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Ready, aim, fire!

If only writing were this easy...

As part of my Citizens Police Academy class, I spent Saturday morning at the shooting range learning how to hit a target with a Sig Sauer P229. Thanks to the Seven Fundamentals of Marksmanship, I did pretty well (see photo).

I love the objective nature of shooting at a target. You either hit in the critical area or you don’t. No guessing there. If only there were seven fundamentals of writing that could guarantee a hit.

Certainly there are things writers must do if they want a sale, but there is no set of rules that if followed precisely will ensure a publishing contract. Still, I thought there might be some correlation between the fundamentals of marksmanship, and what it takes to sell a book.

1. Stance: To hit the target, you need a solid foundation. We must study our craft and write regularly in order to build a good story.

2. Grip: Hold the weapon firmly. Hold on to your writing time. Don’t let family, friends, or other commitments keep you from it. Schedule your writing hours and stick to them.

3. Sight Alignment: The front and rear sights should be aligned on top and with equal space on either side of the front post. Align your daily activities with your writing goals.

4. Sight Picture: The sights must align properly with the target. Stay focused on your ultimate writing goals and evaluate regularly to ensure your aim is still good.

5. Breathing: Remember to breathe! Working toward publication can be stressful. Remember to take care of yourself along the way. Deep breathing, yoga, exercise, time with family and friends, and plenty of sleep can keep you refreshed.

6. Trigger control: Use a slow, consistent pressure on the trigger. When you’re ready, start submitting. Do your homework about agents/editors, get your MS, synopsis, and query letter to a professional level, and then fire away.

7. Follow Through: Keep your eyes on the target and finger on the trigger, ready for the next shot. Never give up in the face of rejection. If an agent or editor passes, send out another query. While you’re waiting, start working on the next book.

These rules may not get you published, but they can’t hurt. What are some of your fundamentals of writing?

For more on my day at the range, see this post.

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  1. Curtis



    You can get a laser site grip-overmold for that SIG. But, clearly, from the looks of the target you don’t need one.

    • Reply

      Hey, Curtis, I’ve missed you! What have you been up to? How’s your writing going?

      And yeah, I probably don’t need the laser sight, especially since I don’t own the gun. 😉

      • Curtis


        I’ve cut back on internet time ,worked through some craft books and rediscovered cooking. My heart Doc. wouldn’t be proud but Norma and I have enjoyed the time in the kitchen together.

        Then I spent some time with books and movies to see just how ploted some of these things were or weren’t. Instead of hunting down the “best” I figured a run at what I figured had to be plotting flops would be a reveal. I figured a Bruce Willis movie,The Whole Ten Yards and a Larry the Cable Guy movie would just about be the end or bottom of the line. I thought for sure these hurry up and throw it together movies would be structural junk.

        I was so wrong. The Whole Ten Yards is plotted like you wouldn’t believe as is the Cable Guy movie. The writers knew what they were doing. Ten Yards is so multilayered it gave me a headache. The movie is what it is. But, to make it work the writers had to be top of the line or it would have sailed into the wall. It didn’t.

        Ten Yards had every single one of the elements that McKee describes in his book–Story. ALL of THEM and layered to boot.

        I don’t give up easy. I turned to a pile of remaindered paper backs. Fished out a Western called Genesis Rider. I thought ah ha, this will be a bust for sure. WRONG. Not wrong but bad wrong. No, Genesis Rider will not replace ” The Help” on the NY Best Seller List. But, if you want to see how to plot a story it’s a good 1.25 to spend.

        And, to make it worse if I were going to demo “theme” in a story I would pass out copies of Genesis Rider. Why? Because the writer takes on the Christian ” turn the other cheek” head on. In fact the question,,, will the preacher kill the bad guy in the end drives the whole story.

        This Western, originally priced five bucks and change is totally theme driven. Once you start this book you may not like anything about it but you will finish it to find the answer to that question. Structurally, it is a quest story as old as time ala Jason and the Argonauts. I dissected this book. I hunted hard for holes. Sorry. Will Cade, yeah go ahead and try to find out who Will Cade is, flipped every switch. B L E W my mind.

        Anyway, that’s been my new learning curve.

        Just read through your last few posts. Sounds like you had a blast in NY. The Western I mentioned was published by Dorchester. Did they have a rep. at the convention? From their site it looks like Romance has morphed into a long list of variations.

        I need to put the last period in here somewhere and go to bed. 🙂

        • Reply

          Wow, Curtis, I’m impressed! You’ve been busy. What a great education. I’ve been thinking I need to slow down and start dissecting books and movies again myself.

          NYC was a lot of fun. I’m already counting the days until the conference in Anaheim next year. 😉

          Dorchester had some issues last year and defaulted on a lot of royalty payments. To be honest, I didn’t think they were still in business. But, yes, romance has a whole host of subgenres: paranormal, historical, Regency historical, romantic suspense (that’s me!), contemporary, romantic comedy, erotic romance, young adult (read: teen)…

          I don’t want to distract you from your great work, but I appreciate you checking in every now and then. Thanks!

          • Curtis


            Gwen, thank you.

            My learning curve strategy was on the order of “cram for the final.” It worked. At least to my satisfaction. All that to say, I will chime in more often now that I have that out of the way.

            Storyfix mentioned that the August issue of Vanity Fair has an article about Hiller’s Catch-22. Picture of Hiller’s blocked out work sheet on page 118 will blow your mind. Course, I’m too old school to like, buy a Vanity Fair and actually go through the check out at Wal Mart. Know what I mean? 🙂 Norma to the rescue.

            It was worth the read. 1. It was his book to write. I believe If he failed to write it nothing of the kind would have happened. Something else maybe, sort of kinda. But, nothing on the order of Catch-22. 2. From a plotting/structure standpoint it is probably the best example of how pantsing and plotting work together. Actually, I don’t think Heller would know or care what that conversation is about. We are talking about the late 50’s early 60’s here.

            Anyway, for those who think Catch-22 was a stream of conscience event on the order of a Kerouac’s, On The Road, Heller’s writing methods pretty well dispel that.

  2. Reply

    Excellent reminders. And as a side note: what is that target supposed to BE? It looks like a test tube suspended in a beaker. Should the NIH be infiltrated by evil lab specimens, I guess you’re the person they’ll call!

  3. Reply

    I always loved the two weeks we used to spend at the range qualifying each year when I was in the Marines. Very calm, very peaceful, it almost had a Zen-like quality.

    For two weeks we lived by the mnemonic BRASS-F: Breath, Relax, Aim, Stop, Squeeze-Follow through. Until reading your post, I never really realized how that could apply to most other things in life, especially writing. As someone who makes their living off the written word, I may be making a few alterations in my process in the future.

    Also, nice group. Targets can be any shape, the goal is to put the round where you aim, so it doesn’t matter what shape it is.

    • Reply

      Foggy Dew: I think anything that demands your complete attention can have that calming effect. Something worth remembering for me. I might have to “borrow” my son’s Airsoft rifle from time to time. 😉

      I like the BRASS-F mnemonic, and I agree that anything difficult could probably benefit from the same steps.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. Good luck with your own writing!

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