Time your Prose

Time your Prose

As part of a writing exercise series (poetry and prose), I am sharing my own experimentation with these exercises. Some are from literary events I have worked out, my former teaching years and others that I have created.


  • Setting- 2 mins, Character- 3 mins, Conflict- 4 mins
  • This exercise I colloquially called 'Timed', because I forced myself to write under strict timed conditions. I was tempted to carry on but for the sake of the exercise but I didn't.
  • Do not change anything whilst writing, just continue even if you aren't happy with sentence

I have typed it out as I am aware that my handwriting is difficult to make out, but below are the images of myself doing the exercise in real time too.

Setting (2 mins):

The market was bustling with bodies. All swarming in and out of each other. Sirens blaring from people's mouths, shouting their deals. Mountains and hills of produce clambered on top of one another, each glistening like the perfect object in an oil painting. The tinned roof poured in

Character (3 mins):

Rona and Carl peeped behind their produce as they did everyday. They had worked opposite each other for the past seven years. Rona, small in size had to stand on two fruit boxes to be seen, her red fringe meeting you first and her broad smile to follow. Carl, a thick broad man with a neck that seemed to travel in a straight line from his head, poked fun at his small neighbour as they chatted

Conflict (4 mins):

On leaving work, Carl asked Rona to close up for him. Rona without fuss said she would help her fellow market seller out. All was well and on the evening of packing up, Rona did both stalls with relative ease, though as a woman of her size, it took her some time. Carl marched in the next morning and saw what he only saw in his nightmares- spoiled produce and missing produce. Flaming with anger he roared for Rona. Rona came from Albert's meat stall, her dinner in hands and as she edged closer, froze in her small footsteps.

'Bloody hell Carl, what happened?'

'Seeing as you shut up last night, you tell me!'

They stood



1.  It was a little chaotic to start as I was conflicted between different settings and subsequent plots, so I wasn't sure which direction to go with.

Solution- be decisive. It is ok to have different ideas and lean into them simultaneously, but this is a writing exercise; don’t overthink it. Write what sits well enough and go with it.

2.  Planning time would have been useful for this

Solution- Incorporate 1-3 minutes of planning time. Keep it short so you don’t spill into storytelling but simply throw some ideas on the page. You may find that you actually abandon this as you write but if it helps to start this way, then apply the quick-fire planning time.

3.  Pressure of time was helpful; I like what I wrote but as I was working against time there are of course (many!) things I would edit

Solution- You can manipulate the time you give to each section. If you feel like your character for example needs another minute, you can add it on, as long as you time yourself and again stick to it.

I hope you find this writing exercise useful and it creates material you want to keep and work on for a final piece.