by Francine Puckly
With a chill in the air and notoriously unpredictable weather, Opening Day is upon us. Hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts, new lineups, and impeccable turf await. A few years ago Ted Berg penned an article entitled, “The 10 Best Things about Opening Day” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon/2013/04/01/10-best-things-about-opening-day/2041583/). There’s nothing quite like a new baseball season, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of beginning a new project or novel. And here’s how Berg’s Top 10 applies to starting a brand new novel!
10. Fresh Looks
In baseball, this means it’s time to sport new uniforms, but for me and my new novel, we’re showing off new software (Scrivener), flashy new composition notebooks, my favorite pens and Sharpies, and a multitude of jewel-toned post-its I purchased in the off season. My reusable foam plot-planning poster board is ready to take the field. This is the best my writing space will look for months and maybe years! And wait! What’s that sound? I think the organist is playing the first few bars of “Take Me Out to the Book Store.”
9. Ballpark favorites again available
Berg said that, “opening day provides an opportunity to eat hot dogs without being judged.” And for writers, the first draft is our opportunity to slap down all of the crazy ideas that come to mind as we crank through the what-ifs of a new story littered with a cast of new characters. No limiting expectations, no reviews, no analyses. It might be the only time in our writing process we’re not worried about the agent or editor, the reader, the critic, missing story parts, or the dilemma of what stays and what goes.
8. Spring training is over
So is your research. At least for now. It’s time to play ball…er, write the draft. That means don’t stop to research. Flag any missing pieces of information with those pretty little post-its you bought.
As MLB and various ballparks roll out elaborate décor, you might look to playlists with songs that suit your characters or intended plot, a collage of magazine clippings or photos that depict character and setting, or Pinterest files to inspire your writing. Adorn your workspace with helpful details. I have a collage of photos I’ve taken and/or downloaded from the Internet posted in my writing area. Whenever I feel stymied on plot, I study those for inspiration.
6. The pageantry
First pitches, national anthems, and introductions of every player, coach and trainer. Writing pageantry is introducing each room, character and supporting character. We plunge into detail the way Milwaukee’s Bernie Brewer plunges into a huge mug of beer. We immerse ourselves in detail. The rooms of the house. The landscape. The shingles and siding. Every character.
5. Ridiculous “pace” stats
“For one day in 1994,” Berg wrote, “Cubs outfielder Karl ‘Tuffy’ Rhodes was on pace to hit 486 home runs in a season after a three-homer opening day outburst.” Nobody hits 486 home runs in a season. And those 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo? That’s 600,000 words a year, or ten+ middle grade novels a year. Woo hoo! And those 41 ideas you had for PiBoIdMo last year? You’re going to write over 400 picture books this year! NOT. They’re impossible numbers to sustain, but that doesn’t mean we can’t rejoice in getting off to a ridiculously fast start as we leave our inner critic behind.
4. Skipping school or work
Playing hooky to do what we love is easy at the beginning. At the start of a project we are willing to decline other opportunities so that we can take our laptops and notebooks off to write in seclusion. But eventually life’s demands creep in and the next thing we know we’ve missed four days (or maybe even four weeks!) straight. What we can learn from playing hooky or skipping other commitments is how to make our writing a priority year-round, not just at the launch or as we approach the finish line. Set some goals, people! And reward yourselves when you hit them! (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/give-yourself-a-carrot).
3. All of the aces
Who are the heavy hitters in your story? Make sure you have a great team of characters to support your plot.
2. Every team is undefeated.
So is your project. No rejections. ’Nuff said.
And the number one thing about Opening Day?
1. They play baseball.
And we write novels. Or illustrate books. We have the coolest jobs on earth. Now get out there and throw the first pitch!
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