Monday, August 23, 2010

Hundred Word Exercises

Yes, I have entered another flash fiction writing contest. I. Love. Prompts.

I know it takes a good 30 minutes or so that I really don't have to do these things, but their purpose is two-fold.

One: It's fun. I love crafting something that uses specific words within a limited constraint. In this case, five distinct words had to be worked into a story of 100 words or less. It's challenging, and I really like to do it.

Two: It reminds me, that in my longer format novels, every word matters. Once I've revised for the fourth or fifth time, what I'd really like to do is burrow into the book in 100 word chunks. Have I done each chunk justice? Are there extra words I don't need? Is there a better way to say something? If I have a 25 word description, would it be clearer and more vibrant written another way, using 20 words?

I don't want to rip the heart of the book out or anything, but honestly, when I'm at 103 words in one of these writing contests and I have to trim it to 100 or less, it's not about finding 3 words I can delete. It's about looking at those 103 words as a whole and figuring out how to say what I want to say just as well or better using 3 fewer words.

And truthfully, it usually improves the passage to find a way to be more brief.

I don't really want my word count to change much in my 45,000 word middle grade novel, but if I was at 40,000 words and it was way better, then I'm not going to complain.

I recently reworked the opening to eliminate a confusing description of a bridge and I found a couple of tense inconsistencies (Egads! They're still hiding in there? I think I finally got them all.) I've got a full and a 50 page partial out there. Oh, and a partial from, like, April. I don't even consider that one active anymore, but maybe it is?

Both the agent with the full and the one with the partial are agents I would LOVE to have, so we'll see. My book doesn't make anyone cry. When I wrote it, I was specifically going for "something fun to read." It doesn't seem like "something fun" is really big right now. There is some thought provoking middle grade out there that I absolutely adore, but when it comes to my MG, mostly I just like to laugh and be amused. Think early Gordon Korman. That's what I was going for. Is there a market for that right now? I hope so!


  1. Yeah, it's true that every word matters. I've gone through my ms. at least fifteen times and every time I find at least one word I want to change. At some point I just had to say, "Enough."

  2. Good luck with those requests, Penelope. And I wouldn't give up on the April one yet. Have you thought about sending a short, polite e-mail to check on the status?

    P.S. You took second place in my contest:) Hop on over to check out the details.

  3. *I* like "something fun." I think publishers are asking the wrong people. I love something fun stories! Keep at it and remember how fabulous it is that you have a full and partial out.