Hi, Gang! Craig with you again, and it’s time to manipulate one of my old parenting lessons into a writing post. This involves advice to my children, which they hated, but still seems to bear some merit.
A few years ago I posted about the Plate of Peas approach to story. It was a moderate success, so I’m trying something similar called the Bag of Marbles.
For those who aren’t old enough, marbles is an ancient gambling game involving little spheres. They were like currency for kids and we played for keeps. I used to keep my winnings in about seven old plastic Purex bleach bottles, only taking a small leather bag of marbles to school.
Enough of the history. I equated the marbles to life skills for my kids. This was another groaner from them, but the idea was that every time you learned a new skill you got to add a marble to your pouch. More marbles makes you more valuable on the job market. At least one of them got it, because she called me up to tell me about the day she learned to operate a forklift. Has nothing to do with her current employment, but it’s something she can claim to have done.
I’m sure to get any number of “lost marbles” comments down below, but we’re going to turn this into a writing post somehow.
Authors have many skills, and sometimes we have to work to develop new ones. This often involves trunk novels, and experimental bits of short fiction. When it works out, you get to add a marble to your collection.
The point here is to challenge yourselves. I do this all the time, and it’s one of the things I enjoy about the process. My recent challenges were to write an open ended series, and a close ended trilogy. They are quite different to pull off, and I’m finding the trilogy to be particularly challenging.
Past challenges were first and even second person POV. Different story structures, including the Fool’s Journey from the tarot deck. I’ve written various types of short fiction, dabbled in comedy and quite a few others.
Relate the marbles tournament to being out there in Amazon Arena. What are you bringing with you so you can compete?
We’re all going to have a different selection available. Maybe some of you honed the skills to find a literary agent, or a publishing contract. Maybe some of you are experts at hand selling books at conventions and bazaars. These are skills I have not worked on.
Some of you are experts at Amazon advertising, social media, or Facebook ads. There are places I can still collect the marble from to improve my chances.
Challenge yourselves. Short fiction is a great place to experiment with new things. If you find yourself frequently writing similar characters, change it up. Maybe your plucky college girl should become a crusty old professor on the verge of retirement for a change. How would that change the plot and character viewpoint?
If you typically write about a band of adventurers, maybe a group of refugees would be worth a try. Write a historical piece. It’s amazing to come up with things in an age before cell phones and the Internet.