The cold wind battered the fortune teller's wagon, threatening an early frost. The girls climbed down, simultaneously giggling and shivering about the message the old witch had delivered. As their feet pushed through the red and orange leaves, a shadow emerged from the gnarled maple trees. A bent man in tattered layers stepped in front of the girls, leaned over, and put his crooked finger to his lips...

WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 950 words. (Your story's title is *not* included in the word count. We use MSWord's word count function to determine the final word count for submissions.)

VERY IMPORTANT: Type "24 Hour Contest" in the subject line of your email entry! This will enable us to pull any wayward entries out of our sp*m filter.



~~And, again - Very Important!~~

Your story must touch on this topic in some way to qualify. During each contest, several writers ask if they must quote from the topic directly. No, you don't. You are even permitted to change the gender and age of the character(s), as well as other details. However, it must be obvious to us that the story was written specifically for this assigned topic.


If you submit your story early, be sure to check your email about an hour before the deadline tomorrow to ensure we've sent you a confirmation (so you'll know your story made it). Don't wait until the last minute! Also, don't want until the very last minute to send your story. Some ISPs (yahoo in particular!) take too long to send out emails and your story might arrive late.

Even if you are a past-participant, please read these rules in their entirety!

HINT: Avoid common themes we see in every contest by reading this:


1. Your story does NOT need to include the exact topic, word-for-word, as written above. It must only touch on this topic in some way to qualify. Lots of writers ask this question during each contest, so we want this to be perfectly clear. You don't have to quote the topic word-for-word, but you may if you like. It's your decision. Yes, you may change the gender and/or age of the character(s), as well as other minor details. However, it must be obvious to us that the story was written specifically for this assigned topic.

2. Don't forget to name your story!

3. Word Count. Short stories for today's contest must not exceed the word count above. Short stories exceeding the word count will be disqualified. Your story's title is NOT included in the word count.

4.a. *Very Important* - Type "24 Hour Contest" in the subject line of your email entry! This will enable us to pull any wayward entries out of our sp*m filter.

4.b. Type your name, email address, mailing address, phone number and word count at the **END** of the story. (Lots of people break this rule. Breaking this rule is grounds for disqualification.) We will only use your phone number in case there is an emergency regarding your entry or if, heaven forbid, your winning check is returned undeliverable. And, we never, ever share emails, phone numbers, addresses, names or anything with any other person or company. We do publish the email addresses of the winners on the WritersWeekly site so our readers can compliment their stories and send congratulations. You can request we not publish your email address if you're a winner. No problem at all. Yes, you can use a pen name if you'd like but be sure to give us your real name, too, in case we need to mail you a check.

5. Send your story in the text of an e-mail message. DO NOT SEND EMAIL ATTACHMENTS unless it is an emergency (your email starts cutting off parts of the story). If you must send an attachment, it must be a TEXT-ONLY file. All other attachments will be deleted. No fancy formatting, please, even in the body of the email, and no html emails permitted. Text-only emails and attachments. Italics may be indicated by using underscores around the italicized area _like this_.

6. Submit your story to by the deadline, which is 12:00 p.m. Central Time tomorrow (Sunday).

7. Very Important. Please don't submit your story early, and then continue to make corrections, and submit your story again... and again...and again. Do not send your story more than once. REPEAT - DO NOT SEND YOUR STORY MORE THAN ONCE. We will use the first version of the story you send in. The other will be deleted. The occasional typo will be overlooked, so don't get stressed if you find one in your story later. We're looking for good writers, not editors. Everybooty makes typos, especialley under presshure, and we understann dis. However, if a few stories are finalists and we're having a hard time making a decision, a story with few or no typos will come out ahead of one with multiple typos.

8. For easy reference, guidelines (and hints) are online at:

9. Sometimes writers submit their stories and later find odd characters, or that they are missing vast chunks at the ends of paragraphs because they have cut and pasted to their mail program from their word processor. (Please write your story in a text program, NOT A WORD PROCESSING PROGRAM, if you're not using your mail program as this will cut down on the possibility of missing chunks and odd characters appearing.) Typing the story in the body of your email is the best way to send it without problems.

Please make sure your entire story appears in your email before clicking "send." When we email you to confirm that we have received your story, your story will be included in that confirmation email. Please make sure the entire story is there...because that will show you what we received on our end. We can't be held responsible for partial entries. If you find part of your story missing, try sending us a text-only attachment. If you find odd characters appearing in your story, but it's still readable, don't worry. We can work with it.

