Daily Archives: August 1, 2010

Betting on the Long Shot

Today we’re at the horse races.  Our kids love hanging out at the track for our annual family trip. 

We let the kids pick a winner for every race and place a $2 bet for them–regardless of how unlikely the horse is to even get out of the gate.  Over the years we’ve experienced some pretty exciting wins. 

“Go Magic Mittens!” 

We’ve also been crushed by unforseen stumbles one length from the finish line.  In addition, we’ve waited breathlessly for the photo finish to determine if our horse stretched his nose far enough forward to win us back some cash.

My DD bets based on the name of the horse.  She loves ones that tickle her tweeter.  Middle Son places his bet based on the lane number.  Eleven, ten and seven are his favorite picks. 

While Youngest usually chooses by the color of the jockey, he’s been known to pick winners based on a recurring theme.  Magic Mittens followed Red Socks who followed Hat Dance who….  Anyway, Oldest actually reads the stats of the horse and the jockey before spending our his hard earned cash.

In a sense, writers are horses.  We feel an innate pull to enter the rat race of publishing despite the huge odds against us.  We practice, hone and train some more.  We get race ready and send out our work, giving agents and editors a chance to bet on us and our writing. 

Like my kids, agents have a certain set of standards to determine their interest in a manuscript.  After all, they don’t want to bet on a writer if a manuscript doesn’t tickle their tweeters, run in the right lane or look good in blue. 

They study our writing and compare it to the other books in the market.  They check out our potential to edit well, self-promote and make it into the winner’s circle.  Finding the right combination of qualities is tricky business and can be akin to betting on the long shot.

But when that magical manuscript turns up in their slush piles, nothing will deter agents and editors from jumping up and down, waving their arms and screaming, “Come on, Magic Mittens.  Come on!”

Like horse racing, there are no guarantees that a manuscript will cross the finish line first.  Sometimes we walk away from the track with empty hands.  Other times a $2 investment will overflow our pockets. 

We once walked away from a runaway debut with $86 dollars in hand.  It was the most amazing race I’d ever seen.  Our horse first refused to leave the gate, then took off at a leisurely trot.  In the end, it crossed the finish line a head before the rest. 

So, I guess what I’m saying is this: write the novel you feel in your heart.  Hone your craft and place your bet.  If you really believe in it, you just might win the trifecta.  If not, you still ran a good race.  

The good news, they don’t sell aspiring writers to the glue factory.  Even if we never get out of the gate.