Monday, August 25, 2008

What Does Tennis Have to Do with Books?

...Besides the fact that I love both, you might say not a lot, but I see several connections. First of all, I do have to say that tennis is my favourite sport. No, I can't, nor any sport. I'm sport-actically challenged. But I do love spectating. And, there are four times out of the year where for two weeks each time, I try to be in front of a televison. Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open (Which starts today, so no phone calls, please! LOL). Yes, it's even true that my website is decked out in Wimbledon colours [wanna see, check it out at]. What can I say?

Still, I digress. This post is supposed to be about books, right? So, what does tennis have to do with books? Well, when it comes to writing books, the process is a lot like tennis. Let's take a look.

First: There's a lot of behind-the-scenes craft development that goes on that the reader/spectator doesn't see. When I watch Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal play, tennis looks easy. As if anyone could go out and run around a court for three or four hours with only a few minutes break sprinkled in here and there. When I read a great book--one where I get totally lost in the story and weep and laugh with the characters--that author has made crafting an alternate reality seem simple.

Second: There's no coaching in tennis--not while the players are on the court, anyway. And, there's really no coaching in writing, either. Yes, we may have our critique partners who give us advice. Yes, we may have our editors who guide us to creating a wonderful story. Just as tennis players when they are training, have coaches to help them hone their craft. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, Tennis is mano-a-mano. One guy against one guy (or girl, as the case may be.) When we're writing, it's just us. The author. No one can win a tennis match except the individual. No one can write our story except us.

Third: Failure makes us stronger. In tennis, when a player loses a match, he takes that experience and learns from it. He either discovers a weakness in his own game that he needs to fix, or he discovers a weakness in another player which can be applied to a later match. When an author submits a story to a publisher and receives a rejection, we can take that information--if it's more than a form rejection--to help us hone our skills. If we discover something about the publisher--perhaps they aren't looking for our particular plot at the moment--we can use that to help us submit "smarter" next time.

From a reader's perspective, I want to enter the author's created world and be WOW'd--taken to the precipice of a myriad of emotions, and a great book can do that. And, you know what? A great tennis match can do that to me, too. When two players are so evenly matched and playing their best, when you never know who's going to win the next point, or when it's 6-4,6-3,4-6,3-6, and it's 9-8 in a fifth set where there's no tiebreak, and both players are fighting just to win two games in a row--That's exciting. It's like "watching" a hero and heroine battle the conflicts within and without to get to that happily ever after you know is coming somewhere, but might not happen until one of them is completely crushed. That's excitement!

Tennis and Books...what more could anyone want? Well, I couldn't live without music, either...but that's another story. Praise God for all these wonderful entertainments in life.

Speaking of latest story, Forever from Paris is getting some rave reviews [which I'm totally jazzed about, btw], so if you're looking for something short to read, please check it out.


Cindy K. Green said...

Great blog Nicola! I love your analogy between tennis and writing. (I enjoying watching the tennis tourneys too and I played a little in college.)

Nicola said...

thanks, Cindy. I envy you being able to play. I wish I could...but watching is the next best thing.