Several months ago, we found out about a kindred site on the internet, Six Minute Story. We are kinda glad that we had never heard about it, because the concept is similar enough to Typetrigger that we might never have started if we'd known what founder Galen Sanford had created.
Six Minute Story issues prompts in the form of words or images, and instead of having a word count, members have a timer. While most of the responses are fiction (the header of the site calls it "a flash fiction experiment"), there are some writers who venture in other areas. Six Minute Story is as fun to read as it is to write on, and an active core community seems to be keeping tabs on who is doing what.
Luckily there is room enough in this world for many communities of writers. We asked Galen, a fellow Seattleite, a few things about his community and the short-writing experience.
TT: First of all, why six minutes?
Three minutes was too short, 12 too long.
TT: What is your writing background?
My AP English teacher told me I could write and, gullible as I was, I started writing. Pretty soon, friends bugged me if I didn't write. Now I just avoid my friends.
TT: In your FAQ it says that Six Minute Story is dedicated to constraints, as well as preventing "death by revision." both concepts that are central to Typetrigger. How do you think this improves writing? What lessons have you learned from six-minute writing?
Fiction is when we give ourselves the chance to empathize with characters and ideas we normally wouldn't – usually because our own subculture ridicules us if we do. The six minute constraint forces us to draw from what's obvious: the icebergs we navigate around if given the time. We might attempt this normally, when we decide to create, but when we revise we gradually push our treatment of our characters towards the middle, to make them salable. The impoverished irony is true human experience outsells pandering. And the real is beloved a whole lot longer.
TT: Is there a most popular genre or style of writing on Six Minutes Story?
According to our Genres cloud Drama, Fantasy and Romance are tops. Some of the most active members, like Tommy-Louise, skymar1998, and recently TimSevenhuysen of 50WordStories have led the way in these Genres.
The most popular style of writing is dialog. It's a compact, rapid, fluid way to convey exposition, character development and plot movement all at once. Some of the best examples come from bespectakate and davidjmcgee.
TT: What is the community on Six Minute Story like? Do your members know one another offline?
I'm not sure if they know each other AFK or not, as the majority seem to find the site through their friends on Twitter. At the moment the community is a loosely networked group of flash-fiction writers and a few rather anonymous and rather talented outliers.
TT: How do you write a six-minute story? Do you plan it out before you start or does it come to you as you type?
I usually get a single strong image and write around that. Six minutes only really gives you time for one scene.
TT: Galen asked members of the Six Minute Story community how they approach it, and here are some of their answers.
I ignore second thoughts, or self criticism on the six minute timer,
and I write only the first words out of my gut. Writing on the timer
forces me to take a single photograph, or premise, which I decorate
with the ideas I would typically ignore as being too far-fetched to
use. It prevents me from being left with a malformed manuscript and
opening paragraphs I excessively tend to.
-Cee Martinez (@dazedpuckbunny)
For me, the key is to relax and go with the flow. If I over think a prompt I start to panic and my mind goes blank, so I take a deep breath, click Write and go with my first thought. Some stories are more successful than others, of course, but I write better under pressure. I like knowing that I have a time limit and I have to get something down, because it stops me procrastinating. I rarely get everything I want to write down in six minutes, but I have a lot of fun trying. The main problem I have is repetition of words, which is frustrating on the read through but by then, it’s too late. I have to try harder to get it right next time.
-Katherine Murphy (@murphykam)
The six-minute stories I write tend to end up in one of three categories – stories I already have a vague idea about (possibly percolating in the back of my mind for a few days, before being shaped by a prompt), stories I have a clear idea for after the prompt appears, and stories that catch me by surprise. That last one is probably the most interesting – stories where I start off writing one thing but a chance phrase takes me by surprise and into a much more interesting direction, or where I get another idea that I like much more halfway through...
Ultimately, though, I just write – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are times when I just close the window, and times when I write something that I love that nobody else seems to.
-Kate Evans (@bespectakate)
When I sit down to write a six-minute story, I intentionally avoid giving myself any time to think. I navigate to the "Write" page, check one last time to make sure I'm not likely to be interrupted, then click inside the writing area and get started. I think anything else is not only cheating the system, but also cheating my own creative process. What I mean is that, for me, forethought and, er, "backthought" are very useful, but they can hamper the freshness and the uniqueness of my work. So I focus on pure creativity, and I only tweak my writing if I think I have a bit of time afterwards.
I never have a story in mind when I start the prompts, but most of my stories are true and/or are from experience. I click "write," look at the prompt, and sometimes the story comes to me right away and I can type for six straight minutes (I always run out of time before I can proof read). Sometimes, I write a few words, close the prompt, and go back to it. Other times, I read the prompt, close it, and think about what story I want to tell to accompany the prompt. My favorite prompts are the Images; it's much easier for me to write to what I can visualize, although my favorite 6ms submission ever is called "New Year, New Love," that I wrote to a free form prompt. Those prompts, to me, are the hardest; in the case of this story, the subject was just on my mind.
TT: I am curious, dear Typetriggerers, how these experiences compare to your own. I (Lily) gave Six Minute Story a try, and while I felt less intimidated because of the Typetrigger experience than I might have, it was a very different experience. I would love to hear from our community how you all approach a trigger, and if you try Six Minute Story I'd love to hear about the ways in which it is the same or different. Thank you Galen for taking the time to talk to us, and thanks to all the Six Minute members for sharing your insights!