3 Writing Exercises of Great Length

writing exercises of great length

Try these writing exercises!

Today, I’d like to share some writing exercises based on an assignment I had to do in college, which has always stuck with me.

Writing a single, 100-word sentence sounds pretty easy, but once you sit down and actually attempt it, you’ll find out just how challenging it is, especially if you want your sentence to be grammatically correct.

You might think you can compose a lengthy sentence in just a few minutes. But you’ll soon find that it takes a little time. When you try to scale a long passage down to just a few words, that will take some time too.

Set aside about thirty minutes to tackle today’s writing exercises and see how long-winded you can be, then see how brief you can be.

All three of today’s writing exercises force you to think about word choice. Is your prose too verbose? Too meager? Could you say the same thing in fewer words?

The Writing Exercises:

1. Write one sentence that is at least one hundred words long. Here are the rules: It has to be a good sentence. You can’t use unnecessary, superfluous adjectives and adverbs. It has to make sense and sound right when read aloud. And it has to be punctuated properly. It can’t be a run-on sentence and it can’t be a series of sentences strung together with commas and semicolons (no splices!). It can be about anything, but it has to meet the word count.


2. Complete the first exercise, then rewrite the sentence in ten words or less.

You have to say the same thing using a fraction of the words. Don’t leave out any important details!

3. Here’s the combo: write two sentences — one must be exactly 70 words long and the other exactly seven words. Oh and they have to comprise a paragraph. Try it with fifty words, then five words. Twenty words, then two.

The challenge here is in contrast. You go from writing an extremely long sentence to a relatively short one, and they have to be connected in some way, so they can exist in the same paragraph.

Give it a Try!

If you decide to tackle these writing exercises, feel free to post your sentences in the comments section. Good luck, and keep writing.

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of 101 Creative Writing Exercises, available in paperback and ebook.

101 creative writing exercises

 

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

51 Responses to “3 Writing Exercises of Great Length”

  1. skipgang says:

    While I held for a moment the complex fragrance that emanated from the plants surrounding Hanging lake, I contemplated the intricacy of our situation, because even though I understood that this trip through the canyon could have been disastrous, I believed that the fragrances, the majestic views, and most importantly, the effort we shared to make it there, would ultimately be the seed of happiness that you would base your recovery on, because in that experience, a promise is implicitly made, and I wish that I could have kept that promise to you, instead of having sex with your mom.

  2. Brad V. says:

    Wow! That’s a hard challenge. Writing a proper sentence of that length is difficult enough, but then to make it a proper sentence (not a run-on or anything) without any unnecessary words is darn near impossible. It can be done.

    Maybe I’ll give it a try while I’m stuck in the snow. If I do, I’ll post the sentence in another comment here.

    Great post!

  3. --Deb says:

    Ooh, fun! Let’s see:

    “And then she decided after all that it was not a good idea because, of course, how could she possibly love a man—no matter how good looking, rich, intelligent, funny and, naturally, sexy as the day is long—who thought her dog was just, well, a dog, instead of the funny, lovable, loyal, entertaining little person in a furry body that every normal person admitted that he was–especially since he was such a cheerful dog and so obviously meant to be with her since they even had the same hair and fur color, for heaven’s sake, with the same kind of curls, even, and any person who couldn’t see that was clearly not meant to be with either of them– although, she had to admit, he had never actually said he didn’t like her dog, just that he preferred that he be someplace else when they were in bed together, and maybe, in retrospect, that’s not so bad?”
    (160 words)

    Which, boils down to:

    “Despite his not adoring her dog, she loved him anyway.”
    (10 words)

    Sometimes it’s a good thing to be able to ramble aimlessly around a sentence (grin).

  4. Drew Beatty says:

    In considering the challenge put forth by Melissa Donovan today to write a clear, well constructed sentence without using any unnecessarily superfluous adjectives and adverbs, I was struck by the virtual impossibility of such a challenge given that the standard English language sentence usually only consists of perhaps ten to fifteen words and attempting to extend that general, if not strictly enforced, limit to one ten times greater than the average could only result in a confusing jumbled sentence that only Gabriel Garcia Marquez would be able to parse correctly as he was responsible for some very long sentences in his day.

