Writing Exercise: A Hundred Words

Sometimes brevity is the soul of wit, as in Rocketscientist’s writing exercise post this week. But sometimes what you want is a long sentence, and what matters is just keeping control of it.

I got this writing exercise from my creative writing professor about a year ago. At first, the concept looks simple. You have to write a sentence, a hundred or more words long, without at any point using the word “and”. Moreover, in doing so, you need to use proper grammar; run-on sentences don’t count.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But it’s a lot harder than it sounds. If you aren’t paying close attention, that little ‘and’ will sneak in at every opportunity. And a hundred words is a long run for just one sentence; reading it out loud afterward will probably leave you out of breath, and in writing it it’s easy to forget where the sentence began before it finishes. It took me several tries when I first took a stab at it. It didn’t help that, since my prof didn’t like adverbs much, I was trying to avoid those as well. I finally got it when I was trying to describe a place that was coming up in game; these writing exercises are always good for something, right?

On cloudless nights above the meeting place of the Arthchwyl, the northern lights twine around each other, burning scarves of ethereal fire, knotting, stretching, twisting, undulating between the blazing pinpoints that perforate the black-silk sky; their lights draw only sparkles from the snow-plain save within the meeting place itself, a great amphitheater where snow dips to ice in order to throw back the vivid display in the sky, a jagged mixing bowl ringed by spires of glacial ice which cast not shadows but rainbows around them, along whose sides the scattered veils of light become an endless writhing knot of color.

A lot of techniques help with this exercise: listing is a favorite, as is careful adjective use. Extended similes or metaphors don’t hurt, either. Don’t forget the colon or semicolon bridge, if applicable.

Can you reach a hundred words without the dreaded ‘and’? What sorts of writing tricks help you to get there?

Have fun!

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