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81words

81words logo

An attempt to set a World Record for the most contributing authors published in an anthology - learn more here

Quick links on this page:

about 81words - 81words writing challenge rules & how to submit - read 81word stories

The History of 81words

How 81words Started

81words.net was a flash fiction website started by Adam Rubinstein. He's a self-professed educational basket-case from the 70’s who says he finds his sense of meaning and well-being through creativity.

Adam Rubinstein

Adam Rubinstein, founder of 81words.net

Adam said:

"A long time ago, a few years after wasting most of my time at school, I entered a competition to write a story in 50 words. There were options for five different genres and each had a different paragraph given as the starting point. I didn't win but really enjoyed the challenge of carefully crafting words to create a beautiful jewel. Something perfect and complete in itself.

"The experience stayed with me and I thought it might be something lots of us could enjoy. An opportunity to be creative in an accessible way that isn’t too demanding on our time. So 81 words was born."

Writing Improvement Software

Why 81words Is Now Part of www.christopherfielden.com

I first became aware of 81words when Adam contacted me in January 2015 asking if his website could be added to my lists of short story and flash fiction competitions.

After creating the listing, I decided to have a go at the 81word challenge and submitted a story. It was called 'Love is Difficult for Zombies'.

Love Is Difficult For Zombies by Christopher Fielden on 81words.net

Screenshot of Love is Difficult for Zombies from the 81words.net website

I then wrote about 81words in my book, How to Write a Short Story, Get Published & Make Money. I'd decided to investigate including some advice about flash fiction in the book after liaising with authors that said they struggle to find the time to write due to long working hours.

How to Write a Short Story

The 81 word story only took me about half-an-hour to write. I submitted it straight away and it was published within 10 minutes. I used this as a case study, to illustrate how quickly you could become a published writer by using flash fiction sites like 81words - achievable, even if you're the busiest person on the planet.

In April 2017 Adam contacted me again. He was developing a new project called Fretmeister, which was working really well. This meant he didn't have time to give 81words the attention it needed.

While Adam didn't have time to run 81words, he thought it would be a shame if it just disappeared as it had a lot of active users. He asked me if I'd like to take it on. I agreed.

There were 2 options of how to proceed:

  1. PLAN A: run 81words in its current form - it was largely automated, so I was hoping it wouldn't take up much time
  2. PLAN B: create a landing page on my site that continued what Adam had started

A few users from my email list expressed an interest in getting involved with helping me run the wesite, which was very much appreciated. Big thanks to them.

In the end, I went for PLAN B. 81words had a lot of users (about 2,500) but it didn't receive very much traffic (only around 10 visits a day).

If the traffic levels were high enough, I planned to monetise the site using Google AdSense, so the ongoing running-costs (d0main, hosting, updates etc.) were covered. That would mean users could carry on enjoying the site for free.

Unfortunately, with low traffic levels, this option wasn't financially viable, so I redirected the website onto this page and opened the 81word Writing Challenge. That meant users could still try the 81 word flash fiction writing challenge out for free and see their work published. However, I had to abandon the user voting system as the cost of installing it onto my site wasn't practical.

So, this is the new home of 81words. You can read and submit stories further down the page.

81words on Social Media

Here are links to the 81words social media profiles:

I've kept the social media profiles for 81words live. I'm not sure how much they'll get used in the future, but I thought it would be nice to keep them for the sake of history.

81words Email Addresses

81words used to have 2 active emails associated with it. They were:

  • admin@81words.net
  • info@81words.net

These emails are no longer checked and have permanent autoresponders on them. If you want to contact me about 81words, please visit my contact page.

