Serial Contest

Millions of cell-phone novels have been written. In Japan, some have even gotten published (and put on the bestsellers list!)

Serial novels — novels delivered in short chapters, over a certain span of time — aren’t just for Dickens, my Figmentlings. All around the world, serialization is staging a quiet comeback, mostly because technology is giving us new and quick ways to deliver short chunks of fiction. Japanese and American cell phone novels, twitter novels, blogged novels — these kinds of terse, suspenseful stories have inspired a whole new genre of literature; a genre focused on tightly packed action, dialogue, and character descriptions, with stories that unfold over time.

Here’s your challenge. Over the course of the next month, you will need to post at least 8 chapters of a serial short story, of either prose or verse. You can post as many chapters as you like, but you must post at least 8 by April 18th at 9 PM EST. The length of these chapters is completely up to you. However! You want your readers to be gripped from chapter 1, so that they get notified when each new chapter goes up. We do recommend keeping each chapter short (remember: shorter sometimes = more engaging/attractive to readers!). Some Figmenters have already written short chapter serials, so check them out as a guide: Coppelia, Matt Reeves, and Sasha Mahabir.

What’s in those chapters? Basically, it’s completely up to you. We’ll give you a prompt each week to ensure that your writing is being done over the course of the month, and not in a massiveoneshotwordsplosion, but beyond that the theme/genre is your call.

Why are we enforcing the serialized structure? We create contest prompts to force you to write outside of your normal style and format, and we think every writer can benefit from trying their hand at a serial.

-Create a new writing
-Tag it “serialcontest’
-Follow Serial Contest. We will follow you back so we can be notified of all of your updates.
-Update your story at least twice a week. One of the chapters you write each week MUST be in reference to the prompt we provide; the other chapter(s) will be up to you.
-By the end of the contest, April 18th at 9 PM EST, you should have at least 8 chapters posted, 4 of which will be written directly in response to our prompts.

The contest will run from today (March 21st), for four weeks until April 18th. Again, your final chapter must be posted before 9 PM on April 18th.

UPDATE: Because of confusion over the structure of the contest and because we’ve never done a serialized contest before, we are accepting any entries that conclude the contest with at least eight chapters, four of which address the prompts in the order they were assigned.

There will be three winners. One winner will be traditionally chosen; out of the ten most-hearted finalists, one will be chosen by a panel of Figmenters and Figment editors. Two winners will be chosen randomly from everyone who completes the contest. We feel very strongly that sticking it out and updating a story for a full month should be rewarded, so all three winners will receive the same prize, a choice of posters from PosterText (where they put the ENTIRE book on a poster):

UPDATE: The panel of Figmenter judges has been selected. Thanks to Alex B, Rory Meursault, Jina <3, and Celeste Selene for agreeing to help out!

THE PROMPT FOR THIS WEEK (week of 4/11/11):

Someone or something (not necessarily human) must die or be dead.


Someone has to buy something from a toy store. (Week 1, 3/21/11)

Something made out of glass breaks (Week 2, 3/28/11)

Someone must be dancing or must witness dancing (of any kind). (Week 3, 4/4/11)

1. One entry per person, please.
2. The promotion of your contest entry is not allowed on Figment. This includes self-promotion and the promotion of other usersโ€™ contest entries in the Figment forums, the comments and reviews of stories, and the Figment Facebook page. Independent promotion on sites unrelated to Figment, like personal Facebook or Twitter accounts, is fine.
3. Works must be published between the announcement of the contest and the closure of the contest. Entries created before the start date or after the end date will not be included in the pages of contest entries and will be ineligible to win. This means a new story must be created for the contest; adapting an old story published before the start of the contest will make the entry ineligible to win.
4. The rules of the contest are both strict and open to interpretation by a moderator.
5. It is the userโ€™s responsibility to properly tag the story so that the story appears within the contest submissions. Untagged or improperly tagged stories will not be shown with the submissions and will not be eligible to win.
6. The creation of multiple accounts to heart or otherwise vote for your contest entry on Figment is prohibited, and may result in the disqualification of that entry, the deletion of your Figment account, and/or the blocking of your IP address permanently from the site, at the moderatorโ€™s discretion.

155 thoughts on “Serial Contest

  1. I’m sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo confused about the chapter thing and prompt thing? Can someone explain it to me?

