A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

Warming up your writing muscles by Emma Pass

I always say to people that writing is like taking part in a sporting event. Before you start, you need to warm up your muscles – your writing muscles, that is.


Why? Well, the blank page can be intimidating. All that space, waiting to be filled with words. But what words? What if you start writing, and they’re all awful? Maybe it’s better not to start writing at all – there’s the hoovering to do, isn’t there? And you need another cup of tea. (This can be the point where even doing your tax return starts to look appealing…)


The trouble is, coming to writing cold can put you off writing anything at all. I know; I’ve been there. But by warming up with some simple, creative exercises, you can get that scary blank page out of the way and the words will start to flow.


One of my favourites is freewriting. Pick a prompt and start writing whatever comes into your head, pushing the pen across the page. Don’t look back, don’t edit. Just write. It doesn’t even matter if it’s just a list of random words. No one’s going to read this, it’s just for you.


There are several excellent websites where you can find writing prompts. One of the best is Writing Prompts Tumblr. There’s also a writing prompt generator at, where you can pick random first lines or subjects to get you started. You could also pick a book off your shelves, open it at the first page and use the first line as a prompt. Try it!


In a group setting, word games are a fun way to warm up. One I love, borrowed from Emily Windsnap author and all-round lovely person Liz Kessler, is 30-second warmups. Someone in the group says a word, and everyone has 30 seconds to write whatever comes into their head about it. Then someone else picks a word. Repeat this 4 or 5 times, until that first blank page is full of writing.


I also like the Textspeak Game. A bit like consequences, everyone has a large sheet of paper and writes the first line of a text conversation at the top, and folds it down so no one can see what they’ve written. Then they pass it on. They carry on their own conversation on the next piece of paper, and the next, until they get their own piece back. The stories that result can be hilarious and – more often than you think – actually work! This is a particularly good warmup exercise to use with young writers, and is great for an icebreaker, too.


So, those are my favourite warmup exercises. What are yours? Share them in the comments below!


Emma Pass Photo

Emma Pass has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. Her debut novel, dystopian thriller ACID, won the 2014 North East Teenage Book Award, was picked as one of YALSA’s Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for 2015 and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Her second novel, THE FEARLESS, was also nominated for the Carnegie and won the 2016 Concorde Book Award. Emma lives with her artist husband and crazy greyhound G-Dog in the East Midlands, and, when she’s not writing, runs writing workshops in schools and community settings and is Patron of Reading at Titus Salt School in Yorkshire. She is also the co-founder of the UKYA and Children’s Extravaganza (UKYACX), a regional book event celebrating the huge diversity of children’s and YA literature in the UK.


This entry was posted on June 19, 2017 by and tagged , , .

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