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81words Writing Challenge - Rules & How To Submit

The submission criteria are nice and simple:

  • stories must be EXACTLY 81 words in length
  • please include a title for your story (not included in the word count)
  • entry is FREE
  • anyone can submit
  • 1 entry per person
  • no profanity please - all the writing challenges on this website are shared with children
  • your 81word stories will be published on this page
  • when 1,000 stories have been received, we will publish an anthology and attempt to set a World Record for the most contributing authors published in an anthology
  • profits from book sales will be donated to charity
  • by submitting, you accept the terms and conditions
  • when the anthology is published , you will be involved in the book launch process
  • submit your story using the comments form below or email (see my contact page)
  • include a short biography (40 words max) for use in the published book - if you don't supply a bio, we will be unable to publish your story
  • include 1 link (optional) to your website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.

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81word Stories

Below you will find all the 81word stories submitted to the 81word Writing Challenge. I hope you enjoy reading them.

To date, we have received 368 stories. We need 632 more to publish the anthology.

When 1,000 stories have been received, written by 1,000 different authors, an anthology will be published. It will attempt to set a World Record for the most contributing authors published in an anthology. To do that, we will need to sell over 1,000 books.

I decided to attempt this after being contacted by Allen Stroud. He sent me a link to this newspaper story regarding the world record for the 'most authors contributing to an anthology of short stories'. The current world record is 50. The attempt featured in the article is for 100. Allen pointed out that we've already published an anthology with 100 contributing authors via the Nonsense Challenge, so could already have set a new world record.

I contacted Guinness World Records about this. They accepted my application, but we have not broken the record for 2 reasons:

  1. The minimum word count of stories for this world record is 3,000
    1. Nonsense Challenge stories are 200 words max
  2. You have to sell 1,000 copies of the published book to get the world record
    1. At time of writing, we've sold 114 Nonsense Anthologies

So, in November 2017, I applied to Guinness World Records to set up a brand new record for the 'most authors contributing to an anthology of flash fiction stories'.

I heard back from Guinness World Records in January 2018. They said:

Dear Christopher Fielden

Thank you for sending us the details of your proposed record attempt for 'Most authors contributing to an anthology of flash fiction stories'.

Unfortunately, after thoroughly reviewing your application with members of our research team, we are afraid to say that we cannot accept your proposal as a Guinness World Records title.

Our team of expert Records Managers receive thousands of new record proposals every year from all over the world which are carefully assessed to establish if they meet our stringent criteria. Every record verified by Guinness World Records must be measurable by a single superlative, verifiable, standardisable, breakable and also present an element of skill.

Whilst we appreciate this is not the decision you hoped for, we trust that you will understand our decision. You may want to consider these record titles as alternatives:

  • Most authors contributing to an anthology of short stories
  • Largest writing competition

For information on what makes a record, we would advise before submitting an application to visit http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records/what-makes-a-guinness-world-records-record-title. This page will provide you with helpful information if you are thinking about breaking or setting a record.

Once again thank you for contacting Guinness World Records.

Kind regards, Records Management Team

Please be aware that as your record application has not been accepted, Guinness World Records is not associated with the activity relating to your record proposal and does not endorse this activity in any way. If you choose to proceed, then this is will be of your own volition and at your own risk. Guinness World Records will not monitor, measure or verify this activity.

Obviously, this response was disappointing. Still, I contacted them again for further clarification, to see if they can give more information about why the record was rejected and if anything can be changed to make it acceptable.

Here is a copy of my message:

Hi. Thanks for letting me know my record application (171122151758mact) was rejected. Please could you clarify why? I am happy to make amendments so it acceptable to you. So far as I can see, the record is measurable by a single superlative (professionally presented book released by an established publisher), verifiable (physical book containing details of all contributors, plus verification by publishing professionals), standardisable (flash fiction - same as short story record, but less than 1,000 words), breakable (get a higher number of contributing authors) and also present an element of skill (flash fiction writing). Any guidance you can give as to which criteria I'm not meeting and why would be very much appreciated. Thanks for your time, Chris

I heard back from Guinness in February. Mark, my account manager, said:

Hi Christopher,

We are unable to standardise the writing of a story. Due to the subjective nature of what constitutes a story, a record based on this concept would be difficult to compare across attempts. Similar records have been marked as being researched while a review is being conducted.

