The Write Off is hosted in our chat channel - if you want to play the game, all you have to do is join the channel during the event.%WritersInk staff members will be there to welcome you and talk you through the details.
If you're interested in playing, please read the Brief Explanation below. That should give you an overview of how things work. If you want to play competitively and enter the prize draw, you'll need to read the How To Submit section, too. We've also provided a few tips which may make the game easier to play!
If you're still curious or unclear after that, all of the rules and regulations of the game can be found in the Full Rules chapter. We don't expect you to read this section - but we think it's important to make sure the rules are publicly available.
Please be aware that if you submit a piece into the Prize Draw, we will copy it to a deviation in the ~writeoffentries account and make it publicly available to members of dA.
You can either play the game for fun (in which case you don't have to share any work with anyone else and you're free to continue writing at the end of the round), or you can play competitively - in which case you can enter one entry into the prize draw.
Only members of %WritersInk are eligible to play the game competitively. Of course, anyone can join at any time (although if you leave the group before the prize draw, you will be disqualified! ).
Each round lasts precisely twenty minutes. At the start of the round, a prompt word will be announced in the chat channel. You then have twenty minutes to write a piece of poetry or prose based on that prompt. If you wish to play competitively, you MUST submit your work within two minutes of the end of the round (see How to Submit).
You can play for as many rounds as you like. You don't need to be present at the start of the round to join in, nor do you have to join each round. If you don't understand (or can't work with) the prompt word, just sit out the round and join the next one.
At the end of the game (normally four or five rounds) we'll ask you to choose one of your submitted pieces to enter into the prize draw. You will have 24 hours to change your mind. You can enter a piece into the draw at any time simply by telling us in the chat channel. If you only submit one piece to us, and we don't hear otherwise, we'll automatically enter that into the prize draw (and send you a note to that effect).
After the entries are in, our admins will decide upon a Shortlist of five pieces. The authors of those five pieces will get a chance to make minor edits to their work and re-submit them to the group. The Shortlist will then go to a public vote to decide the ultimate winner.
A chat admin will manage the game and post clear instructions and time limits in bold font. If all this sounds a little complex, don't worry! Just follow the admin's lead on the day
How To Submit
At the end of each round, we'll ask you to submit your work so that we have a record of what you wrote in the time limit. In order to keep the game fair, we must insist that all submissions come within two minutes of the end of the round. We can't allow any tricksey hobbitses to take extra time to fine-tune their work. Only work which has been submitted on time will be eligible for the Shortlist.
Submitting work is super-easy: it should only take a handful of seconds
To submit your work, you need to compose a new note, addressed to ~writeoffentries. The note subject should indicate which round you are submitting to. So if you're submitting to the second round, your note subject should be "Write Off - Round 2" (or something similiar). If you're submitting to the first round, then your note subject should be "Write Off - Round 1".
We'll try to reply to you ASAP to confirm your submission (this might not be possible if we have a LOT of players! )
The note itself should contain the piece you've written for that prompt. You don't need to say "here is my prompt submission", or include any kind of preamble. Just copy and paste your entire piece into the note and hit "send". If you want to include a title at the top, feel free! The title doesn't have to be the prompt word.
You have 24 hours after the game is finished to decide which of your pieces you want to enter into the prize draw. We recommend you do this in the chatroom at the end of the game - but you can send the group a note at any time. If you only submit one eligible piece, we'll automatically enter it (unless you ask us not to).
Keep an eye on the chat room topic (up towards the top of the window), particularly if you join the room late. It contains important information about which round we're playing and when it ends.
Before a round starts, you should prepare an empty note to ~writeoffentries, with the subject 'Write Off Round X' or just 'Round X' (where x is the round number you're submitting for). That will make it easier for you to submit your work on time when the round is over - you can just copy the text into the note and hit ‘send’.
It's also a good idea to set an alarm or stop-watch so you can keep track of time. We'll give a couple of minute's notice before the Round starts, and regular updates of how much time is left. It's a good idea to set the stop-watch to just 19 minutes - if you're behind schedule, you won't miss the window; if you're ahead of schedule, you've got a minute to proof-read your work.
Don't try to write your piece inside a note. There are so many ways that could go wrong, it doesn't even bear thinking about. Don't try to write your piece in the chat room, either! Start up your favourite text editor (Word, OpenOffice, Wordpad, whatever!) and write your entry in that. You're welcome to use spell-checkers if you wish - this isn't a typing or spelling test!
Good punctuation, spelling and grammar are always important. But we will give you a chance to clean up your writing if you make the Shortlist. So long as the work is legible, don't waste too much time fixing typos or getting your tenses right - you can fix that later! We're also aware that formatting is often lost when you copy text into a note, so don't panic if it happens. Having said that, if you're writing poetry, try not to rely on formatting tricks to make the piece shine, because we might not even see them!
A prompt can be a theme, or a starting point or a punch-line - whatever you like. You don't even have to use the word (so long as it's clear how the prompt has influenced the piece). Having said that, you're more likely to make the shortlist if you've found a really original, creative use of the prompt word (check out the judging criteria in the full rules).
Hide the chat window. If you're keeping your own time, you should hide the chat window out of sight for most of the round. There's often chatter during a round - don't get drawn in, focus on your work!
Take a break. The Write Off is quite an intensive game, and most players start to feel a little burnout after a few rounds. Don't be shy about skipping a round - there are normally at least four prompts, so you've got plenty of chances to get inspired.
