Today I’m beginning a new once-in-a-while blog topic which will begin with “How is writing a novel different from . . . . . .whatever. . . .? My last two series–Craft Tuesday and Twenty-five (more or less) Things I’ve Learned which have recently fallen by the wayside but may yet appear when I think of something to say.
But today, I’m going to concentrate on one oft asked question: how IS writing a novel like figure skating?
I love nearly all sports and watch figure skating competitions, the real ones, not the ones made so the professionals can earn extra money. I’ve noticed several similarities as well as differences. The one that got my attention came while I watch this years US championships. When one skater fell, I realized that when a figure skaters falls, everyone sees it and gasps. But the great part about writing is that when we make mistakes, we are in isolation. We can fix the error. When we err, Dick Button doesn’t say, “Oh, dear. That’s a costly mistake.” When a skater substitutes a single Salchow for the planned triple, the error is bemoaned by judges and commentators in front of the entire world. However, if I switch point of view in the middle of a paragraph, I can edit and no one know with the exception of my editor or critique group who are usually really nice and don’t take off points.–or low–score. People don’t leap to their feet and applaud or throw teddy bears to me.
No, while I sit at the computer, I don’t know if what I write works. Is this funny? I ask myself. It was when I wrote it–I’d thought. But after reading it four or five times, it no longer is. I’d really like a score and a few teddy bears before I go on
Second, both may follow esoteric designs. I remember back when the short and long programs were preceded by a competition during which the skater had to trace a number of figures on the ice. they were then graded and ranked by how closely they followed the figures. They looked like this.
In writing, we also may have charts in which experts tell us how to construct a novel. Compare the charts on the left and right and you’ll understand that. In writing, they are often confusing and no two are alike. And, in my opinion, if we follow what someone tells us to do, probably we aren’t writing the best novel we can. In writing, those charts are suggestions. In figure skating, they must be exactly followed. Same and different.
NEXT: on Friday I’ll add one more way in which writing and figure skaiting are alike, featuring my favorite skater Rude Galindo.