I wrote back in February saying:

Hi Mark

Thanks for your response.

I agree, what constitutes a story is subjective.

However, as the record is primarily to do with the number of contributing authors (if someone else publishes more, the record could be broken, so it's easy to measure), and there is already a record in the same format for short stories, please would you reconsider? The only difference is the word count limit - flash fiction under 1,000 words, instead of short stories of 3,000 to 8,000 words. It just seems odd to reject this application for the reasons you stated when there is already another record for short stories in a similar format.

From your comments, I guess you might be reviewing that record category anyway. If that's the case, I understand your reasons.

Thanks for your time and assistance on this - it's much appreciated. If the answer is still 'no', I promise not to hassle you again :-)

Cheers, Chris

Mark write back to me at the end of February, saying:

HI Christopher,

The short story version of this record is under review and may be terminated. For this reason we will not be opening any more records of this type.

Thank you for your understanding on this matter.

I wrote back and said:

Hi Mark.

OK, that's a shame, but thanks for letting me know. Much appreciated.

Cheers, Chris

As you can see, that means records related to creativity are being reviewed as they are subjective. It's a shame, but I understand Guinness's reasons.

So, what to do next...?

I have some other ideas about how to proceed. At the very least, we will publish the book as an 'unofficial world record' and publicize it as best we can - so a book will be published, I promise. But there are some other options which I'm currently exploring.

WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE NEWS.

That's the story so far. Big thanks to Allen Stroud for putting the idea in my head.

The Charity The 81 Word Challenge Supports

The 81 word challenge is supporting the Arkbound Foundation, a charity that aims to widen access to literature and improve diversity within the media industry.

Arkbound Foundation

I am a trustee of the Arkbound Foundation and we are working very closely with the charity's sister project, Arkbound (a social enterprise publisher), to publish the 81 word challenge anthology. We plan to use money donated via this challenge to finance more creative writing workshops in the UK for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Read The 81 Words Stories

The 81 word stories received to date are published in the order they're received.

In January 2018, this page had become over 25,000 words in length. The software I use to update the website is a tad archaic and couldn't cope with it, so my computer kept crashing. To stop this from happening, I've published stories in batches of 100 on separate pages.

They can be found here:

  1. Stories 1 to 100 can be read here
  2. Stories 101 to 200 can be read here
  3. Stories 201 to 300 can be read here
  4. Stories 301 to 400 can be read here [This is the page you need to look at if your story has just been published]
  5. Stories 401 to 500, coming when we receive over 400 stories...

Below are a small handful of the 81 word stories, just so some inspirational examples remain on this page.

Story 004

Remember Eighty-One?

by Allen Ashley

Yes, I remember eighty-one. A year of strife. The transport system in meltdown. Workers and management at loggerheads. Fears about automation in the workplace leading to further job losses. Poor air quality. Urban health scares. Governments considering land grabs and ready to send in an army at any provocation. The media finding convenient foreign scapegoats. Nobody seemed to be sticking up for the ordinary working man. Or woman. Why have I not mentioned Thatcher? I was talking about 2081. And 1881...

Story 028

Tycoon Tommy

by Lesley Truchet

I hate school.

SUMMER HOLIDAYS:

Week 1 to 3, I nicked goods from shops. 

Week 4, I sold the stuff on eBay.

Week 5, I was running to the post office with parcels. The money rolled in.

Next week, I’ll car boot the rest. Mum will think I’m clearing my room and she’ll help out with her car.

Last summer I made £750.00. This summer will be around £1,000. 

This time next year, I’m gonna be a millionaire.

I hate school.

 

Story 047

Furborg's Caution

by Ian Tucker

As a kitten, Furborg caught flu and almost died.

Accidentally drinking floor cleaner claimed another life shortly afterwards.

When young he'd underestimated the strength of a fox.

And he once fell three storeys from a roof.

The vase that toppled onto him wasn't his fault.

And every cat has one bad experience with curiosity.

