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The Writing Life: Warm-up Ideas for Writers

The Writing Life by Michelle Janene at Mustard Seed Sentinel
Credit: Pereanu Sebastian

Warm-up Ideas for Writers

by Michelle Janene

People who workout are wise if they stretch and warm-up before they start to exercise. Slow stretches or light weight lifting can prevent strain and even injury.

A similar routine can be useful to prepare for writing as well.

There are many ways to prepare before you start your work in progress (WIP). Some exercises enable you to generate concepts and put words on paper. Others will aid you to begin the first page. While another idea will help you get set to jump into your day of writing and pick up where you left off. Each of these have different benefits.

Ways to Begin – Used to Generate Ideas

· Free Writing – This can be done on the computer or with pen and paper. Start writing whatever comes to mind. Add each new thought and don’t worry about grammar, or the stories.

· A Mind Map – (Also called clustering or webbing) Put a word, theme, topic, or idea in the center of a page. Draw lines off from the center to other related words. This is a good way to think about different topics and how they are related to other ideas.

· A List – Similar to mapping, write a word at the top of the page and list all the ideas related to it below.

· The “What if…” Game – When an idea pops into your head, or if you see something throughout your day, ask yourself ‘what if’ and write down what comes to mind. This can help spark how a story begins. What if we all had to relocate to Mars? What if we had to vacate the land and live under water in the oceans? What if that running person left their keys in their car or is running from the law? What if I’m an author writing about an author who writes about…

· Brainstorming – Another way to produce ideas, but with your regular critique group, or writing partner is to brainstorm together. Also, you can do this as a stand-alone activity to generate new ideas for future projects, or to gather concepts for plot twists. This method can also help you work out a part you are struggling with in a current WIP.

· Journal – Like free writing this is whatever comes to mind at the end of the day or event. Journaling can help find the emotion needed on the page—sometime raw and unfiltered.

· Draw or Doodle – Though not writing words, this can awaken your creative brain and spark ideas to write about later. It is a great way to trigger new ideas in an unusual way.

For a New WIP – Used to Clarify Story Ideas with Specifics

· Characters – Use Google images to find headshots of people who resemble your characters (for your own use but not to be published). Have this open in a tab to view as needed or print the pictures out and place in a visible location as you work.

· Use baby name sites to come up with names or choose your characters by the meaning of their name. Use sites like to find names of real people, fantasy creatures, or even places.

· Research – for historical or sci-fi genres, research and collect notes on a time period or technology to have it on hand when you need it later. This saves endless hours searching the Internet when you should be writing.

For modern fiction, go visit the place where your story will take place, walk the streets, or have lunch in the local café where your characters will spend some time.

· Worldbuilding – For fantasy, this is essential. Write descriptions of the unusual creatures and humanoid species that will inhabit your story world. Explain the governmental structure; i.e. dictator, monarchy, democracy, or something of your own creation. Write more details than you think you will ever need. When you are grounded in your created world, all your characters will operate based on those constructs and the reader won’t need it explained in as much detail. What are some of the laws and punishments for breaking them? What is the military like? Are there different ethnic groups and how do they get along? There are great worldbuilding worksheets out there to help.

· Characters – Take time to interview your characters. Know their physical appearance, education, marital status, family, history, likes and dislikes.

· Style Sheet – Often seen as an editor’s tool, but they can be very helpful for writers as well. This is a list for all the characters in a novel and includes their physical description and any pertinent information. This is usually done alphabetically in order to keep details organized. You can also include notes like whether you use the Oxford (or serial) comma, or other key formatting information.

Return to a Current WIP – Used to Get Back into a Work After a Break

· Interview your character again; this time focus on their current situation.

· Reread the last chapter you wrote or yesterday’s work. This gets you back on the train of thought where you left off.

There are many ways to stretch and warm up your writing muscles. If you’re stuck from writer’s block, or don’t know what to do for your next project, take some time to try one of these writing tips. See what your creativity sparks. I’d love to hear how it goes.


About the Author

Michelle Janene lives and works in Northern California. Most days she blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind. She is a devoted teacher, a dysfunctional housekeeper, and a dedicated writer. She released her first novella Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015. God’s Rebel came out in 2016, followed by Rebel’s Son and Hidden Rebel in 2017. She has been published in “Guide Post Magazine” and several anthologies. She leads two critique groups and is the founder of Strong Tower Press—Indie solutions for indie authors.

You can find her at Strong Tower Press, her website, on Facebook, Twitter, and on Goodreads.

This is Michelle’s last “The Writing Life” column for Mustard Seed Sentinel. We thank Michelle for writing for our magazine and wish her all the best in her writing endeavors.

#TheWritingLife #WritingAdvice #MicheleJanene #WritingTips #IAmWriting

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