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Weekly Writing Exercises

In a post last Wednesday, I invited you to come back on Friday to start practicing your writing skills. Then Friday rolled around without an update. I could try to spin that as some Karate Kid-style, existential exercise in reality and expectation, but it was actually a much more mundane problem.

I didn’t have any blank paper.

See, it’s been my intention all along to incorporate weekly exercises and contest challenges and other little writing assignments into this blog, but I waited until Wednesday of last week to start thinking about how. I’ve got a mechanism for reader response already available — the comments section on every post — but the blog design really doesn’t lend itself to particularly long comments. More than that, I wanted something that would make it easy for you to post your submission and get direct feedback. After all, the purpose here is to make you into a writer, not just a commenter on my articles.

The obvious answer to that is a discussion forum, so right after I posted my invitation on Wednesday, I got to work trying to add a forum to the website. Turns out, that can take more than two days. There was also a minor distraction in there, on the order of thirteen different houseguests over a four day period. That was madness.

Anyway! It’s done now. is now proud host to The Scribblebook, a forum designed expressly for you, my readers. You’ll need to sign in to post on the forum, but even if you don’t want to register for an account with Unstressed Syllables, you should be able to use any openID for the forum — using your login with GMail, Facebook, or any of a bunch of major sites — so it shouldn’t be a huge hassle. (That said, if you do have problems signing up, or find it frustrating, let me know in the comments and I’ll do everything I can to make it easier.)

For now, though, it’s time for you to get writing! Three days past time, actually, so let’s get right to it.

For Work – Business Letter to Santa

Business Writing Exercise

Business Writing Exercise

We discussed the business letter format in passing this week, and we’ll get to it in more detail in the next week or two, but I’d like to see what you can do now. Maybe you’re showing off your chops, proving to me that this blog doesn’t have anything to offer you at all. Maybe you’re setting up a phenomenal Before and After contrast, stumbling through a crude letter format now so you can really shine once I teach you how to do it right.

Either way, have fun with it. Write me a one-page business letter (no more than 250 words, and 100 would probably be acceptable) politely thanking Santa Claus for a gift you received this Christmas, but pointing out a mistake on his part and asking for a full refund. If that’s just too silly for you, substitute in your Aunt Edna, or WalMart Corporation. Mainly I want to see how well you can duplicate the business letter format, and how you structure the message in a formal correspondence.

When you’ve written your business letter, you can tuck it away safely in a shadowy corner of your My Documents folder, or post it up on the discussion board for all to see. I encourage the latter, but it’s certainly not required. Any writing practice is useful writing practice, but it certainly helps to get feedback.

For Play – Someone Else’s Christmas

If you’re not interested in perfecting your business letter format, write me a story instead. With Christmas so much on our minds, it just seems obvious to tell a Christmas story, but I want you to practice some of that “getting better at being a person” that I mentioned earlier in the week.

So tell me about your Christmas, but tell me about it from the point of view of someone else who was involved. Tell the harrowing tale of your brother-in-law who drove in through a blizzard to make it to Christmas dinner at your house, through his eyes. Tell me about the sister who couldn’t make it, or the random cashier at the grocery store who offered a surprisingly exuberant “Merry Christmas” as you made your way through the checkout line.

Write a blog post of 200 to 600 words titled “My Christmas” and write it as though you’re somebody else. It’s good practice at blogging, good practice at writing from a set point of view, and good practice at seeing the world through your fellow man’s eyes — and that’s certainly something worth doing at Christmastime.

Again, if you feel like sharing your work, post it as a new topic on the discussion board. I look forward to reading your stories!

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