I’m no athlete. Sure, I played volleyball in high school and Bible school and I love the outdoors–hiking and such. But the kind of talent and dedication that gets an athlete to the winners’ podium at the Olympics? Not even in my wildest dreams…or nightmares. I’m not that fond of pain.
I don’t dream of Olympic medals. But the training of an athlete holds similarities to other areas of life. Such as writing.
1. Train hard. No one gets to the Olympics by deciding one morning that they’re going to be a great figure skater, taking a couple of lessons, and then trying out for the Olympic team.
The same holds true with writers. We need to train hard. We need to practice, practice, practice. Write a book. Write another book. Take classes and workshops. Practice some more.
2. Get a coach. I doubt it would be possible for an athlete to make the Olympics without a coach. A coach guides the training, evaluates the progress, and makes decisions about competitions.
In writing, the coach would be an agent. It is possible to succeed in this venue without an agent, but getting a coach will go a long way to focusing the training. I don’t have a coach yet. It’s one of my current goals.
3. Play with a team. Even athletes in individual sports practice together, not only in isolation.
Find places where writers hang out. Get to know other writers. Make friends. Challenge each other. Hold each other accountable.
4. Compete. No athlete can figure out if they’re really any good unless they test their abilities against others in their field. That’s where the rubber meets the road.
Contests are good competitions for upcoming writers. If you’re hoping to be published by a Christian house, may I suggest checking out the Genesis contest? The results will help you understand how close…or not…you are to the big time.
5. Ignore the couch potatoes. I’m talking about the person who hasn’t ever laced on a pair of skates but critiques the techniques of the athletes in the Olympic preliminary rounds instead of admiring the passion and dedication that got them as far as they are.
Don’t let non-writers look down on you for writing, for practicing. Some people will only commend you when you ‘win.’ Don’t let their attitude hold you back.
Last fall at the ACFW conference, I had the editor of a major publishing house ask for the full manuscript of one of my novels. You may recall the focused ‘training’ I went through for a couple of months to make sure I was sending the very best version of that story that I could send.
Last Friday I got a rejection letter in the mail. It was a nice rejection letter with comments specific to my story, showing that the editor had actually read the novel (or a good portion of it, at least.) It was an encouraging rejection in that it included the invitation to send them something else because they liked my writing style.
Am I devastated? Not so much. Sure, I wanted to sell this novel. Wanted to be on that Olympic podium with my name on the cover of a book. But you know what? I trained hard (even without a coach!). I learned as much as I could from other writers along my journey. I suggest online places such as Forward Motion and American Christian Fiction Writers. I competed and made it into the final round.
There are always those who say they’re going to write a book one day. Most of them never do. You know what? I may not have won the medal this time around, but I’m way ahead of the wannabes. It’s time to fine-tune the training regimen and keep my eye on the prize. Maybe one day my moment on the podium will come.
How about you? Where in the training are you?
C.L. Dyck says
Valerie, I'm really glad to hear about the terms of that rejection letter!
Thanks, Cathi. Every time I want to get really discouraged by the rejection, I can't help but think of the positives. I'm having a bit of trouble getting traction again this week, though.
Valerie, a rejection letter like this is a bronze medal, I think. You've reached a new level, so congratulations! And I hope it'll be soon that we hear you've reached the top of the podium.
Thank you, Janet. It's going to be awhile, though, because that was the only manuscript out there and had a specific focus. But I've got new projects that I have high hopes for!
Nicole O'Dell says
I love the analogy!
It just sort of came to me… 🙂
Missy Tippens says
Great post, Valerie! And good luck on the next book you send to that editor!
Thank you, Missy. I appreciate you coming by 🙂
Leanna Ellis says
Great post, Valerie! I'm an Olympic writer. It's a long journey from start to finish. We can learn a lot by watching these amazing athletes reach for their dreams. I blogged about it today over on my blog: http://www.leannaellis.com/news/ Never give up!
It is a long journey, Leanna! And just like the medalists, every race is a new one. Just because they're at the top doesn't mean they will be at the end of the next race. Or book. There's always room for a surprise finish.