Don't panic! If a prompt doesn't speak to you straight away, just relax and give it a few minutes. Inspiration may strike. Or, if you really can't think...
Don't think, just write! You'll be amazed what you can come out with when you get a little rhythm, so let your fingers do the thinking and let the time limit inspire you.
Don't write, think! Some of our more successful entries have been well constructed, well thought-out works. You'd be surprised how much you can achieve in the time limit. Take two or three minutes to structure and plan your entry, decide what impact it should have on the reader, how it should end, whether there's a twist, and so on. A little forward planning can go a long way!
Sequence of Play
Anyone can join the game on the day, but only members will be eligible for the final Shortlist and the grand prize. Anyone is welcome to join the group, though!
Submissions must be in English (sorry, we're an English-speaking admin team. Feel free to host a similar event in your own language, though! In fact, if you do that, we'd love to hear from you).
To join the game, just join our chat channel at any point during the advertised time. We normally expect the game to run for about two hours.
Our admins will draw up a list of prompt words and draw one at random from a hat (or equivalent receptacle) at the start of a round. To ensure fairness, our admins are NOT eligible for the prize draw (though they are welcome to play the game!).
At the start of a round, we'll announce a prompt word. You'll then have 20 minutes to write a piece based on the prompt. Poetry and prose are both accepted.
You can enter any number of rounds. You don't need to be present at the start of the round to submit a piece at the end of the round. While a round is active, we'll put the prompt word, round number and start time in the chat topic.
To be eligible for the Shortlist, you MUST submit your piece to ~writeoffentries within 2 minutes of the end of the round.
Late submissions will not be eligible for the Shortlist or grand prize, sorry! We have to be strict to keep the game fair to all players It should only take a few seconds to submit your work - see the Tips for more advice on this.
There will be breaks between the rounds (five-ten minutes) while the chat admin brews a nice cup of tea
At the end of the event, you can volunteer one of your pieces to enter the grand prize draw (but remember, only pieces that were submitted to us on time are eligible). You have 24 hours after the game to change your final submission - just send a note to ~writeoffentries if you wish to do so.
After the Write Off
About twenty-four hours after the Write Off, we'll post a debrief journal with all of the entries which have been entered into the prize draw. We'll take the text you submitted to us and create a deviation using the ~writeoffentries account. That deviation is a public record of your entry to the Write Off - bona fide, certified, and, erm, deep-fried.
The debrief will contain a list of all the prompt words we used. If you want to try a prompt in your own time, feel free! You can submit it to our Write Off Entries folder: but please ensure that it's in the spirit of the game! Your artist comments should say that it's a late Write Off prompt piece, and should say roughly how long you've spent on it.
Once we've published the debriefing, your submission has been officially entered and you can't change your mind. Saying that, if we've made a mistake, please let us know as quickly as possible!
You can create your own deviations from anything you've produced during the game and submit it to the group's Write Off folder when ever you're ready. You can submit it as-is, or work it up into something longer, or do whatever you wish! We'd prefer you not to do this with any pieces you've entered into the prize draw, though (otherwise things get complicated).
Our admins will produce a shortlist of five worthy winners (see Voting Criteria, below) and put it to a public poll. The poll will run for a week, and the winner wins the grand prize. Anyone is eligible to vote, and you don't need to use our judging criteria. Just pick your favourite!
If we put your piece into the shortlist, we will send it back to you so that you can do a brief spell-check and clean-up. We want all shortlisted pieces to be easily readable, and we expect that you will make typing errors, given the short time-frame for the contest. We may send the work back to you if you've significantly changed the content. Adding adjectives, rephrasing sentences, or replacing words isn't allowed (well, maybe one or two) - this is grammar and spell check, not a re-wording exercise. We'll judge this on a case-by-base basis - but don't worry, if we think you've over-done it, we'll give you time to correct and re-submit to us (for the record, as of March 2013, it hasn't happened yet!)
Once you've made minor edits to your shortlisted piece, please create a new deviation and submit it to our Write Off Entries folder. It would be really helpful if you could add a comment to the submission to let our Gallery Mods know that it's a shortlisted entry to the contest.
If you don't make the Shortlist, we'd still love to see you work in the Write Off Entries folder!
Our admins will vote for all the entries to produce a short-list of their favourites. If we don't receive many entries (less than ten), our admins will just list their top five pieces in order. We'll award points for each position (10 for first, 8 for second, and so on), and the highest scoring pieces go to the Shortlist
Normally, though, we vote for all pieces according to:
Prompt Interpretation (for which originality and focus are both important)
Entertainment (a general reflection of how much we enjoyed it)
Creativity (how original and imaginative the piece is overall)
Technical Ability (by which we mean clarity, vocabularly, style and structure, rather than grammatical accuracy).
We're deliberately keeping these criteria broad, and we're judging more on ideas and vision than actual execution, as a reflection of the time limit.
When we get a very high number of submissions (ie, more than twenty), we'll vote using a two-pass process. Firstly, each admin reads all the pieces and produces a list of their top 5-10 (to be decided). We assign scores to seperate the ten or so stand-out entries. We then vote for each of these ten based on the criteria above to produce the final Shortlist.This process saves the admins from having to carefully judge a lot of work (a time-consuming task!), instead letting them focus their attention on the most popular entries.
Good luck, and have fun!