    It’s not actually very good, really. But a fun exercise!

  5. @skipgang, Love the twist at the end! Very nice.

    @Brad, I hope you give it a go! Do come back and post your sentence :)

    @Deb, Wonderful! Wow, you got up to 160 words. That’s crazy!

    @Drew, Not good? Not good? It’s excellent!

    These are fun. I hope a few more folks stop by and join us. I think I’m going to have to tackle this one over the weekend myself, even though I did this exercise back in school once already.

  6. Mark says:

    Immediately upon receiving the stimulus—which I suspected was either a refined form of nitrous oxide or perhaps even an unrefined form of cannabis—my brain issued swift orders to activate the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, producing a surge of endorphins, followed by the involvement of my amygdale and hippocampus, all of which signaled to my diaphragm that it should spasm erratically and also strongly encouraged my lungs to intake large gulps of air only to evacuate them in audible and culturally framed single-syllable exclamations that everyone in the room, being familiar with such fits, immediately recognized as a joyful expression.

    ***

    I laughed.

  7. Bill Womack says:

    Wow, this was harder than I thought. I found myself getting nearly as wrapped up in this single sentence as I have in some short stories. Here goes:

    My feet kicked wildly, thrashing under their own power, groping for the feel of solid stone that was now out of reach as the rising pool of fetid water buoyed me higher in the blackness of the vault until I felt the awful graze of the mossy concrete roof against my skull arriving in time with the cool, seductive waterline that crept like a lover’s fingers up my chest, encircled my neck, lapped at my chin, and sang a soft lullaby of “give in, let go,” that calmed the panic rattling in my skull to a single silver thread of resolve, writhing with a bright, frantic quivering as the last of the air was pressed from my lungs, and blooming into a single, perfect thought: live.
    (126 words)

    I nearly succumbed, only deciding in the last moment: no.
    (10 words)

  8. @Mark, That is just priceless. LOVE IT!!!

    @Deb, Well said!

    @Bill, What a wild scene. Nice job.

    These are all fantastic!

  9. Deb says:

    The other Deb. I think long sentences have been weeded out permanently. I keep hearing these voices from writing classes in the past. Either that or it’s one of those “at last” things rather than at once. But everyone else’s has been fun to read.

  10. My seven year old is a pro at sentences that go on and on forever. She’s been learning about joining words and uses them all the time now. ;-)

    Ok, should I try this? I can ramble so it shouldn’t be TOO hard, should it?

    I never did like the way she flung her hair over her right shoulder, turned her hips and wiggled, just slightly, so that her mile high legs flexed beneath a skirt two sizes smaller than her rounded, lissome curves – a plastic surgeon couldn’t improve on those and indeed perhaps a plastic surgeon had created them along with her amble cleavage, the perfect curve of her nose, and the even-sided lobes of her ears – then smiled at the boys, who swooned more than the giggling teenage girls watching from a grated window above the boys locker room after sports.

    This is a perfect example of why you should NEVER try to force too much information into a single sentence.

  11. Jörel says:

    You know, when you feel happy and want to show it to everyone – to your friends, your family and all the ones you meet in the street, men, women, big, small, children and old people – there is always the temptation to put on colourful clothes, sing silly songs, wear funny hats, make jokes and laugh, but watch out my friend and take great care, because even though you might feel that your joy is endless, and that your happiness grows when you share it, it has been scientifically proven that there is not enough joy to go round and that for every single smile you waste on a perfect stranger, you will receive on average two smiles less when you enter your home in the evening, when anyway the colour will have faded from your clothes and your cheeks, your funny hat will have lost its feathers and your voice will be hoarse from singing.

    Or in ten words… Hm.

    Don’t spread happiness – you might need it yourself.

