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How Writing is Like a Marathon

Janet Cannonby Janet L. Cannon

Running is easy: throw on a shirt, shorts, and socks; tie on your shoes; and head out the door. Place one foot in front of the other fast enough only one of them is on the ground at a time and generally that means you’re running. Bingo!

Writing is easy, too. Pull out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Write one word after the other, ideally in the correct grammatical order of your language of preference. Write enough, and you have a flash fiction. Write more: an article. Even more: a novel. New York Times Best-Seller, here I come!

Really? Is it that easy? Or are we missing something?

Quality running requires quality gear, quality training, and quality workouts that include cross training. You don’t necessarily need $50 tech shirts or a $300 a week trainer, but if you’re serious about improving your running and aiming for higher goals than just a jaunt around the block every other day, you need to invest time and money into the sport. Gait analysis will tell you the right shoe to buy. Nutritional analysis will help you figure out how to fuel up and keep fueled during your long runs. Trainers help keep you injury-free, and if you do get an injury, they’ll give you suggestions for therapy that can help get you back out on the trail quickly. Cross training will help keep your body from wearing out from repetitive stress while still keeping your fitness levels high.

In the same vein of thinking, quality writing requires quality support, quality training, quality practice, and quality feedback.

Writers’ associations are some of the first groups you should join. Local and state guilds provide networks of experienced writers, editors, and sometimes independent publishers who can support you in your endeavors and lead you in the right directions for success. To find a group near you, start with your city library or convention center. To reach out to even more people, especially if you write genre fiction or specific non-fiction, search here: National Writers’ Associations.

Just because you know the basics of grammar and story design doesn’t mean you have mastered the art of storytelling. All of us have room to improve! Online workshops, day programs, conferences, and weekend retreats are all excellent ways to help writers train to write better. Besides your local community college classes, library night/weekend workshops, and workshops with your local guild, here’s a resource to get you started finding some great training: Conferences and Residencies.

However, writing these days isn’t only writing the next great “x” genre novel. You have to start building and keep up with your platform, plan your marketing strategy, managing your “snail” and digital correspondence, planning your speaking engagements, etc. For help with your writing and marketing behind the scenes, try a physical or digital subscription to Writer’s Digest.

But it doesn’t end there! You can’t write in a vacuum! Great writers need great feedback. Whether through a critique group, beta readers, paid editors, or a combination, writers need others to help sand the rough edges off their pieces so the finished product is as polished and refined as possible. Here’s an excellent article with suggestions on how to form a critique group: Holly Lisle: Writer.

But wait! This sounds like a lot of work. Almost like…a marathon.

That’s right. If you want to be a successful writer, you have to commit a huge amount of your time and resources–more than you may realize–into not only your published work, but the work to help publish and sell your work. The journey is half the battle. And, some would say, the most fun part.

In a marathon, there is a dark and scary time called “hitting the wall.” It’s when your body literally gives out and you have a decision to make: give up, or use your mental will to force your body to continue.

As writers, we hit walls all the time: rejection letters, time crunches, family stress, writer’s block, etc. The question is, are we going to give up or have we trained enough to mentally push through that wall and continue on, knowing that something wonderful is just a few more miles down the road?

Writing well is a marathon that will test you to your limits. The only way to survive is to train like an athlete: Surround yourself with supportive family, friends, and writers who can help. Learn all you can and never stop. Plan your strategy of platform and marketing and don’t be afraid to modify what doesn’t work and work harder when it DOES work. Find a group of tactful critics who will give you a genuine pulse on whether your work has life or needs to go back under the knife. By creating and sticking to your plan, you WILL succeed, even though there will be walls along the way.

Remember, you never know when you will turn the corner and see a big “Finish” sign with a banner, “Your First Book Deal” underneath.

Check out other articles by Janet Cannon at http://revisionisadishbestservedcold.blogspot.com/

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