I do not like to write – I like to have written. ~Gloria Steinem
By: Stacey Purcell
Monday 6:30 am- Wake up, dress, eat cereal, drive to train station, wait on platform, and sit on train for an hour.
Monday 5:30 pm- Leave office, walk to train station, wait on platform, and sit on train for an hour.
This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, this scenario is practiced by countless millions, maybe even billions, of people around the world. So what does this have to do with writing?
Before I answer that question, I have a story to tell you about what a group of my friends and I have been doing. We meet every Friday at the best coffee shop ever (Drew’s Pastry and Coffee). It’s an open group, but there’s a core of four. Writers will stop in to visit, share their latest victory or defeat, brain storm or sit and stare blankly while the rest of us chat. It’s a wonderful time and every Friday is different.
The core of four consists of Melissa Ohnoutka, Jennifer Bray Weber, William Simon (Will Graham) and me. We call ourselves The Usual Suspects and have supported each other’s writing and careers for over 3 years. One Friday, Will had an unusual idea.
“Let’s write a mash-up.” He received silence as none of us knew what he was talking about. The accepted use of the word “mash-up” has to do with blending different genres of books into one.
That’s not what he was talking about!
He wanted us to try writing a collaborative piece. We’d mash up all of our entries into a cohesive story. The ground rules were easy. He’d start it off and we’d each take a successive turn, adding to the characters and plot. Once we’d been around the group twice, he’d finish it up. We were not allowed to talk about it with each other and there was no general direction the story had to go in. Who knew whether it would turn out to be romance, mystery or even steam punk!
We’ve just finished the story and it was a blast to be a part of something so creative. Just when you thought you knew where the story was going, BAM! It took a hard left and you were running down a different rabbit hole. The experience forced you to keep on your toes and get the character out of situations you had never thought of happening. Whew, what a workout for those writing muscles. Now what?
The story is very rough. Great ideas and great writing flow through the thing, but we have some plot holes you could drive a bus through! Since, we’ve never done this before, we’re making up the steps as we go along. Emails are flying between our group members. It looks like we’ll put together a list of items that needs to be corrected or tweaked before we meet to seriously edit. Sounds reasonable. After that we’ll get together with laptops and spread out across my dining room table for a “rip it apart” party.
So what does this have to do with the poor person sitting on the train for two hours every day?
Once again, the digital world has opened another avenue for writers. Almost all of those commuters, or anyone else who must wait around, have cell phones. Those cell phones have the capability of downloading stories. Traditional novels can be read, but it might be overwhelming to open up War and Peace on a tiny screen. Voila, the short story.
We’re all running around the mulberry bush in some form or another. Moms wait for their kids in carpool, waiters have 30 min. breaks, kids wait for the school bus and on and on. Why not make that time a bit more delicious? There’s a burgeoning market out there for stories that are short and well written, perfect for the phone. We’re creating our version of a mash-up and will sell it soon.
Stay tuned for next week. I’ll share an update on how we’re doing with our project and I’ll discuss the business side of stories for phones and other venues.
What about you? Have you done anything new lately? Tried a new genre? A new writing ritual? Come on now, you know you want to share!