As a pee-wee soccer coach, I had kids I thought of as “fancy players” and those who were “scrappy players.”
The “fancies” went to expensive camps and/or played on travel teams. The “scrappies” learned all their skills on the field. The scrappies understood the gist of the game and were eager to learn more. They were coachable, hustled, showed up early, and worked hard. I always thought of the scrappies as the underdogs.
The term has grown on me so much that I refer to myself as a scrappy writer. What I mean is that I’m not formally trained — no MFA here. And it shows in my work. I believe fancy writers’ books are probably better written than mine. They’re more likely to get big book deals and win awards, deservedly so. Does that make me an underdog? Maybe. I mean, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
Should I have gotten an MFA? No doubt that’s the best way to learn the craft from experts. But the time… the money… and, frankly, there’s just so much that can be learned on the street. Resources abound: critique groups, conferences, communities, blogs, articles, magazines, and books. If you want to learn, you should use all these resources. But here’s the key: Moderation. Here’s why: If you’re reading about writing and talking about writing, you aren’t writing. Scrappy soccer players get better by playing. See where I’m going here? Writing is a muscle. The more you do it, the stronger it gets. So, if you’re a writer, close this post now and get to work! Everyone else can read on…
Yes, an MFA would’ve been great, but it couldn’t give me something very valuable that I already had: a mind with tons of great ideas that spins great stories, and an unmatched determination.
Enter: Sydney Mackenzie Knocks ‘Em Dead.
My sophomore novel is an oh-so-funny paranormal mystery about a girl from southern California whose family moves to Delaware when they inherit a cemetery with secrets (think: tween Ghost Whisperer). This novel didn’t sell on its original submission to publishers. As such, it joined a pile of other work in my trunk. But, I loved that story a LOT. Every year or so I’d dust it off and work on it. It was fine-tuned many times and eventually DID sell. Of all my books it might be my favorite, not only because I think it’s an awesome, well-plotted story with funny characters, but because Sydney had to wait so long to be on the shelves. She’s an underdog, and who doesn’t like a good underdog story?
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