The 2012 Royal Ascot is Complete
Please look for the 2013 Royal Ascot early next year.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The 8500 Word Limit: What Does It Mean?

One of the hardest things to work out in running a contest is the size of the entries. If it's a page count, then some contestants will always have the problem of being a page or two over the limit for the portion they want to submit. But there has to be a limit somewhere. So why did we set the limit this year as a computer word count?

Years ago, the Royal Ascot started out being a "First Chapter and Synopsis" contest. Sure, yes, Prologues could be included. Had to be 30 pages or less, synopsis no longer than 10 pages. So contestants were often forced to do what I call "cramming" in order to get the material they wanted into their entry. I know. I was entering in all those years.

Well, we decided that yes, sometimes an opener really needed to be two chapters long, and that would be okay if it stayed in the page limits. So contestants were soon trying to figure out how to turn three chapters into two. And cram it all in. One year I saw an entry with six chapters and I knew we had to make some changes.

It's really not fair if some people double space and others space at 1.435 or whatever. Should we limit the number of lines? It doesn't work if you don't specify a font. And some people dislike it if we tell them what font they have to use. I once saw a contest entry in 8 pt. Arial, with line spacing that was barely over single, and every sentence in not more than one paragraph per page.

The only thing that keeps the contest entries evenly matched in the beginning is to specify a computer word count. We set it at 8500 words. This, frankly, is more than equal to what a 30 page manuscript that an author would submit to an editor would hold. It's more than equal to "the first one or two chapters and up to ten page synopsis". That's a shade over 283 words per page for a 30-page document, and that's a lot of words on a page.

Computer word count. Not page word count. Not a "250-word-per-page" estimate (which would actually work if you're using Courier 12 pt, and probably would make it for Times New Roman too, if you're not cramming). I'll accept a count in Word or Word Perfect. Or even Open Office. And I do verify. So now that's settled, you don't have to worry about squeezing words onto pages. You can just double-space normally and use a nice Times New Roman 12 pt font. Go back to no more than two chapters. Don't try to make it three. Shorten your 15-page synopsis because you really shouldn't send one that long to an editor anyway.

I've written a few other blogs, mostly last year, on how to shorten entries, writing a better synopsis, etc. You'll find them in the archives of this blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment