Stretching Prose: Five Ways to Get Warmed Up for Writing

Like most fiction writers, I can find a story in just about anything: a picture, a stone, a cup of coffee, a meaningful glance, an so on. Just this morning, I have seven ideas for stories and that was before I’d finished my espresso at the cafe. Now I am in the studio, writing this little bit of nonsense when I ought to be scribbling down the stories.

Yet, when it comes to actually writing, slamming word after word into place I freeze. I see myself falling down a mineshaft that never seems to find a bottom. It’s just down, down, down…

This illustrates one of the more dreary habits of non-writing fiction writers – the tendency to go on about how crapping things are when they need only write a story to pull their mood out of the soup.

[List of 5 after the jump]
On occasion, I put on my running shoes and hit the pavement before the sun comes up. When I first start out, the going is tough. The body resists and sometimes the mind fails to will the flesh into the first mile. But if I can get it going, I feel like I could run all day.

As my writing turned into a lot of false starts lately, I wonder if it isn’t a matter of failing to warm up properly….

Stretching Prose: Five Ways to Get Warmed Up for Writing

  1. The One-Inch Picture Frame – I picked this one up a long time ago from “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. Write about what you can see through the lens of a one-inch picture frame. Forget about the wider scene and the background story. Just write the little pictures down.
  2. The Blastoff Method – Will Self talked about this method in a recent interview. Write as much as you can as fast as you can. Don’t take a moment to pause. Just write fast and furious. Much will fail to make sense on review, but the point is to get you past the natural block you are facing as you begin your work.
  3. Prime the Pump – This is one of my personal techniques. Begin by taking a book, any will do, find a passage at random and copy it, a paragraph is the ideal length. Then, working from that bit of text continue to build out from that point.
  4. Turn on the Music – Another distraction technique of mine. Simply putting on music can break the sterile environment of the writing room (assuming you’re feeling a bit blah). I’ve found that white noise is also helpful.
  5. Write an Intense Emotional Scene – No really, it works. To make this one work, you need to adhere to a few rules: no names, no future, no sex. The idea is to fire up your engine by writing about anonymous people. The story snippet has no future or past, just the immediate present. The emotions should be as raw as possible without resorting to physical contact (sex, fighting, what have you). It’s a little like messing around with someone with a no kissing rule in place. How long can you hold out?

If you can get yourself moving, you can keep the momentum going. The most difficult part is starting.

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