Every year, we've taken entries for a writing competition from November 1st to January 1st, and I originally planned to retire it this year; there's been a lot going on in the real world (maybe you heard!), I've been busier than ever with my own work, and the time it took me to read everyone's entries was already getting grueling by a couple of contests ago.
But it turns out I miss reading people's fiction way too much, so I'm going to try a compromise: a one month, short form story contest with a limit of up to two entries per person. Not only will this be easier for me to manage, but I feel these limitations will also "even the playing field," so nobody's efforts are overshadowed by a significantly more prolific writer.
Until DECEMBER 31, 2019, we're accepting YOUR original short-form horror or just plain bizarre, unearthly fiction, as long as it's your own new, original work not already published somewhere!
TEXT STORIES HAVE A 6,433 CHARACTER LIMIT! Why such a specific number? It's the same character length as good old Candle Cove!
MAXIMUM TWO ENTRIES PER PERSON! It's perfectly fine to write two stories in the same setting or for your second submission to be a "sequel" or "prequel" to the other, but each should still be readable as a complete story on its own, rather than one longer one cut into two.
A SEPARATE WINNING CATEGORY FOR THE VERY CREEPIEST! We will still have a generalized list of winners judged on overall quality, but prizes will also be given based on the most eerie, unsettling or flat-out terrifying stories you can cram into a Candle Cove sized chunk!
VISUAL ENTRIES: Image and comic entries are still accepted, but our character limit still applies to any and all dialog! I wouldn't expect a comic entry to be that wordy anyway, but I thought I'd clarify this so nobody writes a 10,000 word epic and pastes it into one giant word balloon, as hilariously entertaining as that would admittedly be.
AUDIO AND VIDEO ENTRIES: We've gotten very few of these over the years, but just in case that's what you want to do, just keep the file to under 30 minutes in length. This actually allows for a longer story than the text entries, but I think it's fair enough because it allows dramatic pauses and pacing between dialog, and I can technically listen to or watch these entries while I work on other things, so my schedule isn't as big of an obstacle! If we do receive audio/video entries they will get their own spotlight this year, too!
FORMATTING GUIDELINE: Unfortunately, text written in Microsoft word or other rich text programs will generate a great deal of additional code when pasted into another format, such as our entry form, which will quickly break the limit. Please consider plain .txt or equivalent bare-bones text files!
THIS IS A HORROR CENTRIC CONTEST! Pure fantasy, science fiction and surreal weirdness are also encouraged, but I'm implementing the "scariest" winning category to encourage some spookier material again!
KEEP IT MORE OR LESS IN YOUR PANTS! Sexual themes have factored into some of our past entries and even some past winners, but if you must include them, we prefer you keep it subtler than push the limit any further.
"HOT TOPICS" ARE GENTLY DISCOURAGED Other writing communities are positively swamped with stories about the U.S. election, ongoing protests and the coronavirus. Not to be a downer here, but not only has everything been said already about these issues, some of them are killing real people as we speak, and even some of our own friends and readers have lost loved ones. Consider this contest an opportunity to take a break from what's really wrong with the world and come up with something we'll all be glad is only your imagination.....ooOooR iS It!!?!?!!!
HOW TO SUBMIT:
IF FOR WHATEVER REASON YOU CANNOT USE THE FORM, such as browser issues or a non-text entry submission, you can send direct to firstname.lastname@example.org!
IF YOU SUBMIT, LEAVE A COMMENT - since I'm no longer using my email inbox as the main submission method, you'll need to comment on this page if you want confirmation that your story was received!
ADDITIONAL HELP AND TIPS
NO EXPERIENCE? NO PROBLEM! We aren't going to judge any entry for "technical qualities" of grammar, spelling or traditional storytelling rules, only the moods and ideas that the story conveys!
GO FOR WEIRD! Everyone's seen zombies, demons, serial killers, poltergeist hauntings, slendermen, cursed video games, evil lost episodes and tentacled cthulhus out the wazoo by now, so try to find subject matter you either haven't seen before or can give an unusual new spin!
INSPIRATION IS EVERYWHERE. Read up on real-world parasites, deep-sea organisms and rare diseases. Think back to the odd things that inexplicably scared you as a child. Recall your most abstract nightmares. Pick something out of the room and try to imagine what unnatural thing it could do to creep you out. We've had amazing entries about inflatable Christmas decorations, pop-eyed goldfish, papercraft and cornfields. Anything can become monstrous!
SUBTLETY IS YOUR FRIEND! Elements of the mysterious and unknown are what make many horror scenarios work so well. We don't always need to hear about the grisly murders and demonic cults behind a monster, and oftentimes it only weighs down a story with details that spoil the fun!
BROWSE THE EXISTING STORIES! There's no better way to get in the right spooky mindset! Don't just look at the "winners" and "runners up"...dozens of my top favorites still couldn't make those for reasons of sheer time and space!
CANDLE COVE - One of the internet's most beloved horror stories for a good reason. It's strange, it's original, and it leaves the reader scratching their head in the best possible way.
THE SCP FOUNDATION - an online fiction phenomenon packed with nightmare entities, abstract artifacts, preposterous oddities and things that virtually (or in same cases very literally) defy description.
I'M A SEARCH AND RESCUE OFFICER - a smash hit over on nosleep that only recently wrapped up with its final entry!
THE YELLOW WALLPAPER - a classic I'm now hosting on-site, The Yellow Wallpaper turns something very mundane into something very unsettling and has inspired authors for generations!
THE MAGNUS ARCHIVES - I'm late to this party - it's been going since 2017 and now wrapping up! - but the Magnus Archives are a podcast telling some phenomenally unsettling, creative tales featuring every kind of horror you can name, and then some.
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