Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Guest Post by PRETTY GIRL THIRTEEN Author Liz Coley: How Writing is Like Learning the Game of Tennis

Today, I'm welcoming Liz Coley to the blog. Liz is a fellow Lucky 13 and author of YA mystery/thriller PRETTY GIRL THIRTEEN, which came out from Harper on 28th Feb in the UK, and will be published in the US by Katherine Tegen Books on 19th March under the title PRETTY GIRL-13. This is what it says on Amazon

A gripping, suspenseful debut that will haunt you long after you have turned the final page…

Angie Chapman is only 13 when she gets lost in the woods in the middle of the night.

The next thing she knows she’s returned home, scars around her wrists and ankles, physically exhausted. Her parents collapse into tears when they see her, but Angie doesn’t understand – until they tell her she has been missing, presumed dead, for three years.

Angie doesn’t remember anything from her missing years. But there are people who do – people who could tell Angie every terrifying detail, if only they weren’t locked inside her mind.

With help, Angie begins to unravel the darkest secrets of her own past.

But does she really want to know the truth?

Doesn't it sound amazing?! So without further ado, here's Liz with a guest post about how writing is like learning the game of tennis.

Photo © Liz Coley
My author bio claims that I play tennis to stay fit and humble. So far this indoor tennis season, my record is 4 wins and 4 losses. That’s the humbling part. And I can tell I’m getting more fit, because everything hurts.

Here’s what I know about learning to play tennis:

(1) You can learn the theory of the game by watching the best players, but you don’t improve your own game from the stands; the champs possess skills you can only dream of at this point.

(2) You can’t learn tennis all by yourself. You need to find a group of people--some may be more advanced and some may be less--who want to play with you. By putting your feet on the court, through trial and error together, you’ll make gradual improvements in coordination and stamina. Scores won’t matter—it’s all about the camaraderie, the coffee, and the lunches out.

(3) At some point, you’ll decide to make a greater investment in developing your skills and pay for lessons. One lesson, you’ll focus on ground strokes, another week on net play, another time on defensive lobs. A professional coach knows how to break the game down into component parts and direct your focus to improving the level of your play bit by bit.

(4) Finally, you will realize it’s time to put yourself out there where it really counts, face to face with competition. Skills matter. Scores matter. And even if you have a disappointing or even embarrassing match one week, you have to pull yourself up by your shoelaces and try again. You’ve made the commitment to play.

(5) Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s a seemingly endless path upwards. Even the champions of the world have coaches. They practice constantly. And they always seek to improve strength, skills, and strategy.

Here’s the parallel in learning to play the game of authorship:

Observation: Read widely to pick up the nuances of language—grammar, vocabulary, and voice. By studying pace and conflict and turning points, figure out how plotting works. Read sometimes for pure pleasure, sometimes with a story-engineer’s eye. Good writers are good readers.

Participation: Develop a network of writing friends and critique partners. Some will be your mentors; some will be your mentees; some will be your exact equals in their progress down the road of craft development, representation, and publication. Whether you are helping or being helped, you are learning the craft and business together. Don’t forget the coffee and mutual support and treating to lunch. Writing does not have to be a solitary endeavor.

Education: Attend conferences and workshops as an investment of your time, talent, and treasure. Workshops tackle specific components of the craft and business of writing, allowing you to focus on improving one particular part of the package that is you. Becoming a professional requires mingling with others in your field, making connections, and learning not only from books on the craft, but from the best in person. If you aren’t confident enough to invest in yourself, who will be? Conferences and workshops are the one place where you have immediate access to the gatekeepers to traditional publishing—the agents and editors.

Competition: Tennis is more forgiving than publishing in that the competition is stratified: beginners compete against beginners, intermediates against intermediates, and grand slam champs against each other. Writers compete against the entire market for acceptance, although publishing houses range from the petite to the megalithic. One way or another, your work has to march onto the court and present itself, compete for the attention first of an agent, then a publisher, then the reading public. Don’t let the fear of losing prevent you from playing.

Completion: There is none. Throughout your life, you will evolve and improve as a writer.

You can check out Liz's website and blog here, connect with her on Twitter here and like her author page on Facebook here. Thank you for such a great guest post, Liz!

1 comment:

  1. Oh dear. I never was much good at tennis. Good luck with Pretty Girl 13 - it sounds intriguing.