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Running: A Metaphor for Writing

January 15, 2015

So besides being a kick-ass editor (self-awarded), I’m also a runner. And if you know any runners, you know we like to talk about running. And if we aren’t talking about running, we’re talking about things associated with running like carb-loading, snot rockets, and the gross noises we can get our bodies to produce.

The thing is, running translates into pretty much everything in the real world. Have you ever persevered through six seasons of a good show in one weekend? You survived a marathon! When you finished a big project at work, you “went the distance.”

With so many trilogies in the market today, especially in young adult literature, the first thing I think of is a triathlon. You might be able to run a 5k, or swim 750 meters, or bike 12 miles, but until you do all three together, you haven’t told the whole story. And trilogies are the same way. Sometimes you can pick up one book in the series (especially the ones that focus on the love lives of three brothers, or friends, or townspeople in the Old West) but if it’s a good story, you don’t want to quit until you’ve raced through all the information about that fictional world that you can get your hands on.

Let’s say a 5k (3.1 miles) is your typical short story/novella. Most people have a story to tell, and I think everyone should attempt to put it down on paper at some point in their lives. Whether it turns into something bigger, it’s good exercise and when you finish, it’s at this point you can say you’re really a “writer.”

A 10k (6.2) miles is a novel. A little harder to accomplish, but still doable. Many people, once they do the 5k exercise should be able to stretch it into a 10k. Maybe you need a little more help – some training or a coach – for this stage, but it’s a worthy goal.

A half marathon (13.1 miles) is for seasoned writers. These are people who have found their stride. They know the best methods that work for them (even if some of them are a little weird or superstitious). Just like runners sometimes need a certain shoe, or follow a pre-race ritual, these are the writers that may eat the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner for weeks at a time in order to focus completely one their writer and not be distracted by things like what breakfast cereal to pour. I had an author who ate macaroni and cheese with stewed tomatoes for two weeks straight. Half marathon writers may write a few separate books, or even series, but they aren’t as prolific as their full marathon colleagues.

A marathon (26.2 miles) writer might be labelled by some as crazy, and is definitely admired for their skill and dedication. A marathoner is established, and when you finish a really good book they’ve written, you wonder how they could do it … and then they come out with a new release and you realize they’ve done it again! A marathon eats, sleeps, and breathes writing. A marathoner has been changed from an ordinary human to a lean, mean writing machine.

And as a bonus, an ultra-marathoner (anything over 26.2 miles, but the most common distances are 50 km, 100 km, 50 miles, or 100 miles) is the author whose writing is their life’s work. They’re willing to bleed and die for their creation. I’d give this distinction to any author who creates a completely new world and writes multiple books that stretch out over years, while his audience waits with bated breath for the next installment. Think Game of Thrones or Stephen King.

What category are you in and where do you think your favorite authors fit?

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