Fall Writing Exercise Series #1: Literary Mad Libs Episode 001 "Come Slow—Eden!"

The Notebooking Daily Fall Writing Series is a daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to keep your creative mind stretched and ready to go—fresh for your other writing endeavors. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

These exercises are not meant to be a standard writing session. They are meant to be productive and to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive. It's like taking a 5 minute breather in the middle of a spin class—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect.

If you don't overthink them, you will be able to complete all of the exercises in under 30 minutes, and you will produce dozens of sections of prose or poetry fragments you can utilize in your writing outside of these exercises, a good number of decent pieces as well as a few stinkers and some absolute gems.

For the exercises, have a piece of paper or a word processing file fresh and ready. Working digitally is ideal for some exercises whereas others are easy to do however you'd like. If you enjoy the process I recommend keeping all of your notebooking together so you can do some of the revision exercises later in the fall. Some of the exercises are longer in this series, but background music will be at the bottom of the post if you want to scroll down and get that going while you work.

The most important thing during these exercises is to not overthink what you're writing. Don't let yourself spend more than a minute or two without writing something new. If you're revising something you can't solve, move on and get back to it later when you've ruminated some more. More forward always.

 Literary Mad Libs Episode 001 "Come Slow—Eden!"

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with a mad lib. It happens to be a mad lib of a relatively famous short poem, but don't let that sway you. Fill out the following word or phrase requests then click down and plug them into the mad lib below the jump.

Your words:

1) Adverb:___________________________
2) A pleasant place (proper name):__________________________
3) Body part:_______________________________
4) Person name:____________________________
5) Adjective:_____________________________
6) Verb:_____________________________
7) Type of flower:____________________________
8) A gerund verb (ing):_____________________________
9) Insect or animal that rhymes or slant rhymes with #4:___________________
10) A gerund verb (ing):_________________________
11) A place (non-proper name):________________________
12) An audible verb:_______________________
13) Something that can be considered "precious":________________________
14) Verb:___________________________
15) Slant rhyme with #12 which could be considered somewhat pleasant:______________

Now write out the following poem with your words in the indicated places and we'll get to the meat of the exercise.

Come _________(1)__________ – ___________(2)__________!
_________(3)_________ unused to _________(4)__________ –
________(5)___________ – __________(6)___________ thy __________(7)_________ –
As the ________(8)_________ __________(9)___________ –

________(10)_______ late his flower,
Round her _______(11)________ _________(12)_________ –
Counts his ________(13)__________ –
________(14)________ – and is lost in ________(15)__________.

Mad Lib Exercises:

1) Pick two or three of the phrases and expand them into a paragraph/stanza or two, making any slight changes you need to to ensure them make some sort of sense, even if it's a surreal or 'poem' logic.
2) Pick the section that you think works the least or is the most incorrect/awkward, and rewrite it keeping your words and any of the originals that you can.
3) Expand your #2 into at least 80 words.
4) The original poem is about a bee getting that sweet sweet nectar, choose one of your fragments from #1 and work in a character seeking some sort of satisfaction, expanding the piece to at least 80 words.
5) Combine your #3 and one of the fragments from #1 that you did not use in #4.
6) Write a piece which uses at least 10 of your words or phrases.
7) Polish up or expand anything you've written today.


For reference here is the poem which we were basing our mad lib off of, "[Come Slow—Eden!]" by Emily Dickinson

Come slowly – Eden!
Lips unused to Thee –
Bashful – sip thy Jessamines –
As the fainting Bee –

Reaching late his flower,
Round her chamber hums –
Counts his nectars –
Enters – and is lost in Balms.

Of course, feel free to take as long as you'd like with your pieces, just don't spend that time not writing or editing.

If you'd like some background music to write to, try the soundtrack for the movie Apollo 13. Gotta love some James Horner.