Thursday, April 27, 2017

Following Through Like Roger Federer

by Nola Passmore


(Roger Federer; Photo from Photobucket.com; AO2008pctc by Katarina_YYZ)

Roger Federer is serving for the match.  He throws the ball up high with his left hand, while swinging his racquet back with his right.  At full stretch, he brings his racquet down in a shot-making trajectory.  As soon as the strings make contact with the ball, he stops moving.  No wait ... that's not what happens.  Rewind the video!  He makes contact with the ball and keeps swinging his arm down in a fluid arc.  He follows through.  If he stopped his swing as soon as he hit the ball, the serve wouldn't have as much power and the ball wouldn't end up in the desired spot.  He'd also lose momentum and perhaps even stumble on the baseline. If it's a while since you've watched a tennis match, click here to see a short video of Federer serving and you'll see what I mean. 

The follow-through is just as important in writing.  

Honing Your Craft

Have you been to a writing conference or workshop in the last year?  Maybe you're enrolled in a writing course or you spend time reading books, magazines and articles to improve your craft.  In any case, you should have access to tons of ideas to help with your writing.  Don't just let all of those tips swill around in your brain until they're forgotten.  Follow through on the lessons you've learned. Did you hear or read about point of view in fiction?  Then try some writing exercises where you can test out different perspectives, or go back over one of your stories and fix any instances of head-hopping.  Did someone suggest a writing book or a magazine?  Then buy it, subscribe to it, borrow it, or see if your library can order it in for you.  Writing tips are more likely to sink in and become part of your writer's tool kit if you put them into practice.  Roger Federer didn't become World Number 1 by just reading books about tennis and watching videos of Wimbledon.  He got out on the court and practised what he learned until it became second nature.

Networking

Have you met someone at a writing event who's expressed an interest in your work?  It could be a publisher, agent, editor, or a more experienced author.  If they've asked to see a proposal, sample or manuscript, follow through and send them the requested material as soon as possible.  Not only are they more likely to remember you, but your diligence is a tick in your favour.  (So is a brilliant manuscript, but that's a whole other blog.)  Maybe you're not ready to send out a manuscript yet and you're on the lookout for advice.  Follow up any contacts given to you.  Check their websites for FAQs and if you don't see the answers to your questions, don't be afraid to ask.  Just as Roger and his coach have two-way interactions, you can learn by networking with others who share your passion.

What Else Are You Writing?

You've finally finished the draft of your book and you're looking for an agent or publisher.  It takes a lot of time to write and submit book proposals. Then there's the waiting game, which can take weeks, months or years.  That book may seem like an all-consuming creative pit, but don't stop there.  Start on your next manuscript as soon as you can.  Most publishers aren't interested in one-hit wonders. When they ask what else you're writing, be sure to have an answer.  J. K. Rowling's British publisher only initially printed 500 copies of the first Harry Potter book. However, Rowling kept rolling (okay, bad pun).  She was working on the second novel and had ideas for the whole series mapped out.  When Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone took off, she had another one ready to go. She had momentum.  Just as a tennis player can be caught flat-footed if they don't follow through with a serve, so you can lose momentum if you stop writing, even for a valid reason. (Note to self - I must follow my own advice!).

Your Calling

Although I've left this until last, it's the most important point.  What has God told you about your writing?  Has he given you ideas for books, articles, screenplays, songs, poems, devotions?  Has he prompted you to start a particular writing project?  Has he given you a vision for reaching others with his Word?  Has he blessed you with creative gifts that you haven't been utilising to the full?  Has he given you a dream that is beyond your capacity to complete?  If so, the good news is that he will equip you to complete the tasks He's given.  You just have to follow through.


(Additional source - Sickels, A. (2008). Mythmaker: The Story of J. K. Rowling (2nd ed.). New York: Chelsea House Publishers.)


Nola Passmore has had more than 140 short pieces published in various anthologies, journals and magazines, including short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, devotions, academic articles, magazine articles and inspirational work.  She and her husband Tim run a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can access her writing tips blog here.  She is currently trying to follow through with the structural edit of her debut novel.







