The Writer’s Work-Out of Doom (and Gloom)
By Julie Butcher-Fedynich
Writing is totally like working out at the gym; at least it is for those with the goal of publication. Before you start a new manuscript, there is moaning, groaning, and general despair that the exercise will soon start. You know the pain is coming. Pain sucks. Who in their right mind anticipates agony with a happy heart? People who refuse the pain never start the book they swear is inside their head.
Luckily, writers aren’t known for their buckets full of sanity. I don’t mean to say that they’re ready to fall off the Reason Boat and into the River of Crazy, but they’re certainly dipping their toes in the water.
When you begin, you start on a treadmill. The pace is slow and it takes freaking forever. You walk for hours and hours. Your legs burn, your heart pumps like a jackhammer. Sweat soaks you hair and drips into your eyes. Surely you’ve gone ten miles or maybe even twenty. You look at the readings, and you haven’t gone one mile, not yet. You look at the manuscript, and all of the hours of toil gave you a word count so low that you couldn’t sell it as a picture book.
Some people scream “This is too hard!” and immediately send the treadmill to the curb, or put the sucker on Craigslist. Others soak in a hot bath, and grimly try again the next day. Eventually, they can do five miles, then maybe ten. Proudly they brag, and show their numbers to all and sundry, at least until one of the fitness freaks asks them if they’ve gained weight.
How could they possibly have a bad manuscript when they’ve worked oh so hard? Writing is like a workout because learning one exercise cannot possibly tone the whole tamale. Different training is needed to make fitness complete. Weight-lifting to build descriptions will pump up the arms, legs and backs of the scenes. Aerobics raise the metabolism of the dialogue until it comes off the page and bounces like a Zumba class on crack.
Life is sweet until you join the Beta Readers group of Doom and start with Pilates. Here the real pain begins. Revisions make your mental muscles scream. Even when many people have told the unfit that they are doing the exercises the wrong way, some will ask “Why should I change?” instead of “How should I change?” Seriously, the ‘why’ people will drop the group rather than learn. They’ll never be fit and produce quality work.
Pick your Beta group carefully, and make sure that at least a few of them actually know how to correctly do Pilates. Don’t waste your time standing on your head and learning to spit nickels. Fix your manuscript the right way. Sculpt plot like you’d tone muscles. Make it healthy and beautiful. Try to remember that not one person in the history of the world loved Palates, not until they experienced the results. Palates suck. Revisions suck. Results are awesome.
You’ve learned to exercise and you’re feeling pretty darn great about showing off the new you to the world, or sending your manuscript to agents and publishers. But now the real agony begins. You can work out until the cows come home, but if you’re scarfing a cheesecake or two every day, you’re not tough. There’s still enough fat to hide the lovely muscles you’ve tried so hard to build.
Rejections are like an especially nasty no-carbohydrate-no-fat-no-caffeine diet of doom. The first day of a diet hurts enough that you honestly believe you’ll die from the emptiness. The first rejection knifes you straight to the heart. The problem with diets and rejections is that they never really get easy. They get easier as you go along, but never to the point of pleasure had you with the cheesecake melting on your tongue.
So before you begin your health regimen, you need to make a huge decision. Are you happy with a rear end that looks like two pigs fighting under a blanket when you walk? Are you happy to leave the book you have inside your brain alone in the dark? Or, do you want to suffer the pains of learning and rejections? Because honestly, if you’re a wimp, leave that puppy in your brain and stay off the treadmill. Quitting half-way will make you feel like a failure at life. Even thinking about the Q-word will throw you off the fitness plan.
You need to want the publishing goal more than anything you ever wanted in your life in order to endure the process. I’m not joking about this. It will rip your heart out again, and again. But if you stick to the program, every once in a while, if you’re really trying to be the best you can be-you get chocolate.
Written By Julie Butcher-Fedynich