Something new happened when I tried to submit a short story to a publisher via the platform Submittable. There was no option to upload my Word file. There was only a field to paste in up to the first 500 words of the story.
I looked at the publisher’s specifications again and they said they’d respond to submissions of the first 500 words in a few days, and then the entire story in a few months.
Of course I submitted the first 500 words (491 actually so I wouldn’t have things cut off in the middle of a sentence) and a day later, got this back:
Thank you for sending us the first 500 words of “XXX.” Your writing caught our attention and we would like to read your entire story. Please upload your full story and complete the requested fields in ‘Step 2’ under the Forms tab that now appears in your Submittable dashboard for this submission. We look forward to reading it in consideration for XXX.
I have since uploaded the file, but I think this illustrates an important point.
As writers, we’ve only got a limited number of words at the start of our tales to capture our audience. If my first 500 words hadn’t been compelling, the entire story would have gone into the bit bucket. I was a tad worried, since the “real” action doesn’t happen until later in my wee missive, but apparently there was enough human texture and mystery right at the beginning to make the editors want to read more.
We need to keep that in mind, especially newbies like me, when crafting stories. If you don’t grab the reader by the imagination right away, you may never have the opportunity to do so later on.