13 comments:

  1. Loved your analogy Nola. And that's a great photo of Roger Federer. Following through is so important and the word 'discipline'comes to mind. I loved the way you ended asking if God has given us a task that is beyond our capacity to accomplish. I was listening to an audio book recently where the author mentions that often God calls us to accomplish tasks that are way too difficult for us and that often it's a good indication that it is from Him. You've reminded us that if so, He will give us all that is needed. It's good to keep that in mind. I have a new book to begin writing this year, but have been busy with other writing tasks so that has slipped under the radar for now. Many thanks for the reminder - I must schedule it into my year or the months will disappear without it being written. All the best with that strutural edit Nola. Can't wait to read your novel. I know it will be a best seller! :)

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    1. Hi Anusha - Thanks for that :) And you're right that discipline is so important. I was writing this post to remind myself as much as anyone else. I have a number of projects that have slipped under the radar, so it's a matter of seeing which ones I'm meant to be working on when. For me I think the novel is the things that is beyond my natural capacity. So many other forms of writing come more easily to me, but I'm learning heaps and hopefully the wait will be worth it. Thank you for your encouragement. I can't wait to read your new book too. Woo hoo!

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  2. Thanks for these excellent thoughts, Nola. It's clear that following through involves more than just raw talent, but things like patience and sound planning and recognising opportunities. Something Federer probably knows too.

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    1. Thanks for that Paula. You're absolutely right about patience, planning and recognising opportunities. Maybe there could be a Part 2 of this post - 'Other things Roger can teach about writing' :) My past is littered with half-finished projects, so following through is definitely something I have to work on too. Thanks for your feedback :)

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  3. Yep, couldn't agree more, Nola! Being an author these days involves so much more than just producing that first manuscript. I remember how my readers viewed me as a prolific author when my first five novels came out one after the other from 2007 to 2011, then my first non-fiction in 2012 and another novel in 2013. But this happened because as soon as I finished one book, I started the next and kept 'rolling' on. (Though not with J K Rowling's success, sadly!) I then had a bit of a gap before my second non-fiction was released in 2016, but the idea was germinating in that time. So yes, follow through is hugely important, in this area and also in networking and honing our craft, as you say.

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    1. Thanks Jo. You're such a great example of someone who follows through. I'm sure your readers appreciated that they didn't have to wait too long for the next book to come out. Some of my favourite authors (like Kate Morton, Geraldine Brooks and Tracy Chevalier) take years between books and the wait can be excruciating.

      When I was reading that biography about J. K. Rowling recently, the author noted that gaps between books is even worse if you're a children's or YA author because your audience grows up before the next book comes out. I hadn't thought of that, but it's so true. I really admire your dedication Jo. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  4. Hi Nola that was an inspiring post and a good kick...:) We all have so much going on in our lives that sometimes writing can be pushed to the background. I was only looking at my Writing Tips folder yesterday and I've printed this out and stuck it up on my pin board: 'Write. Remember, people may keep you (and me) from being a published author, but no one can stop you from being a writer. All you have to do is WRITE. And keep writing.While you are working at a career, while you are raising children, while you are trout fishing. Keep Writing! Noone can stop you but you.' Katherine Neville silverthread.com

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    1. Thanks Susanne. That's a great quote. And you're so right about life taking over and writing being pushed to the background. I don't think many weeks would go by when I'm not doing any writing, even if it's a blog, review or some outlining. But it's easy to spend weeks away from the novel and I really have to be disciplined if I'm going to get the structural edit done this year. Good luck with your next project. Thanks for commenting.

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  5. Great, Nola! I loved this line:' The follow-through is just as important in writing.'

    Comparing a tennis great to a writer is very clever!

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    1. Thanks Elaine. I'll let you into a secret. I was reading a book about blogging recently and one of the ideas they gave was 'the mash-up' where you take two different ideas and show how they work together. That got me thinking about a few things and this was one of the results. I think we can learn a lot of lessons from other fields. Now I just have to practise what I preach :) Thanks for your comment.

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  6. Thanks for a great post, Nola - so agree that follow-through is important. The picture of the racquet stopping when it hit the ball really had me. And it applies at some many different stages - from putting what we learn into practice, to finishing the story, to starting then next & to promoting or following up opportunities.

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    1. Thanks Jenny. Yes, there are so many points and I falter at a lot of them, so I'm trying to follow through more myself. Appreciate your comment :)

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  7. A great illustration, Nola, with valuable advice. If I'd stopped writing while I waited for ms revisions, my foray into YA fiction probably never would have happened, or at least would have been delayed by some years. Some many important habits are formed by practising the follow through in our writing and life.

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