Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Marathon Training...for Writers?


I'm blessed to be surrounded by friends who care about their health. My best friends are mothers, in their early thirties, and most of them are done having children, so they've begun bringing their "baby" bodies back into shape. Last week I had them over for an evening of visiting around the campfire and three of them are either training for half marathons, or they've run them.

It was interesting to hear them talk about their training programs. Since I'm not a runner, I couldn't relate on a physical level with them, but I could on a writing level. In February of this year I decided I was going to start training for a marathon of a different kind: publication.

The difference between writing for fun and writing to be published is like the difference between taking a stroll through the park on a Sunday afternoon versus running 26.2 miles in one day.

Could you imagine the average person waking up one morning and saying: "I think I'll run a marathon today"? Never! It takes months, sometimes years of hard work, dedication and tenacity to be ready to run that far. So why would the average person wake up one morning and think they could produce a publishable novel?

To be honest, I was that kind of person. Before February I had done some writing here and there. I've had publications in Minnesota Moments Magazine, I've done freelance writing for numerous organizations and I started a family blog last fall, but none of those things was anything like writing a full length novel.

So, with very little training, I wrote the first draft of my first novel in about three months. I was proud of myself (how many people can say they actually finished a novel?), but I knew it wasn't good. Wasn't anywhere near publication ready. That's when I decided, if I was ever going to get published, I would have to start a serious training program.

Since February, I've learned so much about writing a novel. It isn't for the faint of heart. My training has pushed me to the edge of everything I know and asked me to go even further.

Amidst the character layering, spiritual journeys, plot development, Black Moments and Inciting Incidents I've been learning about, I've discovered there are five essential components for seeking publication:

1. Commit to the Long Haul. When the going gets tough, or the work becomes exhausting, get up and keep going. I've committed to this. It's going to be hard. It's going to require sacrifice. It's going to hurt. But I know how much I want it - and that desire far out weighs the desire to quit.

2. Train with the Best! I've discovered that there are some GOOD writing coaches out there. James Scott Bell, Susan May Warren, Jody Hedlund, Rachelle Gardner, Randy Ingermanson, just to name a few. Study them. Learn from them. Discover what tips and secrets, along with hard fought principles, they've learned and want to share. I can't stress the importance of getting a good coach. It makes all the difference.

3. Don't do it Alone. Get a good cheering section to help you achieve your goal and encourage you on until you've hit the finish line. For me, that's been my friends and family in my personal life, who surround me and believe in me, even when I don't believe in myself. And it's been the amazing, faith filled writing friends I've made online since February. Meeting other authors, in all stages of their journey, has been the best thing I've done in my writing career. I've met and interacted with multi-published authors, who astound me with their wisdom, debut authors who are just beginning to see the fruit of their labor, agented authors who wait in anticipation to hear the word "contract," and aspiring authors, like me, who are just beginning and learning right along side everyone else. What do all of us have in common? A passion to write the words that God has placed on our hearts and to do it with grace and humility.

4. Seek God and His Timing. This one is the most important and the hardest to do. As someone with a dream, we want to push and push until we see it come into reality, but we have to realize that there are limitations. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. God has a perfect plan. If we try to do things in our own timing, in our own strength, we'll fall flat on our face - just as a runner would if they pushed themselves too hard. As God is fitting each piece of the puzzle together, we want Him to hurry up so that we can see the big picture materialize. What we need to remember is that He can't fit the wrong piece in at the wrong time - each piece must be put in the puzzle in order so that the next piece can fall into place. 

5. There's No Fast Track to Getting Published. Like everything else worth doing, it's going to be hard. This is the best advice I found when I was looking up marathon training, and it applies to both the runner and the writer: "Don't worry about your speed. Just focus on covering the distance."
What about you? Do you feel like you're running a marathon towards the publication line? If you're published, what's the best advice you have for others on the same course? What have you learned is essential to seeking publication?

