Thursday, 22 July 2010

250 words for £250

This appeared in the Bath Chronicle on Thursday, July 15, about a competition within the paper. If you live in the Bath area, feel free to enter...

'I wanna tell you a story' . . or rather, I want you to tell me one.

For, as you may have seen if you have read the Bath Chronicle last week we have just launched a special short story competition which we want as many of you as possible to enter.

The competition is part of our celebrations of the fact that the Chronicle will be 250 years old in October. And so, because I am at heart a simple soul, to mark our 250th we have come up with a single prize of £250 and we are asking you to write, yes, 250 words.

That means whoever wins will be paid a pound-a-word and there can't be many other authors that could command such a fee.

The subject of the story is entirely down to you but it must have, at its start, a sentence that we've given you about the Bath Chronicle newsroom. After that it is all down to your imagination and from the entries we have already received, there is no shortage of that out there.

Of course, unless you work in industries such as ours, you may not have a concept of how big or small 250 words is but I suspect many of you will quickly discover it's not nearly as many as you think. This column, for example is around 580 words so I am asking you to come up with the beginning, the middle and the end of an engaging and entertaining story in less than half of this column's length. And trust me, it's not easy.

I know this fact because I have been accused (extremely unfairly in my opinion) of speaking and writing to great excess. It got so bad recently that one of my colleagues looking at the length of someone else's story described it as 'Holliday-esque'. I thought he meant it was a beautiful article full of dazzling insight but it turned out he just meant it was very, very long.

Harsh, very harsh.

Writing in a highly-succinct way does actually take great skill and I always remember being very impressed when I heard that at one time The Sun used to try to have a maximum of 12 words per sentence. Again, that may not sound too scary but just try it. Look at a story in one of our 'heavier' newspapers and try to distill it in Sun-speak into 12 words a sentence with not many paragraphs. Suffice to say you can't be Holliday-esque.

As for our contest, the first entries started to come in earlier this week and I have genuinely been impressed with all of those I've seen although many, sadly, seem to think life is somewhat more exciting in our office than in reality.

So, put your thinking caps on, find a bit of paper (and it doesn't need to be a big bit of paper!) and start weaving your story of an event connected with the Chronicle.

It could be something that has happened in the past, the present or the year 2050 but all you have to do is to make it as entertaining as possible, stick to the word limit and you could find yourself £250 richer.
And that will mean the Chronicle won't be the only people celebrating the number 250 this year...

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