Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Can You Hear Me Groaning?


I started a new exercise program and it's now been two straight days. My daughter says that's a record for me. Sadly, it's probably true. But...the important thing is that I'm doing it! I started Leslie Sansone's Walk Away the Pounds and I absolutely love it. Of course, it's only been two days. :-)

So I was thinking how novel writing is a lot like a physical exercise program.

WARM-UP - First you have the warm up stage, where you prepare your muscles for more intensity. This is the beginning stage of your novel. The plotting, planning, and brainstorming. Even seat-of-the-pantsers warm up by creating the story in their minds. The exercise warm up is absolutely essential for a "safe" workout. And the novel warm-up makes the rest of the work a little more effective.

WORKOUT - Here is where things get intense. During exercise, you huff, puff, sweat profusely, and sometimes want to die. Your aches reveal just how weak or out of shape you are. You get tired and want to quit... but somehow, despite the pain, exercise feels good at the same time. You know that if you just keep going, you'll achieve that hot beach body you've always wanted (ok, we'll settle for lukewarm). The nice thing about working out is that the more often you do it, the easier it becomes.

In novel writing, the workout is actually sitting your butt in the computer chair and writing. It's working out those plot lines and subplots. It's fleshing out characters and making your story come to life. Here is where your weaknesses will show up. You'll get tired. You may sweat. There may be days when you want to feed your manuscript to the shredder. But you keep going because you know if you want a hot novel, you need to do the work. And the nice thing is, the more disciplined you are, the sooner you'll reach your end goal.

COOL DOWN - Ah.....stretching. It feels so good after a tough workout. Babying and caring for the muscles after they feel like they went through the meat grinder is a typical part of the overall workout. There is no evidence that stretching after exercise prevents muscle soreness, but let's face it. It just feels good. And elongating the muscles and increasing flexibility is never a bad thing.

The Cool Down period for writers is the editing process. The story is written, but now it's time to make it shine. You stretch your novel from good to great. And seeing it all come together feels soooo good.

MAINTENANCE - Now it's time to maintain. You know you're getting stronger. You've toned up. Your clothes fit better. But if you slack off and start skipping your workouts, you'll quickly lose that definition. You want to achieve your dream of keeping that hot bod until you're well into your eighties. Here is where the real work begins because not gaining the weight back is often tougher than losing it in the first place. Doesn't seem possible, but it's true. If you find your current exercise program has lost its effectiveness, it may be time to move on to another. But one thing is clear: quitting is not an option.

The book is written. Your critique partners say it's fabulous and totally deserves a place on bookstore shelves. Now definitely isn't the time to file that finished product away. You want to submit it to an agent. A publisher. You want to achieve your dream of seeing your book go down in history as one that was published. But in the world of publishing, getting your novel in print is often tougher than writing the book itself. Seems impossible, especially after the blood, sweat and tears you poured into it. Maybe you've exhausted all your options and it may be time to move on to another manuscript. But if there's one thing you know as a writer, it's that quitting is not an option.

What phase of the novel writing exercise program are you in? 
The Warm-Up, the Workout, the Cool Down, or the Maintenance?


Joanne Sher said...

Depends on which of my books you're talking about ;). My nonfiction is in maintenance (in the hands of an agent's assistant), and my fiction is in the workout. And BOY, is it a workout!

Great post, Lynda!

Susan said...

Good for you, Lynda. It's wickedly hard to keep up an exercise program. I'll use the treadmill for a few days and then, Bam! It begins to gather dust. About the only thing that works on a consistent basis is swimming so February 1st, I'll go back to indoor swimming at a local club. Good luck and keep up the good work. Susan

Sally said...

Good luck on the excercise, it is difficult but can be done. My family is starting their second year of wellness and the going can still be slow but progress is being made! Walk on, sister, walk on.

Timmy Boyle said...

In regards to Novel Exercise...I'm in the "Sitting on couch in my boxers, eating chocolate and watching Knots Landing" Phase.