❤️ this makes me happy to read.
This is true, and totally fair. I do feel like most of the submissions aren't really already part of larger stories, though, and even those that are, the previous chapters are already up on the site for you to read anyway, though I can see how it would be daunting if there's, like, six chapters up. And no, we weren't asking about technical issues in this case. XD
Same. I mean, back in my fan fiction days I would write short stories on purpose, but otherwise I largely have almost always attempted to write novels. That being said, though, my current novel draft and my previous writing project are both projects that initially started out as writing challenge responses and then I ended up expanding them into novels. XD So they definitely have their benefits.
Trying to keep the conversation on track is one thing - and appreciated! - But self policing the rules can go sideways fast. If someone is blatantly abusing the rules, a mod needs to be informed a.s.a.p, we don't want users trying to enforce the rules.
We've actually done challenges in the past where we've given free-write prompts and I think we've also done what you suggested at least once, where we provide a prompt but also allow a free write. Also, we've always allowed members to submit something they've already written from a current project, as long as it 1. fits the fantasy genre 2. fits the prompt we've given. So for example, with the April challenge if you already have a chapter that essentially tells a legend, you would be able to use it as a submission to the challenge (as long as it didn't go over 5,000 words). The most someone would likely have to do in this case is to slightly modify it so that it would work better as a short story, and then obviously any other editing, but it at least wouldn't require as much time as writing a brand new story specifically for the challenge does.
Honestly, it really doesn't seem to matter if it's a free write or a specific prompt or whatever. We're just not getting a lot of submissions for the challenges, and getting people to vote once we put the poll up for doing so is like pulling teeth....so that's really why I'm thinking that we need to either change up the way the challenges are done altogether (although I really don't know how to change them) or maybe get rid of them and just focus on writing regular prompts without any kind of a deadline.
The only other way I've seen writing challenges done is with member run challenges, on another forum I've lurked on...I believe the one and only challenge I participated in had judges and they gave points for different things (plot, characterization, etc). But, honestly, I'm really not sure that I see many people being willing to create their own challenges like that and be judges and all that, so I don't know if it would even be worth it to try it that way.
Please keep the feedback coming! We're hoping to form a bit of a discussion from this!