Write A Story In 30 Minutes

This prompt is a great one for the first day because this is a day when you’re probably the most excited about the challenge and your ambitions are high and you’re quite likely to try and do too much.

The Prompt

Write a story in 30 minutes

I would rather you try to do too little and succeed and try to do too much and fai. Hence the limit on timing.


  • Set a timer. I know you probably have a phone clutched in your hand right now. Tell it to set a timer for 30 minutes. Don’t start it yet.
  • Every story starts with character. Think of your favorite type of character from somebody else’s fiction. Do you like Jack Reacher? He’s heroic he’s almost impossible to beat in a fight. And yet Lee Child manages to make him an interesting character. Is this the kind of character you like? If not what do you like? Write down qualities of characters that you love to read about, now.
  • Once you have a character, think about something that this character would never ever do.
  • Think of a way to back this character into a corner where they must do the thing they would never do.
  • For example all Harry Potter wants to do is find a place to belong, a place to call home. He finds it at Hogwarts. The last thing he would ever do is risk getting kicked out of Hogwarts. But what does he do in every book? He risks getting kicked out of Hogwarts. He does it to save his friends, to further the course of right, and ultimately to save his world.On a smaller scale in All The Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, the main character is a young blind girl who relies utterly on her doting father. The last thing she would want is to be separated from her father and have to cope with life on her own. But along comes World War II and the Nazis and guess what she has to do? It’s not a big adventure novel there are some explosions (not in a Bruce Willis kind of way), but the tension is very real because were worried about this poor vulnerable girl and what she’s going to do in her circumstances. Pick something for your character that will push them beyond their comfort zone.
  • Think about this for a little while. It might be best if you think about this while you go off and do whatever it is you have to do today, and then come back to writing later.
  • think about how late you can start the story. You don’t have to write background, telling us who the character is, what her daily life is all about. That’s for movies. This is a short story. We don’t have the space for that. Short story writers can start closer to the middle of the action — we can start in medias res, the middle of the action. Later, we show the reader the stakes, through conversation or actions. They don’t need to know everything in the opening paragraph.
  • OK, you have a few ideas? Great! Start your timer.
  • How to write a story in 30 minutes Write for no more than 10 minutes on the opening of the story. At the 10 minute mark make sure that you’re moving into the main action of the story: the complications, making things worse for your protagonist, making things funnier/more harrowing/more interesting. At the 25 minute mark, start wrapping up: even if the story isn’t completely finished, even if you have to write [something cool happens here], draw a line under the middle part of your story and get the resolution. Wrap it up by the time you hit the 30 minute mark. First draft: done!
  • This is difficult, and you’re not going to end up with a fabulous polished story. (You might, but you shouldn’t expect to.) However writing to the end of the story gives you a first draft that you can go back and clean up later. The experience of going from beginning to end in 30 minutes proves to you that you can do this. Congratulations! You have a complete story. Now start thinking about what you might write about tomorrow!


40 thoughts on “Write A Story In 30 Minutes”

  1. OK – despite being 10 days late, I’m up and running. The story I wrote for Day One came to me as I was on vacation (hence why I’m late!).
    It also reminded me of an event 45 years ago when a boss I had on a holiday job died unexpectedly on vacation by drowning. I never forgot that, so I wound some thinking around that event.
    I’m not going to post the whole thing on here, but I am using my website again to post to for friends http://wp.me/p6fuUE-3k
    And I’ll be trying to catch up 😎

  2. I started this challenge with the intent to write stories M-F, but yesterday (Monday) I spent composing a eulogy for a dear friend, and that was story enough. Today, after the funeral, I began SAD challenge at last, but started with this prompt instead of one of the two scheduled for May 3rd. Once I made it past the questions I really got into it. I don’t have a perfect draft—far from it—but I have got a story sketched out that I’m pleased with and will like returning to. I think now it may be hard for me to leave this one alone tomorrow and go on to another prompt!

  3. oh wow! I finally figured out how to “post”! Here is the first prompt (30 min story)!

    Thirty Minute Story

    It was a long drive. The man spoke a euphonious splatter of sound that melted into air, leaving scars. Maybe it was just his breathy punctuation instead of scars that carved out space between them. Anyway, his path of words and sentences sounded like a guy whose breath caught fire every now and then. He pelted out ideas the way a jack-hammer tears up someone’s cracked driveway, repairing the eye-sore with smooth, grey cement. He talked like he believed change happens for the best.
    It made her think he belonged floating as if he were heavy black ash inside the chimney of a crematorium instead of manipulating a car and trying to sound friendly. Such a long drive. Her brain wanted to split wide open and yawn. Finally, she interrupted. “Why’d you cut your hair so short?”
    He opened the window and reached for a stubby, half smoked cigarette. The computer programmer pointed his right forefinger (the one he used to hit the delete key in combination with Ctrl/Alt to change the course of faulty code with exceptional precision) toward the dash and punched in the cigarette lighter. It would soon glow like a circular universe, but only for a second or two.

    He was wearing a white tee-shirt with a large cartoon picture of a honey-bee. It made no sense. His pants should have been Levis. Instead, they were dark, wool, slacks—a nicely pressed pair of suit pants with a perfect crease. He rubbed his non-cigarette hand against his scalp. “Why?”

    “Why so short.” She looked out her own window. The fields that flew by were filled with crops that had been reduced to fall’s harvest-stubble. It reminded her of what could have been. When they met a week or so ago, his hair could have been a wild crop of flaxen wheat wrapping around the clouds, ascending into the sky like thick, braided rope. Now, it was used stubble; seed that had been harvested. Sand with straw protruding beyond the earth has no imagination, nothing hidden, only the present, never the future; it was an embarrassment. In fact, his whole head appeared shameful and humiliating.

    “Short? I have no idea. Don’t you ever cut your hair?”

    Cut hair? Never. It bleeds. In fact, hemorrhages. There were days when windstorms surrounded her family’s home. She was just a child. The dust storms filled every space and crowded everything into one idea, one basic thought. She was humiliated by memory, places where nothing could grow and every night she tried to dream a strong rope would descend and she’d go along for the ride. “No. I never cut my hair. It just stays short. I pretend it becomes whatever I want it to.”

  4. I didn’t actually set a timer, but despite all the breaks (ADHD brain is f u n !), I’m pretty sure I actually wrote for an entire half hour, so yay! I actually finished it last night at 2am which worked out for definite less stress all day. Tomorrow’s might have to wait till actual daylight, though. XD

    1. Same here:) At the end of a long day, I wrote in bed for half an hour then passed out. Writing is such good cheap therapy!!!!

  5. I completed a rough first draft for this challenge. I don’t have a blog to post it on, and I see that no-one else has posted their actual story in the comments, so I won’t share my story here. I will see if I can figure out a way to share something during the month.

    1. Wow! Setting boundaries is crucial. Sometimes we regret our timing. You certainly captured that well in your story. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. For StoryADay Day #1, we had a choice of two prompts: to write for just 30 minutes or to start our story with a specific line. I decided to somewhat combine the two: https://storiesbystolle.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/day-1-let-me-mend-your-wings. This isn’t a well-defined story, but it will get me moving in the right direction. Oh, and I’m not going to protect any stories with passwords this month, but I can’t promise that any given day’s story will remain up for the whole month. That means, if you want to read my stories, read ’em quick!

    1. Your piece is definitely a good start, you have plenty of good material to work with. I’m curious about how you will connect the title to the story. Is this the title of the song in question?

      1. I’m not sure if it is. I feel like 95% of the stories I write for StoryADay (this is my fourth time) are just throwaway stories. Something to do each day and maybe get you closer to those days when you write a story that has a future. I can’t imagine how I’d make this story any better than an ugly first draft.

  7. Done it! I stayed close to your 10-15-5 splits by using the timer. At the time I wasn’t sure it flowed, but any gaps add to the intrigue I think. I’ll try to post it later this week as I’m on my travels at the moment.

  8. I went over by 2 minutes 27 seconds. In all fairness it was just a matter of getting the words down at that point. I knew exactly how it was all ending before the 5 minute mark, I just couldn’t move it from my head to the computer quite fast enough. I blame the bathroom break I had to take at about 18 minutes in. (Even though I paused the timer.)

    I’ll add a reply with the URL (or edit this comment and add it here) once I have a chance to edit and post it this afternoon/evening.

  9. Here you go, Julie, new friends and colleagues. The first of 31.
    I tend to write poems from the heart. The stories come from one floor below that…the gut.

    Memories Are Fireproof Things

    1. My favourite line “not the thick grey smudge climbing like ivy into the street” . I could just picture it in the sky. Your story was difficult to read, a challenging topic. You handled it with tact and compassion.

    1. I’m weeping, Yvonne — ” . . . there’s no name in any language for orphaned parents.”

    2. My heart beat faster when I realized whose heart she was listening to. Tragedy turned into hope and joy. Thank you for this story.

  10. Fun assignment! Ended up going a way different route than originally planned- two siblings meeting at dad’s house for a Father’s Day barbecue-dialogue based rather than narrative-Thanks, Julie, for the prompt!

    1. Such conflict within a short piece. You really captured the thoughts of one mother. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

The StoryADay

I, WRITER Course


A 6-part journey through the short story.

Starts July 28, 2023