Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How writing is like volleyball. Just go with me...

So, it’s volleyball season. Which means I’m watching a lot of volleyball.

We were on the court at 7:30am Sunday, and finally left the venue at 6:30pm. My daughter’s team had another great day. But, something struck me as I was watching the matches.

My daughter’s team plays at a pretty high level for their age. (she’s 13 years old) They’re currently ranked 27th out of over 140 teams in the Northern California Volleyball Association league. So far this season they’ve only lost one match. Their coach is what I like to call passionate. She will openly scream (yes, that’s the right word) at them during a match when they screw up, because she expects a lot from them. But…she’s also the first one to give them a high five when they do something great. Sometimes she does these things all at the same time to the same player. (Very funny to watch :p)

When she screams, it's always constructive, and the girls know she knows what she’s talking about. They have a huge amount of respect for her. In the three months they’ve been playing together, the parents have watched them grow as individual players and as a team. (In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my daughter is #13--with the glasses :p)

So, you’re asking…what does this have to do with anything…?

I often get asked what advice I have for aspiring writers. I have lots, actually. (Fodder for a different post, maybe, when I’m done bragging on my daughter.) The thing that struck me while I was watching was how writing from the trenches can be a lot like this. Sometimes you do something brilliant. Other times, you suck eggs. If you don’t have someone who will be brutally honest and tell you these things, both the good and the bad, then you’ll never really grow as a writer.

I am the poster child for what not to do. I wrote for a very long time without any sort of critique from anyone. When I submitted Personal Demons to agents, my fab crit partner (Hi Andrea!), who I’d just recently found, had only read the first few chapters. I was basically terrified to put my writing out there in case it sucked. But, the thing is, if you don’t, and it does, and you submit it, you’re not going to get very far.

Every writer needs someone like my daughter’s coach: someone whose opinion you respect, who’s not afraid to tell you when you screwed up and exactly why, but also someone who will give you the huge high five when you’ve done something brilliant. Just like my daughter’s team, it’s the only way you’ll ever grow as a writer. (For a list of what I'm looking for when I critique, go here.)

Do you have a fab crit partner or group? If not, find one posthaste!


  1. This is a great post. Awesome analogy, and very true. The one thing that I would add, at least for me, is that it's often impossible to tell for yourself, by yourself, what's brilliant and what sucks eggs.

    Get critique partners, find an editor, just make sure none of them is your mom.

  2. It is so important to find a trusted reader or two (if not more). We're to close top our own stories to be able to tell if they are any good or if they stink like rotten eggs, to steal from Matt. :)

  3. How true! I'm lucky that the librarian at my daughter's school also reviews MG and YA books as a supplemental-income sort of thing and she's agreed to read my WIP. I'm AM terrified of what she might say, though. *trying not to whimper* But if it helps the story, I'll man-up (so to speak)and accept her critique with grace, not like a certain woman did on Amazon re: a review of her book. Have you heard about that? *shudder*

  4. Suzanne--I did! I saw @Neilhimself's tweet. No one likes negative reviews of their work, but that was just scary...

  5. Great thought on comparing writing like volleyball.Just like volleyball accept and respect bad or good criticism in order to be a better player.