Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First 250 Words Smash!

As of May 6th, 2014: The submission box is CLOSED to new intros. We’ll only accept revisions from writers who have already sent in their submission and are still waiting, as well as resubmissions from writers who have been critiques and have revised their intro for a new critique. We’ll make an announcement on the blog when we’re open to new intros again!

What is this First 250 Words Smash thing? Sounds bad for the digestion.

IT ISN'T! Well, it might be.

We enjoy providing constructive criticism to those looking for it, but in this case, we're going to help you tweak ONLY THE INTRO of your manuscript. If you so desire, you can send your intro to us and we'll give you the best possible critique we can.

What you can expect:

  1. A critique on your craft, style, structure, word choice, etc. This means we'll be looking at how you've developed your voice and how effective it is. This is something you can apply throughout your whole manuscript, which is pretty darn awesome.
  2. A critique on how effective your hook and intro is. Conflict, tension, character, setting -- basically gaining a sense of the story and whether or not it's as effective as it could be.
  3. Our estimation on genre and age group, if applicable.
  4. Whether or not we would personally read on.
  5. We will not critique grammar and punctuation. We're more like beta readers, not editors, and so we will not make line-by-line corrections until we become absolute masters of the universe English. If we see a problem, however, we may advise you to check into it.

Make sure you read and fully understand the RULES and FAQs before submitting:

1.) The first 250 words must be from the beginning of your manuscript -- as in, the very opening, the first words that the reader will read, not three pages later, or the end of the first chapter, or chapter three where the plot is first introduced and it's really important and--no. The very first 250 words, whether it comes from a prologue or chapter one.

2.) Send UP TO 250 words, not more than. Get as close to 250 as you can.

3.) Do not give us ANY background information whatsoever. If you'd like, you can include a title/working title, but no explanations or excuses or tardy slips or what have you. We want to read the first 250 words free of bias. If you have to explain something about your story first, you probably need to rethink the intro.

4.) Please paste your text into the body of the email and simplify your text styling. (If you write in fancy-shmancy blue courier-wingdings-dingbats, that's fine...I guess...but strip all the fancy stuff and send us ugly, basic Times New Roman, font 12.) Please also remove any indents and separate your paragraphs with an extra line of space.

5.) Put "First 250 Words Smash" in your subject title.

6.) Sign with your name (or preferred alias), and a link to your public sphere domain, if applicable. These will appear when we post your critique, so choose what you're comfortable with the world knowing.

7.) You can add a heart if you'd like. We like hearts.

8.) By sending us your submission, you have agreed that we can post the critique of your text on the Keyboard Smash Writers blog and Tumblog (ONLY -- nowhere else, of course) for others to read. Our intention is not to put you under the spotlight and hurt your feelings, but to share advice with our fellow writing community friends, who will have the freedom to post their responses as well. Inflammatory remarks will always be removed. The sole purpose of the 250 Words Smash is to provide helpful critique and share it.

9.) Just because you submit your 250 words to us does not mean we MUST choose it for critique. The fact is that we are, like many of the human species, very busy. We enjoy helping and sharing what we know, it's fun, and to see a writer grow because of advice we've offered fills us with maternal-like glee. If it's clear to us that you did not read the rules carefully, we will critique the next writer who did. It's fair to us and it's fair to them.

10.) Keep in mind that these rules are subject to CHANGE at any time, so it's up to you to make sure you're as up to date as possible when you send your intro in. We will never, ever, ever do anything to trick you or take advantage of you -- that defeats the whole purpose of trying to help.


  • Why only 250 words?

The first 250 words is roughly the first page of your double-spaced, properly formatted manuscript. This is the hook, and hooks these days are so pivotal on bookshelves that share many books just like yours. One of the best ways to compete is to write a killer intro.

One of the methods I utilize in picking out my next book is to go to the bookstore, pull out a few I'd been noticing around the community recently, or books that had been recommended to me, and then sit down and read the first page of each. The winner is almost always the book that hooked me first -- or the book I didn't want to put down.

The big questions that we look at in the intro are these:

- Is the very first line grabbing, or is it wrought with cliches or gimmicks or deja vu or yawns?
- Does the following narrative drag us into the story right away?
- Is the character/author voice and style interesting?
- Would we read on?

We're tough, but toughness is necessary in this -- or any -- industry. If there's an issue, a writer must identify it and fix it. Keep in mind, however, we are only ONE opinion, and as an opinion, you don't have to trust what we say. We might be wrong. In fact, it would be good for you to believe whatever we say is poppycock, but to also be objective about it, and also be critical. Look at all feedback that way. Take it in, weigh it, and then make decisions.

But, we will never be that jerk in your creative writing class who speaks his opinion like an ass, because "that's the way it is in the real world!" No. That's not helpful, that's destructive. We're aware that our opinion is our own, and you always have the authority to disagree with us.

  • How can I improve my odds of being chosen?
Read the rules and FAQs carefully, of course, but also make your snippet the absolute BEST it can be. Revise it and re-revise it. Get your writing buddies to look at it first and then re-re-revise it. Spend quality time with it, tell it a few good jokes or share with it some hilarious internet memes. Love it, tuck it into bed, and sing it to sleep. We only want to help the serious writers who will take advice seriously, so treat us seriously and send us a serious piece.

  • What if I don't agree with the advice you've given?

That's cool.

Really, it is.

If you've kept an open mind, digested our suggestions, been truly and fully objective, allowed your other writing buddies to have an opinion, and still disagree with our suggestions, then rock on, cousin. Writing is so subjective, there's no set rules, and you know your story better than we do. Do what's right by you and your story. We are absolutely not offended, honest.

  • What if you or someone else take my ideas?

Firstly, I've got a million of my own ideas that I need to pursue first, and my life just ain't long enough to write them all. Seriously.

Secondly, you can't allow the fear of creative theft hold you back. I see this question a lot, and I used to be afraid as well, but you have to believe that regardless of whether or not someone borrows an idea from you (which you likely borrowed from many other sources, to be honest), that only you can execute it the way you can. No one else can write your story like you.

Hopefully, as a serious writer, you've at least considered, if you don't already have, beta readers. You need eyes that are removed from the story, that haven't spent months or years with these characters. If you're worried about a few pairs of eyes reading your work, then how would you handle an entire audience?

  • Can I send 251 words?

We will kill you flat dead. (As in, no, don't do it.)

  • Can I send 200 words?

Yes, but please keep in mind that we can only critique what you give us. If what you send us is so small that we can't even make a proper assessment of your writing, we won't critique it. (Yes, this has happened, so be wise about where you set the cutoff.)

  • Can you edit my 250 words without posting it on the blog?

Don't be an advice-hog! Sharing is caring!!!!

  • Will you critique the rest of my manuscript/what I have written so far?
Unfortunately, we can't. We try to do as much as we can with what you give us, but if we accepted the amount of requests we'd get, we would have no time for ourselves. We have obligations to ourselves and other people, and free time is usually spent sleeping and eating and using the toilet.

  • I've taken your advice and done some revising. Will you read it again?

Oh yes. We like to see growth and we like to feel that maternal-like glee. Send your revision to us with "R&R" marked in the title along with your 250 Words Smash post number so we can easily locate you.

  • Can we pick which one of you reads my 250 words?

Non. Chances are, if yours is chosen, the better match out of the two of us will pick you.

  • I don't like sending hearts.


Now that you've endured the laborious reading, please send in your intro! We're looking forward to hearing from you and spreading our overabundant wealth of writerly knowledge helping you. Send all emails to this address:

keyboardsmashwriters (at) gmail (dot) com

Per the usual protocol, replace the @ and period accordingly.