Let’s Talk with Maggie Toussaint

Dressage Horse or Bucking Bronc?
By Maggie Toussaint

The gait of a horse can be compared to story writing, editing, and even marketing. During the creation of a story world and its characters, the initial feeling authors have is often prancing or flighty. Authors shy away from some ideas and gallop like the wind toward others. Along the way of getting the first draft composed, we settle into our conception of the main characters and the story world, which I liken to a contented canter.

Sometimes, ideas really sync, and the story flow becomes a dressage horse so that the momentum is precisely choreographed to a music only the author hears. Other times a story can fight the author like a bucking bronc, letting us know that our preconceived ideas are wrong, wrong, wrong.

In my experience editing is like a bumpy trot. Words need polish, sentence construction needs variation, and every scene needs to add to the main plot (in my case a mystery) or the subplot (for me, that’s the main character’s personal growth arc). If you’ve ever cleaned horse tack, and I’m talking about a deep clean here, you can understand some of what the author goes through with the scrubbing and polishing of a story. Some parts clean up easily, some require more elbow grease. But once it’s ready, it is a thing of beauty.

Have you experienced a horse changing gait? If they are speeding up, their hooves cover territory quickly until they reach the desired stride, then their speed levels out. When they slow down, they transition from a gallop to canter, then they hit a few bounces of trot before they walk. In the same way a regular horse/pony can’t go from 0 to 60 (or the reverse) without transitioning, a story needs bridges to move the characters from one scene to the next. In a writer’s world this changing of the tension or conflict level is known as pacing, so there’s another parallel to the world of horses.

Ever since the pandemic, many writers have struggled, much like horses off their feed. We want things to go back to normal, only we can’t make it happen. Days, weeks, and months passed as we stared at the blinking cursor as if words would magically appear on our monitor screens. Much like a bucking bronc, our imaginations want assurances that it is okay to be creative. With varying success, writers find the trail from the pandemic wilderness and once again go through their story paces.

This month I find myself nearing the end of an extensive edit on a book completely written during the pandemic. It needed a lot of work, but then so do all my books at this stage. Editing is my friend, much like a kindly trainer who uses encouragement to keep a horse moving in the right direction. Once the book is ready, I’ll send it to my agent, and we’ll see what happens. I’m hoping it will be a dressage horse and not a bucking bronc! As a bonus for you, here’s a recent dressage competitor video snippet in the Tokyo Olympics as seen on Twitter:

For a chance to win a print (US mailing address only) or ebook copy of SHRIMPLY DEAD, share something about horses. It can be where they race, what they eat, a breed of horse you particularly like, anything goes as long as the word “horse” is in your comment!

Comments

  1. maggietoussaint says

    The winner of this giveaway is Kathy Laweryson. Congratulations, Kathy! Please contact me within a week to claim your prize.

  2. Linda Johnson says

    Very clever article! I rode Welsh ponies as a child and had a horse some 40 years ago. Keeping a horse stabled in Houston TX proved too costly for me as a young adult. They are graceful,beautiful creatures and I felt blessed to have them.

    • maggietoussaint says

      Thank you, Linda. I’m glad to have written something that made sense, not always an easy thing to do in the pandemic! I hear you on the cost. Been down that road too. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Your horse analogies are clever and on the mark. I’m in the self-editing stage now too and it’s going extremely slowly. I might spend an entire day on one page. Too many distractions out there. That’s why my best writing time is between 4 to 7 am before anyone else wakes up.

    • maggietoussaint says

      I’ve found it’s always best to honor that special time when you’re in the zone. Thanks for your comments about the horse analogies.

  4. Never rode a horse or even really been around one, but it’s definitely on my list to want to do someday.

  5. I once rode a horse when I was a young girl and while scary it was also exhilirating. Would like to do it again someday.

    • I completely get how you had that duality of feeling. Something new often has that effect on all of us. I didn’t realize until I grown just how good it is for people to ride horses. They have therapeutic riding for kids of all ages, and it really does help. My grandson had many struggles as a preschooler and horse riding helped him with muscle control, balance, and even confidence, to name a few benefits.

  6. I’ve never experienced the thrill of riding a horse, but the analogies certainly work for me!

    • It is unlike anything else I have experienced in my entire life. The multi-level communication that goes on… the way the horse’s movement stimulates wellness in a person’s body… the power trip from knowing you are literally in the driver’s seat… the bond that occurs with the horse extends beyond non-riding activities. Even a calm trail ride in a tourist location can give you some of that same sense. Try it-you might like it!

  7. Love this!!

  8. Lois Winston says

    This city girl has never even sat on a pony, let alone a horse, unless you include a carousel horse! But I did like your analogies, Maggie.

  9. cherylhollon says

    My grandfather liked to keep a pony on his little farm. We were never allowed to ride them. They adored him, but didn’t trust children — wise ponies!

    • Maggie Toussaint says

      Ponies are often endowed with more attitude than horses. There was one in my neighborhood that loved to roll over. When that happened, you had to jump off fast!

  10. Diane A.S. Stuckart/Anna Gerard says

    Enjoyed your horse analogy. We had a couple of equines on our property in Texas — Gypsy and Cinnabar. They ended up mostly being pets. I’ve learned that I’m not a horse person although I love seeing horses in the field running about. My favorites are paints and palominos…guess I go for flashy!

    • Maggie Toussaint says

      One of my friends had a pony named Gypsy! Don’t feel bad about not being a horse person. Not everyone is. I agree with you about watching the. Big fun!

  11. Kathy Laweryson says

    I love all horses, they are so intelligent! Palominos are my favorite!

  12. Sarah Woodhouse says

    I love horses. They’re such noble creatures. My favorite horses are Mustangs, Paints, Palominos, and Clydesdales. Just so beautiful!

    • Hi Sarah, I love all of those as well. I used to always look forward to the Clydesdale commericals for Budweiser during the Super Bowl game. Not sure they do that anymore, but those large footed animals are majestic in how they move.

  13. debbiejpruss says

    I love to see the Clydesdale horse. They are beautiful.