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By Pattie Beaven

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I have dusted off a few of my writing books from my bookshelf and started to delve into one in particular, “A Writer’s Workbook” by Caroline Sharp.  It provides daily exercises for writers, and I can’t think of a better time to practice some of these exercises.

The first set of exercises are for warming up, and take only a few minutes to complete.  I love this idea of warming up, and I think I should practice these everyday. I am a fitness instructor and I never start a workout or start a training session or class without warming up.  It’s vital to our fitness, as it literally warms up our muscles, making them more flexible, and helps prevent injuries during strenuous exercise.  My husband is an artist, and even he warms up before starting his sessions. picture1

So, why don’t I warm up before I start writing?  Get those creative juices flowing.  Sharpen the mind a little. Practice descriptive vocabulary.  And get a jump start on my own project with more motivation.

Here are a couple examples of warm-up exercises for the writer:

  1. List 10-20 movies or shows you’ve seen, or books you’ve read. Next to each title, write a synopsis of that movie, show, or book with just ONE sentence.  It can be a long sentence if you like, but not a huge run on that matches the like of Charles Dickens. This is a great exercise to practice summarizing plot, and assessing the big picture.  Think: elevator pitch for your own story.  This might also help when looking for agents after your book is written.
  2. Resume’ Thesaurus- Pick a career (lawyer, for example) and write down as many different types of that job title you can think of (for lawyer it could be divorce, real estate, copyright, tax, etc). Explore further and pick one of those specialties and see if you can break it down even further (divorce lawyer: same-sex marriage, custody, financial/property disputes). Some examples given:
  3. Doctor
  4. Circus
  5. Teacher
  6. Writer
  7. Chef
  8. Singer
  9. Zookeeper
  10. Fitness Instructor
  11. Researcher
  12. Artist
  13. Abstract description- write a paragraph, without preparation, on one of the following words.  The only rule is you can’t use the actual word in your description.
  14. Circle
  15. Staircase
  16. House
  17. An animal (pick a specific animal to describe)
  18. Classical music
  19. Color red (or any color, really)
  20. Hot soup
  21. Rain
  22. Cold weather
  23. Pillow
  24. Kissing
  25. Tornado
  26. Perfume
  27. Warm socks
  28. Fire
  29. Purr of a cat
  30. Silk
  31. Crying
  32. Being nauseous
  33. Your favorite food

Doing one exercise from these three choices every day shouldn’t be time-consuming, and in fact, may get the gears going enough to provide an incredibly productive writing session.

Here’s my first warm-up exercise:

Resume’ Thesaurus-

Zookeeper:  Carnivore, bird/aviary, marine mammal, hoofstock, African savanna, primate, animal programs, raptor, reptile, nursery, aquarium, farm/petting zoo, feline, nocturnal.

Now, I could break each down even more specifically, but that would take all day, so I’ll just pick one- Marine mammal (I have experience in this realm) to detail specifics:

Dolphin show, dolphin interactions, sea lion/pinniped show, marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation, quarantine, feeder pool animals, Northern species- sea otters, walrus, polar bears, and belugas. Of course, there’s also orca trainers, and some marine mammal specialists also take care of aquatic birds like penguins and alcids (puffins).

Do you think you can use these warm-up exercises during NaNoWriMo? Give it a try and let us know what you think!

 

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