My tiny home office is filled with cork and dry erase boards. The four cork boards hang on walls and all but one of them are covered with notes, story ideas, partial movie scripts, random scenes, and bits of dialog for upcoming projects. The fourth cork board is marked off for screenplay development. Note cards of descriptions are tacked to sections that read, Act I, Act II Part 1 & Act II Part 2, Act III, and Denouement.

Next are two dry erase boards free floating around the room. The small one, about 18” X 24”, is sort of a day planner. It’s labeled ‘Speed’ and it identifies upcoming work, and that work’s order of importance. (That’s the ‘speed’ part.) This board has two categories, Writing and Nuts & Bolts.

The Writing category, as should be obvious, is creating new stories. But it also includes revising, or detailed re-writing. (I have very few detailed re-writing tasks planned. If a project needs massive re-writing it’s probably a good idea to burn the damn thing over hot charcoal and move on. Revising, or tightening, or clarifying, well, that’s not so bad.)

Nuts & Bolts is the business of writing and the non-writing part of writing. Things like formatting for publication, cover design, and marketing. Both sides of the day planner dry erase board are full.

It’s the BIG dry erase board that scares me. It stands four feet tall, three feet wide, and it leans against the far wall like a hoodlum, smoking cigarettes, and thinking about stealing the car parked across the street.

The Big Board is sectioned off into 62 separate lines of activity. As I write this post I’m snatching glimpses of the stuff on the Big Board off to my left. (I never stare at it directly. Too dangerous.) I count fifteen short stories waiting for publication in a series of collections I’ve created called Dissymmetry. Those are just the stores that are done. (Two file cabinets – one metal, one electronic - house all the unfinished stories.) Some of the fifteen on the Big Board might need a little polishing, but it’s mostly Nuts & Bolts stuff holding things up here.

Also on the BB are the working titles of twenty one novels on the To Do list. The really scary part? Three are completed first drafts. Four are half done. The rest are plotted with some chapters already finished. Lots of work just waiting for time.

Waiting for time. Which brings me to Ten Minutes.

Earlier today I pulled a paperback from our home library. The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra. I bought the book some time ago but never invested any quality time with it because I was writing about eight hours a day and didn’t think I needed it. (I bought it before I had oodles of hours available to write.) Pilar’s premise is writing in ten minute blocks. Not because it’s the best way, but because it might be the only way what with day jobs and the other responsibilities of life.

I never thought I could write in short time blocks. Thought I needed a running start, like a freight train, where I could build up steam and then plow through until the early morning hours. And that’s how I used to do it. Today that doesn’t work. (Damn day job keeps getting in the way.)

So, I tried a Pilar Experiment. I got out my timer, set it for ten minutes, and wrote off the cuff as the timer ticked off seconds. Just wrote randomly, making it up as I went.

When the chime chimed I perused my Ten Minute Exercise. Keep in mind I didn’t backspace to correct typos. Didn’t restructure any sentences. Didn’t ponder any great literary meanings. (Well, I never ponder any great literary meanings, but you get my point.)

What I saw on the laptop screen was 426 words of a brand new short story that didn’t exist ten minutes earlier. So maybe I can write in ten minute blocks. That would be a good thing because ten minute blocks of free time are mostly what I have left.

Now I’m curious about what could I do in ten minutes with a plot already deigned? With a chapter or scene already in my head?

Of course, now, my day planner cork boards have to be adjusted. Have to add another short story to the “To Do” list. Working title…“Ten Minutes”. Yeah, the one I just did during my ten minute Pilar experiment. Because that story might just turn out to be something I could put my pen name on.

Plus I have to really read Pilar’s book. Might be some more gems in there. Thanks a lot Pilar, you just made my days busier. Geez.

-         Chester

 


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