Flash, in my opinion, is the best. It's SHORT, you can try out crazy stuff, and it gets done fast. Which is great, because I'm currently limiting myself to only work on seventeen stories at a time (WHAT I DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM) so theoretically I should be able to zip through a few flash stories and have a rapid writing turnover that keeps me endlessly entertained.
In reality, it turns out that you do actually have to write in order to finish things.
|And apparently I spend that time on Twitter.|
|*clings to Shire* I don't want to go on an adventure! (brilliant site)|
|Oh look, Internet ...|
Flash is so SHORT that you have no time to wander casually around your story and take in the scenery. You have to get it right ON THE SPOT. No wasted words. No rambling. It's all punch-punch-punch action. And when you're a serial pantser who never ever plans, this task starts to look a little easy to screw up. Easy-to-screw-up all to often turns into why-try. And too-much-effort. You don't have any ideas! You don't even know where to start! Wall #1 looms before you, glowering in a quiet, brick-like way that says--there's nothing to say.
This is where prompts come in.
Motivation! Purpose! The prompt gives you the first sentence, now your page isn't blank anymore. You can write! It's probably already screwed up, so throw perfection out the window! Amuse thyself! Wall #1, sorely defeated, crumbles like Sauron's Tower before you. Onward, Knight of the Pen!
But some of us are hardened procrastinators. We're used to putting things off. Just a prompt? Not enough. Nothing easier in the world than to file away a prompt for tomorrow, next week, when you really feel like writing. This is Wall #2. It extrudes a miasma of lethargy as you approach it, making you walk slower and slower. You've got the prompt in your right hand, but lack the initiative to use it. Do you really have to write now? Why not put it off?
Enter the writing competition.
|WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE--|
Before you know it, Wall #2 has become a tiny hedge, next to the much, much bigger threat of Not Submitting. You leap over it, perhaps not easily, but you manage. Panic and urgency cancel out procrastination. You're writing!
I love forum competitions. They're frequent, free, and have a range of skill levels. Best of all, they usually feature extremely helpful reviews by other writers. The topics are unusual, they're tolerant of weird stories, and have really cool submissions that I feel are often as good as or better than actual published stuff. TBH this intimidates me sometimes. It feels a little bit like presenting at lab meeting: You, the lowly intern, trying to tell these PhDs and sub-sub-sub field experts something you think you discovered that might be relevant--and waiting for them to start critisizing and teasing apart your work. You know this process is good four you and will make you a better scientist, but some part of you always wants to flee the room in an explosion of chalk dust.
|"And for my next trick, I shall completely vanish BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES (and the comment session)!"|
Here are some competitions to keep an eye on:
3 writing contests! Micro-flash (Misdirection), Flash ("It's not my fault!"), and Short Story (Letters from home).
Flash: Multiple POVs
Diversity Challenge to open in June (probably)!
Various other unscheduled challenges.
(weekly, as far as I can see)
(There's lots more out there, but these are the ones I've personally participated in / intend to participate in. Let me know about your favorites in the comments!)
These are very legit forums, if you're a writer (or a reader) definitely head on over and make an account. Serious conversations, book craziness, and genuinely useful writing and publishing tips. Did I mention books? ALL THE BOOKS.
Flash is awesome. Go write some.
SCIENCEY MEMES! Don't think you could get away without them!