Why writing a novel is a lot like a “fun run”

A friend and I signed up for a zombie-themed run a couple of years ago. I’d just had a baby and was looking for a way to lose the baby weight.  I’m not one of those people who enjoys working out, and at the time, I loved zombies. I’m a big horror fan. Anyway, the race was called “Run for Your Lives”, and the premise was to make it through a race course of zombie actors tasked with stealing all of your flags. Each person gets only three, attached to a belt. You’re supposed to try to make it to the end of the race with at least one flag left; a difficult task not only due to the “undead”, but also because of all the crawling through mud, being electrocuted, inhaling the motocross track dust from the racetrack, and sliding into a vat of what had to be KY Jelly.

I swear it sounded fun when I signed up.

But avoiding the zombies added another few miles to the distance of the race, and it was mostly uphill. And I had to train for it. And the flags came off so easily!

After ungracefully scaling walls, climbing unforgiving hills, feeling my way around a pitch dark “haunted house”, army-crawling under fences, crossing a stream, wading through a slime-filled pit, having nearly vomited from the heat, and passing by a gentleman receiving CPR (he’s okay), I finished the race “alive”. I happened to lose my voice for a week, temporarily damaged my vocal chords and had swollen glands from breathing in the pollen-filled dust, but I survived a ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!

And that’s what writing a novel feels like.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

You must train (to be a writer, one must write). You must learn the rules and decide whether to break them. You will be exhausted. And those people dressed in zombie costumes? They’ll present themselves as creative blocks (ie. writer’s block), ineffective plot structures and plot holes, difficult or underdeveloped characters, too much passive voice, and bad critiques (which are actually good for you, but try telling that to your ego).

But how and why I was able to belly-crawl through the mud beneath an electrified fence to cross the finish line is important. It’s because I went into it prepared. I did my research. I plotted. I wore a handmade tutu.

Just like writers need a “tool box”, so do racers. I had yoga gloves for climbing and knee pads for crawling. I wore a red tutu because through research I’d learned that the flags were red and I thought maybe, just maybe a tutu would make grabbing the flags more difficult. And I finished the race. Just like I wrote a novel and am beginning to write another.

If you have the tools, the gumption, and just enough excitement to begin the adventure, you can be a novelist too.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Red tutu, gloves, and knee pads: Check!
Me on the left, my self-sacrificing friend on the right.





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