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We are super excited to announce today’s special guest post: a writing challenge from the amazing George Saunders. Saunders is a highly skilled story-teller and insightful teacher. We recently reached out to him to see if he could give us an exercise that we could do as well as share with our readers. Well, we are all in luck, he sent back something truly fitting for the micro fiction writer…

Needless to say, we were psyched to get this and have already had tons of fun with it. Try your hand at it, the results are fascinating! And please send us what you come up with. We will be posting some responses next week.

George Saunders Writing Exercise
Write a 200-word story (not 199 and not 201) but you can only use 50 words. Start writing the story while keeping track of the word count at the bottom of the page. That is, if you write “The cat had an attitude” then, at the bottom, you would write

1. The
2. cat
3. had
4. an
5. attitude

…and would have thus used 5 of your words.

For some reason (I really don’t know why) this exercise produces rising action and humor and compression – even for writers who normally go on and on and don’t know how to do plot etc.

It’s best to put a time limit on it (20 mins) and make it so that everyone has to read theirs aloud at the end.


Incidentally if you haven’t read Saunders’ Tenth of December we suggest you click the title and purchase the book straight away. There are plenty of other titles to explore, but this one is a great place to start.


The cover of ‘Tenth of December’ and author George Saunders.
(Chloe Aftel / Random House)