How to Write a Rollercoaster…I mean *Ride* a Rollercoaster

I’m convinced that writing a novel is like riding a rollercoaster.

If you’re at an aumusement park with a friend and he or she says, “Let’s ride THAT!” you’re going to size up the ride they’re pointing at. Does it have enough dips and turns to make you thrilled and are they severe enough to make you sick? Is the line worth the ride? Is that a ride you’ll love? Will you walk off wind-blown and dizzy with a smile on your face saying “That’s the greatest ride ever?” (I get that way EVERY SINGLE TIME I get off Space Mountain in Disneyland.)

Writing a novel is no different. You plot out all those dips and turns in your head. You make sure you can do them justice. You research your material. You make sure you’re challenged (at least I do). You chose a story that will pull you to finish–something you’re passionate about.

Now when you get on the roller coaster, what’s first? Oh yes. That long, dragging pull up to the top of the peak. That’s plotting, folks. Building your story one rung at a time. You peak at the top of the first hill–the largest–hold your breath, close your eyes, (maybe pray)…and fall into writing LINE 1 PAGE 1. It’s wild. It’s freeing. You feel like you’re floating.


*That’s me–the crazy lady with her arms in the air–riding The Hurricane at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk two years ago.

The roller coaster sweeps around turns, jerking you right and left, then right again. Some turns are expected. You brace yourself. Grit your teeth. Maybe even scream a little. Some turns are blind. You smack into the rickety car, hurting your side. It’ll ache for days. Same goes for writing. Some pieces of your story you’ll see and prepare for. Others will sideswipe you and leave you reeling. (Robert Frost said “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader…”) Both the expected and unexpected are necessary to make the writing ride thrilling.

If the roller coaster is any good, it’ll speed up, not slow, near the end. You should be holding tighter near the bottom, as the G forces pull the smile from your face. Just when you think you can’t possibly hold on any longer or any tighter, you slam to a stop and the bars release to let you up. Writing is no different. You want your endings to be the best part of the ride. Leave the reader breathless and reeling. Aching to hop the turnstile and do it again. (You know you’ve done that before. Remember the feeling? You just HAVE to get back on. One more time. Books are the same. Remember the one you finished and held close, as if you could jump back into that world? Remember how you didn’t want it to end? Yup. Same feeling.)

Remember when you’re building your roller coaster and writing your story that the mechanics between the two are the same. You should feel the G forces pulling you to finish. I’ve heard some published authors say that endings fly off their fingers. They can write 50 near polished pages a week. Their stories read the same way. My eyes fly through the words.

What kind of roller coaster are you crafting? And how will your reader feel when they get off the ride and close your book?

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This entry was posted in writing.

3 comments on “How to Write a Rollercoaster…I mean *Ride* a Rollercoaster

  1. Nicki Elson says:

    Cool analogy! And combining two of my favorite things in the world. 🙂 I like that you equated not only the reader's experience to riding a roller coaster, but also the writer's – because we've GOT to enjoy the ride or why would we do it? So, Roller Coaster Girl, have you ever been to Cedar Point? No other coaster will do after you've been on the Millenium Force & Maverick…except for maybe the Dragster. 😉

  2. Hi Nicki!I just googled Cedar Point. Is it really in OHIO? Little bit of a drive from Cali…never been there and sadly never heard of it.From the pictures on their webstie the Magnum and Raptor look sweet! I'm definitely a roller coaster gal…I'd say it'd be worth the trip but with 2 little ones in tow I'm thinkin' perhaps not. Thanks for commenting! I have to admit I got lost for awhile looking through the Cedar Point website. 🙂

  3. Nicki Elson says:

    Glad you had fun at the Cedar Point website! Yeah, with two little ones, you'll probably want to put that trip off for a while. And yep, Ohio—can you believe it? I think that's why I was so excited to discover it last summer (I'd never heard of it either and I only live 5 hours away) – aside from Chicago, it's by far the most exciting thing we have in the Midwest.

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