Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Sticking the Landing, or Writing and Gymnastics

I have a shiny new metaphor for how writing works for me; gymnastics. Specifically, the uneven bars. Setting out to write a book is a bit like performing on the uneven bars. I know in advance what the routine will be, and there are compulsory maneuvers. But even so, no two runs will ever be quite the same as grips shift, conditions change, and you make adjustments. And, of course you're constantly striving to come up with a better routine.

Most importantly, in both cases you have to stick the landing. I've just finished my 11th novel. From the very beginning, I knew approximately what the end would look like. Adequately handled, it would be adequate. I would land on my feet with no major bobbles. But, as always happens, as the dismount grew nearer it loomed larger and larger in my head. I'd lost a couple of points by only getting one flip into that twist a third of the way through. I'd telegraphed a reversal. Things like that.

Was there some way I could make the dismount count for more? Could I maybe throw in an additional spin? Soon, I was about to let go. Yes. I had an idea to scratch out a few more marks for artistic merit. Then, before I was entirely ready, I was in the air, spinning and twisting and trying to make it count.

It's not until the very last instant, as my feet touch the mat that I realize it's over. I've landed upright, and the whole thing went pretty well.

Of course, now I've got to go look at the replays and see where I blew things. That's where the gymnastics metaphor breaks down, because I get to edit those.

I love being a writer.


Tim Susman said...

Belated congrats on finishing your draft!

I like your metaphor. I think it works if you think of editing as going back and polishing your routine. Then your editor is the coach/tournament qualifier and the readers the judges. Or something. :)

Anonymous said...

You're just looking at the tape, Kelly. Most serious athletes do that to improve their performance, and to understand their strengths and weaknesses. You read and have beta-readers.

Commentary matters.