Please note that there have been some updates to this information.
Major revisions have been flagged.
- What is Microcosms?
Microcosms is a microfiction contest, the primary goals of which are to inspire creativity, get writers in the habit of writing, and entertain readers!
We now have two types of contests – weekly and monthly. (More information on that below.)
- When do these contests take place?
We welcome writers from all over the globe.
Weekly contests will run Sunday – Saturday, Pacific Time (UTC -8 Standard Time and UTC -7 during Daylight Savings Time), midnight to midnight. The blog time will be in the sidebar. We’ve changed the time to allow as many submissions as possible for the majority of our contestants.
Monthly contests will run from the first calendar day of the month to the last calendar day of the month. As we all know, some months are shorter or longer than others, but the contest will still be, for example, February 1–28 (or 1-29 during a leap year).
So, the contests will be 00:00 – 23:59, both WEEKLY and MONTHLY (Los Angeles time – PST/PDT)
- How do these contests work?
There is a slot-machine-style spinner that will have characters, settings, and genres, usually based around one or more themes. We’ll spin for a random prompt, but the spinner can be used by you, and you can spin as many times as you like until you find something that inspires you. (Some people choose to only follow the given prompts, some allow themselves only one spin, and some will spin over and over again – the choice is up to you!)
We have also added a default spinner in case you don’t like the ones from that week. The intention is just to get you inspired.
The weekly ones will not be officially judged by default, but you will still be able to vote on them for a community winner.
Monthly contests will be officially judged by the volunteer judge for that month (usually a prior winner). Monthly contests may or may not have their own prompts and spinner options; however, the intention is to submit your favorite weekly entries.
Any prompt that falls within that month may be submitted for the monthly contest, including half weeks and even if you missed entering for that particular week. You may also use the default spinner.
You may submit as many entries each week or month as you like, but please do not submit the same story twice – e.g., for both March and April if the week is split between them. We recommend choosing the month in which you actually wrote the story, but we’ll leave that decision up to you.
- Is this contest for sci-fi only?
Not at all! Although we’re stretching the definition just a tad, a mini universe can be whatever you make it. What we’re looking for is a sense of completeness. Does it feel like a real world? Plus, the genre may change according to what we or your spin!
- How much does it cost to enter?
Microcosms is completely free of charge! We do not charge fees of any kind and have no plans ever to do so.
- What are the contest rules?
The contests may change slightly occasionally, but will essentially follow these rules:
- Entries must be no more than 300 words (excluding the title and header info, etc.).
- The prompt will (usually) consist of three elements: character, location and genre. Writers who do not choose to use the ones selected by the host may press the Spin! button to run the ‘slot machine’ of different provided elements until they find a combination that inspires them. Only elements which are in the ‘slot machine’ are valid.
- An optional photo prompt MAY be provided but is NOT required (unless otherwise specified).
- Entries are submitted as a comment on the contest post.
Please use the following format when submitting your entries:
My Amazing Story Title XXX words Element / Element / Element My Preferred Name Optional: website or social media link 1 Optional: website or social media link 2 Optional: Yes, I am open to derivative works, including audio productions. Please contact me via one of the above channels for more information. /// OR /// No, I am not open to derivative works at this time, thank you. My amazing story content goes here.
Please kindly use this format, then copy/paste your response as a comment. It’s totally fine to be creative with the “words” part, like “253 ripe bananas”, as we’ve seen some people do in the past.
Not using this format with NOT disqualify you. But it will help us out if you do use it.
We have prepared a free and easy-to-use, pre-formatted document in Google Docs to help simplify things. Just save your own copy and then replace the content with your own. (Sometimes, adding links will get your comment flagged by the spam filter. If you think that happened, please contact us for assistance.)
Anyone accessing the contest post is encouraged to vote for favorite/favourite entries. You may vote for as many entries as you like. You may also leave feedback on entries — positive comments and constructive criticisms are welcome, but NOT full-blown critiques. (This is a friendly community: it should go without saying that rude, obnoxious or abusive comments will not be tolerated.)
- How many entries can I submit?
We aim to inspire and entertain, and limiting the number of entries per person seems contradictory to that goal. If this policy causes any unforeseen issues in the future, we may change our minds on this, but for now, submit as many as you like!
- What are the content guidelines?
We don’t want to censor someone’s art, but violence and sexuality should serve a purpose and not be merely gratuitous. Please keep in mind that this is a public site, and there is always a chance younger people could come across it. With that being said, if it’s appropriate for your story, don’t limit yourself just for that reason.
It’s fine to push the line with your art. However, any entries deemed hateful or discriminatory may be removed and/or disqualified, at our discretion.
- How do I win?
All entries must fall within the posted contest guidelines for each contest and according to the standard contest rules (see below). The contest judge will select a monthly winner — the Judge’s Pick.
An additional winner — the Community Pick — will be selected by the Microcosms community (weekly and monthly), based upon the number of votes received, so don’t forget to vote for your favorites! Public voting will never be turned off (feel free to show your support on older stories), but votes will be counted for contest purposes through Sunday at midnight, NY time.
Please note: We will do our best to adhere to these times, although it may not be an exact science, depending upon who is running the contest that week and their schedule. Please keep in mind that this contest is run by volunteers, and all is done in good fun and faith. All results are final. However, if you have any questions or concerns, please direct them to us privately via the contact us page.
- What else do I get?
Winners MAY also be given the chance to promote their work on our site with free ad space, provided it falls within our guidelines (specifics TBD).
Additional anthology entries may be offered at the discretion of the judge(s) and/or website admin. (Sometimes, there are just too many good stories!)
- What can I win?
In addition to accolades and the well-earned respect of your fellow writers, we may have actual prizes that we will give away for winning. In addition, an anthology (to benefit charity) — to include all of the winning stories — maybe and only with your permission.
The following functions are NOT currently in operation
- What is all of this I see about points?
Points are a way to track who is participating and giving back to the community. It is also a fun way to engage everyone and encourage contributions. You can earn points by registering on the site, logging in, commenting (posting entries and commenting on others), and more.
Badges can also be earned for participating. 🙂
- I see a Members page. Do I need to register with the site to participate?
Nope! You are more than welcome to register, which will allow you to earn points and badges, etc., as well as participate in any community-based aspects of the site. But to submit a story, you just need to reply to the post as a comment. The Members page is a way to say thanks to those who support us but is mostly reserved for potential future use. (See below.) You can log in to comment using your e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account. 🙂
- Is anything else in the works?
We have some cool ideas, but we’ll pose them after we get the contest up and running and let the community decide what they want.
- When I register, it asks if I want a website. What’s all that about?
Zwoodle.com also offers free websites to artists and writers. You are under no obligation to sign up for one, but you are more than welcome to, if you like!