Last week when I gave my talk on the "ABCs of Good Writing," I turned it into a game. I had participants take out a sheet of paper and write the letter from A to Z in the left margin, then write beside each letter every word they could think of that was associated with writing (good or bad) or writers (ditto). I had 150 . . . I believe the winner of my "Writer's Gift Basket" had 138. (Way to go, Mary!)
When I got to "F," the two words that immediately came to mind are the FaceBook applications Farkle and Farmville. First of all, both games are delightful distractions (the kind of diversion you're supposed to avoid if you want to be a serious writer). However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that both games are apt metaphors for another kind of game . . . the book publishing game, to be precise.
With Farkle, you roll the dice and come up with various combinations of dice to earn points. It's part intuition (knowing when to stop rolling), part numbers, and part dumb luck. There's really no other word for it. Oh, and it also helps to know a lot of other high rollers, as they send you little chip gifts from time to time, and you constantly try to one-up your "friends" by drawing a higher score.
Sound familiar? Nah, I didn't think so.
Then there's Farmville. Everyone has the same-sized plot of land, and everyone on the same level of expertise has access to the same kinds of seeds, trees, buildings, decorations, and animals. You give your neighbor a hand chasing crows or pulling weeds, rescue the odd lost cow, and send your Farmville friends little presents to help them along. (Think writers' groups.)
And yet, there is a lot of work -- and a lot of decision-making -- you must do on your own. Do I plant crops indefinitely (and keep returning every 4-12 hours to harvest), or put in something that requires less of a time commitment, such as trees or animals? Do I go for the "pretty" or for the unabashedly practical? Do I spend a lot of time running around chasing crows out of everyone else's garden, and let my own go to seed?
Most of all, am I willing to make a plan, and stick with it over the long haul -- even putting in a few dollars of my own resources to make my dream come true, if need be? (I have my eye on that farm house!) Food for thought.
What do you think -- is writing more like Farkle, Farmville ... or something else?