Flash Fiction)

Assailing the Void, a 930-word short-short (flash) science fiction story, is now available for the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords:

Cover - Assailing the Void - 200x300What lies beyond the labyrinthine confines of the city?

Georg Ventman knows only the dim, cramped world within the megacity of a dark future. He needs to stretch. He needs to break free. He needs to assail the void with a two-fisted gesture of exaltation.

A short science fiction story of escape from a dystopian future by Alistair Ainscott.


“Assailing the Void” Copyright © 2011 Alistair Ainscott, Published by Rapid-Dynamix Publishing

Cover illustration © Kydriashka |


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Filed under E-Pub, Flash Fiction, Indie Published Stories, Short Stories, Stories Available

2012 Writing Goals & 2011 Short Story Challenge in Review

I haven’t had time to post in a while, but I did tweet (@aainscott) my progress on my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 short stories in a year, which I revised on the fly to shoot for 50 stories instead– and this is how it went:

  • Dec. 1st: Short Story #40 mailed (flash fiction)– challenge met! How many more I can get done in December? Race score=33.
  • Dec. 2nd: Received rejection #100 on the year, mailed short story #41 of (another flash fiction piece). I don’t give up easy.
  • Dec. 12th: Finished stories #42, 43, 44. Two flash fiction pieces mailed to professional markets and a longer story which I moved direct to e-pub.
  • Dec. 22nd: Mailed stories #45-48 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge (three flash pieces, one longer short story).
  • Around this time I also got a really nice personal rejection letter from Flash Fiction Online, a professional SFWA-qualifying market: “I really enjoyed your story. It’s well written, with a lot of powerful imagery, and a compelling voice.” The problem? Oops, I exceeded the PG-13 criteria for the publication.
  • Dec 31st: Mailed story #49, about 7,000 words, to the Writers of the Future contest. Struggled with this one, the story just wouldn’t flow, but got it done.

Alas, I didn’t quite make 50– but I came really, really close because the short novel (~30,000 words) that I wrote earlier in the fall is incredibly close to being ready to go up. But my priority was to get something mailed to the Writers of the Future contest, so I had to bump that back to January.

My overall 2011 results were:

  • 49 new pieces of fiction completed
  • 152 manuscripts mailed
  • 122 rejections
  • 30 manuscripsts currently still in the hands of editors who might buy them
  • 14 personal rejections
  • 1 story currently shortlisted
  • 1 acceptance (“Piss Match,” Penumbra Vol. 1 No. 4, a professional-paying market)

So overall I’d have to say that 2011 was an unmitigated success on the writing front even though I fell just a tad short of the updated goal of 50 stories finished & mailed to professional markets or e-published online.

The 2012 Hundred Fictions Challenge:
Produce 100 New Pieces of Fiction.

For 2012 I’ve decided to go all-out. I hit a nice rythym the last quarter of 2011 so I think I can produce a lot more this year than last year.

My goal is 100 new pieces of fiction. Any length counts as long as I mail it to a professional market (or e-publish it). I like to write at flash lengths and to be honest I have had the most encouraging comments from the pro markets with my shorter pieces, so I see no reason not to keep at it, so long as I am writing a mix of longer pieces as well to keep building those storytelling muscles.

Because I want to stay on the learning curve for e-publishing I am also going to include in that count any e-pubbed collections of short stories, to give me an incentive to assemble those. But individual stories e-published don’t count.

I also will have 5 short novels in that count of 100 pieces, including the one just about ready to go up. Any length of about 15,000 words or more counts, i.e. any works that I would put up at $2.99 or higher. And at least one must be 60,000 words or more.

Other goals for 2012, in no particular order:

  • Do at least one POD (print-on-demand) book because I want to learn how to do that.
  • Practice writing faster. My typical pace is around 500-800 words per hour, sometimes up to 1000 or 1200 words/hour when things are going well. I’d like to more consistently hit that 1,000 words plus per hour range.
  • 250,000+ new words written.

My main goal for 2012, however, is to keep firing short stories at the professional markets. My race score topped out at 35 in 2011. I want to see how much higher I can push that this year, while still producing a number of novella/short novel length works.

