Sunday, November 13, 2011

Follow-Through on Your Shot

Now that baseball season is over, my son has joined 4H and taken up BB-gun shooting. I’m not saying there isn’t anything to learn about writing from Baseball, I’ve just learned a few things rather quickly from the whole rifle thing. To me fashioning a novel and picking off a target are quite similar. Here are the pointers I’ve learned.

Have you sighted-in your high concept? Rifles need to be sighted-in, i.e. what you look through need to be aligned so the rifle will shoot where you aim it. I once read an article about writing your story backwards. The point of the article was: often when we write we start with the story then find an editor and then find the market. What we need to do is start with the market, find the editor who is buying in the market and then write the story to fit the editor. Have we sighted-in – aligned what we are writing so our concepts will fit our market? It is much easier to play to a crowd than to generate one. If we aim our writing, making sure our emphasis is where it should be, we may sell something.

Rhythm. Firing a rifle requires a rhythm. For example, you can’t breathe while you pull the trigger or you will botch your shot. Your shoulders also need to be relaxed; in fact I’ve heard every muscle in your body should be relaxed. If the rifle strikes a solid surface when it fires, it will bounce and your shot will be spoiled. Too often when we pull the trigger with a query or walk up to an agent to pitch, we are tense (is that an understatement?). If you have done your homework, lined up your shot and know your agent or editor, you should be relaxed. Put yourself in their shoes, and picture how someone should sell their idea to you. Develop your rhythm. Make sure you don’t put anything in the way of delivering your ideas. If your pitch strikes against your tension, you may miss your mark.

Following through. After shooting a rifle, it is important to keep your sight on the target for a two-second follow-through. This allows you to call your shot and keeps you prepared in the case a second shot is needed (think dangerous game). This means you need to review what you have submitted for a query, keeping your eyes on the editor or agent and continuing to do your research of their work. This way you can "call your shot," i.e. know if they are interested or not. It will also keep you ready for a second query if you realize you have missed (not that editors or agents are dangerous animals).

Both writing and shooting are individual sports. The work happens in the psyche of the sportsman, and so there are easy parallels. Give me a few more seasons to study pitching and I’m sure I’ll find a few baseball analogies.