Deliberate Writing Practice: Day One

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The introduction to this series is here. The idea is simple: one quick writing exercise a day for several days.

Post the results in a comment below, or, if you prefer, email them to me (at my name at gmail).

Exercise one: write five sentences.

“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy.”

— Helen Oyeyemi: Boy, Snow, Bird

Sentences are the building blocks of prose, and I often like to set myself challenges for them, either to copy the format and structure of another writer’s sentence, or to require myself to write a sentence with set characteristics.

I feel like the practice, although sometimes awkward and deliberate in the moment, gives me more instinctive options when I return to the “real” part of my daily writing routine.

The aim here, today, isn’t necessarily to write beautiful lines, but just to exercise your brain. Trying out small challenges like this should build up writing muscles you didn’t know you had.

Write, on any subject you like, a sentence that:

  1. starts and ends with the same word (or version of the same word).
  2. a sentence like a triangle: one that starts with unimportant details, and then builds up to the main idea or reveal in the middle of the sentence, only to fade away to a quiet end.
  3. contains the words “only” and “very.”
  4. repeats the same letter four times.
  5. is an adaptation of Oyeyemi’s sentence, above.

— Some of these prompts are inspired by Don Delillo’s Paris Review interview. —

Two examples from me:

  1. Towers were the standard in this mountain city, and the clouds above seemed cut and bruised by towers.
  2. The attorney’s office was filled with tan, bright, dust, and the children sniffed and coughed as they were informed that all the family money was gone, that they were now destitute, permanently indebted, and that certain forms had to be completed, and a decision about a certain uncle must be immediately made.


Day Two is here!
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16 thoughts on “Deliberate Writing Practice: Day One

  1. Mary was beautiful. She was 23, tall, thin, very accomplished in a variety of fields and loved bloody marys (or is it maries) with a celery and olive garnish. Right now, she was lying on the beach in full view of the other visitors to Varey Shore. However, Mary was not enjoying the view – she was dead. Really, really dead.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. 1.Flies roil the air above the dead thing as Cindy picks up a rock, takes aim, and soon enough the rock flies.
    2.The girl appeared boyish, yet had this sort of doe-eyed innocence that bounced along with her tangled curls as she played hopscotch and revealed that she’d murdered Hadley Jane, laughing as she lost her balance and fell butt-first on the pavement, smearing the lines of chalk.
    3.The frontiersman offered him the only bit of food remaining, a piece of very stale bread.
    4.The man must maneuver my Mercedes with utmost care.
    5.Never stay late when I’m working a shift on a full moon, the janitor advised, but I still thought years of huffing bleach had rotted his brain, and worked for that promotion.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Doors were always opening up for him, no matter where he went he’d be greeted with a smile and an open door.
    The rain felt cool on the warm summer night, and it was a welcome contrast to the fresh coat of her husband’s hot blood that cascaded off of her with each new droplet.
    Very quickly it became apparent that the only way out of this would be to face him head on.
    Belligerently, the man continued to belittle the bumbling buffoon.
    Mirrors reflect the truths that we don’t want to see, they strip away the idyllic haze and reveal something deeper when you really examine them.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Moons dappled the sky directly above, creating a seemingly never-ending vista of moons.
    The shadow of the ceiling fan ticked by in a dizzying motion overhead and the faucet held a growing water bubble, but then the phone rang and as June moved across the kitchen to answer it, the mundane faded from her consciousness.
    The only women chosen were the ones who had been at the roller rink that very same night.
    While Willa waited, we all walked down to the water without acknowledging the weight of the evening’s events.
    Granddad never promoted nor cautioned me against Texan men, even though he was born and raised working the oil fields outside Odessa, so since I was very young I harbored a fondness for men of his ilk.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Exercise 1:

    Lingerie must be the hardest to find as there are never any available sizes, perhaps because brands assume we big girls don’t have romantic lives and thus have no need for lingerie.
    Most of the conversations are about topics only you and I could understand, but he always managed to come up with something to say, no matter how simplistic.
    The call was quick as it was sudden, and the news left her wondering if there was anything she could’ve done in the past to protect her daughter, now on the verge of a serious breakdown, from the monster she herself brought to their lives.
    My students share not only books but homework as well, thus stronger members of the class help others secure good grades from minor exercises.

