Why authors are just like Olympic athletes

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I’ve never skied in my life. Quite frankly, the weather in the UK is rubbish, and once September arrives, I count down the days until mid to late March when we are promised at least a little bit of sunshine and warmth. I have an extreme dislike of cold weather, but watching the winter Olympics in Vancouver, coupled with enjoying the gorgeous scenery in Sky HD, has inspired me to want to be the next British skeleton champion. The speed, the exhilaration, the excitement, and even the wait as you take your place on the starting line at the sliding centre is just like writing a novel. Our experiences are not much different – both the athlete and the author have desires to be the best at their game and nothing stops them in the quest for that number one position.

Before we authors begin our journey, we put in countless hours of practice – it’s the first thing we think of in the morning and the last thing we think of at night. We hone our craft constantly, learn from our mistakes, try and improve our techniques, eat, sleep and breathe novels, and simply aim to be the best. Both the author and the winter sports athlete see what’s in front of them – for the skier it’s a long steep slope with the end in sight, and for the author it’s a long winding and sometimes unclear road to publication with many false starts. The lugers will get there more quickly than we will, even if they don’t see the finishing line.

The uncertainty too causes a lot of anxiety. Just like Canada’s triumph over the United States in the ice hockey, which nearly didn’t happen, our journeys are filled with angst, doubt and worry over whether or not the book and medal will come to fruition.

For the skier it’s all over in a matter of minutes. It’s a race against time to the finishing line, but at least we authors can take our time. In that respect I’m inclined to believe that writing a novel is closer to figure skating where the routine has to be perfect. Every move and every mistake is noted by the judges and one slip-up completely ruins your years of build-up.

And when the skiers and lugers lose out to gold in just a matter of a split second, the heartache is just like the flinch of a literary agent’s assistant’s arm, as she throws your manuscript on the slushpile. It’s all over in a matter of seconds. Be the best!


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