So that’s it and I’ll look forward to shooting off short stories side-by-side with you as you progress on your own writing challenges. We can have a bit of a wild west short fiction shoot-out here on the rugged coast of the Pacific Northwest!

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Filed under 2012 Hundred Fictions Challenge, E-Pub, Flash Fiction, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

First Professional Sale & Short Stories #38, #39 Mailed


I’ve sold Story #26 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge– to write 40 new short stories this year– to Penumbra, a new speculative fiction e-magazine. And yes, they pay professional rates of 5 cents per word.

My story will appear in the January 2012 issue. I’ll post more details and a link to the magazine when I have them.

It’s also a milestone for me because it marks my first professional sale.

I decided to get serious about my fiction about a year ago. Really started to focus on finishing things, on mailing them out rather than endlessly revising the same unfinished stories. Started really paying attention to the advice given by professionals, especially Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. And yes, I learned a ton– and took in a lot simply by osmosis– when I attended the June 2011 Short Story Workshop (taught mainly by Kris, an award-winning editor and writer).

Now, I’m not sure I agree with every bit of advice they dole out. But you know what? They’re both established professionals making a living from their writing. They have been at this for decades. They know what the heck they are talking about.

So I listened, and I learned. And I’m still learning.

Making the sale is great, but it doesn’t fool me; I know I still have a ton to learn to bring my craft to a higher level. My job now is to write the next one, and the next, and the one after that. May sell or it may not. But I’ll keep practicing and learning new tools, how to tell a good story in a compelling way.

I have to admit the making the sale did get in my head for a few days. I found it hard to sit down and write. The idea that someone might actually publish these words I was writing, these practice sessions that I was setting down on paper, paralyzed me. Felt like the words had to be perfect, the story had to be great.

Well you know what? Some stories I set down on paper stink. I know that. I’m sure editors are sometimes thinking that when they send me form rejections.

But I also know that I’m wrong about that sometimes, and the only way to find out is to finish the story and mail it.

The story I sold is a perfect example. It’s a short, funny sci-fi story. In many ways the premise is ridiculous. I wasn’t sure the story even worked. I wondered if I should mail it out or just trunk it.

But I was wrong; it worked and it worked great, and an editor bought it. Sold the first time out, actually.

It feels great to have a story out there and published that never got rejected!

And really, it didn’t take so long:

  • I wrote that story just a little bit past 100,000 words of fiction written since I got serious about it. None of the stories from the first 100,000 words has sold yet, although I know at least one of them moved on to later rounds of reviewing (a piece I sent to ChiZine, a really tough market to crack).
  • It was the 73rd manuscript that I mailed out this year.
  • I wrote the story when my race score was at 20 stories in the mail; the acceptance came at 31 stories in the mail. (My race score at the moment is 32; the point for the story that sold doesn’t come off until it’s published).
  • The acceptance came after I’d hit 90 rejections.

Now it may be twice as long before I sell the next one, or who knows, one of the stories I have out might sell tomorrow. No way to know. But I feel like I’m on the right path and I’ll keep working at it. I’m sure I’m no exception and I have a million words of crap in me. Or heck, I’ve written so much non-fiction in my professional work that I may very well need two million words of crap to overcome that deficit.

But I know there will be some gems in there too.

I have gotten over the hump of the sale now and moved on to the next one. Mailed out Stories #38 and #39 in the last week or so.  Both are on the short side; #38 is about 1500 words, #39 is a flash fiction piece. But I’ve been learning a lot and having great fun writing a number of shorter pieces; one of them sold and another was shortlisted elsewhere before it ultimately got rejected. So it seems to be working for me.

I have story #40 nearly finished as well, so I’ll make my 2011 Short Story Challenge goal of 40 stories written and mailed probably by early next week.

So now I’m gunning for my stretch goal of 50 Stories finished and mailed by the end of the year, but it will be tough to get there with some upcoming travel for work plus the usual holiday distractions. But we’ll see. I’m going to take a run at this and see just how far I can get.