10. Late stories are disqualified. During every contest, a dozen or so entrants submit their story late with an excuse (I was working in the garden, the baby spilled juice on my keyboard, my mother in law made me go to the mall, I got my time zones confused, I forgot today was contest day, etc.) and ask us to accept it anyway or ask if they can get a refund or be moved to the next contest. We can't do that. To be completely fair, everyone must follow the rules. Stories are due here by the deadline. Many contestants simply send in their stories late with no explanation. We assume they think we won't notice the story is late. Those stories are also disqualified because they are late. All late stories are disqualified. No exceptions.

If your email to us bounces back to you, and does not arrive on time, we still can't accept it. Computers can easily be manipulated to make it appear something was sent before it actually was. However, the headers of each email contain info. that is difficult to manipulate, including when your ISP actually sent out the email and when it arrived on our email server.

Sending in a late story with the headers from your original submission won't work. If your story arrives late, you need to complain to your ISP, not to us.

Stories must be IN my in-box prior to the deadline. If your email program tends to send items out late or if you occasionally forget to release the mail in your queue or if your ISP has ever sent items out slowly or even if you're expecting bad weather that might cause you to lose your power or Internet connection, you should send your story early to accommodate for these possibilities., Yahoo, Verizon and several other large ISPs hard filter more than 30% of legitimate email. If you use one of these services, you might want to consider giving us an alternative email address to use for corresponding with you.

If the deadline passes, please do not email asking us to accept it late, and please don't send in late stories. We can't include them anyway. Please don't send irate emails to us claiming you sent the story in on time. If you sent your entry in long before before it arrived here, you'll need to register a complaint with your ISP. Our rules are firm in this area. In fairness to everyone entered, we can't break the rules for one. All stories ~arriving~ after the deadline will be disqualified.

11. **VERY IMPORTANT!** And, finally...please, if you love us, give us a good ending! 95% of the stories we receive fall flat at the end... even though we've been posting this particular note about good endings for years now!

It's very depressing for us when this happens. The ending can and will make or break your story.

*** We LOVE surprise endings! ***

What are the 10 most common mistakes writers make during the 24-Hour Short Story Contests?

10. Exceeding the word count, or submitting a 100-word story (obviously not even trying and simply hoping for a door prize).

9. Forgetting to name the story.

8. Putting their contact information (and name!) before the story instead of after.

7. Making the story about a writer, or about someone named Angela (my name). Some contestants seem to think this will make us favor their story more. It's a common "trick" and it just doesn't work.

6. Typos, misspelled words and grammatical errors.

5. Using what was obviously a pre-written story that has nothing to do with the topic (but adding a sentence or two about the topic to try to fool us into thinking the story is about the topic).

4. Using a word processor to create the story, then pasting it into an email (causing odd characters to appear and large pieces of the story to get cut off).

3. Not writing "outside the box." Too many writers use the first idea that comes to mind when reading the topic. This always results in several similar stories being submitted.

2. Turning in the story after the deadline passes and then trying to convince us we received it on time and are lying to them about that (it's easy to prove when an email arrived by the headers on the email!). Also, trying to convince us to accept their story late because they forgot the contest was today. And, blaming us for emails not received (it's best to send the story early and then get confirmation that it was received rather than emailing us after the contest ends to ask us why confirmation wasn't received).

And the #1 most common mistake writers make in the 24-Hour Short Story Contests is:

*****1. Giving us a bad, boring ending. Please give us a good one!! AGAIN, WE LOVE SURPRISE ENDINGS!!!*****

REAPEAT: Avoid common themes we see in every contest by reading this:


Good luck!!!'s 24-Hour Short Story Contest!

The Fall Contest is now closed.

You can enter the Winter 2015 contest below.

Please note: You must be entered in the contest before the topic is posted in order to submit your story. You cannot write your story first, then enter the contest.

Attention: Residents of Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Jersey, and Tennessee. Your state may prohibit your participation in skills-based contests that have an entry fee. If your state prohibits these types of contests, please do not enter. If you wish to participate anyway, your $5 fee will be considered a participation fee but, unfortunately, you will not be eligible to win a prize.

