2019 Day 2 – Set A Timer

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How did you get on yesterday? Did you write a story?

Remember, set your own rules, and stick to them. If you miss a day, don’t try to catch up. Just keep moving forward!

Check back every day for more prompts, and don’t forget to come back and leave a comment to celebrate your writing successes, every day!

The Prompt


Don’t spend too much time on your opening.

Brainstorm for five minutes, spend the next five on an opening and then give yourself 20-25 to dig your characters into a hole and let them start to climb out of it.

Try to start wrapping it up when you have about five minutes left on your timer. Even if you have to write some brief notes [“this is where they make their great escape”], put an ending on the story.

This will make it so much easier when you come back to revise it later.


80 thoughts on “2019 Day 2 – Set A Timer”

  1. I set a timer and used the short story framework. It worked great and I got a good rough draft started. Later I set a timer again and tried to get the ending written. It needs some work, but I can see coming back to this at a later date. The story is about a man who picks up a book at used bookstore and how that random choice changes his life.

  2. Well, two days in and I’ve written the beginning of two stories. I seem to have trouble finding the resolutions. So, I have two different characters who are in the middle of a bit of trouble with no way out (yet). Maybe day 3 will end in a finished story. I’ll keep trying!

    1. Yup, getting to the end is hard. Don’t underestimate that.

      Sometimes it can be helpful to think about the actual ending before you get to the resolution. For example, what kind of emotions do you want your readers to be feeling as they put your story down? Is there something from the beginning that you can echo at the end (an image, a setting, a phrase)?

      If you get a sense of how you want to send your reader out the door (so to speak) it can be easier to figure out the resolution: what would they have to do to leave your reader feeling uplifted/terrified/weeping into their coffee?

      Then write that bit, as fast as you can 🙂

  3. I was running around a lot today and kept trying to come up with ideas for characters and settings. There wasn’t anything I wanted to write. I kept coming up with settings that didn’t suit any characters I could think of or characters I couldn’t find wants or obstacles for. After several hours I looked at a micro fiction competition and came up with a variation on their theme. The story I eventually wrote didn’t meet their requirements (at least not yet) but was at least inspired by their prompt. It might not even be a “story” since it’s basically just a moment of crisis and retrospection on the part of the character, but I can definitely expand on it at a later date.

  4. Two days, two stories. They are VERY rough but each one is down on paper. Thanks for the prompt, Julie and the challenge. I’m enjoying it thus far.

    1. Yes! A rough story on paper is infinitely better than the potentially-perfect story that’s still in our heads!

  5. September Day 2 Set a Timer prompt.
    My story is about a woman waking up to the realisation she has spent half a century being coerced, controlled and intimidated. She reflects on how she never noticed and why it happened to her. She resolves to do something about it and unfolds her plan and begins to implement it. I wrote 700 words.

  6. Forty minutes and 500 words is not bad! I then spent another half hour to flesh out and write notes. I like the timer ticking to keep my fingers moving. I have some god bones to go back to and build on. Thanks for the technique!

  7. I had problems finding yesterday’s prompt, so I combined days 1 and, to write a funny short story called ‘Labor Day’. It’s about Roger and Lana, whose labor doesn’t quite go the way, they expect it to.


    I really enjoyed writing it, particularly with a time limit.

    I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s prompt!

      1. With apologies, I don’t know if it is because I am working on my iPad or am truly button challenged but I can find no way of putting a comment in without piggybacking on another person’s comment. Suggestions (gentle ones) would be appreciated.

        Rather than follow the prompt, I needed to write my way through a crisis situation since I can do nothing more on it tonight. I received a text a few hours ago. “Don’t panic Mom but I’ve got a huge problem.” My daughter, half way around the world, jet lagged, had just discovered that she has far less of a crucial medication with her than she should have. I’ve made all the phone calls I could make tonight, and at present am stalled waiting until the morning. There is a story unfolding here.

  8. Story two done! There was so much more I wanted to write, but I wrote the best I could in 40 and dealt with it. Onwards and upwards!

  9. Yesterday, I attempted the 40 minute prompt BUT kept falling asleep since I didn’t have 40 minutes until late last night. I made it about 20 minutes in and then the keyboard took over 🙂
    I woke up in time to finish an ending minute or two and my story was 287 words.

    I liked this prompt and am going to try it again! Hopefully, when I’m not so sleepy 🙂

  10. I’m always a bit out of sync because I don’t have free time to write until after 10 or 11 p.m. But I did get a near-complete story draft done within the 40-minute time limit and had fun with it.

  11. While I started out with the intent to follow the prompt, I had a perfect story lay itself out… and ran out of my lunch hour before I even got to the end of the timer. I’m probably going to continue playing with it, because it’s a bit of a departure from what I usually write.

    However, I did steal a little time this evening to write another 100 word piece, taking place after the end of the story idea I’ve been playing with.

    Broken Mirror.

  12. The time constraint worked for me as well. I had the spark of an idea going in to today’s prompt, about a person wanting to legally change her name & reason behind the decision. A conflict is created when she receives a letter from her mother. I managed 500 words and that surprised me. I still need to work on the letter portion of story and a few other things.

    1. Yeah, this works really well for me.
      In the Superstars group, we get together for video hangouts then mute ourselves and write in 15 minute bursts together. Weird, but weirdly effective 😉

  13. Day 2 is in the books for me. Since my main goal is to sustain a longer session, I grabbed another story spark today and wrote a little family drama. I kept thinking while I was writing that it was heavy on backstory, but I told my inner critic to shove off and pushed through it. A good way to spend a couple of hours.

    I’m definitely saving this prompt for later, by the way.

    1. A very good way to spend a couple of hours!! Why do we so often resist doing the things we know will make us really feel better (instead of the things we think will make us feel better, but really don’t?)

