Shots on Goal

In honor of hockey season, I thought I’d write about how a popular hockey term relates to writing. In hockey, the phrase shots on goal refers to how many times the players take a shot with the puck to score. I’m of the opinion that, in writing, shots on goal refers to how many times a writer submits her work for publication. That’s kind of obvious. But let’s look a little deeper.

In hockey, there’s a lot of skating, passing, and fighting, in the players’ quest to score. Writers spend their time thinking, plotting, and writing and sometimes fighting in their quest for publication. Where the hockey players have thousands of fans screaming at them if they don’t take shots, writers often have only themselves or critique partners to answer to. But what other difference is there? Well, there is the net itself. That small square with a big guy (goalie) holding a big stick ready to whack the puck, or the opposing player, if either comes near his territory. That net is the goal. That is what every player is aiming for. It doesn’t matter where on the ice the puck goes, the players are continually trying to get it back to the net, to where they can score.

For writers it’s a little more complicated. Our goal is publication, right? But what is preventing us from our goal? Do we have a big guy with a stick standing in front of the mailbox or the send button on our computers? Do we have other mean guys with sticks trying to wipe us out? No. Not usually.

writers tips and hockey

Hockey players know the more times they take good, deliberate shots at the goal, the more chance they have of scoring. Hmmm . . .  Not bad shots. Not wayward shots. Not weak shots. But practiced, strategic shots at their goal. Ever watch a game where your team is not shooting the puck? They could be making great passes, playing awesome defense, creating explosive breakaway opportunities, and then not shoot the puck! What happens? The other team, perhaps not playing as gracefully, will steal it, whisk it down the ice, and take a shot on goal. They do this over and over and finally they score! My favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings, often won games where there were 50 shots on goal and they scored only three points.

Guess what? The other team had 40 shots on goal and scored two points. See how that works?

We’re back to that question of why writers aren’t taking their shots on goal. Are you submitting your work? If you don’t submit your work, you can’t be published. If publication is your goal, you have to take a shot at it. Over and over. And not just  blind shots, but strategic shots—to editors and publishing houses that are a fit for your work. I have a rule to always have something out there under consideration with an editor. Sometimes these editors take forever to reply and I end up with several projects waiting for a response. I find that the more I submit, the more rejections I get (just like hockey players getting denied by the goalie). But at least I’m in the game. At least there’s hope for publication.

A few months ago I realized that I had six projects under consideration. I was excited because I had never done that before. I had six shots on goal. As it turned out, I got one rejection, two are still pending, and three were accepted! Sticking to my rule has made a difference. Every year during hockey season I’m reminded of that rule, and I’m re-inspired to keep taking those shots on goal. I encourage you to give it a try.

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