The Craft: Shot Selection

[This is part of a continuing series on the art of writing fiction.]

Well, it’s spring. And that means it’s time for some basketball and some musing on the art of writing fiction.

Way back when, I used to play basketball. And one of the first things you learn is that you don’t shoot every time you get the ball. What you do is quickly assess the situation and either go for it or pass it on to the next guy. That’s called “shot selection.” NCAA/BASKETBALL

Guys that don’t have good shot selection tend to throw up anything and don’t make many shots. A more effective strategy is to pass when you know the defense is tight—to an open man in the hope he’ll get off a better shot.

So, what the hell does this have to do with writing?

Simple. I’ve noticed lately that I’m a bit too quick to throw up anything to see if it will make it in. That is, I’m far too willing to pick an idea that is half-way there and flesh it out into a full story, edit it and submit it. I don’t stop to think—“Hey, maybe I shouldn’t try to do this right now”—and pass on taking the shot.

OK. End of extended sports metaphor…

So…this means that henceforth, I’m going to focusing on developing (writing, editing, submitting) drafts of stories that move me, that I want to write. That I have to write. Rather than stories I think are clever, or have a neat idea or will find a home somewhere.

What prompted this was a book I found as I was browsing in a used bookstore last week called The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam. There’s a discussion on the first page of the preface where Halberstam asks a more seasoned writer: “What makes a best seller?” The author considers the question for awhile and answers:

“A book that burns in your belly—something that has to be written before you can go onto anything else.”

That’s great, isn’t it? All those secrets that marketers and publishers and agents want to know boiled down to one cold, hard fact.

Well, that’s what I want to write. And I have a few short stories—maybe 3-4 that are burning in my belly right now. Nothing more, nothing less. I want to get those done and in the submission process. Then, take a quick look around me and assess what else is burning in my belly—be it a novel or story or play—and write that and only that. I want to put the emotion and the desire first. Not second or third or somewhere further down the list. And I don’t want to worry about what will follow.

That’s the only way to do it. Always has been, always will be.

See you next time,



Works in Progress–Next Up

[Part of a continuing series on where my fiction writing is at.]
Lots of stuff going on in life and work. So, this post is going to be particularly telegraphic. Here we go.

How They Did It at Kazansky StationGood news here. Last time I posted, I was 2/3 of the way through my dreaded second draft of this story. Well, I finished that off. Even ran it through the third draft. And this weekend I plan to do a final draft and proofread it. Then, it’s off to publishers. Moscow street

I’m really pleased with where this ended up, especially when I consider how displeased I was with the first draft. I just thought it was done a bit hastily and was sloppy overall. The third draft is much tighter and—most importantly—says exactly what I wanted it to say in the way I wanted to say it. And that’s all any writer can hope for.

The Man with Storms in His Eyes—This story got rejected and I haven’t had a chance to turn it around and resubmit it. I will do that this weekend.

AFTA—This horror novella got one more rejection, but it’s still with another publisher awaiting a decision. I hope it works out.

Breakpoint—This story is still out there with a magazine awaiting an answer.

That’s it! A short and sweet post. Just enough to keep you updated while I get back to the writing.

See you next time,


PS. I just realized I haven’t blogged for a month! I totally forgot my last blog post. I guess things HAVE BEEN HECTIC. Jeez. No more of that.

So, sorry, readers. I apologize. I will do my absolute best to make sure that doesn’t happen again or warn you if it does. So, look for the next post 2 weeks from today.

See you then.