Does anyone else need one before writing the day’s allocation of words?
The warm-up for writers consists of the few (or many) writing exercises that we do to get in ‘the zone’. You know the big glowing circle in your kid’s cartoons that takes the superhero into the next dimension? Well these exercises get you up and through that portal with the easy grace of an Olympic high-jumper. If, like me, your reality consists of endless episodes of Peppa Pig, school runs, a gamer teen and loads and loads of laundry, maybe you could use an exercise or two to get you warmed up when you actually sit down to write:
1. Write a flash fiction story – Why oh why didn’t I discover flash earlier? I mean, haven’t you guys seen how Usain Bolt practises getting out of those starting blocks before the real race? There you go, then. Flash is the writer’s trial run for the real thing, and the instant gratification you get from the ability to finish a full story in ten minutes or less inspires you to get on to the real project. That is not to say that flash doesn’t have it’s own merits as a genre, of course, but one of its values is it’s usefulness in opening the way to longer writing projects. If you’re not into flash (limited to 300 words or less), try writing a letter, a poem or free-writing (just write anything that comes to mind on giving yourself a prompt, like ‘spider’ or ‘chocolate’ or ‘priest’ and stop after 10 – 20 lines).
2. Read a poem – When I say ‘read’, I mean read it critically. Pick out and deconstruct imagery that works well, metaphorical language that really brings the subject home to you. Ask yourself why it works so well – and then try to apply what you come up with to your own writing. I usually don’t advocate reading someone else’s prose immediately before you write your own, especially if it’s someone you admire, as you run the risk of adopting their style or voice in your own writing and what you’re after is developing your own voice.
3. Write an outline – This is strategy disguised as warm-up. An outline helps you know where you’re going and inspires you to start with a specific objective in mind. It encourages you to get into the story you’ve managed to outline. However, the trick to this warm-up is to ignore the outline if you feel strongly, mid-story or mid-project, that you want to go somewhere else with your prose. Having written the original outline down, you can always come back to it later and some of the best work I’ve done was done when I strayed from my outline mid-project.
Ready …. steady ….. GO!!