Story Decay

The Introduction

Story Decay is a creative writing challenge that I'm going to have a go at in November. I invite you all to take part. Unlike many of the other stupid challenges I do, this one's not a massive international event, I just made it up.

The Stories

Tomorrow - An awful story by David Birch.
4096 words docx pdf.

The Impetus

Once upon a time, I had this conversation on the internet with Inquisitor.

'I could do NaNoWriMo. I just don't want to sink that much free time into it. I might try writing some short fiction in November instead.'
'Why not do a 5000 word short story in a day? That's about the level I was working at for Nanowrimo, and it's not excessive.'
'I'm thinking of going for some constrained-length pieces. Not worrying about speed, but actually about being concise. I tend towards writing way more than I need to when I do prose.'
'Ooh, why not do a half life story?'

The Challenge

Story Decay is a creative writing challenge that takes seven consecutive evenings. The intention is to encourage writers to slim down on overly verbose waffle and paragraphs that go on and on and on and, well, you get the idea. Creative writing often just kind of meanders around and around, becomming boring and repetitive, rather than concise and exciting.

To start the challenge, all you need to do is sit down and write a short story. Aim to write about 4000 words, definitely no more than 4096. Finish it and you're done for the day. Each following evening, rewrite the same story from scratch, but in half the number of words as yor previous attempt. Each time, the aim is to retain the plot, characterisation and artistry that you like, whilst trimming down, rearranging, or rewriting the rest.

The first Story Decay challenge is running from November 1-7th. In detail:

In addition, on the last day (or in the following days) - you should also rewrite the entire story, using as many words as you like. On this occasion use what you learned over the week to write the best story that you can from the original material.

Taking Part

If you think this sounds fun, and want to take part, then you can email your stories to me when you're done, and I'll host them on this page. Just email the writing to me at and I'll do the rest.


Basically, all questions simplify to "you don't have to follow the rules, this is just an idea, write what you like!

Do I have to write the story on the days you've specified?
Of course not. You can do this whenever you want, and I'll even publish it regardless of when you do it. I've only put a deadline on participation because otherwise I'd never get around to doing it.
4000 words is a lot! Do I have to do that many? All in one day?
Nah, these numbers are just a guideline. the basic principle is what's important, to cut down to half the length with each successive story. Take as long as you want, start with 20,000 words if you want. It's all about self-discovery.
Do I need to wait a day between each story?
Again, no. The rules are just guidelines. I recommend leaving a day between each story in order to allow your writing to settle in your mind, and to give you time to think about it before re-writing.
Does the title of the story count towards the word limit?
No, but you shouldn't use the title to tell part of the story. Aim for a short concise title, ideally just a few words
I'm just going to write a really flowery verbose story to start with, then it'll be easy to cut it down! hah!
Yeah, you can do this. It's probably a good idea to be a little rambly in the first attempt - the time constraint for the writing should ensure a bit of that anyway. However, if you're deliberately wasting space with your writing, then that's not really the point.
Your word counts are too geeky. I don't want to conform to them
It's quite a geeky idea in the first place, but if you prefer, go with 4000/2000/1000/500/250/125/62


This format has been shamelessly adapted from a improvised comedy game called "half-life". Text on my website is licensed under the creative commons license (SA, BY, NC) - so feel free to adapt this in any way you like.

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