Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Writing Lessons From the Kentucky Derby

This past Saturday saw the 138th "Run for the Roses", also known as the Kentucky Derby. What can the first leg in the Triple Crown teach us about writing?

First, it's a crowded field. Each author brings his or her talents, just as each Derby contender brings his or her strengths to the starting gate. Unlike the "Greatest Two Minutes in Sports", however, writers are in an endurance race. How well you do depends on how well you've "trained".

For authors, this means learning your craft. You wouldn't expect to write a novel without first learning the basics of storytelling. Otherwise, your book would be a jumbled mess. Even if someone says you have a "natural" talent, that skill needs to be honed. Trainers know it's not just enough to have a horse who can run fast. They need a horse who can take commands. Publishers want someone they can work with, an author who will listen to suggestions and not act like a diva.   

Horse trainers also understand they can't expect their horses to win if they don't work with them as well as the jockeys, grooms, and other people involved in the horse racing industry. Authors may write alone but publishing involves working with critique partners, editors, publishers, cover artists, etc. Just as the cameras show the glamorous side of the Derby, there are those in the background who keep things running smoothly. It may be your name on the cover, but there are many behind you who helped you reach your goal.

I've loved horses from an early age when one cousin had a statue of Secretariat and another raised horses on her farm. Living here in Kentucky, one develops a whole new appreciation for them.


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