I often compare writing to training for a race and since I do both I can't help but notice the parallels between the two. As writers we often spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about things that may not matter in the end. For example, what the market is buying before we even have a finished manuscript. Since the market is fluid and more difficult to time than the stock market, worrying about this is pretty much counter productive. However, it is important to understand the market, not so much to time it but how to approach it, or more specifically, the agents, editors and publishers that control it.
In training for a race we focus on the type of race we are going to run. One doesn't train the same way for a 5k race as for a 10k or half-marathon. So, knowing the race you're going to run is important for how you approach your training. On Saturday I ran a 10 mile race, my first running race for 2009 and boy was I unprepared. I finished the race but I could tell that I hadn't trained properly. How could I tell? Well, since I've run longer races and felt better I knew that running the race was a bit premature. Still, I made mental notes along the way of the things I needed to change before running the next race I signed up for - a half-marathon. I know what to do, I just need to do it.
The same holds for writing. For me,the writing equivalent of a race is submitting a manuscript to a publisher or pitching that manuscript at a conference. I waited a while before sending a letter off to an editor about my first romantic suspense novel because I wanted it to be ready should I get a request for the whole manuscript. I did get the request but in the end the novel wasn't accepted by the editor for publication. Since it was the only editor I queried I'm not as bummed about it as one might think. I feel pretty good that after sending a query to just this one editor and then receiving a request for the full manuscript - well, in the writing world of odds, that's pretty good. Haven't decided if I'm going to send this out to anyone else but in the meantime I continue writing another work of fiction that I've started.
So, I will continue to learn from my racing mistakes and misjudgements and I will continue to train and run races, regardless of where I place, because it keeps me challenged and feeling alive.
The same for my writing endeavors. I can no longer stop writing than I can stop working out and challenging myself. I write mostly on the train during my commute and then edit at home on a printed out version. I write stories based on my own voice, my own imagination, and my own taste in what I enjoy reading. I doubt I'd be any better at timing the writing market than the stock market and in the end after spending a year or more on any given writing project, I want to at least enjoy the ride and fun of putting one more word on paper and taking one more step towards finishing a race.