Tag Archives: According To The Rules

Which 400 words would you delete?

deleteWriter’s Digest is holding their annual competition, and a friend forwarded me the info for it.

I always have mixed feelings about contests; they’re hailed as a great way for new talent to break into a market, but that’s only true if you win. And I cannot imagine that contests with cash prizes get fewer submissions than the magazines I submit to. Then there’s the entry fee to consider; submitting work for publication to a magazine only costs me postage. The WD contest charges $20 for the first entry and $15 for each additional entry. That’s quite a chunk of change just to have someone look at your story, and then (in all likelihood) discard it.

I haven’t yet decided to enter, but the contest rules create an interesting dilemma. The word limit for genre short stories (like science fiction) is 4,000. According to the rules, stories that are 4,001 words will be disqualified.

Perfect Justice in its most recent draft is over 4,400 words. And already I have feared that it didn’t provide quite enough character development, that the plot wasn’t intricate enough, etc. But leaving aside the question of possible improvements, which 400 words are non-essential to the story? Do I go find 400 adjectives and conjuctions I can cut? Or whole scentences? Or a whole scene?

What would you do?