I've written virtually nothing this week. Not because I have 'Writer's Block', not because I've had momentous things going on in my life, and not because I've been busy at work, or elsewhere. I just haven't written anything because, as I've said before, I'm a basically lazy person and I need to try harder. One thing I did do, though, was enter Write-Invite which, for if you're not familiar with it, is a weekly online writing competition.
This is how it works. You register, you pay your entry fee, and then, at 5.30pm every Saturday you're given a list of three prompts. You pick one and write a story. You have thirty minutes. You click the submit button and wait until the following Wednesday, when the shortlist comes out. If you're on it you congratulate yourself and wait to see what happens. If you're not, you get to vote on the top three stories. If your story was in the top 20 you will receive a comment about it from the organizers. Or you might be an 'also read'. But even if that happens, all is not lost. I've been shortlisted in competitions with stories that began as Write-Invite 'also reads'.
When I first registered, I got a free credit. But I was so scared of giving it a go that it expired before I got round to entering my first competition. Once I got started I was hooked. I was shortlisted the second time I entered. I thought my story was rubbish. I wrote it on my laptop, and kept losing my wifi connection while I was writing. But maybe they like to encourage newcomers. I didn't win, but I was encouraged. A couple of weeks later I wrote a winning story. You get £50 if you win, nothing for being a runner-up.
So far this year I have won 4 times and come 2nd twice. I am at the top of the league table (and, as the world's least sporty person, that's a sentence I never thought I'd write!. You can read my winning stories, and those of other writers here. Winning is a massive confidence boost, and I think of any cash I win as my 'competition entering fund'. The more times I win Write-Invite, the more other comps I can enter. But the main thing, for me, is the fact that every time I enter I end up with the germ of a new story. Looking back, probably more than half of the stories I've been successful with have begun life as Write-Invite entries. I am hopelessly addicted. I find myself entering no matter how tired, depressed, unwell or distracted I feel. I always feel better afterwards. There are worse things to be addicted to.
Writing with a 30 minute deadline is scary, but it's also exhiliarting. You never know where your story will take you. The first time I won, my story veered off in a totally different direction from the one I had intended. That had never happened to me before, and it was really exciting. By the way, if you're going to enter, please don't even think about copying and pasting a story you've prepared earlier. It's against the spirit of the whole thing. And if your story is too polished many people will be suspicious. They won't vote for you. So just write for 30 minutes off the top of your head and see what happens.