Monday, August 10, 2009

The Publishing Game: Like Farkle ... or Farmville?

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?


Anonymous said...

I think almost all of my friends in facebook have invited to join farmville. I think I have no plans of doing so in the near future. I'm overloaded with house stuff to do. Thanks for sharing your interesting post here. By the way, there's a new social networking site dedicated to parents and kids, it's called - it's a place for Moms, Dads, and Kids! Now, there’s even a chance to win a free iPod Nano!. It would be so nice of you to join our parents’ forums and polls. Thanks a lot and have a great day!

Sarah Reinhard said...

I'm not on either app on Facebook (and don't plan to sign up anytime soon -- must control potential time sinks!), but I see writing as a combination of both (though I'm as of yet unpublished in the book world, so I'm just peering in at this point). I like those metaphors, though, and from what I know of farm life (from, you know, living on one and all), it is a lot like writing. They work well together.

There's competition in the farm world too -- when my BIL shows his sheep, it's to get a ribbon and the honors of having better sheep. But with that competition is a kindred-ness, not all fighting.

So I guess if I have to pick one, I'm more inclined to go with Farmville.

Anyway, thanks for the great food for thought on writing, Heidi! :)

Unknown said...

Looking for a fun farkle game? Then go to:

Wyrfu said...

Let's face it, any activity that distracts from writing is a boon to writers. That is how I became an expert coffee-maker, after all.

FarmVille is the perfect distraction in that it allows one to escape for a while and yet exercises the mind too. Addicted? Nah, not me - I'm obsessed!