Springtime brings hope of better weather, a later sunset, and loads of writing contests. I’ve entered a few.
Most require you to submit the first 250 words of your manuscript. It can be less, but rarely more. With the entry date getting close you analyze each of your words, making sure each one is necessary and moves the plot forward.
Many literary agents will also only request the first 250, so the time spent polishing your opening is time well spent. But what about the next 250 or the hundredth 250 or the last 250? What would happen if we gave the rest of our stories the same treatment – like every 250 words in your story?
I tried it out for the first forty 250s (10,000 words) in one of my stories. Here’s what I did:
- I highlighted in red the second 250-275 words. That way I could focus on just those words. I treated the section just like I did with the first 250 – analyzing each word, sentence structure and placement, and deleting what was not needed. If this was all someone read would it hook them enough to continue?
- I checked the 250 for grammar and passive voice, read it out loud, and then moved onto the next 250. Most sections took a few minutes, while others took maybe ten minutes when deficiencies were found.
The results have been amazing, especially with my protagonist. His voice was missing or confusing in some parts and I was able to strengthen that shortcoming because I was only focusing on a short piece.
Once I get to the halfway point, I’m going to start at the end and work backwards, again only focusing on 250 at a time. The only drawback is time. It takes a lot of it to accomplish this rewriting feat.
Give it a try even if you don’t end up going through your entire story. It will be well worth the effort.