Monday Craft Tips #5: Doing warm-up exercises before tackling your work-in-progress

Word choice.

It is so important to us as writers to use words and to use them well. But how to you do that without getting horribly self-conscious and giving yourself a nice case of writer’s block?

What you shouldn’t do, is read your own work as if you were reading Chekhov. Or Nabokov. Or Hemingway. If I did that, I’d become so intimidated and self-conscious I would freeze up.

Writing craft or a writer’s technique has to be practiced away from the work in progress. It’s like doing Sevcik exercises for the violinist, or Czerny exercises for the pianist. You should start your practice (or daily writing stint) with craft exercises. Buy yourself a big dictionary and hunt for words. Pick up a grammar book and try some exercises for 5 minutes.  Do a daily (or almost daily) writing prompt. Sit in your chair and analyze your writing. What should you practice next? Words? Sentences? Paragraphs? Grammar? Then put that aside and get down to your work in progress.

But before you start your work in progress, imagine. Imagine that you are about to have the best time. You are going to be sly, manipulative and teasing. You will say the most outrageous things. You will be ambiguous. And with those thoughts in mind, start writing. Enjoy yourself. Let it flow. Then wait at least 24 hours before you put on your editor’s hat and analyze.

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