I recently taught a great group of short story writers in my workshop for The Quebec Writers Federation (QWF) called Re-Vision: Shaping Short Stories. The class was about literally looking again at your pieces and shaping them in a sculptural process.
I was pleased folks brought in stories in all stages of draft form. When a piece was promising but went out in many directions, I would ask the writer to tell our group--IN ONE SENTENCE--what's the story? It was a great discipline to focus one's thoughts, ideas, and distill to the bone.
Of course a great story has numerous themes. But I think a great story can also be distilled down to a sentence that will express it's core.
Just back from TO and The Canadian Jewish Book Awards where we winners, btw, were asked to speak for 3 minutes and many spoke for 15! (Ah the limelight)! I am off this end-week to New York City, home of my birth to the Jewish Book Council's "Meet the Author" event, where we will each pitch our novel in two minutes.
So, I have distilled the essence of The White Space Between down to a cogent two minute talk.
The JBC has a great coach who worked with me on several drafts and guess what? You can say a hell of a lot in two minutes. Try it. It's bracing.