  12. Wilma Jozwiak says:

    When I first read the challenge, my concern was that writing a sentence that contains 100 words would be not only possible, but unfortunately is probable in the world of academia, where people think in sentences that are actually much longer than 100 words, and in turn “bless” the world at large their colleagues with these word burdened sentences that seem to go on and one forever without adding much to the general well-being of any one or even clearly expressing the initial thought that the individual had spun into this convoluted rat’s nest of words that trips lightly off not only their pens but also, sadly for their audience, off their tongues in mind-numbing conversational gambits.

    Whew! That is about 116 words. That was surprisingly (and scarily) easy -

  13. Benop says:

    “The reason for my painful lament is the sordid, callous, sultry fact that while my neighbors, friends, co-workers and family – pets and waitresses and clerks in stores I often frequent included – have all gotten the golden opportunity to race down the grandiose and colorful highway of life in a posh white luxury limousine with platinum rims, minibar, TV-set with Bluray disc player and Xbox 360; I have – along with the rest of the world’s all dead beat, pointless and misfortunes of individuals – gotten no more than a rusty, stuttering, oily, tarnished Beetle to help transport me down a barren, dusty, lusterless country road sided by dying condemned buildings, stripped school buses and hollow eyed vultures – this is why I decry it all.”

    Translates to:

    “I feel very bitter since I’ve lost out in life.”

    • That’s awesome Benop. I think your paragraph illustrates just how easy it is to take a simple, straightforward sentence and drag it out into a long and colorful exposition (or vice versa). Fun to read!

  14. Kid Brother says:

    Exercise 1: If we decided that we wanted to and looked hard enough through the bedroom windows covered in dust and disappointment, we could see past the burning afternoon sun, past the rusting chainlink that separated our complex from what was meant to be a school, past the patches of overgrown gravel, past the highway where indifferent cars carried indifferent people to more sterile places all the way to the rotting brownstones that held the boys with no words, who talked to themselves in strange glances and sudden flicks of their hands, who showed the gaps in their teeth when they smiled their wide, knowing smiles at those of us who were stupid enough to cross the highway’s lanes.
    WC: 117

    Exercise 2:
    There are some places we knew not to go.
    WC: 9

    Exercise 3:
    If we decided that we wanted to and looked hard enough through the bedroom windows covered in dust and disappointment, we could see past the burning afternoon sun, past the rusting chainlink that separated our complex from what was meant to be a school, past the patches of overgrown gravel, past the highway where indifferent cars carried indifferent people to more sterile places all the way to the rotting brownstones that held the boys with no words, who talked to themselves in strange glances and sudden flicks of their hands, who showed the gaps in their teeth when they smiled their wide, knowing smiles at those of us who were stupid enough to cross the highway’s lanes. It was their smiles that haunted us.

    – Kid
    .-= Kid Brother´s last blog ..104_Mixtape Mondays: Concert Writing 101 =-.

  15. caitlin says:

    When the dragging minutes of childish deliberation came to an end and we’d decided by show of hands that we were in need of an adventure, we would begin the process: one of the youngest would distract whichever parents were present at the time with a botched shoelace or a scraped knee, one would begin to use the radio or television at the highest comfortable volume, and the rest of us would file under the cover of these distractions like clumsy tin soldiers up the stairs to the attic and out its window (the one large enough for small bodies to slip through, with the loose screen that could be pried and lifted out by small fingers) and run, one by one, down the just gentle-enough slope of the roof, taking a leap at the end and landing briefly on the trampoline below before sailing off into the air again. At that age, danger isn’t real yet.

  16. Clara says:

    I hope that some day, as my mother walks into the barely furnished living room in her big, flowing red, dress and my father stands in the doorway far enough behind her, in his disgusting old work suit, so that he won’t overhear us, and my sister is sitting on the couch playing with her countless dolls- my favorite of her dolls is Mary, the cotton stable girl who falls for the plastic prince – maybe then, and only then, I will finally remember what it feels like to have a family that does not shun me as if I were an unread blue paperback book from an ancient garage sale, as they have been doing for so long a time that I have forgotten the meaning of love and will never again feel the joy of Christmas morning and its presents or Thanksgiving and its turkey and mashed potatoes. Maybe then, my restlessness will leave me.

