About The Friday Challenge

The Friday Challenge is a sort of writing workshop –slash- contest that we’ve been running in one form or another since March of 2005. The core idea is very simple:
  • Every two weeks, on a Friday morning, we put forth the idea for a story. This can be in the form of a rhetorical question, a mere notion, an opening scene, or anything else we happen to think of.
  • You then have slightly less than two weeks to take that idea, develop it into a short story, and submit it. The deadline for each Friday Challenge is midnight Central time on the second Thursday following. (For example, for the challenge issued on 11/3, the deadline is 11/16.)
  • Depending on the quantity and quality of entries received, we will either select the clear winner, or select the top two or three stories, publish them on the StupefyingStories.com website, and then take another week to determine the winner by reader poll.
Lather, rinse, repeat.

Some Friendly Advice & Fiddly Details

Obviously, the idea here is to write a short story, very quickly. If your submission is more than 1,500 words in length, it’s probably too long. If you’re taking time to polish your submission, you’re probably working too hard. Length and polish won’t count against you, but we’re more interested in the quality of your imagination than the perfection of your execution.
Entries should be sent to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com, with a subject line that identifies the particular challenge for which you are submitting your story. (For example, “11/03 Friday Challenge.”) We prefer to receive entries as file attachments in .rtf, .docx, .doc, .odt, or plain text formats, in roughly that order. We can accept .pages files, if we must, but they are a pain in the @$$. We will not accept entries sent as links to file-sharing sites.
Please include your full name and address in your entry, as well as your pen name (if you use one), author’s bio, and (optional) author’s photo. Since winning entries will be published on the StupefyingStories.com website, having this information up front makes it much easier for us to publish your story and pay you for using it.

Oh yes, there are prizes!

Besides the glory of publication, there are prizes. For First Place: $25.00 USD. For Second Place: $15.00 USD. For Third Place: $10.00 USD

Revision: We have decided instead to pay our standard word rates for all stories selected for publication. In the event that we receive too many good stories to select a clear winner for a given challenge, we will publish the top stories and select the winner by reader poll. The author of the story that wins the reader poll will receive some form of additional recognition: for example, an Amazon gift certificate.

Payments for publication may be taken in the form you prefer: check (easiest for us), PayPal (if this is your choice, please be sure to include your PayPal email address), Rampant Loon Press merchandise, or Amazon gift certificates.

Old-timers will remember that we also used to let winners select a prize from “what’s behind Door #3,” which was where we kept a collection of signed books, vintage books, and curios and relics, such as that vintage Captain Planet fishing tackle box that strangely enough, no one ever claimed. If it would make it more interesting for you, we would be happy to bring that practice back.

We reserve the right not to award some or all prizes, if a given challenge draws too few or only unpublishable entries.

A Topic For Further Discussion

In our original form, we posted all entries received online and then encouraged readers and writers alike to read and discuss the stories. The problem with doing this was that some of the more highly strung markets out there considered this posting online of the first draft to be a “first publication,” which therefore meant the writers couldn’t take what they’d gleaned from the discussion, rework the story, and sell it anywhere else. For a time we used a members-only file-sharing site to get around that, but the site we were using shut down, and at the time we couldn’t find a suitable replacement.
We are now considering using a file-sharing site like Google Drive or Dropbox to post stories for wider discussion, but this would require readers to register with us. Would you be interested in participating in this way, and if so, do you have a preference between Drive, Dropbox, or some other file-sharing service?

Revision: we have scrapped the idea of having something like a members-only file-sharing site. Instead, we will publish the winning story|stories on this web site, thus solving the “first publication” problem.

One Rule to Rule Them All

While we’re always open for thoughtful discussion, please remember that Bruce Bethke is not merely an award-winning author and the Executive Cat-Herder in Chief of Rampant Loon Press, he’s also the former member of the SFWA Board of Directors who quit SFWA in disgust because of the never-ending arguments over the Nebula Award rules. If anyone insists on getting all “rules lawyer” about the Friday Challenge, we reserve the right to get Medieval on them. Further, we reserve the right to make arbitrary changes to the rules at any time. Remember, this is supposed to be a relaxed and friendly competition!

About that Snowdog Rule

The Snowdog Rule was named for a regular contributor to the original Friday Challenge who went by the handle of “Snowdog” and once performed an unforgettable feat of deadline-stretching. Thereafter, we took to referring to any attempt to stretch a deadline as “snowdogging.”

The gist of the Snowdog Rule is that, while the official deadline for anything is typically midnight Central time, the practical deadline is whenever I get into the office the next morning and check my email. In other words, I’m not going to disqualify an entry if it comes in at, say, midnight Pacific time. Or even Hawaiian time, Mr. Keigley.

But wait, there’s more!