Today I'd like to introduce author Sheila Deeth, a lovely lady who I've known from Gather.com from a long way back. I read her book, Divide by Zero, which I found very intriguing. Today Sheila shares with us her tips on how to write a five minute story! See what you think, and please comment below to start a discussion. ;o)
Aaron Paul Lazar
1. First choose your topic. If you’re writing stories in a series this should be easy. The topic chooses you. Otherwise, empty that drawer filled with untold story ideas. If it’s a metaphorical drawer, empty your head instead. Toss ideas in the air and catch one. Failing that, toss a coin. Time: as long as you like, but if you’ve only got limited time, give yourself five minutes, then pick something at random.
2. Next choose your approach. Five minute stories are short. You won’t have time to give backgrounds to all the characters. In fact, you may not even have space to include all the characters. Decide why you’re writing this story. Narrow it down to a single reason, or a single reader with a single reason to read, and you’re ready to go. Time: ten minutes, followed by five while you change your mind, ten more, then several car-rides, or… give yourself five minutes again and pick a reader at random.
3. Now write. A five-minute story fills about one page, single spaced, 12-point font. If you’ve filled half the page and nothing’s happened yet, speed the story along. If you’ve filled the whole page and nothing’s happened yet, consider rewriting it or changing #2. Time: half an hour.
4. Then edit. Sometimes the story’s too short. Knowing it had to be only a page, you ran through people and events and ended up with two minutes plus change. This is the stage where you put back a few descriptions, add some dialog, thread the most important concept, or key-phrase, back into all the scenes so the story hangs together. If instead you’ve written too much, here’s where you go back to #2. Did that scene have anything to do with the approach you were planning? Okay, so it’s great and it’s beautifully written, but it doesn’t belong. Cut it. Reuse it somewhere else. Time: half an hour to an hour.
5. Next, you need to read your story, aloud. Five minutes isn’t long. You can afford five minutes to listen to yourself, and now you’ll spot where there’s too much repetition, where you can’t tell who’s speaking, where too many “the”s make the reader start to stutter, where the story ought to pause but the voice goes rambling on (or vice versa of course), and where the story itself goes off on a tangent, leaving you (or your reading voice) thoroughly bored. Time: You’re guessing five minutes aren’t you, to read a five-minute story? But it’s not. You’ll have stopped at every glitch and struggled to fix it before reading on. Allow another half hour.
6. By now, all those fixes are bound to have created a wealth of new mistakes. You changed “walk” to “run” and forgot you had the word “run” in the previous line. You made Mom say “no” when she’d only just said “yes.” You had Peter reply when you’d actually edited him out. Repeat step 5 silently, then repeat it aloud, until you finally manage a whole read-through with no stops to change things around. Time: about an hour
7. Then rest, and let the story rest too. Time: a day, at least.
8. After which, you read it again. If it still sounds okay, you’re done. If not, repeat steps 5 and 6, or reconsider #2.
How to write a book of five-minute stories
Make a list of story ideas. Order them. Decide who your audience is. Then start from step 2 above with each story in turn. This time your approach has to stay consistent but mustn’t stay the same. Forty stories, all illustrating “more haste less speed,” will get really boring really quickly. But forty stories illustrating forty different proverbs—that might work.
While one story rests you can work on another. While one set of characters refuse to recite their lines, you can tell a different subject what to do. And when your voice is tired of trying to read aloud, you can write some more instead.
When you’re finished, you might need reordering the stories again, so similar ones don’t merge in amorphous blobbiness. Check you haven’t called every bad guy Alan too, or Alans who read it might decide they don’t like you. Don’t call all the good girls Lucy or Alana either.
Time: six months. Then let it rest. Re-read, aloud. Re-edit. And send it off to your publisher.
Bethlehem’s Baby is a set of 40 5-minute read-aloud stories set around the time of Jesus’ birth. Wander the roads from Nazareth to Bethlehem and beyond. Meet a shepherd boy and his grandfather, a student and his professor, or a cousin and a priest who loses his voice. The stories cover the birth and childhood of Christ through the eyes of family, strangers and friends, bringing to life the people of an era usually shrouded in Christmas carols and tradition. At least, that’s the intent. It’s the sixth in the Five Minute Bible Story ™ Series, published by Cape Arago Press, and the first New Testament entry. I’m working on Nazareth Neighbors now and hoping for a release date before Christmas, but all it depends how fast the second six months of the year go by.
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit here, and thank you for the warm welcome.
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