E. Ethelbert Miller asks: "I'd like to know what exercises you might have stopped using in your classes. What didn't work? Why? And what exercises did you create for your students?"
During my first few years of teaching the craft of writing, I came up with about twenty exercises that I would give to students returning to work with me for a second time after they had completed all thirty of the ones in John Gardner's The Art of Fiction. (When I first started teaching, my students did three of these exercises a week for ten weeks, in addition to writing three stories for me, and keeping a writer's notebook.) I remember several of the exercises I came up with for them to do focused on their becoming skillful with a variety of classic sentence forms (epanalepsis, anadiplosis, symploce, epistrophe, anaphora, polysyndeton, asyndeton, and the masterful long sentence, which I discussed in a post on the third of September.) In other words, I wanted them to see the possibilities of creating elegant, architectonic structures on just the level of the sentence alone. But on the whole, and in general, I preferred in the early 1970s JG's well-conceived exercises to those of my own invention. After a decade or so, I did cut back on some of JG's exercises that were merely descriptive. (How many times can a professor actually bring himself to read student work where they attempt to "Describe a landscape as seen by a bird, but do not mention the bird"? That one gets old pretty fast.)