Why Writing A Novel is Like Running A Half Marathon

Last month I ran my first half marathon in over a year and a half. I spent weeks training, and on race day I conquered my 13.1.

I enjoy half marathons not because I enjoy running, but because I enjoy accountability. If I skip a run or don’t train for a race, I’m going to show up and regret every moment I chose to spend not running.

It’s the same way with writing a novel (except for I actually enjoy writing, most of the time). Writing a novel requires that you step up every day, and you stick to your daily goal which all filters into the larger goal.

With half marathon training, you are building and strengthening your body up to race day where it will all be tested.

It’s the same way with writing a novel. Each writing day is building your story, your voice, your characters, and at the end, in your final draft, all of those things will be tested.

With half marathon training, the hardest part is that you have to run every day, even when you don’t feel like showing up. When your body is sore from the long Saturday run that took you from the Embarcadero Ferry Building all the way to the Sausalito Ferry building, and you don’t want to do your recovery run on Sunday, you still have to do it. Some runs may feel awful and torturous, I know I had a lot of those, but you still have to do them. It’s part of the process.

It’s the same with writing a novel. Mentally, some days you just aren’t going to feel like writing, and in the same way a run may feel awful, a writing day will feel awful. You’ll feel like you’re the worst writer in the world, and that you’ll never be good enough so you may as well quit. But you have to sit down and do it, because if you miss a writing day, you are missing a day toward the finishing your novel.

Tips For Writing

  • If you’re having trouble starting, try a writing challenge like National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). This organization really helped me in showing me what it was like to have a writing goal, a deadline, and a training program.
  • Set a realistic word count goal per day, or a writing time frame (i.e. 1600 words a day or 2 hours a day), whatever works for you. If it helps you, even try giving yourself a deadline for when you want a first draft of your manuscript to be done.
  • Set yourself up a writing ritual. For me, when I’m working on my novel, I like to have a cup of coffee, dimmed lights, and a Cozy Sweater scented candle.
  • Stick to it. Show up to your laptop every day, and don’t skip any writing sessions. Hold yourself accountable.
  • Finish your novel.

Tips For Running

  • Choose a race that interests you, and give yourself at least a three month training window. Some races I’ve done are the Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland, The Golden Gate Half Series, and the Runner’s Path Half Marathon in Santa Cruz.
  • Choose a training program that works for you. Personally, I like Nike Run Club because they have a coaching option where it’s really easy to set up a program that works for you. For me, it was running 4 days a week and doing my longer runs on Saturdays. The app also updates weekly by your progress.
  • Run. Show up to every run, and push through your physical and mental blocks. They’re the same blocks that are keeping you from writing that novel.
  • Finish your race.
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