    • Hi Stephanie! Sorry if it’s a bit confusing. Basically, the end goal of this contest is to have written a story that’s at least 8 chapters long. We don’t want people to write the entire story at once though: the point of serialization is to streeeettttch out the story by publishing only little pieces of it at a time, and to keep your readers hungering for the next chapter. That’s why we’re requiring that people take 4 weeks to write their story (and we’re suggesting everyone publish 2 chapters per week). At the beginning of each week, we’ll post one short prompt that must be addressed in one of your chapters (this week, for instance, one of the chapters you write must somehow involve going to a toy store). The other chapter (or chapters) you write for that week doesn’t need to refer to any prompt; you can continue your story as you wish. Once you’re done with those chapters, sit back, think about where your story’s going, and wait for the next prompt to be posted!

      Hope that helps clarify some things!

    • so each week you have to write two chapters, and 1 of them has to include the prompt. so, lets say chapter one, you buy something from a toy store, chapter 2 is whatever you like, chapter 3, something glass breaks, and chapter 4 whatever you like. get?

  2. Can you post in the serial contest story previously posted chapters? Like if you’re continuing a longer story, but have already posted some of the scenes?

  3. Are the two chapters per week based on just the one prompt per week? Or is there going to be another prompt later this week for the second chapter?

    (Sorry I’m not getting this. It seems like it should be obvious.)

    • That’s okay! There will be only ONE prompt per week, but we are asking that you publish at least two chapters per week. That means that only one of your chapters needs to refer to the prompt; the other(s) can be totally up to you — however you want to continue your story. Of course, the chapters you write for one week CAN all refer to that week’s prompt, but they don’t all have to — we wanted to give people a bit of creative legroom.

  4. Quick question: Are we allowed to publish the next one before the arrival of the next prompt, or do we have to wait? If so, does that mean that there will be 8 prompts?

    • You can publish more than one chapter a week, but one must definitely include the weekly prompt. There will be one prompt every week, for a total of 4 prompts.

  5. Wow, the prize is easily one of the coolest prizes figment has offered for a contest! I’m going to have to try this one.

  6. Sorry. Nevermind the above.

    A new question. We will get a notifacation when a new prompt is realised?? (Fine if not) And second, does the chapter have to be completly based around the prompt, or just sort of? And does the story have to be action/thriller?

    • There will be no notifications for prompts, but you can expect to see a new prompt on Monday mornings for the next four weeks, so just remember to check back then. The chapter doesn’t have to be completely based around the prompt, but we should be able to tell that you have addressed the prompt on some level. And finally, the story can be whatever genre you want, provided it responds to the prompts as required.

    • There isn’t a strict word limit, per se. But we do encourage you to keep it a little on the short side. Serials are known for shorter chapters because they have numerous chapters. Remember, you want to have your reader hooked, not worried about plodding through thousands of words. I hope this helps!

  7. i just checked out the website- the prizes are awesome! i would totally want one of those hanging in my room! i’m not very good at serial works though. ๐Ÿ™

    good luck to everybody! i’ll read the entries!

    • We encourage you to write something new for this contest. We’re trying to get you to write outside of what you normally do. You can certainly use older ideas (ideas you may have in the book you started recently), but make sure you have some new content and that the content refers to the prompt.

    • Hey-
      Yes. There must be a chapter that corresponds to each of the four prompts. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  8. Hey Claire (or should that be Lindsay?),
    You know, you could rather easily automatically notify everyone when a new prompt comes out. Since everyone in the contest has to follow “Serial Contest”, you can notify them all of the new weekly prompt by creating a “book” in that account and posting each prompt in a new “chapter”.
    Just a suggestion…


  9. I looked around a little on the Postertext website, and I’m wondering, would the custom poster include an image like the ones in the store, or is it just a plain block of text?

  10. Ummm Does it have to be in a certain order does like, Does chapter one have to include “Someone has to buy something from a toy store.”? Or can it be in like chapter 6 or something?

  11. How do I get access to first two prompts (I’m only joining just now, and it seems to be that I have to include the other prompts)

  12. Hi ๐Ÿ™‚
    Quick question, sorry but it wasn’t clear.
    You say no contest promotion on figment, meaning we’re not allowed to upload our story until after the winners have been chosen…
    And yet you say to upload at least two chapters every week.
    Where are we uploading said chapters?
    Are we uploading them on figment and just not publishing, or…
    Sorry, I’m just a little confused…

    • Hey Chelsea-
      Publishing your story isn’t promotion; creating forum posts about it or asking for reads on it is. You should definitely publish your story! Let me know if you have any other questions.

  13. Do I have to write two chapters a week or could I do one one week, three the next, etc. as long as it was in order?

  14. About when should we expect to be followed back by the Serial Contest account? (i.e., if I started my story and followed the account yesterday, should I be worried that I have not yet been followed back?)

    • Hey-
      We’re following back as we go, but we do have a little catching up to do. If we still haven’t followed back today, let us know.

  15. This seems like it’s gonna be a lot of fun. Especially, since I find it easier writing the book and for the readers as well, one chunk at a time. I have one question though, when we write about the prompt, does the hole chapter have to be based on it or just a scene or two.

