Practice Makes… Hits

Travis Richardson_5x7_300dpi (1)   by Travis Richardson 

Long before I was published I would give myself write assignments. The one I used the most (besides stream of consciousness rambling) involved grabbing a book, opening a random page, and blindly pointing at text. I would copy the sentence into a notebook and launch into a story based on those words. I never published anything from those exercises, but it helped build a foundation for some of the skills I have today. If I looked through those notebooks, I’m not sure I could use that material. I was younger and my views have altered with time, but it could be possible. Or perhaps somebody could take my scribbles from years ago and make it into something good.

In rock music there are a couple instances that I’m aware of where guitarists warmed up with some practice chords before a gig and big things came of it. The leader singer(s) heard the music and decided to put words behind the music creating hit songs. According to Joe Walsh he was warming up with a difficult routine when Don Henley and Glenn Fry asked Joe what he was playing. Henley put lyrics to Walsh’s exercise and The Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane” was born. 

Similarly, Slash from Guns and Roses used the chords to Sweet Child O’ Mine to warm up, not thinking much about the musical quality. Axl Rose thought otherwise and the hit that put them on the map was born.

So I guess what I’m saying is that practicing your craft can lead to greater things, even if you can’t see it with a clear set of eyes.

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Travis Richardson has been a finalist for the Macavity, Anthony, and Derringer short story awards. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in crime fiction publications such as Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Jewish Noir, and All Due Respect. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter Ransom Notes, reviews Anton Chekhov short stories at  http://www.chekhovshorts.com, and sometimes shoots a short movie. His novella, KEEPING THE RECORD, concerns a disgraced baseball player who will do anything to keep his tainted home run record.  www.tsrichardson.com 

 

My second person crime story “Cop In A Well” came out last week in Spinetingler Magazine: http://goo.gl/2c0IvV  Also my short story “Quack and Dwight” in JEWISH NOIR is a finalist for an Anthony in the short story category. The same story was a top ten finalist in Screencraft’s 2015 Short Story contest. You can read a copy of the story here.

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12 Responses to Practice Makes… Hits

  1. Mike Staton says:

    We all have our seedlings from which great ideas are born, or at least we hope so. On my author’s page, I used to write short stories based on photographs or paintings I’d see when I googled or looked at Pinterest. I haven’t done it lately, but will probably do one down the road, since it’s a fun mental exercise.

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  2. Travis,
    I’ve seen the breadth and quality of your writing and it seems like you put in a lot of practice. I can see how that has paid off for you. As you know, I like to write Six Word Stories and that exercise helps me practice to keep my work tight.
    Thanks for the reminder.
    – Stephen

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  3. Joe Stephens says:

    I definitely agree. All writing makes all writing better. Since I started writing for a magazine, I feel strongly that it’s improved my fiction. And I’m sure the reverse is true as well.

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  4. katewyland says:

    I used to be a tech writer and also did magazine and newspaper articles. I always stewed over the articles and spent a lot of time on them. Then I became the newsletter editor for three different groups (two at a time). Ideally, members were supposed to contribute articles and stories and sometimes they did. But I ended up doing most of them. By the end of the 10 years, I could pop out a story little angst. That definitely helped when I started my blog (and joined this one). And it helped with my fiction. I’m a slow writer but I don’t agonize over things like I used to. So I agree, practice may not make perfect but it certainly helps.

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  5. Doris says:

    Travis,

    I couldn’t agree more. The Improv writing group I attend on a regular basis is key to some of my writing. It only makes you better the more you do and try to improve.

    Doris

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  6. Great post, Travis! Never thought of doing exercises like that, but now I will! Thanks for the inspiration!

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  7. It’s interesting to hear how hit songs were created. I’m sure there are works out there that were once a result of practice writing.

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  8. When I was younger I wrote a lot which now fills a large bin. Sometimes, I go through it and see where my writing has drastically improved in all areas.
    I use to think it all had a purpose, the reason for hanging onto it for so long. I believe I now have discovered the purpose. Thanks for helping!

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  9. Wranglers says:

    Perfect practice makes perfect. That’s how artist learn, they copy from the Masters until they feel comfortable to create their own. Thanks for the song links, and I’m loving photos of your wife and baby, and of course you. Cher’ley

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  10. Nancy Jardine says:

    When we talk of writing practise making our writing better, Travis, it makes me feel that I’m still very much a flegling and that it’ll be a long time till my wings are fully unfurled and wide flying!

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  11. Great post, Travis. I especially loved the G&R video. 🙂 I had no idea that it was born from Slash just fooling around on the guitar. Thanks for a great reminder about practice, practice, practice.

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  12. S J Brown says:

    I agree practice is important. I practice approaching animals, practice focusing the camera at difficult angles, practice climbing with photo equipment, practice setting up a camera on a tripod. When I am writing I practice by writing about odd things I never plan to publish, then go back later and examine what I wrote.

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