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!


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[Write On Wednesday] Time Yourself

Today’s exercise is designed to help you see that you CAN write, even when you think you don’t have time. Take 30 minutes today to write a complete story. Here’s how…

Sometimes life gets in the way of writing. We must find ways to work in a time-crunch.

Today’s exercise is designed to help you see that you CAN write, even when you think you don’t have time.
time flies
The Prompt

Write A Story In 30 Minutes


  • Turn your phone off, mute your email, hang a sign on the door, put on huge silly headphones. Do whatever you need to do, carve out 30 minutes today to Just Write.
  • Use only 30 minutes, start to finish, brainstorming to ‘the end’.
  • Set a stopwatch. Take seven minutes to brainstorm. Think of a character. Give him/her a problem/desire. Pick a reason why solving this problem/achieving this desire causes them extreme heartache/peril (examples: Wesley loves Buttercup but is too poor to woo her. Becoming good for her means risking being murdered by pirates, a prince and a rodent of unusual size. A bookworm’s heart’s desire is simply to read, but his wife thinks its a waste of time so he can’t read at home; and his boss threatens to fire him if he catches him reading at work.)
  • Pick a good opening line that sums up the character and the problem. (“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” – J.D Salinger: The Catcher In The Rye)
  • You should be at about 10 minutes into your time now. Spend the next 15 minutes getting to the meat of the problem, throwing complications at your character, and having him start to try to resolve them. Fail at least once. (If it’s an interior kind of story, you can let that failure be ‘temptation to give up’)
  • Five minutes to go! At some point in the past 15 minutes your character should have started to tell you how the story should end. Tie up the last challenge you gave them and move immediately to the ending. Two sentences. Don’t worry about connecting the middle to the ending just yet. That’s what rewrites are for. Just write “[connecting stuff]” and move on to the end.
  • There. Didn’t that feel good?

What you have in front of you is likely not a complete short story. It’s a sketchy first draft. But it’s a sketchy first draft that moves. It has an interesting character. It has action. It has a sense that it’s going somewhere, and it has and ending.

Now you have a draft you can rework. Add a few lines to help clarify setting and description for the reader, if it’s that kind of story. Change some of your ‘info dump’ paragraphs to dialogue and move them to earlier/later in the story. Expand or delete details. Figure out your theme and how you can (subtly) strengthen it.

Do this, and I think you’ll have a pretty good story. All from taking 30 minutes to squeeze a little short story writing into your day.