So there I was yesterday playing in a Texas Hold 'Em Poker tournament with the slowest bunch of players I've ever encountered. And as always when I have time to just sit and think my mind turned to writing.
Now playing poker and not giving the game your fullest attention can often be an early ticket to poverty, but like I said this particular tournament's pace was excruciatingly slow and when your dealt deuce seven as you down card you have no choice, but to fold and wait for the hand to be played out.
So how does this relate to writing? Follow me on this because what made since last night amidst a thick cloud of cigar smoke and after half a dozen frozen mugs of Shiner Bock might be somewhat of a stretch this fine Sunday morning.
Poker, like writing, and the sea is a steady up and down tide that you must follow and be aware of in order to get where you want to go. One hand you draw pocket aces, and everything looks good so you raise when the bet comes to you. A good story idea fills your mind so you raise the stakes and start plotting character and jotting down plot points and sketching out chapters.
But then the flop comes nine, ten, queen all hearts and you races are a diamond and a club. Now you have to worry about a straight, a flush, or somebody with pocket queens or two pair. Things didn't work out the way you hoped. You're still holding a pretty good hand but no longer is it a sure thing. (Like there is ever a sure thing for in publishing , unless your name is Rowling, King, or Grisham.) Suddenly you've gone from happy to doubtful, but you plunge on and write the story anyway because you still believe in your hand, your manuscript.
For arguments sake lets say the turn card is a three of diamonds - no real help to any one. You go ahead and bet just to see the hand played all the way out. the equivalent to finishing your novel. Now to play devil's advocate I'll present two different scenarios for the last card, better now as the river.
Now you can drown in the river. That is to be ahead and have the best hand only to have that last card get you. For our game lets say the river comes an eight. Anybody with a king as one of their downcards just hit a king high straight which beats you pair of aces. They got you on the river. The better your hand the worse getting beat on the last card hurts. If you just mailed off a single page query and get rejected you're really not surprised. After all, it's not like they even looked at your actual writing. A partial hurts a little more, but you can still fool yourself, The first few chapters just need punched up. If only that agent would have read a bit more. And there there is the full manuscript rejection. The poker equivalent of having pocket aces and getting beat by three twos.
Or that river card could be a third ace. the possibly you could still be beat is there, I don't want to make the scenario a sure thing since that does not jive the realities of the publishing world but three aces is a solid hand, as is a well thought out out, nicely written novel with ample conflict and a sympathetic interesting characters.
You win a pot, you win a contest, an agents send you a form rejection, you lose half your chips. either way you have to deal with the cards you're dealt and get ready for the next hand. Spend too much time counting you chips or cursing yourself for being stupid and the game will pass you by.
My advice -- ride out those waves of emotion and don't be afraid to Go All In when you believe you've got a winner in hand.
For those non poker players out there hope this doesn't come across as mindless dribble. And for the curious I managed to come in first out of forty nine players, the third tournament in a row I've won which just means I'm waaaay over due to lose.
Wish I could say it was one of those million dollar tourney they show on TV or even a high stakes game at the Bellagio but alas I am merely the reigning Texas Hold'em champ of the local Moose Lodge.