top of page

p r o c e s s

J O S H U A   J O N E S   L O F F L I N

I’m a reviser. It’s rare that I write a piece that comes out fully formed, although usually the initial conceit of a piece remains intact. With this flash, however, I struggled getting to the heart of the story, to taking it from a place-centered to a more character-focused piece. I first drafted this story in response to a First Line submission call in which the opening sentence had to be “Loud music filled the room, making it hard to hear anything else.” This was in 2020, and apocalyptic narratives seemed rather apt. I initially envisioned the piece in a historic context, drawing inspiration from media portrayals of 20th century prisoner of war camps. In those initial drafts, Mousie was merely a minor character, a child guard who was as scared as the prisoners who embodied a collective first-person narrator. However, the main character was arguably the setting and was, in retrospect, too derivative, too dull and stale.

I worked on this draft off and on for a couple of years. I would revise a draft, let it sit while working on other projects, then months later look at it again and take a stab at additional edits. I even tried submitting a more polished version to a handful of places; I wasn’t surprised when the rejections rolled in. Something still wasn’t working.

A note on rejection: I get many rejections, as I know every writer does, but it’s rare that I stop believing in a piece once I’ve gotten it to the point where I’m submitting it. In this case, I quickly realized the piece needed a dramatic rework. (This realization was a gut feeling more than anything; I don’t have a set metric for when to pull a piece from submission; as long as I believe in a story, I’ll keep submitting it, even though it may garner dozens and dozens of rejections.) So I opted to set it aside until last year, when I enrolled in a SmokeLong Summer workshop (a workshop I highly recommend for anyone interested in the flash form). 

One of our workshop prompts was focused on disrupting the work-in-progress. We were asked to reframe a WIP from a different character’s point of view. Suddenly, Mousie came into focus with renewed energy, and I also knew I wanted to cast the narrative in a more modern or near-future setting. Now it became more important to let the setting recede somewhat, to elide details of the camp so that the characters came into sharper focus. In this new draft, Mousie has a love interest, a father and potential father-in-law, and at the center of it all, Mousie has fear and desire. It was this human longing that was missing from those earliest drafts, and it was only when truly revising, re-visioning, that the narrative came to life.

Joshua Jones Lofflin’s writing has appeared in The Best Microfiction, The Best Small Fictions, The Cincinnati Review, CRAFT, Fractured Lit, Moon City Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and elsewhere. He lives in Maryland. Find him online at

bottom of page