Filed under Accepted Stories, Dean Wesley Smith, Flash Fiction, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Stories #35, 36, 37 Finished

I wrote an ultra-short on Sunday night (the title is longer than the piece itself!). I dreamed the story in a state of semi-consciousness as I woke up, and jotted it down on the iPad. It’s so short I almost didn’t bother mailing it, but there it was, a bit of finished clutter taking space in my mental closet, so out it went.

I also finished off a 3,500 word story that I started last week, and figured out the ending for another flash fiction piece– a raw punch-in-the-face sort of story– that had been fermenting and just needed a bit of attention to reach that magical point of completion.

So, a little over 4,000 new words, and three more stories in my 2011 Short Story Challenge done. So, I’ll hit my original goal of 40 stories pretty soon here, and I’ve decided to go full out for the stretch goal of 50 stories. I’ve hit a pretty good pace recently so 13 stories in 7.5 weeks actually is looking pretty doable at the moment as long as I don’t get knocked too far off the pace by holiday distractions.

I also have some words in the bank already. There are first drafts of three or four more stories lingering from previous weeks that I haven’t mailed yet because they need some light editing work. I am discovering rather quickly here that I really hate editing, even though I have tons of experience doing exactly that for many years in my non-fiction writing. In the realm of fiction new words are king and that has been the constant focus of my attention this year.

In other news I received word that one of my stories has moved on to the final batch of stories being considered by a pro-paying market for an upcoming issue. So, it may sell or it may still end up getting rejected. Either way, my job is just to write the next one.

The mail brought six rejections (one story twice) and I mailed out five pieces. So, my race score has dipped to 27 despite the new work, until I figure out where to turn around some of those rejected pieces.

One of the new stories I also haven’t mailed yet because I wrote it with a specific market in mind that I wanted to sent it to first, but the market is temporarily closed. I will probably hold that piece until the market re-opens– if I send it out somewhere else it may not come back in time for the submissions window.

Or I may try writing another story for that same market and see which one I like best. I did this for the Borderlands 6 Anthology, which I mailed a story to a while back. I wrote and finished one story with the anthology in mind, but another idea was nagging at me, so I wrote a second, totally different story as well. Then I just mailed the story that I liked best to the anthology. Will the editors like it too? Who knows, but I feel like a took a good shot at it and sent them the best story I could write now.

UPDATE: Got all the finished manuscripts out in the mail (except the ultra-short; note to self: 25 word stories are not that marketable). Race score breaks 30 for the first time!


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Filed under Flash Fiction, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #30 Mailed

I sent short story #30 of my 2011 short story challenge, another bit of flash fiction this time, off into the electronic void a couple days ago. I’ve been writing alot of these short-short / flash fiction pieces lately, and at some point soon here I’m going to start running out of pro-paying markets to mail them off to.

But I’ve been having great fun with them, and it’s been a nice counterbalance while I work to complete the novella that I have pounding away on. I wrote 3,600 new words on the novella this week and I’m close to having that elusive end-to-end first draft completed. Then I will go back and layer in a few things here and there to properly set up and motivate the plot twists and character development and so forth that come later in the short novel.

Two more rejections since my last post, and three pieces sent out, so my short-story race score now stands at 24.

I want to e-publish some more short stories, collections of flash fiction pieces, and of course the short novel before the holiday season to see if I can pick up a few sales from all the new e-readers coming onto the market. But, I also need to balance that with my main goal right now of making some professional sales to the short fiction markets, which will help to get my name out there and give me better fiction credits for my cover letters.

We’re in the wild, wild west of reading, writing and publishing these days and there’s heady times a-coming. All I need to do is hold on tight and just keep writing no matter what, and the rest will follow.

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Filed under E-Pub, Flash Fiction, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011

Short Story #28 Mailed

I was on travel with the family this weekend, so no time for writing really, but I did whip out one short-short on the iPad for a short fiction contest. It’s the shortest story of this year’s challenge so far, but finished, titled, and mailed, so I’m counting it :-). I also wrote a 500 word fragment in which I have no idea where I am going, so I will shelve that for now and may or may not return to it.