24 comments:

  1. Gabe, I'm right there with you 100%!! I started on this writing journey toward publication last August, and already I've revised my first novel three times. I'm now on my fourth. :P I've met AMAZING people just like you; I'm still amazed that published and agented authors would give me the time of day, but everyone's attitude just amazes me. Like you said, we all truly have the same goal, and that's to see the Lord glorified and His truth known. It blows my mind, simply put.

    I'm so glad I met you! Your honesty and tenacity bless me so much.

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    1. And I'm so glad I met you, too, Lindsay! In a lot of ways I feel like we're both on the same track.

      One of the first (of many things!) that amazed me was the accessibility of authors - both published and unpublished - who are willing to come along side a new author and cheer them on.

      I'm praying for your journey, Linds!

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  2. Wonderful post, Gabrielle! You'd done a lot of necessary learning. Kudos to you! I love your points and am sure with your kind of attitude, you will definitely succeed in getting published. ;-)
    Marathons on the other hand...yuck. lol I know some peeps who do them and even though I run once or twice a week, I have no desire to run a marathon. Good luck to your friends! LOL

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    1. I don't even run, but I can appreciate my friends' desire to do it! The problem with running a marathon vs. writing a novel is that a runner is in much better shape at the end, whereas a writer is probably ten pounds heavier! This post reminded me that I need to keep exercising, too! :)

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  3. Fabulous post! #4 is such an important one to remember. And I love that quote about not worrying about the speed, but the distance.

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    1. When I saw that quote, I knew it would be perfect for this post. In our quest to be published, I believe we're all about getting to the finish line - when we really need to just concentrate on covering the distance and taking one step at a time. Thanks for stopping by, Stacy!

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  4. Here is a comment from Julie Jarnagin that came to my email, but didn't show up here (this has happened a couple of times now with blogger - any ideas why?):

    "I've been working on a short story about a marathon today - so I can totally relate. I am published, and it still feels like running a marathon :) Writing in general is long and hard, but there is no greater feeling than crossing the finish line on a project."

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    1. I thought about that, too, Julie! Once we get an agent, it's a whole different marathon and then when we sign the contract, another marathon awaits us. But that's why the training is so important! Hopefully what I'm learning now will serve me well when I take on those other marathons in the furute.

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  5. Hey Gabrielle! Back in Texas, I felt like I was running the marathon to publication. I was fully committed to my blog, I was spending hours on my manuscripts daily, and I was preparing for the ACFW conference. And honestly, now, since moving to KY, I feel like I'm drifting on the sea of lost dreams, watching the publication boat sail away and leave me behind. I know the move to KY was God's will, and while its a small comfort, it hasn't been easy to hand my dreams to the Lord and say, "do with my life what You want, not what I want". And on top of less time for writing, I'm dealing with family members that grate against my nerves. So, right now, I'm just praying for grace and strength, and trying to take one breath and step at a time. :-)

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    1. Gwen, you're in my prayers. I can relate. Three years ago I began my first manuscript and I was ready to dive into the publishing world (like I've done since Feb.), but a couple months later I found out we were pregnant with twins. I'm so blessed to be a mother of twins, but I clearly remember the night I was in bed with tears running down my cheeks because I knew the dream was going to be put on hold. For three years I lived and breathed twins and now I'm finally getting back to writing. I know that with each passing day, the things I'm experiencing will make me a better writer. I hope that God reveals to you His perfect plan, but if He doesn't, my prayer is that you will be able to rest in His hands patiently.

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  6. I love this post, Gabrielle. Especially number 4 - so dear to my heart - I'm seeking His perfect timing.

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    1. Thank you, Loree. His timing is everything.

