Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Egg Timer Test

Week of October 2—Recent Lessons Learned from Editors
Thursday, October 6—The Egg Timer Test

I had never heard of this idea before, but it’s a great one. An editor from a major publishing house recently wrote me a letter that included the following:

“Your story passed my egg timer test. I could read the entire story within the time it took for an egg to cook.”

Ok, that’s even fun to read! J What a great tool for us to use to gauge the readability, pacing, and length of our manuscripts. We know that 500 words or less seems to be the industry standard for picture books right now. (I’ll admit I have manuscripts that are longer than 500 words, but seldom longer than 500 words, and never over 600 words.) The egg timer is yet another way to determine the length of our stories.

Some 500 word manuscripts are difficult to read. We may stumble over parts and have to reread. So being under 500 words alone may not tell us if the book passes the editor's test. The egg timer test shows if the book can be read in three minutes. Why three minutes? The editor is gauging the reader's and listener's attention span. Remember, the reading time will be lengthened once there are pictures to look at and talk about, pages to turn, questions to answer, and so on. And, of course, we want the listener to say, “Read it again!” This editor has found that three-minutes is the just-right length for text to ensure everything else listed above can  be accomplished within the reader's and listener's attention span or time constraints.

Is it scientific? Probably not. But I’m still buying an egg timer to set on my desk and to carry to critique group meetings!

Time it, baby!

No comments: