May 1 – Limit Yourself To 40 Minutes

Day 1 – Limits: 40 Minutes

Freedom is horrible. If you are free to do anything, write anything, then there is an infinity-minus-one of ways you could do it. That’s a lot of words, ideas and characters you have to reject just to get something on the page.

This is the power of limits (‘write a sonnet; here are the rules’) and challenges (‘write a story a day; of course some of them will be rubbish, do it anyway’).

Today we are exploring time limits. By limiting the amount of time you have to write this story, you will be forced to make quick decisions and not second-guess yourself.

The Prompt

Write a story in 40 minutes


  • Remember this story is a first draft. It does not have to be perfect. It must, however, have a beginning, a middle and an end that you can revise later.
  • Use the first ten minutes to write an opening and think about your characters. Use the next 20 minutes to write the meat of the story. You’ll start to get an idea of where it’s going about half way through. You’ll also start to have ideas for complications, digressions, a full-length novel. Great. Jot them in the margins or put them in square brackets, and drag your story back to the point. Use the last ten minutes to construct an ending and read over the whole thing for mistakes.
  • By all means make notes as you read over your completed draft, but do not revise it today.
  • If you like the story, put a date on your calendar for next month, to revise it.
  • If you don’t like the story, take a few minutes to figure out why? Is your main character flat? What flaw can you give a hero tomorrow, to spice up that story? Did you take too long to get to the point? Maybe tomorrow’s story should start in the middle of an action scene.
  • Don’t waste a lot of time coming up with a story for this exercise. If you must, retell a story you’ve written before, or tell a bedtime story, a fairytale, a fable, a Greek myth, a Norse myth, a reimagining of “Atlas Shrugged” if the characters were bunnies and the railroad were a new super-warren…


Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.