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  7. This was just what I needed to read today! As both a runner and writer, this is a concept I can relate to and helped me to put my writing into perspective. Last year, I ran two half marathons. The first one I ran with a "coach". We ran at his pace, which was very consistent. As a result, I ran this distance faster than I had ever before. I was proud of my accomplishment, but at the end I felt really terrible. I was sick and my body wouldn't stop shaking. I could barely walk because my feet hurt so bad. The whole thing was a very bad experience. Two weeks later, I ran another half, but this time I ran it by myself, at MY pace. I ran very inconsistently, sometimes slow and sometimes faster. I took time to talk to people along the way and met some really interesting people! I felt great the whole time and afterwards, I barely felt like I had run 13.1 miles. when I checked my time, I was amazed to find out that I had actually run this race 1 whole minute faster than the previous one! I am realizing that I need to approach my writing the same way. If I don't write at the pace that God has naturally gifted with me, I may find success, but I doubt that I will enjoy it and if fact, I may be doing it all for the wrong reasons. I am also realizing the importance of training. Thanks for writing this!

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    1. Wendy! Thanks for stopping by today. It's kind of funny, but in all our ECFE classes or MOPS meetings, you and I have never really talked about our love of writing.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective with us today. I'm not a runner, so I wasn't sure how good this analogy was, but I'm happy to hear that a runner likes it! It just struck me as I was talking with Beka, Lindsay and Jessica J. the other night that their passion for running is a lot like my passion for writing and their training mirrors my own. I loved your story about setting your own pace - that is another essential element I didn't cover in my post.

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  8. Great list of what you've learned along the way. I am in the exact same place with you and can really relate to your line: ". My training has pushed me to the edge of everything I know and asked me to go even further."
    It seems the more I learn, the more I realize I still don't know. That can be so frustrating and seems like yet another hurdle is placed in our marathon path. It would be easier to give up, but I've come this far in my "training" I can't see myself crawling back to the sidelines. My curiosity is piqued--I really want to know what that finish line looks like. Maybe we will cross it together, someday!

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    1. What an honor that would be - to cross the finish line with you! You're so far ahead of me on this course, Ava! To be a semi-finalist in the Genesis Comppetition? That is a dream I can only imagine.

      I agree, sometimes the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. It can be daunting, to say the least. That's why I'm so happy to have excellent trainers on my side. :)

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  9. I know this trip is a way for God to say to me "stay the course, learn, revise, learn and enjoy the process".

    Okay. Keli Gwyn-God is talking to me moment....dude, I'd serious.
    Like RIGHT NOW.

    2013. My books. ON shelves.

    Whoa.

    I'm feel SO un-Baptist right now!

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    1. 2013? Your books? On shelves?!?! Did I miss something?!?!

      I hope you're having fun getting ready for your trip!

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    2. I had one of Keli's "God is speaking to me" moments. I felt led to share it.

      I'm just home from my 3rd Walmart run in 2 days!

      GAH!!!

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    3. Oh! I'm a little slow today! :)

      Don't you love those Walmart days? I did the same thing when I was getting ready for my trip to France a few years ago.

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  10. After I posted my comments, I got a call from Oklahoma requesting a can of Tim Horton's coffee. 3 Walmart trips in one day. Did you and hubby go together to France?

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    1. I've been a part of a sister city exchange program for eight years - so I was invited to France because of it. Dave wasn't able to come with me last time because it was in the middle of his busy landscaping season, so I took my friend, Beka, with me! We will be invited back there next summer and I'm hoping he can come this time since he has a full time employee and three part time employees now!!

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  11. Gabrielle, I LOVE the difference you draw between a stroll and running a marathon as it relates to writing. Becoming a published author means sacrifice of time, fun outings, family time, and even sleep. But when God has placed that calling and passion in your heart - and He certainly has done that with you! - then we begin training in earnest. Your "top 5" list is spot on and so wise, my Friend. I cannot wait to see what God holds in store for your writing career. I'm believing very wonderful things, indeed. Blessings!

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  12. Hi Gabrielle,

    I just discovered your blog and really appreciated this post. I am still at the starting line in my writing pursuit and needed to hear your encouraging suggestions. :) Isn't God's timing neat? You posted this blog a year ago today.

    Blessings to you on your own path!

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