Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writing like a Waterslide

Yesterday we took Madison and several friends to Lake Lanier Islands Waterpark to celebrate her 9th birthday that had occurred on June 21st, Summer Solstice. So yes, we were a month late. She still loved it though so I was glad to see her having a great time.

I will now attempt to compare waterslides and waterparks to writing. It's a stretch and it will be a clumsy comparison, so please bear with me.

The best part about a waterpark is of course the waterslides. And the best waterslides are the long ones, where two of you can ride a tube, careening through tunnels, sloshing side to side and screaming all the way down. You lose yourself in the moment. The world outside the plastic wormhole evaporates into nothing more than a rumor of a distant memory.

This is like writing. Well, it's like writing that first draft of a story that tells itself. I had this kind of experience with WARRIOR-MONKS. It was my first novel length work and I tore through hundreds of thousands of words in a few short months, drunk on the thrill of it.

The worst part about waterparks is the lines. Standing there, inching along, dragging a hot plastic tube beneath your arm. Sweat rolls down your back and drips into your shorts, collecting in your ass crack like some twisted form of Chinese Water Torture. Your belly and back fat collect above your waistband like a swollen muffin top, bared freely for all the world to devour with their beady little eyes. Oh wait, I'm the only grown-up in the line, you say? Thank god.

As much as these lines suck, they are a necessary evil. You must endure them in order to enjoy the slide.

This is like revision, at least for those of you who hate it as much as I do. Part of it is laziness, part of it is hopelessness and part of it is simply fear. Fear that you wrote the best thing you could and can't possibly make it any better. But ... like that line grinding up the steep hill it gets better as you near the end.

First you enter the shade, this is like that moment when you realize that your writing isn't perfect. Typos are one thing, to err is human, but when you first discover that section of awkward phrasing and realize that to remove it altogether would be best, you realize the value of revision for the first time.

Then you reach the middle of the line. All of a sudden you can see the slide and enjoy watching others as they go zipping down the slope. This could be compared to several things but I like these two examples. One is when you discover that a subplot can be explored more thoroughly WITHOUT writing a bunch or extra scenes and beefing up that hated word count. Another is when you find a critique group and suddenly the end is in sight.

I didn't say near. Just in sight.

Finally you reach the top and sink your feet into the cool refreshing water, waiting for the lifeguard to give you the go ahead, and all that toil and endurance becomes a badge of honor.

I haven't actually reached this stage in my writing but I have several friends and readers of this little blog here who have. Finding an agent. Selling that book, or even just knowing that you are finally done with revision. Those of you who have been there please share with us about it in the comments.

Oh and that sunburn you don't feel until you get home and find yourself in agony? That's like getting a rejection letter 3 months after submitting a query and you've already revised your letter 5 times and re-written your novel into a different POV.

Life's a beach.


Will Burke said...

If you can take a child's Birthsay and turn it into a literary analogy, you're certainly in the right line of work.

Ted Cross said...

Heh, I don't know how you deal with querying when you have rewritten and reedited everything AFTER already querying all the agents. Maybe they will have forgotten about you by now and you can change your title and requery!

Vicki Rocho said...

The analogy worked for me!

Unknown said...

Yup, sounds about right. :)

Unknown said...

Great analogy! I love Lake Lanier, especially the tidal pool. Happy Birthday to your daughter!

Lord, you must have been HOT yesterday in those lines! I was sweating IN the pool. Georgia summer sucks :D

Candyland said...

Yeah you said it. Except, you forgot to add what the effect of standing in the hot sun in said long line does to a writer's psyche!

Old Kitty said...

Well the best bit too about watersliding and waterparks and celebrating a birthday is the fun/thrill/excitement/ and craziness of it all. And sometimes the tears and tantrums and fear. They go hand in hand too.
But you go cos you want to and it's a memorable day out.

Sunburn. I got sunburnt on my birthday and didn't know until I stared at myself in the mirror and went - aaaaaaaaaargh!
that could be just my wrinkles though.
Take care

MBW aka Olleymae said...

lol this whole post was genius. So true!!

Except I keep waiting in line, then shooting down the slide, enjoying the writing process, just to wait in line and revise AGAIN.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you got something of value from that waterpark. I enjoy revisions, so glad I don't have to stand in line as long.

Sarah Ahiers said...

oooh that was a good analogy.
AND now i want to go to a waterpark. Wild Mountain maybe...
OOOH or Wisconsin Dells

Lindsay said...

Yup, works for me too. I especially love the sunburn/rejection letter at the end. lol.
Glad you had a good time though.

Faith E. Hough said...

Scarily true.... and the sunburn's the worst.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I hate waterslides, so standing in line is about as good as it gets for me. However, I think the analogy still applies for me, because once you're under contract, there's the sheer terror of hurtling toward release of the book, much like the stomach wrenching plummet of the first drop on the slide. Then the book is out there and you're wondering if you're going to make it through the buffeting twists and turns (reviews) on the watertube spiral-of-death only to smack into a water wall at the end (quarterly report). Or maybe sell some books.


Thanks for the great post, and a chance to remember why I'm avoiding the water park this summer. I can only take so much excitement. :)

Karen Jones Gowen said...

We'll all cheer for you when you get that badge of honor!

Emily White said...

Ahahahaha! I love your analogies, by the way, but I can't stop laughing about the ass crack and twisted chinese water torture. That stuff is hilarious.

vic caswell said...

lol. i adore the muffin-top bit... that's why i DON'T go to waterparks (i don't want to SEE all those muffin-tops... and don't get me started on middle-aged men in speedos- or any men in speedos for that matter!)
great analogy!
here's to standing in line! *chinks water bottle!*

Bryan Russell said...

1 - That's a great photo.

2 - Ha! That was a good analogy.

3 - I admit, I actually like revision (mostly). For me the lines are just that endless drag of publishing, taking step after step after step before getting anywhere. Writing is so glacial most of the time.

Tahereh said...

haha what a great paralell. love the post.

About Me said...

You know you're a writer when you compare everything to writing, which most of us do. ;)

Robert Guthrie said...

Anything about water is about writing. So I also want to go to a writing park.

I'm Googling waterparks in Washington state, where I moved this winter & don't know where the waterparks are located. Thanks for the impulse!

DEZMOND said...

hope you will get to the end of your waterslide soon, Matthew ;)

Unknown said...

Love the analogy! And now I want to go to a waterpark. lol. I used to have a season pass to the local Six Flags that has a waterpark inside. Just about all my daughter and I did that summer was hangout there. We'd float along the lazy river until we were both shivering. hehe.

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Myrna Foster said...

I haven't queried yet, but I love your last paragraph.