Games Writers Play #9: The Race

Scott William Carter   March 16, 2010  

gwpAll of this productivity begs the question:  What are you doing with all this writing?  Are you putting these novels, short stories, articles, haikus, or whatever else you’re writing into the mail to people who can pay you money for them?  If you want to be a professional writer, and not merely a dabbler, then I truly hope so.

In this Games series, I’m mostly focusing on tips, techniques, and mental gimmicks that writers use to get down the words.  But I’m assuming that you want to be read, and not only that, but that you want to be compensated fairly for your efforts.

For a lot of writers, actually putting their work in an envelope and mailing it to an editor (or via email, which is becoming more common these days) is a major hurdle.  Believe me, I understand.  Those rejections can be painful.

But the more you can make the submission process into a game, one that’s even a little fun, the less you worry about the rejections.  So here’s something called The Race that a lot of writers have used to achieve publishing success — invented by writer Dean Wesley Smith back in the 1980s and used as a motivational tool by lots of writers today.  Here’s how it works:

  • You get one point for every short story you’ve submitted to an editor
  • You get 3 points for every partial — meaning opening chapters and synopsis/proposal — you’ve submitted to an editor
  • You get 8 points for every completed novel you’ve submitted to an editor

You can only count each work once.  When the work sells and you receive the check — this is important, because lots of deals fall through at the last minute — then you remove the points.

The Race works best when you have a lot of writers posting on a weekly basis, everybody sharing their points.  Create a listserv so everybody knows where everybody stands and make sure the people who participate are only positive and encouraging to others.  It’s not a game that works for everyone, but since you’re really only competing with yourself, it tends to work fairly well for most writers.  And of course you can use this game by yourself, setting a goal of reaching 100 points or some other number that makes you reach.

Since it places the emphasis on submitting, and not selling, the focus is on an area you as a writer can control.  On a listserv I’m on, it’s almost always the writers with the most points in the Race that are doing the best as far as selling and moving up the career ladder.  Imagine that?


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All posts in this series can be found at