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Jake stabs blindly, uncovers his eyes and finds the finger-grease print over a “thus.” Can he cut that? He’s not sure. He could replace it with a “so,” but no, this isn’t about letters. He has to trim it somewhere, and random selection isn’t working.

It had seemed so easy, in theory. He’d written whole stories in fifty before, in twenty-five; you just traced lightly and trusted your reader. But the rules here are harder, and he can’t just wait for inspiration anymore. There’s a demand. Every day.

Jake sighs. One hundred and one words is too many, and not enough.