Daily Archives: September 21, 2011

Writing Precision and Marching Band

We’re gearing up for another weekend of marching band.  Saturday will be packed with a parade performance in the morning, a noon field show and a second field show competition in the evening.  The kids will be gone from 7:45am until midnight.  Hopefully they’ll come home with a few new trophies.

Last Saturday they won first in their class…out of two bands.  This Saturday evening, they will again be in a class (A) with two bands.  Maybe first doesn’t sound so impressive when thought of this way, but consider the following.

Last year at this same evening competition, they outperformed every band except two–including the bands in AA and AAA–and garnered the third highest score out of 15 against schools much bigger than theirs.  Now that is impressive.

Traditionally, our tiny band from our tiny town rules the field.  One year, we tied for fifth place in the finals at a multi-state event.  To even earn a spot in the finals, we had to score in the top ten out of 37 bands.  Our band of 60 outperformed bands with 200 marchers.  Another year at another competition, we won the sweepstakes award, which means outscoring every band in the competition regardless of class.

I could belabor the point, taking you through our trophies–which number so many the showcase broke under the weight a year or so back–but I think you get the point.  Quantity doesn’t matter.  Quality does.

Not just on the field, but also in our writing.

We won those trophies through precision.  Our music was crisp.  Our marching in sync.  Our color guard snappy.  The overall flow was perfect.

Likewise, writers do not get agents with sloppy sentences, wordy passages and poorly developed characters.  Authors do not get publishing contracts without honing their skills.  Books do not get buzz without compelling storylines.

Our marching band pulls 40 hour weeks in the summer.  Once school starts, they beat the teachers to school and march outside in the cold fall temps before the sun rises.  They continue to put in about 15 hours of practice each week.

Let me ask you, dear writers, how much time do you devote to your craft?  Are you out to win the trophy?  If so, how do you create precision in your words?  Does the success of others drive you to succeed, or does someone else’s good news make you aware of your own shortfalls?  How do you combat the urge to throw in the flag and march off the field for good?

Curious minds want to know.