This week I am focusing my effort on working up something to send to the Writers of the Future contest. The deadline is midnight on Friday so I’ll have to write this one fast and hard. This one will be a complete redrafting of a story that I wrote at the Kris ‘n’ Dean short story workshop. By redraft I mean I’m not even looking back at the original manuscript, just starting from a similar idea of what the story will be. It was a story with a nice rich, lush setting– setting is probably what I do best as a writer– and Kris commented that it was beautifully written but left too many story questions unanswered. And actually, at the time, I remember being relieved at her comments because all the same questions had been nagging at me as I wrote it– I knew I had left them dangling– but under a tight time deadline I hadn’t been able to figure out the answers. And a number of people at the workshop liked the story even as it was (we all read each other’s stories, in addition to a hefty writing load). As Kris said repeatedly during the workshop, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be finished.” Where “finished” means at least 3,000 words, with a beginning, a middle, and an ending– as well as that closing validation that gives the reader permission to leave the story.

My daughter was sick last night, so there was little time for writing, but I did manage to pound out an 800 word start on the new story for Writers of the Future, again on the iPad. I never would have imagined that the iPad would be such a useful tool for writing, and to be honest I only downloaded the iWork Pages application to study and experience how Apple handled a multi-touch word processor– professionally, I work in interaction design– but I’ve noticed that a hefty percentage of my stories are getting their starts on the iPad. So it seems to encourage lowering the mental filters that let words flood onto the page, and it’s a great “shim” device for wedging into those little crevices of writing time that appear here and there in daily life.

In the past week I also received 5 rejections and sent six manuscripts back out in the mail. That brings my race score for manuscripts in the hands of editors at pro-paying short fiction markets up to 22.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Kris 'n' Dean Short Story Workshop, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011, Workshops

Short Story #26 Mailed

I’ve been busy, both as a writer and in my high-technology professional life, since I last wrote here about my 2011 Short Story Challenge.

I completed short story #26 of my challenge a few days ago and mailed it. The whole premise of this story is so ludicrous that I almost can’t believe I went through with it, but who knows, it could end up being a really fun one, or maybe it will come back from editors with hate mail and threats of bodily harm. Hard to know– I’m just the writer.

So this might be one of those stories destined for the “Crimes Against Literature” folder on my writing computer (yes, I actually have a folder there with that exact name). But I mailed it anyway. I’ll leave it to the professional editors to tell me what I wrote and whether it’s any good or not.

On the publication front I received 7 rejections back from professional markets since the end of August and mailed out 12 submissions. That pushed my race score up over 20 for the first time and I feel like I’m just gaining steam here, so it will only be going higher as I write more and get more stuff out in the mail.

I also received my first sale from Kindle’s UK store, on Trinity of the Sands, so I can add another 26p to my treasury of short fiction. So, a shout of thanks across The Great Pond to whoever you are.

I had a pretty productive writing week this week, with almost 6000 words written in the 5 days where I was able to find some time to write. I’ve been trying to concentrate on writing 500 words a day, even if I’m feeling super tired, and that’s been working for me, although on one night I must admit that I fell asleep while getting my kids to bed and got nothing written. But on the days I did write that determination to write just 500 words, which seems so tantalizingly simple, often got me going and steaming well past that mark.

The thing I find I have to guard against is binge writing, where I stay up way too late and try to write thousands of words in one evening. I just end up burning myself out that way and get fewer words written in a week when I do that. Plus, I have to save some energy and brainpower for my professional work.

I’ve been concentrating most of my effort on the short novel, which has now steamed past 21,000 words and is getting close to completion. I have the ending already written and just need to fill in 2-3 scenes to complete the narrative arc, which I imagine will add up to somewhere around 2-4,000 more words. I also need to cycle back and weave in a few details and foreshadowing in the opening and a couple other earlier scenes, so a bit of effort yet to go, but I’ll get there soon. I may go just direct to e-publishing this one given its length. and to get some hands-on experience with e-publishing and print-on-demand for longer works.

I also have a professional deadline, a long weekend away, and then the deadline for the next quarter of the Writers of the Future Contest looming, so things will stay very, very busy for me through the end of the month.

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Filed under Flash Fiction, Novels, Short Novels & Novellas, Rejections, Short Stories, Story Challenge 2011