24-Hour Short Story Contest! - $5.00

Select this to register for the WINTER 2015 24-Hour Short Story Contest. Start time is January 24th, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. (noon) central time. Held quarterly and limited to 500 entrants. Don't miss out on the ultimate source for creative stress...and tons of fun! More than 85 prizes! (When you purchase this, you'll download a PDF file of the guidelines. There is also a link to them in the email receipt.)

I want to enter the WINTER 2015 contest.

Winners from the last contest


GUIDELINES, judging criteria, and FAQs appear below prize list.

1st Place
  • $300 Cash Prize
  • Publication of winning story on the website.
  • 1 - Freelance Income Kit

    2nd Place
  • $250 Cash Prize
  • Publication of winning story on the website.
  • 1 - Freelance Income Kit

    3rd Place
  • $200 Cash Prize
  • Publication of winning story on the website.
  • 1 - Freelance Income Kit

    20 - Honorable Mentions

    Honorable mention winners receive a one-year subscription to The Write Markets Report AND one ebook of their choice.

    DOOR PRIZES (randomly drawn from all participants):
  • 15 - One-year subscriptions to The Write Markets Report
  • 5 - copies How to Publish A Profitable E-mag
  • 5 - copies of Query Letters That Worked
    Features real query letters that landed these contracts: Woman's Day - $2,800; Redbook - $3,500; Ladies Home Journal - $3,000; - $2,000; Lifetime Magazine - $3,000; Life Extension magazine - $6,480; Natural Remedies $11,300; and many more!
  • 35 - Grab Bag!

    Winners of grab bag get one ebook of their choice from our list HERE.

    (Frequently Asked Questions)

    Q. How long do stories need to be?
    A. We can't tell you until contest start time how long the entries must be. Past contests have ranged from 500 max. to 2,000 max. You'll just have to wait and see.

    Q. Why won't you tell us the contest word count ahead of time?
    A. Because we have found that some write their stories ahead of time and then (crafty they are) creatively incorporate the contest topic into their almost-completed story.

    Q. What's the biggest mistake writers make in the contests?
    A. Bad endings! Oh, we do so detest bad endings! Predictable endings, poor and weak endings...they can turn a wonderful story into a sour grape. We've read thousands of stories over the past two years and some absolutely wonderful and beautifully written stories end up losing on the last sentence. It's sad, but it's very, very common. Hint: We LOVE surprises!

    Q. What do you base your judging criteria on?
    A. In the contests, we give the topic and what we find, after reading the first few entries, is that most of the stories are the same story told over and over but in a different way. Those are weeded out because it is obvious that originality did not play a major part in their planning. We also look at good writing (but if the story is not good... it gets tossed as well). Some writers can weave a beautiful thread, but tell a really bad story at the same time. Humor plays a part, too, when appropriate in the story. If we groan, we don't like it. If we laugh out loud, we love it. What we end up with (at the end) is 10-20 stories that stood out above the rest. While good writing is a must, originality plays a huge role in the judging as well.

    For example:
    A past topic was: Life Threatening Situation in A Natural Disaster. Common themes were people trying to survive hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and the like. The winning entry focused more on the psychological madness of the wife than on the hurricane itself. Another winner gave us an avalanche. Not only was the story beautifully written, but it was the only avalanche story we received, and the life threatening situation was not the natural disaster, but the impending suicide of the main character.

    Another topic was "It was the most terrifying classifed ad yet and, to top it off, a there was a blizzard brewing!" One writer wrote about a woman and classified ad...and she was drinking a blizzard from Dairy Queen. Now THAT was original!

    I hope this gives you some ideas of what we're looking for in winning entries.

    Q. What should I avoid?
    A. Far too many stories come in with the main character being a writer. Please don't do that. It is far too common. Also, do NOT make the main character of your story named Angela and do not base your story in Bangor, Maine. These tactics are always used by a few in each contest and they don't work. In fact, making us think that favoritism because of a name or location will be used has the opposite effect on our judging. Good writing is what makes a winner...not manipulation of the judges. Oh, and don't make your story about a writer who is participating in a writing contest but who can't come up with an idea on the topic. We always get a couple of those and that idea is pretty old by now. ;)

    Q. What is the judging process?
    A. Stories are read and broken down into two categories. Finalists versus other. The finalists are read and ranked by all judges. Using the rankings, we pick the top 23. These 23 are then re-read and ranked again by the judges and awarded either first, second, third place, or an honorable mention. All others are eligible for door prizes which are awarded at random.

    Have fun!

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