|Charles Dickens looking for some inspiration|
But contests can serve another purpose. They are one of the best ways to get us off our duffs and locked to a keyboard, especially flash fiction contests.
Unlike journalists, fiction writers compose in a vacuum. There we are, alone in a room, typing away for nobody but ourselves. Sometimes, it's hard to get up and running. My advice is to use contests as a writing prompt!
These contests are recurring, so you will have plenty of opportunity to fail before you succeed. (Each failure is a step toward success.) None of them charge entry fees. Good luck!
Reader's Digest 100-Word-Story Competition wants true story about you, in 100 words. Prize: $100.
Hennessy New Irish Writing. Restrictions: Open to writers who are Irish or resident in Ireland. Prize: The winner of each category will receive a Hennessy trophy and €1,500. Winners drawn from published stories in The Irish Times on the last Saturday of each month.
The Worldwide Flash Fiction Competition. Entries must be 500 words max. Prize: First prize is £100.00 ($122.50) paid through Paypal.
Getting Sexy with Food. Entries must be 500 words or less. No profanity, vulgarity, or actual sex. Prize: $50. Enter from the 1st to the 20th of each month.
Zero Flash. Flash fiction contest, 300 words max. Enter from the 1st to the last day of every month. Prize: £10.
Write the World Competitions. Restrictions: Young writers ages 13-18. Genre: Essay. Prize: Best Entry: $100; Runner up: $50.
Writing District. Genre: short stories up to 3,000 words. Open theme. Prize: $50.
Apparition. Genre: Flash fiction. Prize: $5.
53 Word Story Contest. Genre: Flash fiction of exactly 53 words based on monthly theme. Prize: Publication and a free book. Deadline for entry is the 21st day of each month. Stories sent after the 21st will not be considered.
The Writing Quarter Competition. Genre: Short stories of up to 3,000 words (open theme). Prize: $30.
Furious Fiction. Genre: Flash fiction. Prize: $500AUD. "On the first Friday of every month, a new set of story prompts will be revealed. You will have 55 hours to submit your best 500-word (or fewer) story."
Life of Writers holds a weekly contest. In order to enter, writers must register. (It's free.) Writers must also agree to reply to comments. Prize: (Nominal ?)
Poetry Nook offers a free weekly contest. Prize: $100, with $10 for honorable mentions. You must register to enter, but registration is free. (Thanks to John Reinhart for this tip.)
Ad Hoc Fiction is a weekly free flash fiction contest. Prize: Winning will give you free entry into the Bath Flash, a contest with a top award of 1,000 pounds.
Microcosms is a weekly, microfiction contest, the primary goals of which are to inspire creativity, get writers in the habit of writing, and entertain readers! Prize: They aren't sure yet!
Camera Obscura awards a $1000 prize to the writer of a story selected for publication in each issue as determined by the editors. There is no fee for this award. All stories are eligible.