Thursday, August 14, 2014

Writing is like Canasta

No, really, writing and canasta have some parallels. Trust me on this one.

For those of you who don't know what canasta is, it's a card game. It's kind of like rummy on steroids. There's are a lot of rules and it takes a while to feel comfortable playing the game without having to ask if you're doing it right. One deck of cards just isn't enough, so you play with two decks. You better get used to shuffling that monstrous pile of cars, and you better shuffle 'em good.

You might already see some parallels to writing in that introductory paragraph, but the meat of why I think canasta and writing are similar goes a bit deeper.

My mother taught me how to play canasta maybe twenty years ago. If I remember correctly we were camping at King's Canyon in Northern California. A friend of mine was on that trip with us and we both loved playing card games, so we were excited to learn a new one. My mom told us not to expect to win right away. In fact, she said it would be a while before we won. A long while. Now, that kind of straight talk will discourage some people. They'll toss their hand down right then and there and say, "Well screw it then, why would I play a game I know I'm gonna lose?" Because it's fun, that's why. Because you have to learn how to play the game and this game is far more skill than chance. The initial dealing of the hand is chance, but after that it's ninety percent skill. You gotta know what to do with those cards you've been dealt regardless of whether it's a bum hand or not. You also have to watch your opponent carefully. Learn what signals they give to indicate what they're planning on doing. These are things you learn after playing the game over and over again and losing every damn time, but eventually you get closer to the win. Your score at the end of the game is higher, and then you have that breakthrough and you actually win one. You want to dance and cheer and scream it from the rooftops.

Then you play another game and you lose.

However, now that you have the win under your belt, you play harder and one win turns into two, then three, and soon enough you're feeling pretty good about your canasta skills.

Last week when I played a game of canasta against my mother I took her to the cleaners.

But that doesn't mean that she won't do the same to me next time.

In writing you start off and you're told to expect a pile of rejections. Kind of sounds familiar, right? You're pretty much told you're gonna lose right from the get go, and I imagine that crushes a lot of people's will to follow their dreams of becoming a published author.

It's all true. I have a file of paper rejections from back when most publishers were accepting snail mail submissions. Now I delete them as soon as I log them on my submission tracker sheet. I've been at this for a number of years. I've published over sixty short stories, two novellas and two novels. In the past few weeks I made my first pro sale to Eldritch Press for a story called "High Fashion" that is going to appear in their debut anthology Our World of Horror. I sold my novella Salpsan to Damnation Books, sold three flash fiction stories to Post Mortem Press ("Names on the Sidewalk", "Meeting the Quota", and "Moonlight Sonata"), and sold another story to Eldritch Press for their online zine. That story went live yesterday. It's called "Like Ants on a Carcass". You can read it HERE.

Without any doubt whatsoever I can expect to find rejection emails in my inbox. I can expect to be disappointed. I can also expect to take those stories and submit elsewhere and eventually, dammit, I expect to sell them.


1 comment:

  1. Wow-what a great way to explain it. Your style of writing just draws me in! Also having been raised playing canasta I see the parallels.