At my writing group this week we had a unique challenge presented to us. We were to create a piece of short fiction with a specific format & theme, and five words that must be included. Melanie gave me the criteria on the left. And all this in 15 minutes or less – it’s like the 48hour Film Fest all over again, and left me realising that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. Awesome feeling.
Umm, why? You see, we are hosting a table at the West Auckland Books & Writers Festival (September 7th, for anyone in Auckland who can make it), and we our selling our
souls stories – on demand.
Customers will have control over some aspects of the story (see the photo for more details), and then we’ll have about 15 minutes to get a story, poem, or something completely different out.
Usually, I have an idea and I get a bit of a brainstorm down. Then I run through ideas and scenarios in my head over the next few days (which may or may not include talking to myself in the car, supermarket and other public places), and revisit the brainstorm. I link up ideas, flesh them out, and explore a little. Back to my head to develop a beginning-middle-end, and it’s finally ready for paper.
There’s a whole bunch of edits happening as I write, then I type it up and change another lot of words, so by the time it’s on my computer it’s a week later and already been ‘edited’ three times!
Now, this just ain’t gonna happen in 15 minutes, which is why we were all super stressed and anxious and tense during the writing sesh. When we shared our pieces we had a good discussion about the difficulties of the challenge, and here are some of the solutions:
- Get all the ideas in your head down, not worrying about whether they’re wrong or right, then use them to refer back to as you’re writing. It’s like the camping version of a full-blown house plan.
- Look at the keywords, and put them in order of how they might ‘happen’. For example, sitting in front of the FAN –> the SUNSHINE is beating down on the conservatory glass window–> has a hole in it from mum having a breakdown at her TUPPERWARE party –> chucking the CUCUMBER out the window –> the PYTHON came in.
- Have a thesaurus with you. Or an equivalent app, or Shift+F7 on Word. Whatever works, but when you can’t quite get the right word, a thesaurus is your best friend.
Good enough is good enough
- The hardest thing to do is push through an idea you’re not 100% happy with, knowing you won’t have time to edit properly. If your piece is a story it needs an orientation, complication and resolution. If it has these it is good enough. If your piece is a poem it needs imagery, whether physical or emotional or something, and if it has this it is good enough.
- Get a really strong image of what you’re writing about – just one event or moment in time – and hold it in your head throughout the process. I think this was possibly the best advice shared that night, and important for all good writing.