Have You Thought About This? : Warming Up
It’s a pretty standard aspect of any skill. Before you go for a long run, you take a warm-up walk. Before you go on stage to belt out opera to a full stadium, you do some warm-up scales. Before you commit to child-rearing, you warm up by playing with the babies of those around you. So why, when we get to writing, do we sometimes feel like we can put down whatever first comes to mind and it will all be of similar quality?
At college, one of my teachers once said it was a pretty good rule that he could take the first page or so of any of our works, cut them out, and our pieces wouldn’t be any worse for the small nip-and-tuck. And at first I didn’t believe him. I thought I started where I wanted to start and was completely aware of how my pieces moved from the get-go. But when I listened more carefully to my classmates read their pieces aloud to the classroom, I could tell, too. After a minute or two, something would change in their voices and they would own their story. They’d come to some real movement, or the first moment of some emotional revelation, and the class would lean forward in their chairs to hear more, and we’d be in it. But only after that minute or two had gone by.
So, it would seem that when we write, too, we need a warm-up period.
Have you thought about this? Have you looked at the beginnings of your poems or your short stories and asked yourself, “Do I really need to start here, or is a more compelling beginning hidden just a little further one?” Have you considered taking time out for yourself, before you start back in on your novel, to write a warm-up journal or vignette to get your writing veins pumping?
Or are you of the mind that slow introductions are helpful? That we need a ramp-up before we get to the “good” writing, because otherwise we wouldn’t appreciate how high the peak really was?
I’d say the concept of hooking your reader is vital. Introductions may be necessarily slower than the “good parts” of a book, but that doesn’t mean they are throwaways. Even if you’re not up for putting the action right at the front of the piece, wouldn’t you still want to have your readers leaning forward in their seats from the first word out of your mouth?