One time, he ate the wrong sort of grass.

Recently, there was the incident with the yellow lorry.

Adding these up, Furborg is now much more cautious.

Story 079

Faces

by Vichar Lochan (age 13)

I've heard that your brain can't create faces by itself. So all your dreams are of faces that you vaguely remember, faces you've seen before, in the crowd, on the subway, in a restaurant – the most mundane, the most normal of faces.

But then there are the monsters, the stuff of your nightmares – tentacled, slimy sea-serpents, giant, curiously deformed, eerily human-like figures, the hulking mass that somehow terrifies you more than anything else.

Where have you seen those faces, I wonder?

Story 097

Love Torque

by Adam Rubinstein

"You got Sharon a birthday present?" Trev sipped his pint.

"Half inch Torque wrench set," said Terry. "Money's tight."

"I think you're missing a trick there mate. You never did understand how women tick."

"You think?"

"They're different from us. They want to feel like they're really loved, special like."

"I see what you mean." Terry sighed.

"It'll be worth it mate."

"OK," Terry decided, "I'll go for the three quarter inch set."

"Man, you are going to get so laid."

Story 116

Morton's Toe

by Mike Scott Thomson

I was having a miserable day at the surgery when Dr Pod mentioned in passing, "Saw this guy's foot just now, and guess what? Every toe was a Morton."

I told him not to be ridiculous. How can each toe be the longest one?

Then I thought, Well, is it not our calling to consider such apparent implausibilities?

As I mulled it over, the fury ebbed away.

The question became my One Hand Clapping.

Feeling positively Zen, now.

Cheers, Dr Pod.

Story 152

The Chicken And The Pineapple

by Alice Payne (age 10)

Once upon a time there was a pineapple. Then a chicken found it and stuffed his face until he was very fat.

Full of pineapple, the chicken needed to rest his stomach. He went off for a little snooze in the bamboo hutch he had built.

While he was asleep a hunter stalked up to his little bamboo hutch and stole away the chicken.

Sadly, the hunter drowned in the river and the chicken broke free and lived happily ever after.

Story 154

Sirens

by Harriet Payne

The sound of sirens, that was the start to all of this. I had been with my parents at the time, going about my daily chores. It was then that I heard the sirens.

We all rushed out to the shelter and grabbed our gas masks. I could see fear etched onto my parents' faces as we huddled together.

Crashes echoed through the streets of London… then all fell silent. We climbed out the shelter, and saw nothing but loose rubble.

Story 221

One Previous Owner

by Doris Claymore

For sale. One dragon. Name: Fire Bringer. Temperament: challenging. Food: meat, vast quantities of, raw, alive, preferably screaming.

As name suggests, Fire Bringer does breathe fire. Said fire will melt anything, including High Tensile Steel and titanium.

Chain and collar included, although not effective (see notes regarding breath).

Likes long flights, smiting, riddles, treasure and things that twinkle.

Perfect pet for megalomaniac who wishes to take over the world. Large cave essential, best located remotely in extinct volcano.

Open to offers.

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Leave your comments

Please use the form below to leave your comments. All comments will be reviewed so won't appear on the page instantly. I will not share your details with anyone else. Most recent comments appear at the bottom of the page, oldest at the top.

Your Details:

Please prove you're a human by entering the security code in the box below: 9951

Comments:

Your comments:

Sivan P
Congratulations for starting the 81words writing challenge.

Chris Fielden
Thanks Sivan. And thanks for submitting - much appreciated :-)

Willard S
Out of the 19 stories so far, I like number 8 best. A whole Sci-Fi story in 81 words. Nice!

Chris Fielden
Yes, pretty impressive in just 81 words :-)

Wayne H
Just read story number 028 Tycoon Tommy by Lesley Truchet... loved it, great work!!!

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Wayne, I'll let Lesley know :-)

Lesley T
Wayne, thank you so much. You've made my day.

