Is there anything more energizing than a time limited prompt driven writing competition? It gets the creative juices flowing, often enable you to connect with other writers, provide (ideally) constructive feedback and stresses you to no end.
Going through a lot of pregnancy complications this year I’ve had a hard time writing at my regular schedule but the competitions enable me to push through it and produce stories which (after a few rounds of revision) I’m proud of and can send out to magazines and websites.
Most of the competitions below are yearly so you can already start planning the 2023 writing year.
The giant in time limited prompt competitions with five fiction competitions and two screenplays every year. You placed into groups and get three prompts such as genre, object, subject, word etc. and off you go.
During the last three years, I have participated several times in all competitions except for Screenwriting. Not only have I had lots of fun, written stories I would never write otherwise, and developed as a writer based on the feedback from both judges and the very active peer review forum, but also found a great writing community to workshop other stories.
The first year I participated I signed up for everything I could and did not move on to round two in any of the challenges, but I learned every time and with both improved skill and a truckload of luck I won the 250-Microfiction Challenge in 2021 and got an Honorable Mention in the Short Story 2022 finals!
I have written 25 (great and horrible) stories ranging from 100 to 2,500 words that would never have excited if I did not discover NYC Midnight, so while the price tag is rather high for a writing competition it is absolutely worth it (from $24 to $52 depending on the competition, get a $5 discount by promoting on social media).
Competition overview—Round 1 dates based on 2021/2022 challenges
January: Short Story (2,500 words)
March: Screenwriting (12 pages)
April: 100-Words Microfiction (100 words)
June: Flash fiction (1000 words)—My personal favourite!
August: Short Screenplay (5 pages)
September: Rhyming Story (600 words)—NEW for 2022!
October: 250-Words Microfiction (250 words)
The Writing Challenge is similar to NYC Midnight but newer, smaller and with a few exciting additions.
This is how it works:
Draw prompts! Everyone gets assigned prompts such as genre, character and object at the same time, have two to five days to write and a set word count depending on the competition
Write! Here is where it mixes it up! You get a set number of “redraws” meaning that if you do not like your prompts you can take the risk to exchange what you have for an unknown new prompt. Where in NYC Midnight everyone in the same group has exactly the same prompts here there is almost an unlimited number of combinations—which version is better is up to you!
Judge! Stories in the same genre go head-to-head and the writers from the other genres are the judges. How does this work in practice? In the month following the submission date you will get five battle dates where two stories are shared with you. You write constructive feedback for both and decide on a winner. The final two stories in each genre are shared with professional judges (and there are some very cool names!) who decide on the winners.
This is my first year participating in the Writing Battle and so far I’m enjoying it. There is a high variation in the peer feedback you receive but judging and providing feedback is a great learning exercise in itself.
I love that possible genres switch every time, are kept secrets until the challenge starts, and ranges from common ones such as Science Fiction and Thriller & Suspense to Zombie and Swashbuckler.
It costs $25 per competition independent of length ($20 with the early bird discount) and as it is a new competition it is constantly being improved and new challenges are added.
February: Flash Fiction Spring Battle (1,000 words)
May: Screenwriting Sprint Battle (10 pages)
August: Flash Fiction Summer Battle (1,000 words)
November: Short Story Autumn Battle (2,000 words)
February: Flash Fiction Winter Battle (1,000 words)
Another fun time-limited challenge where each story get feedback. To participate in their One-Year Anniversary Challenge in July costs $28, gives you 10 days to write a 3,000-word story.
This is how it works
Get the prompts emailed to participants at the start date
Now it’s up to you to select 1 of 5 possible characters, 1 of 5 possible settings, and one “thing” that must be included in all stories, so lots of freedom and possible combinations!
Write and Submit
Good quality feedback to all entries a few months later
For me this is really good value for money and the higher word count limit allows from a complete short story. The many possible combinations gave me a bit of choice paralysis at the start but I forced myself to go with an idea and am really happy with the result.