  17. kaye says:

    If one morning I awoke to find my mind had suddenly acquired all of the words in the English language, and I could mold and compose my new repertoire of words into an eloquent symphony of beauty, a piece, no doubt, that could bring tears to the eyes of the blackest souls on the planet, I seriously do not believe that I could ever write something that embodied how much I love you. So, I did not write my vows.

    • kaye says:

      original 100: If one enchanting morning I awoke to find my mind had suddenly acquired all of the words in the English language, and I no longer fumbled around in the dark to capture life into words, but could mold and compose my new repertoire of words into an eloquent symphony of beauty and glory, a piece, no doubt, that could bring tears to the eyes of the coldest and blackest souls on the planet, I seriously do not believe, for one single fleeting moment, that I could ever write something that so completely and utterly embodied how much I love you. So, I did not write my vows.

  18. Bailey says:

    Yipes! This exercise was very scary at first, and being I’m only a seventh grader, I’m pretty sure I failed the part about it not being a run on and having proper punctuation, but here I go…

    Exercise One: I love writing about strange things, good things, anything, as long as it is a thing I can relate to, but I may still write about a bland, dreary subject that contains so little life some may think it is worse than dead; however, I can only be expected to put so much life into a piece of work, and if it has been slaughtered with such ruthless intentions and laid out for everyone to see, there is only so much that I can do, yet if some believe that there may be hope or that it had great potential, I could perform a miracle.

    Exercise Two: I will make everything I write worth reading.

    Exercise Three: Writing is an art that only some can truly wield in their minds to better the world, and although many may possess talents that get them recognition, less than a handful of the writers in our world are working tirelessly to change the world and they expect absolutely nothing in return; I may try to be like these writers, but I know that I will not be, however, no one made a special exception for me just so I could slack off and write junk. Everything I write will be worth it.

  19. Sophie says:

    3 Writing Exercises of Great Length (100 words sentence)

    The problem with wanting to be good but failing at it, is that we do not look at the whole picture or how we need to react towards others, how we want them to perceive us, but only think about ourselves, our feelings, emotions, me first instead of others, which makes it very difficult to live in this world since all everyone is doing is think only of themselves, engraved in their mind: “it’s about me”, concluding that life being about giving will not be fulfilled unless we surrender ourselves and give to someone in need, that is true happiness.

    (Same sentence idea but 10 words)
    True happiness comes from giving to others and not ourselves.

  20. Brian Massier says:

    I am planning to go on a sight seeing trip very soon to a place I was told about when I attended a dinner party and one of the guests told about his trip to a place that he said is called Solomon’s Castle which was built in the 1930’s by either an artist or architect who originally came from New York and purchased some property in Florida, sight unseen, that turned out to be swampland and deemed to be quite unusable, but using his imagination and entrepreneurial skills successfully constructed the castle using a variety of uncommon material including tin and stained glass while the design includes a moat surrounding the property and a boat that doubles as a ferry and a small restaurant for visiting tourists.

    2nd sentence:
    I plan to visit Solomon’s Castle. moat and floating restaurant.

  21. Ms Nine says:

    thanks for this. I’m posting #2

    Why would I attempt a frivolous writing exercise which focuses on sentences, paragraphs, and word counts when I should be clicking away on the keyboard toward a more productive purpose, like completing the scene in my novel where the protagonist is about to reveal a terrible secret, and in the process of revealing his secret, jeopardize his ability to find his father? The answer is simple – because it’s fun!

  22. Vanessa says:

    I made it to 53 words. I will have to think on it some more.

