Whether Ready or Not
“Ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred… Ready or not, here I come.”
That’s how most of us remember playing Hide and Seek; a bunch of giggling and squealing kids racing around, desperate for a hiding place, one slightly peeking “it” person with head buried—not too seriously—within her arms against a tree/wall, and an anticipated thrill of the hunt.
Being a writer is very much like that game played during childhood. We never forget the rules of the game. We continue to chase, with the anticipation of the hunt, counting days instead of seconds until we hear back from a publication about a submission, and squealing with delight when we make a connection with an editor who likes our material.
We understand that, sooner or later, we’ll get caught peeking when we shouldn’t. Editors tend to frown on those writers whose patience runs out before their manuscripts have had time to go through the editorial process. The ability to wait without fussing keeps editors happy.
The game is played the same way, regardless of which aspect we’re facing.
The game parameters that cover territory available for play are decided first. For instance, if we’re doing a preliminary work-up for a new story, novel, essay, or other lengthy prose piece, certain devices and work gets done first. Synopses, character studies, full outlines and the like are usually thought out to some degree before actual writing begins. It’s understood that these will change as writing continues.
Some writers, like me, have done preliminary work in their heads and will wait until after their writing begins before nailing down specifics in an outline. Other writers jot down entire scenes as they pop into the mind and string those scenes together into a loose story later, as a kind of first draft. However the writer chooses to design their work requires planning, whether subconscious or not.
During the writing process, bits of research necessary to the story can be as wily as any good Hide and Seek player. Winkling out the precise information needed can be tricky and time consuming; like racing from one likely hidey hole to another, looking for the last kid hiding. It takes forethought and planning about the likeliest search pattern to dispel one’s frustration in the search.
Once all the players are accounted for within the writing search, a huge chunk of the work is completed. That chunk, comprised of precise words and phrases, information for accuracy, and the most effective organization of the material, determines the rest of the hunt.
Polishing the copy, finding the best markets for submission, whether to agent or publication, and writing either query letters or cover letters take the writer to that moment of true anticipation about possible outcomes. Soon only patience and distraction will take over. A need to write something else will emerge to move the writer back to the keyboard.
Playing Hide and Seek this way never grows dull. It can be exasperating, tedious, inexplicably easy, and all stages in between, but never really dull. Perhaps that’s why those of us who knew from an early age that they needed to write can never put it away. The game hides within us, seeking expression, whether anyone ever reads our words or not. We must still play.
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