Things I’ve Learned About Writing: The Power of Prompts

Prickly Chairs – photograph by Royston Hunt

The picture above was the prompt for the 2020 Flash Fiction Festival Micro Fiction contest. I was thrilled to come first with my story Eye, Aye, I.

Entering online short story competitions is how I first dared to put my work out into the world. These past few years I’ve entered fewer, focusing instead on writing novels. But having recently parted from my agent, finished a novel, and lurking in lockdown lethargy, I’ve found myself searching out short story and flash fiction competitions once more. There’s a kind of comfort in it, a way of reminding myself that I can still write, that I will have more ideas. 

This kind of sums up writing life. However far along the publishing path you get, at some point you invariably loop back to a place you were before – older, wiser, and hopefully a better writer.

Prompts and Competitions

Having a prompt is supremely helpful when you’re feeling blocked, tired, depressed, apathetic, anxious, etc.

Entering a writing contest or challenge gives you something to aim for, a deadline, and a sense of achievement, even if you aren’t placed. The online Flash Fiction community is friendly, supportive and inclusive. Many contests are free, or low cost, and are more about the joy of writing rather than anything else.

If you’d like to give some micro, flash or short fiction a go, here are a few competitions to get you started.

Micro Fiction

Retreat West Monthly

NAWG 100×100

50 Word Stories

81 words

101 words

Christopher Fielden Writing Challenges

Flash Fiction

Flash 500 Quarterly

Retreat West Quarterly

Bath Flash Fiction Award 

Didcot Writers

London Independent Story Prize

Short Story

Flash 500

Bath Short Story Award

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