Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Power Of The Warm-Up

Does anyone else give great advice and then not follow it themselves? Only me?

I've been editing my next writing book, The Five Day Writer's Bootcamp, and in it I stress the importance of a writing warm up. 

Had I actually been doing writing warm ups myself? No. 

Do I still firmly believe they are a good idea? Yes. 

So, for the past week I decided to implement a warm up before my sessions. It isn't long, probably 5 minutes, I don't really time it, I just go until I finish the idea and feel ready to write.

I decided that I would use the warm up to get to know my characters and story better. I know a lot of people feel that reading over what they did last session is warm up enough, or they spend time planning what they'll write today. I don't do that. I put absolutely no pressure on my warm up to be directly improving the story. Instead, it's a chance just to play and have fun before getting down to work. I want to give my genius time to say anything it wants to, even if it's not what I had planned. 

What did I actually do?

Well, I'm writing a chick-lit, so the first day I decided to put my girl and three main guys in a room and see what happened. I presented it as a cocktail party where the three men meet for the first time. It's never actually going to happen in the book in this way, but I wanted to see how they would react to each other. It gave me great insight into each of the men, and reinforced why I liked two of them over the third. (Though hasn't helped me choose which of the two she'll end up with. I'm 90% sure I know which one, but the other keeps being so darn sweet!)

The second day I decided to work out what was the worst possible thing I could do to my main character, and how would she react. If I made her lose her job and get kicked out of her apartment, would that be enough? No, she would feel she could still be supported by her family and friends. So I had to dig deep. Where is she prideful? What does she base her self esteem on? And how could I destroy that? It seems a cruel task, but it is a really good challenge to work out if you have a large enough climax, and ensures that you've really targeted the centre of the character. 

I've also spent time interviewing my characters, and mapping out how they could react to different events. I've asked them about this biggest fears, their deepest desires, and some of their answers have surprised me. I've put them in new situations, and I've got them to interact with other people they might never meet. All this so that when I start my writing session, I'm in tune with them.

And the result?

Well, aside from any potential plot twists and character info that usefully arises, taking out the time to warm up I still get more written per hour afterwards than I did using the entire time to add words to the manuscript. 

So, I highly recommend you give it ago. Get into it, and get to know your characters and setting. 

ROW 80 Goals:

Last week I set myself the challenge to write 5,000 per day. 

I am proud to announce that other than one day, I've succeeded! A few days have been only 4,600-4,800, but other days have been 5,400-5,800. So on average I'm ahead.

I'm now part way through episode 10. I'm on track to finish the first draft of all the episodes by the end of June. Not only that, but things have arisen that I could never have predicted. The tale has taken a bit of a twist, but it is such a compelling twist that I'm going to go back and rewrite it more fully into the tale in the second draft.

I would like to thank the warm ups for helping in achieving this goal. 

Though I've also not been to the gym for most of those days, but that was because I thought I was coming down sick. Still not feeling 100%, but with plenty of sleep and fluids I seem to be staving off a full blown attack. 

Goals for next week: 

Continue with the writing frenzy, but try and start going to the gym as well. 

I'm currently trying to read about five books at one time, so might need to focus down and finish one off at a time. I just can't decide which one!

What would you want to know about your characters, if they could tell you just one thing?

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. That's a tough question. I use the Enneagram personality profiles for my characters, so knowing my characters' Enneagram types helps me know how they would react, what motivates them, what they fear, how they react. So that's probably the main one--knowing which of the nine types they are, since that helps a lot with figuring out their behavior.

    I don't usually do a warm-up before I write, though sometimes I'll read through what I wrote the day before. I also try to keep up with my morning pages, three pages of free-writing, a practice I learned from Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way." I'll have to try doing a warm-up similar to the ones you mentioned and see what I discover. Thanks for the suggestion!