Now waiting for this years feedback (should arrive start of October).
Fractured Lit Micro Challenge
Fractured Lit is a great, well-respected publication for “We want to find Flash with emotional resonance and characters we care about, who come to life through their actions and responses to the world around them. We’re searching for Flash that investigates the mysteries of being human, the sorrow and the joy of connecting to the diverse population around us.” This year they tried out a 100-word micro prompt driven competition.
This is how it works
Sign-up through Submittable (caped number of participants so encouraged to sign-up early)
One wide prompt for all participants (2022 round 1 prompt was “Bread crumbs”)
72h to write and submit up to three 100-word stories
40 participants went on to round 2 where they got a new prompt and could submit up to three new stories
I am very happy to be one of the lucky 40 who went on to round 2, though none of my stories placed in the end.
Unfortunately, you could notice that this was the first year they organized this challenge as overall communication to the participants was disappointing (I do not know which of my first three stories that scored in round 1, the participants who moved on were never posted though they told us to hold off communicating it until they made their announcement, and the round 2 date and instructions only came after prompting).
While I love the publication, I would due to this hesitate to participate again, especially with the $20 participation fee.
Yeah Write Super Challenge
Yeah Write does more that challenges, the (among other things) provide:
Quarterly writing competitions (the Super Challenge)
Weekly writing prompts
Articles on writing as a craft and as a career
Classes and workshop
I have only participated the Super Challenge, so will focus on that. They run anything from fiction to micro to non-fiction challenges with varying word counts.
Based on the 24th fiction challenge this is how it works
On the challenge weekend you are placed in a group (there were four groups in total), receive two prompts which have to be included and get 48h to write a new 1,000 word story. For round 1 the prompts were an object and a motivation. I was in group 3 and had “a leaky pen” and “A character who wants to perform well in a test of skill or knowledge”.
All stories receive feedback—I found the feedback a little sparce but good quality and constructive
The highest scoring stories move on to a final second round
The entry fee was $35 which for me is a bit high compared to other competitions, especially considering the word count, so I am unsure about competing again. But the quality is good, so go for it if it speaks to you!
The summer challenge is currently underway so I expect the next opportunity to be in October.
TL:DR Press 1,000 Word Herd Flash Competition
As it says it is a 1,000-word flash competition where you are given eight days to complete your story. Word Herd is special in that each participant has an individual prompt, in the last round this was a location and a character—I got “A conference” and “Mime”!
The winning stories are compiled into an anthology with all proceeds going to the World Literacy Foundation.
Participation was only $8.84 making it the cheapest paid competition on my list. With only 159 I suspect it is also the smallest competition (though some competitions do not share participation statistics). Every participant receives feedback on their submission. Personally, I did not find the feedback constructive, but I have other writing friends who were very happy with theirs, so I suspect there is a bit of variation.
With the low price and longer timeline, this is a good entry into the world of prompt writing competitions and despite the variety in feedback, I recommend you give it a try!
This competition is run by the Australian Writers’ Centre but open for writers anywhere in the world. It used to be run monthly but has been reduced to quarterly (I suspect due to the growing number of participants).
This is how it works
Sign-up to their mailing list
Get the prompt sent to you at the start of the competition (Friday) and get 55h to write
Submit your best maximum 500-word story
The competition is run the first Friday in March, June, September, and December.
It is free, fun and I absolutely recommend trying it out!
Apex Holiday Horror
During the last two years Apex Magazine challenged writers to create a 250-word micro horror story in October. I had lots of fun both years and hope they repeat it again.
It is free to enter but there is no feedback. They are very quick to judge and if you submit early you might well get a rejection before the official deadline.
2020 Christmas themed horror—very happy that my tiny story got long listed!
2021 Halloween themed horror—didn’t place but love my 250 story and as it was ready just in time of Halloween I shared it as a holiday greeting 😊