1000 Word Sprint Guidance and suggestions: the GOAL of a Sprint (Space Island)

Word Weaver SPRINT 1There are two goals to a 1000 Word Sprint Contest. You will be creating a short story or story segment, sure, but also something else.

The first goal is: Get your story up and running as quickly as possible.

The 1000 word limit will force you to be thrifty with your verbiage.

The second goal is to make it as complete as possible within those 1000 words.

In George RR Martin’s prologue to the first book of Game of Thrones, within 200 words you have a very good feel for the setting and the characters.

200 words, and the guy writes stories the size of phone books.

How was that done?

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First, as always, you put down whatever your idea is. Get it out of your head and into the computer or onto the page. Then you go back and you analyze each sentence to make sure that it is bringing as much value to the equation as possible. That it has as much storytelling in it as it can have.

Then you look at the paragraph and perform the same analysis.

  • What can I add to flesh it out?

  • What can I take away to get there faster?

Then you go back and you look at verbs and say: Am I saying “went” when I should say “run”? Am I saying run when I should say sprint  – or darted? Am I saying someone looked, when they should be having their eyes dart about the room, or glancing over their shoulder?

Choices matter. Some words bring more to the table than others, setting your mood but doing it faster.

The 1000 word limit challenges you to get there quickly but still bring a lot of information.

As you look at your story a second and third time, you will see areas where you have been slightly repetitious. Cut. You will think of one or two extra words that will round out a line or phrase better. Add. Hint at stuff that comes later; it’ll be intriguing – and readers will want to know more. Reference stuff that the characters know but the audience doesn’t – and doesn’t need to!

Like in Pulp Fiction, when the pawn shop guys were going to torture Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames.  “Wanna use Russell’s old room?” Who’s Russell? Why isn’t Russell there anymore? What happened to him? Also, what was in the dang briefcase, anyway?

Who cares?

The characters need to know that (and the author, I guess), but not the reader. Not always.

But this is art, not science. It’s condensing the 1000 words without losing anything – and it will teach you to start your novels and other writing in a much more interesting way. (That’s way handy.)

For example, look at the following two passages.

They’re both blurbs of roughly the same length, approximately 150 words.

They also basically deliver the same basic information.

If you are paying attention, this will probably be the basis for a future contest and subsequent anthology – NOT the one in July – but expect another one after July. All kinds of stories can take place in and around this strange new place. And if you think you can’t write a space story, you are wrong. Love can happen in space. Cowboy stories can happen in space! Wasn’t Han Solo in the original Star Wars just a kind of cowboy? Of course he was. And he rode in to save the day at the end, too! Total cowboy move, Lucas. Almost any story can take place in any setting, so you can write a story that could take place in space. Get your brain wheels turning in that direction, but not before July because July is a different story challenge!

Anyway, if you look at the following two passages, you will see the blurbs are different. You’ll see where we condensed some things to make each bite have as much flavor as possible.

Version 1

Space Island. In order for astronauts to reach Mars, the President asks for creates several refueling stations to be placed along the route. These would have to be stocked with air, food, water, and rocket fuel, since part of the problem of a long journey is you have to take your fuel with you. So instead, you send it up first, and like the old pony express where a fresh horse awaited riders every twenty miles, you’d get new fuel cells along the way. The docking stations would be like a series of international space stations. They would be like space islands. Rocket maintenance crews would live there, and eventually other people, because the ISS has shown muscle deterioration will occur during long space flights.

So somebody would have to run the bar on space island, and somebody would have to clean the toilets.

And when a murder happens, somebody would have to investigate.

154 words


Version 2

Space Island. In order to achieve the new U. S. President’s ambitious challenge of sending astronauts to Mars and returning them safely, NASA creates several docking stations along the route. Similar to the International Space Station, but much larger, these “space islands” are stocked with booster rockets and other supplies, and are inhabited by employees selected from nearly every country on earth. Rocket maintenance crews and other support teams sign up for a two-year term to perform any mission-critical functions that may occur during the hazardous journey. But since long-term space travel creates crew fatigue and physical side effects, recreation elements were introduced as well.

Somebody has to run the bar on Space Island and somebody has to clean the toilets in the gym. Somebody has to manage the hotel.

But when the first murder in outer space happens, somebody has to investigate – without creating an international incident and getting the fledgling Mars program shut down before it begins.

160 words

These are just examples. If I spend time on it tomorrow, it’ll get better. I’m just showing what I do, and what you can do.

Condense your wordage.

Look at this message: “Analyze each sentence to make sure that it is bringing as much value to the equation as possible. That it has as much storytelling in it as it can have.” Compared to this one:

Each sentence must do as much storytelling as possible.

See? Same message, condensed.

Bring as much flavor to the story as you can. Make each bite dazzling.

And do it in 1000 words.

The official contest announcement is coming soon, but a big hint was given yesterday.


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Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 50+ titles published in more than 120 countries and over a dozen languages.

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