Want to be more productive? Try developing a writing process which includes warm ups. When you warm up before writing, you’ll eliminate procrastination and you’ll get more writing done in less time.
Over the years, whenever I’ve skipped warm ups because deadlines loomed, I discovered projects took longer and frequently developed unexpected challenges.
Try a couple of these warm ups to see whether they work for you, and experiment to create your own.
Your writing process: experiment with warm ups
What’s a “warm up”?
It’s a little exercise you do before you start writing.
Use warm ups before each project, each day. They take five minutes or less. Try the suggestions below, and experiment.
1. Clear your mind: keep a writing log (useful for all writing)
A writing log is a type of journal. I use a paper notebook, propped up next to my computer’s monitor on a tablet stand.
After writing the day’s date, I note the time, and the project, as well as several sentences about the project. The sentences could be:
- A goal for the number of words I want to write for the project that day, and why the goal is important;
- Negative thoughts (get them out of your head and onto the page. You’ll find that once they’re written down, they dissipate);
- Ideas for the project…
Although notes in your writing log take just a few minutes, they clear your mind. You’ll become focused on your current project.
Enter the time again when you’re done with the project for that day. Tracking the time you spend on a project is very useful for new writers: if you know it takes you three hours to write and edit a blog post, it’s easier to calculate your rates when you’re quoting on client projects.
2. Try reverse outlining for longer projects (useful when writing books, both fiction and nonfiction)
“Reverse outlining” is outlining what you’ve written. I use it as a warm up. For both fiction and nonfiction, I reverse outline the previous day’s writing.
There’s a lot to remember when you’re writing a long and complex project like a book. While I’m not a huge fan of outlining (but I do it anyway), I enjoy reverse outlining and find it very useful.
The benefits include:
- Easy assessments: you can quickly see any holes in the plot in fiction and things you’ve left out of nonfiction;
- Easy catchups. Skimming your reverse outline gets you up to speed if you haven’t had time to work on the project for a few days;
- Quick inspiration. You’ll get ideas when you read your outline about fictional characters and plot. With nonfiction, you’ll get fresh insights.
3. Imagine: daydream (vital for fiction, but useful for nonfiction as well)
Your imagination is a powerful tool. Few adults make as much use of their imagination as they could (other than in a negative way, by worrying.)
Writers use their imagination constantly. When you muse/ imagine as a warm up, you’ll find writing much easier and more enjoyable.
Each day, before you begin a fiction project, muse about your main characters, or elements of your plot. If you’re visual, you might “see” your characters interacting in a scene. Run though the scene in your imagination. You’ll often see characters acting in ways you don’t expect. Writing the scene is much easier.
With nonfiction, think about your topic. Imagine readers. Will they be entertained? How might you surprise them?
4. Ask questions: make a list of questions (useful for both fiction and nonfiction)
Listing questions kickstarts your creativity—and your imagination.
Not only is creating a list of questions useful, the process clears your mind. You’ll often answer questions in that day’s writing session.
Questions for fiction might include:
- How could I make this scene’s setting more exciting?
- What’s Character X hiding? Why?
- If I were completely new to… (something), what might help me most?
- What else do I need to know about… (a topic.)
Make warm ups an essential part of your writing process
Try a couple of the above warm ups, and use them for a week or two. You’ll benefit from them. Then devise your own favorite warm ups for your projects.
Have fun; you’ll become more productive painlessly.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.