As many of you know, Middle Son loves baseball. The first half of the season was a series of whiffs and misses at the plate. Sometimes he’d simply watch the ball go by and not swing at all. Enter the glasses a few weeks ago, and he’s been getting better.
I think it took him a little time to get acclimated to his new specks and relearn his depth perception. After all, his eyes had lied to him before and he had to adjust to the land of the seeing. Over the course of the second half, he’s gotten increasingly more skilled at timing the pitches.
Last night he was up three times in the batting order. He had two beautiful hits and struck out once. His second hit sailed through the gap between shortstop and third base and had to be chased down in left field. By the time he slid into second base, three of his teammates had made it home, tying the game.
Oh, how a grand slam would have been awesome. Ultimately, it would have won the game if he could have smashed one to the fence. Yet, Middle Son is teeny for his age and he’s been relearning to use his eyes. His hit was a victory in and of itself.
Writing is like that.
Not every novel has to be a grand slam. Sometimes we write simply to learn. We practice our mechanics and experiment with our voice and style. We learn the nuances of the business and apply this knowledge to our writing. Along the way, we see the results and position ourselves for a run.
CAT’S GUIDE TO LOADING THE BASES
Strike Out: those first 2,000 words that don’t go anywhere. They are mere character sketches or inciting incidences written on the spur of the moment in response to events in our own lives. While this feels like a miss, writing these snippets are essential to learning the craft. They are practice for future projects. And without practice, we would never learn to hit. With luck, these characters or events work their way into other novels.
First Base: finishing a novel. It’s easy to start a story. It’s not easy to reach the end of one. And while finally getting a hit feels like a victory, it’s just the beginning. Not all books that make it to first base cross home plate. In fact, many do not. Instead, they end up back in the dugout, cheering the next batter on. Hitting a single in writing will always advance a runner (our writing skills) and is well worth our time.
Second Base: editing said finished novel. This is a process often over-looked by beginning writers. Edits may be rudimentary. Nothing more than typo checks. Yet getting a novel polished is much more than that. It takes time and skill and a whole lot of patience. Practice. Practice. Practice. Sometimes we stand on second base forever before getting the guts to steal third. Other times, our beloved manuscripts fall victim to a third out and we find ourselves back in the dugout awaiting our next time at bat.
Third Base: querying/subbing. I’m not talking about writing the query letter here. I’m talking about sending it off. Third base puts us in position to score a run. It’s the one place in our journey that hurts the most. We hover on third–debating whether our manuscript is ready–with home plate taunting us from mere yards away. We can taste victory, but it’s not quite within our reach. We’ve declared ourselves writers and put ourselves out there for others to accept or reject. Once we get this far, we are largely at the mercy of agents, editors and the industry trends as a whole. It is at this stage in the game that we often learn the maturity and grace of being a professional writer.
Home Plate: securing a publishing contract. We’ve put in the time and run the bases. Whether we got there with one pitch or a painful series of them, we finally slide into home and earn our place in the writing world. Someone, somewhere loved our writing enough to take a chance on it. We have tangible evidence of our hard work. Yet our work is not done. We still have to practice. We still have to edit and write and write and edit. We market and socialize and learn, all while waiting to win the game.
Grand Slam: published novel in hand. There is no need to expound on this. However, I feel compelled to remind myself that hitting a grand slam does not mean the game is over. At some point, authors will once again face the pitching mound with a new novel.
I’m not afraid to step up to the plate. Strike outs don’t scare me. Standing forever on third base does. And the only way I can control that is to just keep swinging.
How about you? Where are you standing at this moment in time? Are you just starting out and hoping for a single, or do you have your eye on home plate? How many manuscripts has it taken for you to get this far?