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Mini-comps the perfect prompts

Social media as a source of inspiration

I’ve been writing a lot in the past couple of weeks. In fact, I’ve completed several stories – and a few have been published. And I’ve developed the urge to see my words up in lights.

"The road unfurled ahead, its infinite choices beckoning."

The Queensland Writers Centre (QWC) is running the 8WordStory competition until 24 November 2017. The prize? You might see your work on an electronic billboard in Brisbane. Don’t live in Brisbane? Goa Billboards has a website where you can view live feeds of each of its billboards.

"She realised he was neither problem nor solution."

At this stage the program is ‘publishing’ 10 authors each week during the morning peak and another 10 during the evening peak, with the remainder of the longlist of 60 getting their names up in lights at off-peak times.

"The cat just wanted a human to enslave."

It’s less a competition and more a community – schools are competing against one another, teachers are using the concept in classrooms, and writers from across Australia are answering the challenge.

And another.

I’ve been trying to do one a day, and have found myself sitting in traffic or lying in bed tapping up to eight fingers to try and express an idea in eight words. You can tweet using #8WordStory and tagging @qldwriters, or enter through the website, although the chances of being published on the website or getting on a billboard seem greater if you go through the online form. *edit: the competition is now closed, but the site remains active displaying successful entries.

Each story should be on one of four themes – change, love, home or play – and be no more than eight words. You’ll get an email or be notified via Twitter if your #8WordStory has been published, and QWC publishes lists of billboard authors and locations on its Twitter feed. A warning: this is addictive. There are pages of wonderful ultra-micro-short-short stories to trawl through, and you’ll find yourself trying to distil moments and stories down to eight finger-taps worth of words.

Here are few links to my stories that made the small screen:

Nero in the laundry, seen through a hole in the linen cupboard wall

For me, the past three months have been packed with sick family, injuries, appointments, medical tests, work, school holidays, puppies tunnelling out of the laundry and into the linen cupboard, and a stack of other time-sucking, brain-chewing high-level procrastinations that have made it hard to focus on writing. So a story I can put together in a few minutes? Perfect.

Competitions, programs and hashtags such as #8WordStory crop up occasionally, and are a great way to get your mind back into creative gear.

The Digital Writers Festival (24 October-30 November 2017), for example, is running the Swinburne Microfiction Challenge. *edit: competition is now closed. A prompt is published each day at 9am, and you have 24 hours to write up to 500 words responding to that prompt. Daily winners are chosen, and the overall winner will receive $1000 and publication in Seizure. If NaNoWriMo’s too much, this one might be perfect.

The Melbourne Writers Festival has in the past held micro-review competitions over Twitter, which is a great source of ongoing or short-term prompts. Check out #1lineWed – one-line Wednesday – for some excellent micro-fictions. Fun pop-up prompts include #MakeAHorrorMovieBritish, #MakeAPlaySpooky, #MakeABookMeaty – you get the idea. These are all prompts and word plays that not only engage you creatively, but can help you engage in the creative community. And most of all, they’re a lot of fun.

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