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Wretched, wretched word count 

A few things you should know before taking on New Times' 55 Fiction challenge

Here are 55 rules for New Times’ annual 55 Fiction contest:

Rule one: 55 words or less.

Two: Contractions count as a single word. So go to town with the shouldn’ts, wouldn’ts, won’ts, and can’ts.

Trois: Hyphenated words don’t count as a single word. Star-studded-sky? Three words.

OR ELSE…:  To submit your 55 Fiction tales to New Times, e-mail them to aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com, or mail or deliver them to 1010 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. If you are submitting multiple entries, please include a separate paper for each story. Make sure each story entered includes your name, city of residence, and contact information.
  • OR ELSE…: To submit your 55 Fiction tales to New Times, e-mail them to aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com, or mail or deliver them to 1010 Marsh Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. If you are submitting multiple entries, please include a separate paper for each story. Make sure each story entered includes your name, city of residence, and contact information.

Shi: Standard acronyms are a single word. Wanna bash the GOP? Well, GOP is just one word.

Fünf: The title is not part of your overall word count. However, the title is not to exceed seven words.

Sita: All stories must be at New Times by Monday, June 14, 5 p.m. Stories received after this deadline will be set aside for next year’s competition. No excuses.

Sette: Initials won’t sweeten your word count. Writing about New Times’ clever arts editor, A. L. Schwellenbach? Well, the A and the L just cost you two words.

All right, so maybe that fell somewhat short of 55 rules. To supplement, here’s some advice from the people who have the honor of reading 55 Fiction this year:

Don’t write an “after all” story. An after all story is a tale in which the protagonist turns out to be an animal, a twist that is revealed in an “after all” sentence at the end of the story. For example, Minnie wet herself at the beach, after all Minnie is a labradoodle. Don’t re-hash old jokes. If Timmy’s dad gets in a car crash and the doctor at the hospital can’t operate on Timmy because they happen to be his parent, we all know the doctor is Timmy’s mother. That’s not an original idea. Also, use spell check. A beautifully written entry might find itself in the trash bin if it’s riddled with spelling errors. And though there’s no rule against submitting hand-written entries, typed submissions are much easier to read. And easier to read means happier, kinder judges. If you’re planning on submitting multiple entries, give each story a separate piece of paper and make sure that each paper has your name, city of residence and contact information. Winners will be printed in our July 1 edition.

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