The Thirty-Five Sentences Writing Challenge

My dear grandson is nothing if not clever. He always tells me he doesn’t like school and he doesn’t like math. He’s 10 years old. He will dawdle and complain to the point where it takes him up to 3 hrs. to work 25 problems. So today, I tried something different. Our exchange went something like this:

“I don’t think you can get your math problems finished in an hour.”

He had started writing his name at the top of the sheet. He looked up and stuck out his chin. “Yes, I can.”

“All right,” I said, “I’ll do my work and you do yours and we’ll see if you can do it.”

Getting ready to do math problems.
Getting ready to do math problems.

Within thirty seconds, he stopped and looked at me, a silly grin on his face. “I will challenge you.”

“Really? How?” I was writing. How would a challenge even work? Leave it to him, he was plotting in that devious, little mind of his.

“You have to write a paragraph for each problem I do,” he suggested.

A paragraph? Holy cow! “Oh no,” I said. “Writing is hard work. I’m not sure I could even write one sentence for each problem you have to work.” He had 28 problems.

It went back and forth for a minute until we agreed to the one sentence per math problem. I had to wait until he finished the header on his paper. I noted the time, made the first letter in my scene bold and when he was ready he said, “GO!”

Wow, was the pressure on! I had started a new scene, and while I had a pretty good idea where I was headed, it was new material. I simply plunged in and started typing. After every couple of problems, he’d stop to ask me how many sentences I’d typed.


“Ha! I’m ahead of you!” he boasted. “I’m on number six.”

I doubled down. He was actually going to beat me and the clock was ticking down.

“I’m on number ten,” he announced. “Where are you?”


“I’m going to beat you!” he cried.

Trying to catch up with the math wizard.
Trying to catch up with the math wizard.

Then I got stuck. There were too many possibilities for the path of the dialogue and I had to choose one. When he announced he was at fourteen (after thirty minutes), I was only at ten, and I could feel the end was near. The clock was still ticking down and for sure he would finish in under an hour.

At one point, I stopped typing and started running the filmstrip through my mind. He looked at me in glee. “Do you give up?”

“No. You know what I’m doing.”

“You’re typing in your head.”

“Mmm-hmm,” I said. “You better get back to work. I’m right behind you.”

He dug in and continued. I began to catch up, closing the distance. Suddenly we were neck and neck. Then I edged ahead and he tried to change the challenge. He wanted me to write more sentences. First, he changed it to thirty, then thirty-two and, as we struggled toward the finish line, he upped it to thirty-five sentences.

Ultimately, we finished together. The contest was a draw. It took him fifty minutes to complete 28 math problems and the same time for me to write thirty-five sentences. Afterwards, I checked the word count and it was almost 400 words. Fifty minutes for 400 words. I don’t think I’ve ever written so much so quickly–ever! Was it good writing? Probably not, but I wrote, and that’s what’s important.

I have a strange feeling he’s going to challenge me again. And why not? It was a hoot!

UPDATE: Apparently, my grandson loves the challenge and now he wants to do it every day. Today, he had 27 problems to do and he challenged me to 40 sentences. He finished in 40 minutes and we pretty much finished together. My word count was 419. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give my writing a 3. What am I saying? It was crap. Rewrite, here I come!


14 thoughts on “The Thirty-Five Sentences Writing Challenge

    1. It was fun. He upped it to forty sentences, but I wouldn’t let him go any higher. He lost yesterday, because when I checked his paper, he had skipped one, so he told me I won the challenge. I wonder how long he’ll want to do this before he tires of it.


  1. Pingback: Writing Tip: Kicking Procrastination to the Curb! | Gayle Mullen Pace ~ Author

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s