I’m not sure how you’re all finding me (ah, the wonders of the web!) but this site has been attracting lots of visitors from outside the UK (33 different countries at the last count, including Vietnam and Saudi Arabia!) and you’re all very welcome!
I realise that lots of my posts are UK-centric, but here’s something that’s open to anyone, anywhere in the world (as long as you have a Paypal account and don’t mind getting up just before 5.30pm GMT, which could be the middle of the night for you!)
WriteOnSite, part of the Write-Invite website, is a nifty little idea that’s just entering its third year: it’s a writing competition that runs ‘live’ from 5.30pm – 6pm every Saturday and offers a prize of £50 for the winner. It’s starting up again this Saturday 8th January, so if you want to get involved, you might want to sign up now!
UPDATE: On 22nd January 2011, the server crashed, so only 4 people managed to enter! The competition was scrapped and the organisers were duly apologetic and embarrassed. Hopefully it will be all systems go again this weekend, so if you weren’t able to get through last Saturday – don’t give up!
How does it work? If you’re logged into the site, at 5.30pm on Saturday 3 ‘themes’ will pop up onto your screen and you’ve got half an hour to write a fictional scene/story on one of the themes and submit it to the competition! It gets your heart racing, I can tell you!
If you miss the deadline your story won’t be counted. That happened to me once (aaaagh!) because I hadn’t realised that when I submitted my entry, a message had come back telling me that my title had already been used and that I needed to pick another one. By the time I saw the message, and resubmitted -POW! I missed the 6pm deadline by seconds! So make sure you pick an original title. It’s also worth writing your story as a word document and then cutting and pasting it onto the website. That way you can do a quick spell check and save as you go along.
How much does it cost? There’s a £4 entry fee but if you buy credits ‘in bulk’ you can get them for a reduced price (eg: you can buy 6 ‘credits’ – ie: 6 entries – for £20, which means you get one free). And the credits last all year, so you can use them up as and when it suits you. Obviously you don’t have to enter every week. (But you can ask for a free text to remind you!).
I think it’s good value, even if you never win the £50 prize (see below for why!)
To make the competition even more fun, the site runs a ‘Literary League Table’, which lists the entrants and their points. You get a point every time you enter, a point every time you vote, 5 points for a win, 4 points for second place and 3 points for third place.
I had a few goes last year and I even managed a first place (which I think was beginners’ luck because it didn’t happen again) and I’m definitely going to enter again this year and try to knock Joanna Campbell (overall winner two years in a row!!) off her perch. Here’s why:
1. It’s good writing practice and sometimes it’s amazing what you can come up with in just 30 minutes when you haven’t got much time to think!
2. It gets easier the more you do it. I sometimes spend the half hour before the competition begins, writing a few thoughts and ideas down, just so that I’m warmed up at 5.30pm. When the themes come through, try not to panic! It’s worth allowing yourself 5 minutes to pick one and make a few notes – and then you just have to ‘go’! Write as quickly as you can and don’t stop to edit or correct for at least the first 10 – 15 minutes, or else you won’t get finished.
3. Even if you don’t win, you may find your idea leads you to a story that you can do something with. You still have copyright. The piece I wrote in response to the prompt ‘The White Limo’, became a story (‘The Black Limo’) which I subsequently sold to The Weekly News for £80. And my winning story ‘Connected’ became a 2000 word competition entry (which is still being judged).
4. You can read all the top 3 entries from the past two years on the site. This gives you a good idea of the kind of thing they are looking for – and what wins! (NB: pay particular attention to Joanna Campbell’s entries, as they clearly like that lady’s style!)
5. On the Wednesday following the competition, you will receive an email with a link to the top three shortlisted stories. This is your chance to vote for your favourite – unless of course you are in the top three (which is very exciting!), in which case you can’t vote but you just have to wait for Saturday, when the results are announced. Either way, it’s good critiquing practice to read three (short) stories and decide on the best.
6. Unlike traditional writing competitions, you only have to wait a few days (instead of a few months!) for the results to come out.
7. And finally – it’s fun!
Let me know if you’re going to enter and I’ll look out for your name on the leader board!
PS: I didn’t get any free credits for this posting… but if anyone from ‘Write-Invite’ happens to see it, I wouldn’t say no…!