  23. Mehdi says:

    What the challenging exercise are they! As a person who is living in a country which does not speak English, it is so hard for me. However, I’ll try it. I promise Melissa.
    :D

  24. Maryanne Khan says:

    Here’s my sentence:

    She had found herself in a forgotten nursery, reading a familiar book for the first time, or scoffing as she took up her younger sister’s dare, leaning perilously over the iron railing of the balcony to spit on the hats of passing gentlemen, so that her mother, having discovered that she had done this, (most likely from vanquished, milk-mouthed Maisie) had beaten her mildly with the back of the hairbrush, and forbidden her to come down to dinner, something that pleased her in a perverse way, as it demonstrated that her mother cared more for the hats of strangers than for herself, causing her to shout at Mamma, ‘I knew I was adopted!’

  25. Maryanne Khan says:

    And in ten words:

    She remembered past childhood details – books and dares and punishments.

  26. Maryanne Khan says:

    Exercise 3:
    By her bed sat a framed photograph from her youth that she had given Grandmamma when she, Lady Heywood, returned to the ancestral home in England, and now that the solicitor for the Estate had sent it back, she secretly marvelled at her own egocentricity, the world rearranged with herself at its centre, staring (accusingly?) through the glass, insisting on a reminder of her small presence thousands of miles away. This childhood image would outlast herself.

  27. Maryanne Khan says:

    oops! I owe you a word!

    This childhood image would ultimately outlast herself.

  28. Experimental Model says:

    Having had the two minor growths removed at my doctor’s office with less of a sting than that inflicted by yesterday’s mosquito, I hurried home to enjoy my postponed breakfast coffee only to be met with a telephone call that I must return to the clinic to sign a consent form that had somehow slipped by the clerical staff’s attention for the aforesaid completed procedure, to which I agreed, shivering all the way in my cotton “see-the-doctor-and-get-weighed” outfit under a heavy jacket the wintry storm’s arrival made necessary and feeling quite silly that I had gained two pounds due to Valentine’s day cookies, chips, and ice cream despite awareness of consequences to my weigh-in and blood pressure check, the annoying results duly recorded by the nurse who had somehow failed to obtain my permission slip signature, and as I wait for many more minutes than the procedure required, I thank Melissa for the exercise that fills the time spewing forth these thoughts in an at-least-100-words sentence hoping my clinic waiting-room sentence will end before I complete their writing.

    Speedy doctor, slow clerks, omitted paperwork equal no breakfast.

  29. Experimental Model says:

    a. 70, 7:

    The writer must carry paper and well-filled pen to capture the dialogue between imagination and spoken conversation lest their magic overwhelm his vision with delight in a multiplicity of scenarios hungry for life, wild, freely roaming upon the pages of some possible project, if only the writer seize them before they vanish into the unconscious, in an instant gone as irrevocably as a dream at the ringing of an alarm. Jot notes quickly and reflect at leisure.

    b. 50, 5:

    Imagination sparkles and story thrives upon unexpected moments when bright sunlight dispels the everlasting wintry gloom, doves shake their feathers in the garden’s barren dust, and a stranger honks, smiles, waves and you wave back, welcoming the memory of once-upon-a-time days when he would have been flirting. Make a note for later.

    c. 20, 2:

    Kept faithfully for a week or two, your notes may reveal a powerful theme heretofore too shy for direct revelation. Try it!

  30. Jesse Byron says:

    Exercise One:
    Through many a pair of eyes, life can at times seem a most horrible and dull monotony that covers ones soul like a thousand woolen blankets which press and smother with such terrible efficiency that all of life becomes a gray canvas which is to say it is both very full and horrifyingly empty all within the same moment of Reality, that pinpoint of existence which is infinitely small yet as large as the gaping maw of a black scaled wyrm as it rises up to crisp your own pathetic soul with its putrid and toxic vapor and fumes.

    Exercise Two:
    Boredom is a universal part of the human experience.

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  1. […] Writing Forward blog has an interesting challenge going–to write a sentence that’s over 100 words long and THEN to write it again in […]