David T
Willard S - thank you so much, I'm glad you like it :)

Ros B
A question - are contractions counted as one word or two? Thanks.

Chris Fielden
Hi Ros. I use Microsoft Word to determine the word count.

So if two words are hyphenated, like-this, it counts as one word. Same with abbreviations, like I’m or they’re :-)

Ros B
It does. Thanks. I work in a different field where contractions count as two! :-)

Julia O'D
Thanks for publishing my 81 words. I am rather excited to see something of mine out in the world for the first time. Chuffed.

Chris Fielden
No problem Julia - thanks for submitting :-)

It’s always nice to hear that I've published someone for the first time. I hope it inspires you to write more!

Julia O'D
Loved story 058 'Twig Dinasaur'. Fay, I have brothers so I understand the sentiment!

Chris Fielden
Thanks Julia :-)

Soraya D
Do I submit my story by just writing it into the comments?

Chris Fielden
Hi Soraya. Yes please :-)

I'd advise you to write your story and keep a copy, then copy and paste it in, just in case anything goes wrong.

Etheray
Hi Chris. Just wanted to ask a question. You are now in charge of the 81 words challenge, right? May I confirm if that means all our accounts (usernames, passwords) are abolished? We won't need and can't use them anymore, right?

Chris Fielden
Hi Etheray. Yes, I took over the 81 word website. For ease, I just redirected it into my own site and set up this new page. All of the old site is gone now, so usernames and passwords are no longer needed – none of that exists anymore.

Patrick A
Henry Dillinger, I love your story (#074) named 'Harold the Magician'. It was a nutritious good tasting high-concentrate nugget of a 1) good joke and a 2) great insight on people / money / power .

Henry D
Thanks, Patrick!

Sarah P
Thanks for publishing my story. It means so much to me! :-)

Chris Fielden
No problem, Sarah - my pleasure :-)

Aviva D
Thank you, Christopher, for the opportunity. The story came out perfect.

Chris Fielden
No problem, thanks Aviva :)

Ronald G
Brand new to writing. Won my first flash submission. It's a kick.

Chris Fielden
Congratulations, Ronald. Can I expect an 81 word story from you then? :-)

Jay B
Thank you, Chris, for publishing my story. I am delighted. This is a new venture for me.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Jay - thanks for submitting. And congrats on becoming a published author :-)

Linn K
Hi Chris. This was such fun. Thank you.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Linn. Thanks for submitting - much appreciated :-)

Alice P
Thanks for publishing my story (number 142)! I welcome any comments and feedback, and look forward to reading the wide range of other entries.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Alice. Thanks for submitting :-)

Richard S
Thank you for publishing my stories, Chris, this is an excellent website.

Chris Fielden
No problem, Richard - thanks for the kind comment :-)

Claire A
Can you enter the 81 word challenge more than once? Many thanks.

Chris Fielden
Hi Claire. You can only submit 1 story to the 81 word challenge I'm afraid.

However, there are a lot of other flash fiction writing challenges being run on the site at the moment. You'd be welcome to submit to them.

Full details can be found on the main writing challenges page.

Susie F
I do not have a Twitter acct, a Facebook acct etc. Can I still submit a story to the 81 word challenge?

Chris Fielden
Hi Susie. Yes, that's fine - you don't have to have Facebook or Twitter to submit. All the rules and T&Cs can be found on the page above.

Gill M
Can I submit a poem for the 81 word challenge please?

Chris Fielden
Hi Gill. Yes, poems are fine - please feel free to submit :-)

Jo H
Hello Christopher. I am writing to establish if you are still asking for submissions for your 81 Words project. I have already written my 81 words but I am struggling with the bio. If you are still accepting submissions, please could you provide me with an example of a bio as I am unsure of what to include and what to leave out.

Many thanks and kind regards.

Chris Fielden
Hi Jo. I am still accepting submissions to the 81 word challenge.

You can see hundreds of example bios in the other writing challenge anthologies that I’ve published – they are available on Amazon (links can be found in the Books section of my site).