    With mirrors, we create a world entirely our own, where we are the most beautiful, the most successful, and where we are shielded from hard, painful truths.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry, got items 2 & 3 mixed up, here it is again. 🙂

    Lingerie must be the hardest to find as there are never any available sizes, perhaps because brands assume we big girls don’t have romantic lives and thus have no need for lingerie.
    The call was quick as it was sudden, and the news left her wondering if there was anything she couldn’ve done in the past to protect her daughter, now on the verge of a serious breakdown, from the monster she herself brought to their lives.
    Most of the conversations are about topics only you and I could understand, but he always managed to come up with something to say, no matter how simplistic.
    My students share not only books but homework as well, thus stronger members of the class help others secure good grades from minor exercises.

    Mirrors create a world entirely our own, shielding us from hard, painful truths.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Cars were rusting all about; rusting cars resting upon rusting cars.
    A dim light seeped through the stained curtains, stray rays revealing specks of dust lazily settling on the corpse that lay splayed face down among beige pillows on a tan cover and bone white sheets.
    It became very real to her, in that moment, that she was the only one who could face her fear.
    Selecting ‘e’ seems to be an easy win.
    In the stories of my childhood, dreams came true, but I never dared wish that of life.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Clouds are the harbinger of hope for parched lands and their farmers, as equally as they’re pregnant with promise for the economy, these dark clouds.

    To cover the entire distance in such a short time, he thought it was necessary to walk up till the edge of the cliff and carefully dive into the sea, after which he could swim back to safety and continue his journey.

    Cooking up a story for such an unimaginative person, wouldn’t only be difficult, but very risky in such a situation.

    Rohan wasn’t bold enough to admit that he was the best swimmer among them, leave alone bullying them about winning the bonanza single-handedly for the team.

    Mirrors can be fiercely reflective. The blatant truth being that you can’t hide behind your reflection. They show you who you are and can hence become a catalyst of change in your persona.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Happiness is supposed to be found within yourself, not outside, but what if you were lost, broken and hurting and it was impossible to even have space for happiness?
    It was quite a romantic concept to give someone your heart, except she didn’t realise quite how literally her lover took the concept until she found the multiple jars of hearts in his basement one evening, and so she ran for the hills vowing never to love another again.
    It was only a kiss, she thought, but she couldn’t deny that it was a very nice kiss.
    The rain poured from the menacing dark clouds in the sky, pounding the window pane until the storm passed by, and in those moments I felt entirely calm.
    At what point in our lives do we start hating the person reflecting back at us? Take a good look in the mirror and see yourself for who you really are: beautiful, smart and loved.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks so much for providing these prompts!
    1. Together, the graying pair stepped gingerly down the freshly shoveled sidewalk, his left hand reached across his torso to brace her left elbow, his right hand on the familiar small of her back, not unlike how they walked away from the children’s hospital that winter day so many years prior: together.
    2. It was a tasty, vegetable-rich chicken soup that had been sprinkled with cyanide powder and was now being served to Charlie in one of his late grandmother’s white cereal bowls.
    3. The restaurant manager only said, “I’m sorry, but we have to evacuate,” before the 40 or 50 guests very quickly found themselves in the parking lot watching thick dark smoke pour out of the kitchen door.
    4. I like my frivolous chocolate bars and their almond crunch. (4 cs)
    5. I thank my incessant voice of self-hate for helping me survive those early years, though in this new world full of love, she and I are learning different ways to cope.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks so much for providing these writing prompts!
    1. Together, the graying pair stepped gingerly down the freshly shoveled sidewalk, his left hand reached across his torso to brace her left elbow, his right hand on the familiar small of her back, not unlike how they walked away from the children’s hospital that winter day so many years prior: together.
    2. It was a tasty, vegetable-rich chicken soup that had been sprinkled with cyanide powder and was now being served to Charlie in one of his late grandmother’s white cereal bowls.
    3. The restaurant manager only said, “I’m sorry, but we have to evacuate,” before the 40 or 50 guests very quickly found themselves in the parking lot watching thick dark smoke pour out of the kitchen door.
    4. I like my frivolous chocolate bars and their almond crunch. (4 cs)
    5. I thank my incessant voice of self-hate for helping me survive those early years, though in this new world full of love, she and I are learning different ways to cope.

    Liked by 1 person

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