Thursday, September 5, 2013

For the Love of the Game

 Found this little cutie in the grocery store!

Baseball season is in full swing. Pardon my pun. Living in Missouri doesn't make me a Cardinals fan (I've only lived here for five years). If I stood on top of my house, I could view Illinois just across the Big River, but that doesn't make me a Cubs fan either. Although I've been to both stadiums, I've remained loyal to my team since childhood. (You can scroll down to the end to see a pennant of my favorite team.)

A visit to Wrigley Field on one of my Chicago trips
My father loved sports. Basketball, running and baseball were among his favorites. He wanted boys but ended up with two girls instead. My sister and I played many different sports. We were on the swim team, played volleyball and softball to name a few. Every Sunday afternoon our dad would drag us to the park to play a little baseball. He taught us to hit, catch, field and throw. Before long, we grew to love the game. It was hard work, but it paid off in the long run. We got better at the sport, made the team and even the starting line-up.

I think back to when I named my blog, The Writing Game. The word game implies a challenge. The word game also implies having a strategy. Do you have a plan? Do you know the end from the beginning? Here's a challenge from Noah Lukeman: summarize your entire novel using only three sentences. Then try using only two sentences. By the way, this exercise will help you master the perfect query. What about using only one sentence? Now, that's a challenge!

And because I'm new to all of this, I've learned to never use your character's name in a query. If you don't kiss his name goodbye (at least, for the query), you can kiss your chances of getting published goodbye. Save his name for your one-page synopsis. Besides, editors will be reading all about him in your 100,000+ word novel. (Don't worry, my novels aren't that long!) And even then, you should use his name sparingly and his full name only once or twice.

Your protagonist's journey will more than likely take him several different places or directions before he arrives at his destination. Yes, your hero may need to stop that volcano (is that even possible?) or he may need to rescue the fair maiden from alien assassins, but the bigger challenge is adding subplots throughout your novel. Keep those subplots twisting and turning with secrets and surprises around every corner. Remember it's the journey not the destination. What else is going on in your novel? Is he angry at his father about something? Unresolved conflict. Is he getting up the nerve to ask a girl out on a date? Fear of rejection. Is he seeking information about his past? Fear of the unknown.

The word game also implies fun. I thought once I started a writing career, it would be a leisurely experience, like sipping green tea on the shores of my own private island. Seriously, though, I'm in love with the ocean, the sea, the gulf of anywhere. Writing should be fun, but deadlines and editing and more revising can suck the fun out of writing. Always get back to the fun side of the island. Aside from the grueling pre-dawn writing hours, the neglected laundry pile, and the deep-voices of teenage sons in your house asking for more food, writing should remain a fun yet challenging game.

Go Brewers!

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