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The Writer’s Warm Up by Dawn McClure

Have you ever thought of writing as a sport?

One day I was sitting at my desk with nothing better to do (not writing, that’s for sure), when something profound hit me. To be the best athlete at any given sport you have to practice harder than everyone else. You have to live and breathe your sport. Practice makes perfect, because raw talent will only get you so far. When you practice something, you’re training your muscles and your psyche to do something harder, faster, and more proficient. You’re building the particular muscles you need in order to command the sport you are involved in. You’re also building up your courage and confidence, because as you practice, your proficiency and your knowledge of the sport increases.

Let’s use the game of football as an example.

Football players don’t just show up to game day, toss on their uniform and play a quick game, hoping they’re good at their position that day. They’ve practiced all week. Hard. Heck, they’ve practiced for months. They have a show to put on for the fans! They travel to the arena the day before the game and practice some more on foreign turf. They don’t rely solely on their talent. Most NFL players have been playing football on teams since they were children, but they don’t fall back on prior training sessions. They’re continually keeping their bodies tuned up for the rough, demanding sport.

Can we, as writers, say we approach writing the same way?

Most of us practice. We practice by writing. But how many of us warm up? That’s the part I think most of us skip over as writers. And no…checking social media first thing in the morning does not constitute a warm up (I wish it did!).

Even when athletes are not practicing on the football field, they are hitting the gym. That’s what it takes to be on an NFL team. If you want to win, you put in the time, in many different facets.

What would it look like if writing was a sport?

When we sit down at our computer every day (Every day…did I hear someone laugh?), most of us pick up where we left off, or edit a little and then get to the new stuff. We might check our social media, our ads, and our emails in between sprints.

But do we warm up to write?

I think a lot of us are missing some important steps if we want to be the best at our game. I think warming up really brings out our individual voices and helps the words to flow a little better than if we just jump into writing the next sentence in our manuscripts.

Skipping a warm up might just be the thing that’s holding you back from hitting your daily goal. Because who wants to jump right in to anything?

We should make ‘practicing’ a daily habit. And the only way to ‘practice’ as a writer is to write. How does Tom Brady practice being a quarterback? He throws the ball. To warm up, he stretches his arm and then he throws the ball. Simple, really. His coach runs him through a few drills, but mostly he’s memory-training his arm and building up the muscles and reflexes he uses to get the ball into another player’s hands so they can run the ball into the end zone. It’s not all about the muscles, either. The players make it look simple, but there’s a lot happening behind the scenes. They have to memorize plays and learn their opponents’ weaknesses and strengths…they just make it look simple, and yet it’s anything but simple.

We, as writers, should do no less. We should put in the effort that goes behind the writing. The warm ups and the practices. It’s all important, and it will make us better at our craft.

Step One.

Immerse yourself in your craft. Read craft books. Take workshops. Watch podcasts. Dip your toe into marketing. Learning should be continual. Whether it’s on marketing, genre, or grammar…keep on top of learning. Build your muscles. Our writing muscles: grammar, punctuation, word choice, chosen genre knowledge, websites, social media, etc.

Step Two.

Warm up before you start hitting those keys. Start out each day/evening (right before you write) by reading one chapter of a book that is not your own and in the genre you are writing in.

I start my day off by reading four chapters of whatever small town romance I’m currently reading, and many days I read more than that. (We were all readers first!) If I’m writing a holiday romance, I read a holiday romance. If you’re writing paranormal, grab a new(er) paranormal. Genres stay the same, but they also morph throughout the years. Reader expectations change. You MUST keep up on these changes if you want to write to market.

This is a part of the warm up you’re more likely to pass up because you don’t have to read to get your own words on the pages. But you know what? READ. It is so important. Reading helps refill our imagination and it energizes us!

Step Three.

Write NONSTOP on your current scene for at least twenty minutes. Just write. Don’t worry about the length of introspection compared to dialogue, or that you’ve only written dialogue. Don’t go back for spelling errors and start to fuss that you should have used a different character’s POV…just write. You can clean it up later. Right now you’re warming up. I’m sure Tom Brady knows how to throw a football at any given time, but he tosses the ball around before hitting the field during a game. This is just a warm up to get the words flowing. Don’t overanalyze.

Try to throw in some metaphors (remember…you’re still in the warm-up phase. Stretch your writing muscles! Don’t throw in a cliché to write FAST. Write SMART right now!). Keep in mind your story’s GMC, of course, but don’t get caught up in the rules of writing. You can fix grammar. You can correct a misspelled word. Fixing GMC is much harder.

After you’re finished with your first sprint, you can go make your coffee or your tea. You can take a breather. The big game is about to start. You have something to work with for the day. You should have at least two hundred to four hundred words.

Which is great. You’ve warmed up for game time. And for writers that means BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard).

Step Four.

Everyone’s writing process is different, but this is where you write in earnest. This is the bulk of your work: writing & editing. You can edit the words you wrote in step three, or, if you’re decently pleased with the words, keep going forward. Whatever writing process you’ve adapted over the years, it will fit this process.

  • If you sprint, this is where you begin your sprints.
  • If your process is to write one completed scene a day, then work on that.
  • If you have a daily word count goal of 1500k, then knock that out.

This step is all about the writing. For some, this step will last all day. For others it will last for a few hours, but we’ve done the warm-up, and we should be ready to roll, however our process works or how long we have to do it in.

I hope this warm-up process helps you! For me, it took a little stress out of the game. I didn’t have to sit right down and start performing, I could now ease into writing.

Happy writing!


DAKOTA STORM

It had taken Misty Evans four long years to get her life back on track, so there was no way in hell she was going to hook back up with the boy who’d derailed it. She’d just graduated college, nailed down her dream job, and was set to head out of Garner, a small town that held too many painful memories. David’s return was nothing but a roadblock, and she wouldn’t hesitate to blow past him going ninety, a one-finger salute her only goodbye.

They say you can never go home again.

David Buchanan allowed guilt, family trouble, and fear chase him out of his hometown four years ago, but now that he’d pulled a stint in the Marine Corps, he was built to adapt and overcome. Unfortunately, the Marine Corps had never prepared him for the wall that Misty had erected. But one thing he’d learned from his past mistakes—you never give up on those you love.

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Proposing on Christmas Day?

When Melanie Edwards finds out that her boyfriend of less than a year is going to propose on Christmas, she has only two weeks to figure out why her feet get as cold as a South Dakota winter morning—and South Dakota is exactly where she goes. Spending the Christmas holiday in the small town she grew up is necessary before she embarks on this next chapter of her life. But to her surprise, she quickly finds out there’s a chapter she’d unknowingly left open.

The prodigal ex-girlfriend returns.

John Harrison can hardly believe his eyes when he sees his former girlfriend strut down Main Street, all designer tags and citified. There’s no way he’d want to get tangled up with her again. She’d changed—and she’d changed for the worse. Unfortunately, mother nature puts them in a time-out courtesy of a blizzard, and twelve hours stuck in a café can bring even the most estranged couples back together.

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Connect with Dawn

Dawn McClure
Social Media Manager for SavvyAuthors

Contemporary Romance Author
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Dawn McClure writes contemporary, small town romance set in South Dakota. Having lived in Illinois, California, Italy, North Carolina, Florida, Colora...