Writing Assignment: 55 Fiction

It’s hard to make kids do their writing assignments if they don’t understand what it’s for and why they need to do it.  And to be honest, a lot of writing assignments that are out there are just boring busywork. I mean, it’s hard to get excited about something you know no one will read and is going to wind up in the trash can. So let’s take a different approach!

If you haven’t found a good reason to write or do writing assignments, we first have to give you a real reason that you’re on board with!

How about a writing contest?

Wait – before you hesitate, stick with me on this one. This one is called “55 Fiction” and all you do is you write a story under 55 words and send it in. You can submit entries all year long, and winners are announced every summer.  This is one I’ve actually participated in, and I won one year!


A lot of these stories that are published aren’t kid-material either, so parents can get in on this also! So get a pen, some paper, and let’s get started.

All you need to do is write a story that is 55 words or less. That’s it.

Think of it as the world’s shortest stories. And it’s not as easy as you think, so take your time.

One way to approach this is just to write a singe-paragraph story, and then trim out and edit unnecessary words after. Don’t try to edit as you go, or you’ll make yourself crazy.

It’s going to feel like your carving a beautiful sculpture. You’ll start with a big chunk of wood (the first paragraph), and slowly refine it over and over until it resembles a masterpiece.

If you really want to learn how to write, this assignment doesn’t end with one story. You write a new one every day, and you don’t spend all day on it.

If you’re hesitant or feel stuck, imagine you’re writing for the trash can. No one else is going to see this other than you. If you feel like someone is going to judge you, remind yourself that this is your writing that is just for you – no one else cares or is looking your way.

The idea with this assignment is that once you’ve mastered 55 words, you can move to 100, then 200… and pretty soon, you’re writing 4-5 page chapters daily that you put together into a novel by the end of a month. Long story short – you’re writing!

A lot of parents have trouble with this assignment because they already have in their minds what they think a story should be like, only there’s not quite enough words allowed for it to develop. What they wind up with is a only part of a story where the characters go nowhere, and who wants to read that?

The stories that typically win this contest have four elements:

  1. a setting (like a garden, a road, the inside of a gas can…)
  2. one or more characters
  3. conflict (something has to happen! An argument, an escape, some form of movement in your story…)
  4. a resolution (“Love always wins” or “Earth is saved”… something the character learned or did to resolve the conflict.)

The strict rules for the contest are:

  1. 55 words or less
  2. If it’s in the dictionary, it’s a word
  3. Hyphenated words count individually if they stand on their own (red-orange hair is three words)
  4. Title is seven words or less and does not count toward the 55 word limit
  5. Punctuation doesn’t count as words
  6. Initials count if they aren’t already widely known as words as their initials. (L.L.Bean is 3 words, but MGM and NASA are only one word)

Pro tips:

  1. If you’re using numbers, write them out to save on words (123 instead of one hundred twenty three)
  2. Use contractions when possible (“She’ll run” instead of “She will run”)
  3. Write first, edit later.

Ready to get started? Let’s go! Grab a pencil and paper, and go write in your favorite writing spot!

55 Fiction contest is held once a year, but you can submit stories all year long. Send them to 55 Fiction, 1010 Marsh St San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.You can also send a digital version to 55fiction@newtimesslo.com.

Need more clarification about the contest?
You can learn more about it here!