A Writing Challenge – Come Up With A 5 Minute Read


Many years ago I had an idea. It was a bit wacky. It was the result of one of those corny ‘Let’s all brainstorm a novel new way to spread our written work into new markets’ sessions you have now and then in creative writing groups.

Even all those years ago I realised it was impractical but I rather liked the concept. I even made a ‘mock up’  just for fun. What was it? Read on.

I came up with this bizarre idea that I would design one of those flip open top cardboard cigarette packets that we get (got) in the UK and fill it with ‘short stories’….printed and then rolled up like cigarettes. Eh? Yep, exactly.

The idea was you walked up to a kiosk, maybe at a railway station, and the conversation went something like this….

“20 Short Stories please.”
“What genre, pal?”
“Do you have any sci-fi?”
“Sorry mate. I’m all out of sci-fi. There’s been a run on ‘em. Fancy a pack of historical romances?”
“Not today thankyou.”
“I could do you a packet of five if you’d prefer?”
“Is that a packet of 20 Horror Stories there, under the counter?”
“Fresh in this morning squire.”
“I’ll take those thanks.”
“No problemo. A fiver to you guv.”

Something like that. Then you flip open the pack and take out one of the roll-ups and there is your short story….the pack would have a really smart design too.  When you’ve finished reading your story, a good five minute read, you roll it up and slip it into the box and flip back the lid.

Well, I liked the idea. I still do as a matter of fact. You could sell them from a vending machine perhaps? And it has set me thinking….about how you might do it these days? Online?

I read at a speed of around 270 words a minute. I’m not saying that’s slow or fast it’s what I’m comfortable with, and that means a five minute read is around 1,350 words.

How cool would it be to collect together online 20 short stories in a particular genre (around 1,350 words) and offer the stories as a ‘pack of 20 five minute reads’? As I say, it would need a really slick design……but would it work? Probably not. But it’s a fun thought.

And I definitely do like the concept of the ‘5 minute read’….I think that might appeal. Any thoughts?

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About writegoodbooks

I help new writers become published authors through self-publishing. I also offer writers the chance to have their work converted into Kindle eBooks and publish them on the Amazon Kindle store.

6 responses to “A Writing Challenge – Come Up With A 5 Minute Read”

  1. Dave Higgins says :

    It sounds like a great concept, although I read very fast so would probably finish a packet before the train arrived.

    It is also quite similar to how the Penguin imprint apparently started; so might be acceptably mundane to gather backing from more cautious sources.

  2. Michelle Proulx says :

    That’s a really cool idea! My one concern is that 1,350 words runs two or three pages, single-spaced, on letter-sized paper. So if you want to fit 20 of those into a cigarette pack … not sure on the logistics. But the idea’s awesome!!! I’d definitely buy something like that.

    • writegoodbooks says :

      Yes you’re absolutely right about the length of the text being the issue. I can’t remember how I did it….it must be back in the 1990;s sometime. Probably just after I moved into computers, so maybe 1995….I vaguely remember I printed the five short stories out on a sheet of A3 paper and guillotined them into long strips, text on both sides. I was able to read the text okay too in those days without specs…….

      I love making things out of paper and card so any opportunity I get to mock up a project I’m onto it like a shot.

      I do remember fitting 5 stories into a pack though and having the flip lid cigarette-packet type carton. I loved it.

      There were all kinds of design possibilities too for the box….also in the 1930’s over here in the UK we had ‘cigarette cards’ inserted into every packet of smokes…and you collected the set of 26 cards on a multitude of subjects and stuck them in albums.

      Maybe 2013 you could stick a card in there too with a small image and a link to an image on a website, the work of an up and coming artist let’s say, and you download those images and ‘stick’ them into your own website….?

      One final thought….the real joy of the ‘packet of stories’ was the FEEL of the object itself….it was fantastic.

      I probably still have the mock up I did, somewhere in and amongst all my clutter, but it would take me years to find it. Shame. Mind you I could always design another………I’ll have a think about that.

      • Michelle Proulx says :

        5 instead of 20 sounds much more doable. And I never knew about cigarette cards! That sounds really fun to collect — and talk about a great marketing strategy! This is a really cool idea, and you sound like you’re really into it, so you should definitely design another! You could start a revolution in short stories 😀

  3. writegoodbooks says :

    Michelle….you really must have a look at some wonderful examples of ‘trade cards’ given away with cigarettes….Here is a link for you to check some of them out

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cigarette_card

    We also used to get these ‘trade cards’ with packets of tea in the 1950’s…..some of them are now very collectable.

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