Since I’ve started that creative writing evening course at the local college, I’ve found myself doing a lot more and feeling a lot better about my writing. I’ve even managed to enter one or two competitions, as well as join as writing group at the library.
Last night I checked one of the many many bookmarks I have on my iPad homescreen. This one was for the National Flash Fiction Day website. I discovered this website a few months ago, when it was too late for the 2012 day and too early for the 2013 day. All the site said was to check back. So I did.
National Flash Fiction Day is on June 22nd this year, and I’m looking forward to it. I also found on the site a competition. There are two phrases I LOVE to read on a competition’s guidelines page.
“Any subject or theme.” – whilst I like using prompts and exercises to help me start writing, I get frustrated with themed competitions because I can’t always do something to fit.
“Free to enter.” – do I really need to explain why I like this? There is a downside to free competitions of course, in that there are usually a LOT more entries, especially if the guidelines allow simultaneous submissions, but in this case that’s not an issue.
Small problem – the deadline for this competition is Friday. This Friday. As in, in four days. So I got writing. After a page or two or random insanity, and with a few prompts, I finally had a first draft. I’m impressed with it, and I like it. Which is always a good sign 🙂
I can’t put it on here because posting work on a freely accessible blog counts as publishing and a lot of competitions don’t allow published work, but if you’re on Scribophile (more about that later) you can find it on there.
This particular competition had a word limit of 100, but flash fiction can vary in length incredibly. There are 55 word stories, 6 word stories, 154 character stories right up to 500 word, 1000 word stories. Personally I don’t consider anything longer than 500 to be flash, but there you go.
It’s a lot harder to write than people think too. “Oh, it’s only 100 words, that’s easy. Can crank that out in five minutes.” Yes. It is possible to write 100 words fairly quickly. It isn’t quite so easy to make those words good ones, though. Or to put each word to good use. Or to adequately portray character. Or to have enough plot. And so on.
I worked on my story last night for over an hour, for 5 drafts. Then I sent it off to my college tutor, and a few friends. I received some feedback, but desired more. This morning I typed “online writing community” into Google.
There are hundreds! I opened a few (dozen) tabs, and started having a look. I ended up creating accounts with WritersCafe, and Scribophile. Of the two, I’m currently much more in favour of Scribophile. There is a premium account option, but also a free one. At the moment I’m considering getting the premium account, but will wait a while. It’s not extortionately priced – only $9 a month, less if you buy six months at a time I believe.
Scribophile works on a karma points system. In order to post your work, you need to have earned enough karma points by critiquing other people’s work. This is a brilliant idea, as I’ve seen sites before where people will post and post and post and not offer any feedback on other work. There are competitions, and forums, and groups. So far, I’m highly enjoying it.
It has two big bonus points over WritersCafe.
1) Introduction: I’m not a fan on enforced tutorials, but I like having them available if I need them. WritersCafe lets you sign up, but doesn’t really do much else. Scribophile has a tour, and a checklist for getting started. It also appears to be a lot more user friendly.
2) Speed of Involvement: I’ve been a member of both sites for about 5 hours now. In that time I’ve sent several friend requests on WritersCafe but have had no replies, no messages, and as far as I can tell, no one has read my piece. On Scribophile I now have ten favourites, I have been favourited by three different people, I’ve had several comments on my scratchpad, and I’ve had four excellent critiques of my piece.
I’m not giving up on WritersCafe just yet. I’ll give it some time, but at the moment, I’m definitely a Scribophile. I even put the badge on my blog —>
Plus, I’ve met several fellow flash fiction writers, including one wonderful woman who describes herself as a flasher. I now have a strong desire to make a t-shirt that has “I’m a flasher” in big letters on it.