Monday, 7 April 2014

Flash365 2014

Hello there.

Sorry I’ve not been around for a bit. Thought I would pop in, see if anyone is still here (hello?! hello?!) and tell you what I’m up to at the moment.

You see, I’m undertaking another one of my crazy projects at the moment, and I thought it was probably time to explain.

If you follow me on my various social media platforms, you can’t help but be aware that I have been writing like a man possessed and publishing a stream of books. But what’s all that about, I hear you ask. 

Well, over Christmas, I was thinking about my writing and the fact that 1. Having just finished the first draft of a novel, I had nothing on the go, and 2. That I hadn’t written any flash-fictions for a while and, seeing as that’s what I’m known for, maybe I should do some of that.

I thought back to my last flash-fiction project – flash365 in which I wrote stories and posted them to a blog every day for a year – and thought something similar might be worth attempting. There were two things which stopped me from simply redoing that project however.

The first was that, well, I’d already done it, and I was loathe to simply repeat myself. The other thing was that the idea of writing another huge selection of largely unrelated flash-fictions didn’t hold any allure for me.

It may sound arrogant to say, but there is now little challenge to me in the writing of individual flash-fictions. After a year of doing that, I know I can do it – almost to order. I have even started doing it as a party trick: standing up at events, conferences, etc., taking prompts from the audience, and writing a complete story in about five minutes while people watch.

So, what I needed was something with the size and scope of flash365, but with an extra challenge.

One of my favourite parts of flash365 was the stories I wrote in the November; the stories which became Braking Distance. The idea behind those stories was to set them all in a single place at a single time (in this case, in a motorway service station with the event of someone dropping a tray-full of tea mugs occurring in all stories). The result was a series of stories which interlinked and came together to form something akin to a novella.
 That, then, formed the inspiration for what I decided to call flash365 2014.

This consists of writing 365 stories across the year, but grouping them together in 12 collections. Each collection would be linked in some way, to make it a single piece of work, while being made up of as many flash-fictions as there were days in that month (31 for January, 28 for February etc.) And then, just to make life that little more difficult, I decided I would aim to actually publish these collections – on Kindle and Amazon’s CreateSpace print-on-demand platform – by the end of each month.

This means that in each month I would have approximately three weeks to write the whole month’s-worth of stories, and then a week for editing, proofing, type-setting, cover-design and uploading.

I think you’ll agree that this raises the bar set by flash365 to a whole new level of crazy.

As you will note, I am writing this on Monday 7th April. I started the project on January 1st, so you might be wondering how it’s going.

Well, so far, so good.

I started by trying to map out what some of the collections would be, what events, themes, characters, etc they would revolve around. And then I got stuck into the first one.


That first collection was to be set around the end of the world. I started off planning to set them all at the same time, but that quickly became impossible, because the narrative required events to move on, and surprisingly enough the end of the world is not a quick thing.

In the first story, I invented a character who then became strung throughout the collection. Whenever he appeared, time would have moved on – by a few hours, a day, a week, whatever – and that allowed me to set a section of stories in that new time period before moving on.

The result is, as I hoped, similar to a novella, but in bite-sized fictions that give me the scope of a novel, or a series of novels, in only a little over 16000 words. It allowed me to range through my most comfortable genres – horror and sci-fi – but also include a full range including some comedy, some love stories, some domestic scenes and so on.

I was very pleased with this first collection – and with the layout and the cover – and that spurred me on to the next collection.

Apocalypse is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version                         Amazon USA – Kindle version
Amazon UK – Print version                           Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

The Audacious Adventuress

For this one, I had decided to revisit a character I invented as part of the original flash365: Lucy Burkhampton, swindled heiress and mountain climber. She came from a month of stories written using the titles of Barbara Cartland’s books as prompts. The prompt which started it was The Audacious Adventuress, which to me conjured up a 1950s radio serial featuring an imperilled heroine who moves in each episode from cliff-hanger to cliff-hanger. The original story was corny and clichéd, fun to write, and surprisingly popular.

Since that first story was written, Lucy had had 8 more instalments, each plucked from different and separate parts of the putative serial. So when it came to the book I decided to incorporate the original stories and fill in the gaps. Though, I quickly decided, I wouldn’t completely fill all the gaps.

One of the charms of the Lucy stories for me has always been the fragmented nature of the links between them. Because no two stories follow on, you never find out how she gets out of her cliff-hangers, but by the beginning of the next story she is always in a new one. A large part of the overall narrative happens in the gaps between the stories and is told in shorthand in the ‘Last time on…’ sections at the beginnings.

I originally planned to write three Lucy collections across the year, but once I was into writing the stories, I quickly cut that down to two. While she is fun to write, each story requires you to come up with the details that have happened since the last one, the cliff hanger to start her in, the story itself and the cliff hanger to end her on. That’s a lot of work for only 700 words, and by the end I felt that I was starting to run dry. The second collection will be quite different, so I’m confident I will be able to complete that one, but it was at times a bit of a struggle.