Or, here is an example bio (mine!):

Chris writes, runs a humorous short story competition, plays drums and rides his motorcycle, sometimes to Hull. And back again. He has recently started running writing challenges and hopes to publish 1,000s of authors in the support of charity.

If you have any other questions, please let me know.

Edward R
Hi Chris, thanks for accepting 'Greedy Gecko'. I'm thrilled.

Thanks for doing this challenge. It's so good and such a brilliant opportunity for writers to showcase their work!

Have a great day!

Chris Fielden
Hi Ed. No problem, thanks for submitting :-)

Shaun MC
This is craziness but in a good way :)

Chris Fielden
I agree with your assessment of the situation, wise one :-)

Jim S
Story 210 is true, except DM1 was C. The meeting was bigger, biscuits were probably supplied. It was attended by my boss at the time ADTS.

Chris Fielden
I feel a meeting is needed to understand the acronyms prior to the meeting about the stuff the acronyms refer to. LOL.

Jim S
So true. If you are familiar with James Bond, M is actually C.

Chris Fielden
I'm from the UK, so it's illegal for me to not know about James Bond. M is C. I see. Well, I think I do... :-)

Ron S
I am Ron Smith: Air Miles (210), is there another Ron Smith: Four Grey Walls (211)? Nice story, bit of a coincidence?

Chris Fielden
Not a coincidence - more of a horrendous copy paste error on my part.

Thanks for letting me know - fixed!

Shannon J
Thanks for accepting my submission! Happy holidays!

Chris Fielden
No problem, thanks Shannon :)

Sarah B
Thanks Chris for including my contribution - such an honour to be included!

Chris Fielden
No problem, Sarah - thanks for your contribution, very much appreciated :-)

Ron S
I think that story 238 has a misprint: 'boarder' should be 'border', I believe.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for pointing that out, Ron. I've corrected the typo.

Awotona E
I enjoyed the short stories I read her. They encouraged me to write more.

Chris Fielden
Thanks, Awotona. Glad to hear the stories have inspired you :-)

Sudipta S
Sir, with due respect, I would like to state that I, an aspiring and a novice writer from India, am deeply moved by your noble mission of creating an anthology of 1,000 stories of 81 words. I want to know, being a resident of India, can I participate in this challenge? Is there any genre?

Where can I send the writing (if I am permitted to do so)?

I would be grateful if you kindly provide me with the answers.

Chris Fielden
Hi Sudipta. Thank you for your kind words about the 81 word challenge.

Yes, you can submit. I accept entries from writers residing anywhere in the world, so the challenge is open to everyone.

There is no theme – the stories simply have to be 81 words in length.

You can submit by email, or just use the comment form on this page. Please don’t forget to supply a 40 word biography with your submission.

Sudipta S
Thank you for your kind and prompt reply. Can I send more than 1 story?

Chris Fielden
Hi Sudipta. You can only enter the 81 word challenge once – it’s 1 story per author. All the rules can be found on this page :-)

Julia S
Thanks so much for running this challenge, sir! As a young, aspiring writer myself, it gives me a lot of hope to see the huge variety of writers whose work is going to be published in your anthology. Expect my story soon :)

Chris Fielden
No problem, Julia :-)

I'll look forward to receiving your story.

Jordan B
Congratulations! Maybe instead of most authors in a published anthology of flash fiction, it would be better to go for most contributing authors in a book of fiction? After all, it is hard to refute what is considered fiction, as 'flash fiction' is still a form of story.

Chris Fielden
Thanks for the suggestion, Jordan.

Unfortunately, Guinness are reviewing all records that have a creative and, therefore, subjective nature. It's unlikely they will accept anything to do with fiction. It's not the term 'flash fiction' or 'fiction' that is the problem. It's being able to identify the quality of the stories - that's what is subjective and, therefore, why they are refusing the application. It's not measureable.

I have some other ideas and will be working on them later this year, as time allows - I've got a couple of other big projects to get finished first!