Diana Gallagher is a gymnastics coach, writing professor, and country music aficionado. WHAT HAPPENS IN WATER, her contemporary YA novel about a girl afraid to take risks after a gymnastics injury, releases in 2015 (Spencer Hill Contemporary).
She's also #teamdangerzone, #teamdangerzonemamabear, and #teamdangerzone stage mom. I was lucky enough to be a part of Diana's #pitchwars team. I knew the minute I read her bio that she would be a perfect fit for Fierce, although I'm completely embarrassed of the draft of Fierce she saw. She has helped me so much with the novel and has acted as a mentor in everything else.
What drew me to Diana when I was deciding what mentor to query in #pitchwars? Lots of things, but the big thing was that she's a gymnast coach. Since Fierce is a sports themed novel, I knew she would be able to see what I wanted but wasn't able to get across as needed. I knew she would get it.
Now that I've blabbed on and on, let's get to Diana's post:
I’ve watched my gymnast do this floor exercise routine for almost a year now. It’s been competed and judged, and this is just another practice on the road to the end-of-season championships.
For the hundredth time, her music plays over the speakers as she performs a tiny piece of choreography before her tumbling pass.
For the first time, it dawns on me: if she turns in the other direction, it’ll look better and be easier for her.
That’s it. The simplest fix. But it comes from a place of being ready and yet not forcing the solution.
As I work on first-pass edits for my debut novel, I treat it the way I coach a floor routine: I read the manuscript over and over. I do my best to re-see each moment: what should this scene reveal? Is it paying off? What if, instead, I put all of the main players together to see what happens? Which setting will get the most out of them? What information are they willing to give up?
The sections that are “done” don’t receive any special treatment. It’s like the athlete who scores a 9.8 – excellent, but can she do it again? Sometimes, looking at the work I’ve done so far gets me in the zone for the tougher passages. Other times, after the twentieth time scanning the page, I have that “wait a second” moment – if I make a change here, there will be a ripple effect for the better.
The tough part? Being a perfectionist means that it’s difficult to be satisfied. “Not quite, do that again,” I tell my athletes. There will always be another correction. Bigger, faster, higher. I feel the same way about my sentences: faster pacing! More emotions! Stronger descriptions! There will always be structure to tinker with and choreography to change.
But the coach in me is ready.