Because of the way of writing, the second collection featured the 28 stories written especially, but also 8 of the original 9 instalments, making it a little over 22000 words in length.

Again, people have enjoyed it – for the adventure, the comedy and for the interesting structure of the book – and I’m pleased that something so different to Apocalypse could also work in the new ‘flash-fiction novella’ format that I was exploring.

The Audacious Adventuress is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version                         Amazon USA – Kindle version
Amazon UK – Print version                           Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

The Grandmaster

Having undertaken a series of sci-fi/speculative/horror fiction stories set around an event, in Apocalypse, and a parody of the serial adventure in The Audacious Adventuress, I wanted to turn my hand to yet another different genre when it came to the third collection.

In my original planning, all I had written down was the word ‘Crime’, so at least I knew what it was meant to be. What I didn’t know was what the story was, who the characters were, or how I was going to structure the whole thing.

I decided that I wouldn’t simply do a collection of disparate crime stories, partly because I find crime very hard to write within the confines of flash-fiction, and partly because another idea came to me.

I decided to see if I could cover the whole of what would make up a crime novel, but in just the 15000 or so words of a flash-fiction novella. By using this short form, and by implying extra bits of story in the gaps between the fictions, just how much could I cram in?

As for an idea, I went back to a novel which I started and then abandoned after I completed my MA, back in 2001. It was about a killer who was using murders as moves in a chess game.

Unlike the previous two collections, the hardest thing about this one was the plot. I realised that I needed to hit all the traditional beats of a crime novel – murders, clues, investigators, multiple suspects, red herrings – and simply deciding what to do on a daily basis wasn’t going to cut it. So very early on, with only a couple of stories written and a vague idea of the ending, I worked out what was going to happen in all of the stories and made a list to work from.

That made the writing process much easier, and then it became about how I was going to tell each story, and how I was going to imply the extra information.

The Grandmaster came out at the end of March and has also been well-received. At just over 12000 words it is the shortest collection of the year so far, but at the same time it tells the largest single story.

It has also done a good job of setting up a scenario and characters I could return to at a later date, perhaps in a full novel.

The Grandmaster is available from:

Amazon UK – Kindle version                         Amazon USA – Kindle version
Amazon UK – Print version                           Amazon USA – Print version

(For other territories, please alter the web address to suit.)

Lunch Hour and Beyond

And now we’re into April and I am working on book 4.

This collection will be entitled Lunch Hour and is a return to the structure I used for Braking Distance. The stories are linked but separate, creating a larger story from their interconnections rather than any continuing narrative. All the stories feature people who work in the same office and take place during a single lunch hour.

As with Braking Distance, this gives me the scope to hop from genre-to-genre, and to include the protagonists of some of the stories as minor figures in others. I’m only part-way in, but I’m enjoying it and think it will make for a fun collection.

After that, my plans for the year include the second Lucy Burkhampton collection (The Ultimate Quest); an entirely conversation-based collection featuring two more of my previously used characters, Bob and Jim; a collection of unrelated (or not) science-fiction stories; a family-saga spanning many years; a horror/ghost story collection; a time-travel collection; and, to round off the year, in December I will write a sequel to Apocalypse, picking up events a year later, called Post-Apocalypse. That will feature some of the same characters, but also some new ones, and hopefully resolve the larger story which was left hanging at the end of the first collection.

And then, just to cap it all off, I shall gather them all together and publish them as one huge book containing all 12 smaller collections. This will, of course, mostly appeal to completeists, but it will also provide me with a full record of the year, and a book on my shelf with my name in HUGE letters down the side!

Final Thoughts

Writing these collections is a fascinating project, and is already providing me with some academic, practise-based research material about flash-fiction and what it can do when used in these ways.

If you’re interested in what I’m doing, I’d love for the word to be spread about the books (and perhaps garner some sales!)

The collections are on sale as cheap as I can make them. In the month following publication the Kindle versions are only 98p, and then they rise when the next book comes out to only £1.53. The print editions are all only £4.99, so even buying one a month will hopefully not break anyone’s bank.

If you would like to write a review of any or all of the books and would like a free copy of the Kindle or PDF versions, please do get in touch with me at calum (AT) calumkerr (DOT) co (DOT) uk and I’ll send them over.

Also, now I’m back on here, I shall update at least once a month with how things are going.

There might also be some extra posts because I am currently turning my online courses (flash-fiction, life-writing and editing/rewriting) into text books. Stay tuned for more on those!

If you’ve read any of the books and enjoyed them, please let me know, but, more importantly, tell your friends. A project like this relies on word of mouth, so any help would be gratefully received.


  1. A great update on the life of Calum Kerr, writer and a fascinating insight into the 365 process. Three great collections complete, another underway. Brilliant.

  2. Oh. Thanks for the update calum. I like what you're doing now I sort of understand it. Big big lucky wishes and gosh you're so clever and brave and that.