  14. Yesterday I did the prompt and finished a really small story (180 words) about a witch. Today I wrote a story in 40 minutes and it was 529 words. At first I didn’t know if I’d be able to come up with a story, and I waited until later in the evening to do it, but it was easier than I thought. I’m already thinking about edits for the second story. Looking forward to tomorrow’s prompt.

    1. I’m so glad to hear this. The timer is a great trick. That’s quite a big jump in word count!

  15. I wrote again today! The timer was really helpful to me to just get writing something. I couldn’t quite finish the story within the 40 minutes, but made notes for the ending. I write long hand so I don’t have an exact count, but I think I got at least 400 words.

    1. Excellent! You could the spirit of the prompt, exactly.

      Side note: I wish I had trophies to hand out.

  16. I felt relieved at the idea of the timer. But I really struggled today. Because of the time difference I don’t see the prompts to about 1pm and I’m kind of dependent on them for now!

    This is just what it’s like when I try to write. I struggled for an idea at all and ended up using another prompt from online somewhere. “A broken wristwatch, some peppermints and a hug that went too far” And barely 500 words.

    Sorry for negativity guys. I’m definitely going to try to keep going!

    1. As I said above, I think I’ve tweaked the settings so you should see prompts just in time for breakfast from now on (assuming you don’t get up insanely early).

      Trying to make people write at 1pm is cruel and unusual. That’s slump-time for most of us.

    2. It was the same for me (I’m in UTC+1) but today, Thursday, the prompt was available when I woke up. Thanks, Julie!

    3. You still wrote so that is a win! I like prompts with a list of words.. strangely restrictive and freeing at the same time.
      Do you have notes or Sparks you have collected? Maybe think of a tiny idea to roll around in your head for the next day. That way you have a place to start. If the prompt strikes a different idea…great! If you can morph your idea with the prompt… great! If you write the idea you had the day before…great! Write some words… great! 😁

  17. Yesterday I used prompt one to write a plan.
    Today I followed the suggestions for dividing up 40 minutes.
    This worked really well for me and I’ve written a short 700 word story but with an incomplete ending.
    It’s a satisfying first draft to return to in the future. It feels very encouraging! 😁⭐👏

    1. I keep re-using a version of this prompt because I find it works so well, for me and others. Thanks for the feedback!

  18. I was morose all morning, dreading failure. Expecting failure. But a 6 km jog after lunch shook loose an idea and I captured a near-complete draft of a story in just over 40 minutes. It was about a narrow escape from a polar bear.

    1. Phew! I read that comment quickly. Glad it was the story, not the jog, that was about escaping from a polar bear 🙂

      I went for a walk after lunch today too. Needed to get the body moving and focus on something that wasn’t three feet in front of my face. Worked a treat.

    2. If you sit down and write words on the page you didn’t fail. Sometimes you just have to show up for the work. Running helps me too. I am always writing down lines and ideas in Google keep! Great work pushing through to a story.

  19. May 1, my first StADa writing did happen, I wrote 665 words…but…it is not in the shape of a story. It’s a fragment, might become something some day. So: Failure! But….I’ve never written a short story, just novel scenes. I’m gonna say it’s okay and keep on truckin’. Learn by doing. Excited!

    1. Can I confess something: my first StoryADay May 1 was a bit of a bust too! I was woefully out of practice, and I’m not sure I ever finished that story.

  20. My writing time is 5:30 -7:30 AM. I’ll write today’s prompt tonight…and come up with my own prompt for tomorrow morning. Thereafter I’ll be writing each prompt a day late ….does that make sense? Yeah….get prompt at 8AM, write it the next morning.

    1. Dawn,

      I’ll be honest, I sometimes do the Prompts or something on my own list of ideas (prepared prior to Story-a-day). I will admit though the prompts are great when stuck. sometimes I’ll use different prompts from different days.

      1. Thanks Andrew! Good idea. I’m gonna prep extra prompts next year ! I like your flexible approach.

    2. I’ve tweaked the settings and hopefully you’ll wake up to a new prompt in the morning from now on. Assuming I didn’t break anything…

  21. I got on well yesterday and I completed my first story. I surprised myself because I have trouble keeping short stories “short” but I was able to wrap up my short story with a satisfying conclusion!

    1. Marian,

      Welcome back Steffie…. and Bob, I did the same today grabbing a pre-existing character.

      Good luck for tomorrow.



  22. Thank you Julie! I wrote an outline yesterday and havecstarted story # 2. Thanks! Hard to get get going!

      1. Joanne,

        We’ve just begun. I find during the month of May I am looking out for story ideas all day, and then once I get the girls to bed sit down and madly write for a few hours. Yell out on the discussions if you’re looking for ideas.

        1. Isn’t that true? As the month goes on, the ideas become easier to come by, not harder.

      1. Julie, your simple statement ‘Love your site’s banner’ hit my story prompt list. i.e. character profiles coming up sometime soon.



    1. Nice one, Andrew! That ending though. What knocked her out? Will they get out alive? So many questions 🙂
      Looking forward to your story tomorrow

      1. Nice, Andrew. What a cliff-hanger!
        I noted your many sensory cues, and that you manage attribution without a single “he said”.
        Just a thought… Have you considered giving your world its own units of measurement? For those of us who use the metric system (i.e. everyone except Burma, Liberia and the US), inches and feet and miles are no less mystifying than hinkles, savrons and mastows would be, once introduced. =)

        1. I’m reading a book at the moment that does that. It takes a moment to get used to, but context is key. I’mnow very comfortable with ‘tendays’ instead of ‘weeks’ and ‘standards’ instead of years. I can’t even remember what the physical measurements are, but it doesn’t matter, but the author always makes it clear whether it’s a lot or a little…
          Great suggestion!

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