    • Hey Jeffrey-
      So glad you’re excited! It just has to be clear that the prompt was incorporated into the chapter. It can be a brief moment or the basis for a whole scene.

  16. We can publish more than two chapters a week, right? So for week one could I do four chapters and have the prompt in, say, chapter three? My head is going crazy with my entry and I don’t think I could stick to only two chapters a week… :p

  17. Hi there,
    Just wondering, does the story have to end when the contest finishes? As in, could the contest finish but the story only be part way through?

    • Hey Zelf-
      You are encouraged to continue your story beyond the contest, but keep in mind the judges will only be looking at whatever is posted within the contest limits.

  18. I have another question sorry. Well, two…

    End of the week means Sunday, right? Not a business week?
    And also, you said that the prompt can hold just a brief moment in the story, but does it have to actually happen to the character? Like if the prompt was somebody getting married could they see some celebrity couple in the news getting married?

    • As long as it is incorporated in a way that makes it evident that you wrote the chapter after seeing the prompt. It shouldn’t be too much of a throwaway. Hope that helps!

  19. OK, I think I understand this. And I know you’re sick of hearing it, and for that I’m sorry :), but I want to be ABSOLUTELY sure. Okay, we should post at least two chapters a week, one of which has to be in response to the prompt you give us, correct?

    And all of these chapters are related, right? So, it would compile into a book or short story? Sorry I sound so stupid, but I really don’t want to do anything wrong. Thank you! <3

  20. Wait, do the prompts have to be in order? Like could we do the second prompt and then the first one?

    asking just in case.

    • Hey ry-
      They should be in order since you have to write about the first prompt during the first week of the contest and the second prompt during the second week. Hope this clears things up!

  21. My question went unanswered, so I guess I’ll try again..
    We can publish more than two chapters a week, right? So for week one could I do four chapters and have the prompt in, say, chapter three? My head is going crazy with my entry and I donโ€™t think I could stick to only two chapters a weekโ€ฆ :p

    • You have to describe it in some capacity. It doesn’t have to take up the whole story, but there should be more than just a one-sentence mention. Hope this helps!

  22. Do you think I’m over-doing it by using at least 16 chapters? Those chapters aren’t very short either, but my story is long enough to be a novella/novel, but I’m trying my best to make things shorter because I know readers won’t want to sit there for an hour just to read a story, right?

  23. So, I entered my story. I followed Serial Contest, and I tagged it serialcontest, but it didn’t show up in the section where it shows all the entries!!! (I looked through ALLL the pages.)

  24. Sorry to bother you, but I followed “serialcontest”, and it’s has yet to follow me back. Does it just take time? Thanks!

  25. Hey, I have a question…
    I’m joining a contest and I saw a prompt, 3/21. Has there been two prompts before? And if there did, what are they about?
    Please answer, and thanks!

  26. Is writing only 2 chapters per week a requirement, or can we write more? And it can be longer than 8 chapters, right? It just has to be finished by the time that this contest is over?

  27. Hey! I just wanted to say that I followed the contest and that I entered for it two days ago. The thing is… I have yet to be followed. Should I be worried?

  28. So excited! Can’t wait for the new prompt! Glad that they are on EST, so that I can have the new prompt when I wake up! I have no school spring break, and I plan to write the whole time! ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. Hey am I the only person that can’t post or add new chapters? I want to know because I Don’t want it to be my computer.

    • I can’t, but just on my computor. I can’t make any new writings on my computor, I need to go to the library and post them. Sorry, but I think it’s your computor… ๐Ÿ™

  30. I know it keeps saying they’ve been notified and will fix it shortly but it has been saying that since last night at eight.(EST)

    • Hey Dana-
      We post them under the original contest rules and under a book by Serial Contest. We just put up week two’s!

    • I’m pretty sure I am right but I am not positive. For this week’s prompt people have to add (somewhere) a scene where something (anything) made out of glass breaks. Am I correct? I have noticed a few people were confused so I thought I would post this to see if it helps. I hope it does. ^_^

  31. Is it too late to enter the serial contest??? The second prompt is already up and I haven’t started…

  32. Hey I was wondering if you could heart your story once just on your one account? I normally wouldn’t, but I am actually really happy with my work this time.

    • Hey Colette-
      Hearting your story from the same account you used to post the story is fine. Creating alternate accounts to heart your story is not allowed. Good luck!

  33. This sucks, because I won’t be home for the third week of the contest. I’m going to be on spring break in a place with no internet. I won’t be able to get the prompt and I won’t be able to post any chapters. I am so bumbed ๐Ÿ™

  34. I don’t understand what “Something glass breaks” mean either. Is Naomi right? This prompt means that something made out of glass breaks? Please tell us, Emily! ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. So, can we publish more than one weeks worth of chapters (including the one with that weeks prompt) a week late, as long as the contest hasn’t ended yet?

    • Sure, if you can’t get them in on the same week, you can double up the week after (like you said, as long as the contest hasn’t ended yet ๐Ÿ˜€ ).

  36. Does it matter when we enter? I missed week 1 so I didn’t get a chance to enter, if I submit week1-2 together would that be okay?

    thanks, Neve

  37. I have a quick question – is it okay to go back and tweak little things about our prior entries in order to make them fit more nicely with what we’ve got planned? Because I’m one of those people who doesn’t plan too far ahead, and I realized it would be really great if I could go back and alter some things – not major plot points, mind, just little words, an extra sentence – to make it fit better with what I’m now planning to do. Or do I have to leave everything as it was when I published it?

    • Hey Elizabeth-
      You can tweak at will until the contest enters its voting period on April 19th at 9 PM EST. Good Luck!

  38. Hey, so I’m entering late, is that ok? I got my first chapter done, the one about the toy store. What are the second and third prompts?

  39. It’s Monday… I don’t see a new prompt. Are you guys putting it up later in the day? Around what time should people expect prompts to be up by?

  40. Hi, quick question – does the story have to be FINISHED by April 18th, or can they still be a work-in-progress, but we only get judged on the chapters done by that point?

  41. Hey!
    I want to enter this competition, but I only heard about it yesterday. Can I still enter? Would I just post 8 chapters in the two weeks coming, using the 3 previous prompts plus next week’s?
    Maura ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Hey-
      Sure. As long as you finish the contest with 8 chapters and 4 of them refer to the prompts, in order, you can use it as an entry. Good luck!

  42. Oh, and also.
    Could I do the first chapter – something made of glass breaks and the second chapter about the toyshop? I have an idea….

  43. How many finalists will there be? I have been looking and so far mine is with the 11th most hearted, so I was wondering if there would be 10 or 15 finalists. Thanks

  44. I am so excited for this contest!
    But I have a question. DOes the prompt have to be the main idea/focus of the chapter??? Or can it just be a detail?

  45. Sorry, me again!
    Do the chapters have to go prompt chapter, own chapter, prompt chapter, own chapter etc, or can it be two prompt chapters, two of your own chapters if the prompts are still in the right order?
    Thanks (again)

  46. ok so in my story the person doesn’t buy something from a toy store, but they are in one and someone says they can pay them later. then a porcelain plate shatters. do these count for the prompts?

  47. Pingback: Serial Contest from | Mrs. Frye's Blog

  48. I was just looking at the unhappy woman typing in her cell phone novel. The image bothered me so I enlarged it. Has anyone else noticed that in the background of this Serial Contest illustration if they don’t look Japanese they look like a Middle Eastern terrorist? Is that some subliminal message? Cell phone novels are for terrorists? Is that why she is not smiling? Is she keying in the activation messages to terrorist cells who are going to blow up some western city? The unabomber is there wearing his baseball cap, and above him is Osama bin Laden. Fortunately, Dick Cheney is there to the very right of the cell phone, peeking over a book monitoring all this terrorist activity posing as serial story writing!

    Just an FYI. Carry on.


  49. 1) hey sorry i JUST read that we were supposed to follow Serial Contest. so i followed it just now,, is it still okay? will u follow me back? or is it too late? D:
    2) question about contests in general.. is it illegal to heart ur own entries?

    • Hi RORO

      1. The deadline is April 18th (this Monday) at 9pm EST, so you’ve still got a little time. Remember that you must have at least 8 chapters, and at least four of them must address the prompts given in the contest post. And we will follow you back in a few minutes.

      2. We ask that you don’t only to keep things fair.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at Best of luck!

  50. i asked this question before but no one answered, so before the contest ends i just want to ask it again so i can change stuff if i need to. so in my story the person doesnโ€™t buy something from a toy store, but they are in one and someone says they can pay them later. then a porcelain plate shatters. do these count for the prompts?

  51. “There will be three winners. One winner will be traditionally chosen; out of the ten most-hearted finalists, one will be chosen by a panel of Figmenters and Figment editors. Two winners will be chosen randomly from everyone who completes the contest.” This adds up to four.

    • The semi-colon sentence is clarification. It is explaining what we mean when we say “traditionally chosen”. To say it more clearly: one will be chosen by a combo of hearts and panel judging, two will be chosen randomly.

    • Hey Astralhaze-
      The voting period was concurrent with the entry period. At 9 PM EST, entries must be finished and votes must be in.

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