Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sixty-Minute Shorts

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay

Recently I decided that it would be fun to actually, you know, complete a project now and again. I mean, I love working on my novels,** but every once in a while it’s nice to have something finished and point to it and say, “Hey, that’s off my to-do pile.” And thus was born the “sixty-minute short.”

Because I'm pretty sure that adding a pic of
Cary Elwes will drive up blog traffic. :)
The idea is to spend no more than sixty minutes from start to finish on some little project that sparks your interest at the moment. I’m still deciding how to divide up that time, but right now I’m going for roughly this:

1. Ten minutes on planning
2. Thirty on writing
3. Ten on polishing
4. Ten on whatever else needs it

I finished my first one this week, and you can read it here. It’s a short retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale variant called “The Nix.” I shan’t overanalyze it much, but I will mention two things.

First, it was tough for me developing a story I actually liked in that period of time. Story development has always been very slow for me. Also, the time restriction meant that there was plenty of polishing, cutting, revising, and such that I would have done but just didn’t have time for. It was actually freeing in a way to say, “Okay, well, it’s over. Good enough.” And while I’m not perfectly happy with it, I had fun, and that was a big part of the point.

Second, my first draft was significantly darker. Many moons ago, when I was a teenager, I tended to write sort of depressing, bleak stuff (teenage angst, anyone?). Eventually I came to a realization that I didn’t want to write bleak anymore.*** For me, it was a copout—dark was always easier than pleasant. So I decided to revise that out a bit. I think it’s still the teensiest bit ambiguous, but I’m much happier with the ambiguity.

Well, analysis of my story over. Now it’s time for the encouragement! If you are so inclined, you should give flash fiction a try. It’s fun, it’s quick, if you hate it you can just dump it and move on!***** Write it up and polish it in an hour or less. And if you post it on your blog, share the link here so the rest of us can revel in your flash fictioning.
Writing flash fiction is like
crocheting stuffed animals.
No, really. It is.

Finally, if you’re looking for inspiration to draw from, Writing Excuses always has funny prompts, or you could just google “writing prompts.” Go have fun!

* No, I’m not talking about the kind of shorts you wear. I’m not even sure what “sixty-minute” would mean in that context, but it probably wouldn’t be good.
** Okay, “love” may be an optimistic word sometimes.
*** This is a long story involving my sister, a tv show whose name I can’t remember, and Cary Elwes.**** It is not particularly relevant at the moment.
**** I think probably all life-changing events should involve Cary Elwes.
***** These are some of the same reasons I crochet stuffed animals instead of afghans. Maybe I have an attention span issue?

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