Practice, Practice, Practice

I’ve been watching the Olympics, and I realized there are a lot of similarities between a successful athlete and a successful writer. Athletes who want to compete at the highest level practice. Most do this daily or almost daily. They don’t let illness stop them or family events. Because they want to improve, they find and hire coaches they know will take them to the next level. They watch videos of past performances to learn from their mistakes and find ways to improve. When they compete, they present themselves in the best way possible, either through their grooming or their uniforms or their attitudes. They do everything they can to look like and be winners.


Writers who want to succeed must do the same things. Simply wanting to write a book and have it published is not enough. Writers—good writers—write and rewrite. This is their practice, their training. They read how-to books, join critique groups, and learn from their mistakes. They find or hire professional editors—not simply friends but editors who can “coach” them to become better writers. When submitting for a contest or to an agent or editor, they make sure their submission is in the best form they can achieve. (It’s formatted as required and error free.) If self-publishing, they get professionally designed covers. And if along the way they are rejected (don’t receive a medal), they continue competing and improving their submissions. If their self-published story starts getting a slew of poor reviews, they’ll pull it and work on it until they correct the problem.

My fear is that nowadays many writers aren’t taking those steps. With self-publishing, both in paper and e-book form, so easy and inexpensive, way too many writers don’t want to do the work that’s needed, don’t want to spend the money for a professional editor or cover design. They consider themselves published if there’s a book listed on Amazon or with Barnes and Noble with their name on the cover. How long, I wonder, will readers be willing to pay money, even small amounts of money, for stories filled with errors?

If I’m told Michael Phelps is going to swim, I leave my computer and go watch because I know I’m going to see a good performance, win or lose. That’s my goal: to make sure when someone mentions a book written by me that readers know, if they take the time to read it, it will be worth their time.

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19 Responses to Practice, Practice, Practice

  1. Excellent post, Maris. I am working with my editor right now, and there are days I feel like I’m running a marathon LOL But it’s worth it if I can bring a well crafted book to my readers.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Over the years, I have learned so much from my editors. Sometimes I don’t like what I hear from them (that my work isn’t perfect), but when I give it some time, I realize they’re right and the result is something far better than the original.

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    I’m not always the best at putting aside things for the writing. I need to focus more on that. What a great post about life in general. We do need to keep trying and practice to get better at anything. Mistakes are learning opportunities not failures.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks, Melissa, Edison said his failures with the light bulb weren’t failures but learning experiences. That’s how we need to approach our writing.

  3. Excellent post, Maris. Every writer who succeeds has spent time learning to write better, listen to criticism, and grow as a writer. This is work. Non-writers don’t always understand that, but you’ve described perfectly what it means for those of us who take this work seriously.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Susan, I imagine you have the same reaction as I have when a non-writer says, “One of these days I’m going to write a book.” I wish him (or her) well and smile.

  4. Alice Duncan says:

    Boy, this is SO TRUE! Great blog, Maris. I wish more aspiring authors would learn their craft. You really need to know the English language and use it properly. Even if you then decide to break a rule or two, you can ALWAYS tell when a person knowingly breaks a rule and when a person doesn’t know the rule to begin with.

    • Maris Soule says:

      So true, is right, Alice. It’s way too obvious when the writer doesn’t even realize there’s something wrong with what she (or he) has written.

  5. Good analogy! It’s all about dedication and hard work–doing our very best.

  6. Your anaology is spot on, and practice, practice, practice really does work. While I was clearing outdated materials from my file cabinet recently, I found a folder containing a few short stories I wrote many years ago. I know for a fact that I’ve been practicing my craft diligently because my writing has improved hundreds of times over. Those stories were so amateurish, they were cringeworthy, They went right into the document shredder so no one else would ever set eyes on them. =:-0

    • Maris Soule says:

      Lana, I’ve been in the process of putting some of my early romance novels out as ebooks. I’ve been doing some updating (cell phones instead of phone booths), and whenever possible, I’ve been changing some sentences. Why? Because I now realize I could say the same thing in a much better way. I’ve learned how to be a better writer by writing. (Some of my early, unpublished writing has gone, like yours, to the shredder.)

  7. Tracy Brody says:

    So true. I’ve often compared writing to playing a musical instrument. No one wants to pay to hear a beginner play. And no musician I know of picks up an instrument and makes beautiful music the first time. Listening to a lot of music doesn’t mean I can play it well. It takes lots of practice and writers have to learn the craft as well.

  8. Wise analogy, Maris. For years, writers said, “I just sit down and write… ” Like a miracle! Now, the professionals talk about the marathon of writing, practice, study, and design (plan to plot) to be the best we can be. I marvel at the Olympic athletes as I do excellent writers. And I keep practicing, 35 books later!

  9. Diane Burton says:

    Great analogy, Maris. Every bit of writing we do is practice–blogs, letters, our WIP. It all makes us better writers. Love the Olympics. My 6 yr old grandson knows the names Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky and knows what they did. Amazing Olympians.