Tag Archives: writing advice

Yesterday: Trying to write

I watched the minutes tick by, as I was trying to write.

I made a grocery list, and I was trying to write.

I taught the kids some math, and I was trying to write.

I got caught in the FaceBook trap, and I was trying to write.

I worried and I hoped, and I was trying to write.

I had more important work to do, and I was trying to write.

I stopped ‘trying’ to write, and I wrote.

What karate and writing have in common

Hint: it’s not about the fancy belts.

At my kids’ karate class the other day I realized that anyone can do karate. Even small kids. However, when the sensei showed off a nunchuck kata that involved multiple backflips, I also realized that it takes a good deal of discipline to do karate really, really well. Maybe more than the amount my kids want to put in.

Options immediately began to run through my brain.

  1. They’re never going to be as great as the sensei. Pull them out immediately. (Option rejected for being reactionary.)
  2. They’re never going to be as great as the sensei. Let them do whatever they were already going to do, even if it means only practicing once per week. (Option rejected for feeling like I’m not giving my kids enough credit.)
  3. Forget how good the sensei is. My kids could be better than they are. Convince them to keep working. Add an extra practice here and there. Set a reasonable goal and work towards it, and when they reach it, set another. (We have a winner! You already knew this was where this was going, right?)

Yep, work harder. Do a little every day. See big gains from small changes. Turns out all of the advice I’ve been reading about writing (rather than actually doing the writing) also applies to karate.

A few ways writing is not like karate:

  • Fancy uniforms and cool belts (sure, you can wear them while writing, but it’s not required)
  • The amount and variety of punches (yes, sometimes writing makes me feel like punching something, but I mostly don’t)
  • There seems to be less editing in karate (though you do have to do the same thing over and over until you get it right)

A few ways writing is like karate:

  • They both require discipline
  • They both take time
  • They are both a commitment if you want to do them well

The comparison solidified for me that if you think a thing is worth doing, whether it’s a sport like karate, a passion like writing a book, a goal such as losing weight, or a long-held desire like becoming a better polka dancer, you have to spend time doing it to improve. You have to keep doing it if you’re ever going to do it better. Period.

Any thoughts on similarities and differences between writing and karate? Check in with me in the comments.

Happy [insert a hobby/goal/passion of your choice]-ing!

P.S. Yes, if you’ve been following along this whole time you know this isn’t the first post where I’ve “figured this out.” The knowledge has been in me the whole time. I just have to keep reminding myself to stay motivated. Small things. Every day. 🙂

Photo of practicing on the beach by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash
Photo of karate master wearing a black belt by Leslie Jones on Unsplash

Writer, edit thyself

I just attended a workshop at the library on the subject of self-editing your novel with Jennifer Sawyer Fisher of JSF Editorial. She gave us a good deal of great information, and plenty of examples to help drive the points home.

In no particular order, here are a few of my takeaways:

  1. I might have to cut back on the subplots
  2. Trying to push through and edit a full-length novel all in one sitting would be as silly as trying to write the thing all in one sitting.
  3. Writing and editing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Okay, I made this one up. But it’s still the basic gist of what she said.
  4. One day, when I write a murder mystery, the rule of thumb is a death in the first three chapters. Don’t need this now, but I’m just filing away the info for later.
  5. Hiring a good editor is worth every penny. Though Ms. Fisher didn’t specifically say this, I think it was implied. And probably very true.
  6. This I’ve heard before, but it bears repeating:  just because there are super-long books on the bookstore shelves doesn’t mean a first time author is going to get a super-long book published. Cut the fluff.
  7. When it comes to accepting or rejecting an editor’s, agent’s, or publisher’s suggestions for your book, go with your gut.
  8. Also not news, but worth repeating: action verbs, action verbs, action verbs.
  9. I need to stop using the same word so many times in a single sentence/paragraph (for example, I just edited a second word “session” out of my sentence below and replaced it with “workshop”).
  10. Full page paragraphs are a big no-no.

It was an inspiring session. Thanks to Ms. Fisher and everyone at the Hudson Library and Historical Society who made the workshop possible!

Happy editing!

Have you received a great piece of writing or editing advice lately? Please share in the comments.

Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash