The Bag of Marbles

Hi, Gang! Craig with you again, and it’s time to manipulate one of my old parenting lessons into a writing post. This involves advice to my children, which they hated, but still seems to bear some merit.

A few years ago I posted about the Plate of Peas approach to story. It was a moderate success, so I’m trying something similar called the Bag of Marbles.

For those who aren’t old enough, marbles is an ancient gambling game involving little spheres. They were like currency for kids and we played for keeps. I used to keep my winnings in about seven old plastic Purex bleach bottles, only taking a small leather bag of marbles to school.

Enough of the history. I equated the marbles to life skills for my kids. This was another groaner from them, but the idea was that every time you learned a new skill you got to add a marble to your pouch. More marbles makes you more valuable on the job market. At least one of them got it, because she called me up to tell me about the day she learned to operate a forklift. Has nothing to do with her current employment, but it’s something she can claim to have done.

I’m sure to get any number of “lost marbles” comments down below, but we’re going to turn this into a writing post somehow.

Authors have many skills, and sometimes we have to work to develop new ones. This often involves trunk novels, and experimental bits of short fiction. When it works out, you get to add a marble to your collection.

The point here is to challenge yourselves. I do this all the time, and it’s one of the things I enjoy about the process. My recent challenges were to write an open ended series, and a close ended trilogy. They are quite different to pull off, and I’m finding the trilogy to be particularly challenging.

Past challenges were first and even second person POV. Different story structures, including the Fool’s Journey from the tarot deck. I’ve written various types of short fiction, dabbled in comedy and quite a few others.

Relate the marbles tournament to being out there in Amazon Arena. What are you bringing with you so you can compete?

We’re all going to have a different selection available. Maybe some of you honed the skills to find a literary agent, or a publishing contract. Maybe some of you are experts at hand selling books at conventions and bazaars. These are skills I have not worked on.

Some of you are experts at Amazon advertising, social media, or Facebook ads. There are places I can still collect the marble from to improve my chances.

Challenge yourselves. Short fiction is a great place to experiment with new things. If you find yourself frequently writing similar characters, change it up. Maybe your plucky college girl should become a crusty old professor on the verge of retirement for a change. How would that change the plot and character viewpoint?

If you typically write about a band of adventurers, maybe a group of refugees would be worth a try. Write a historical piece. It’s amazing to come up with things in an age before cell phones and the Internet.

66 thoughts on “The Bag of Marbles

  1. Pingback: The Bag of Marbles – Eduardo Silva✓

  2. A great post, Craig. I must admit that my marble bag of stories is very colourful. I don’t think I’ve written one story that is remotely similar to another one. I don’t stay with the same genre either. I love to learn, it is one of my favourite things in life and, given the fact I write stock exchange documents and am used to having them torn to pieces by the lawyers, I am very receptive to feedback and positive criticism which give me additional marbles. PS I also had a mountain of marbles and always beat the boys [grin].

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post, Craig. I have written in past, present, and future tense. I have done two short stories in a series, full length, and anthologies. I’ve stretched myself from westerns to thrillers, and even a love story. My bag has several marbles, but I’d love to add several more.

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  4. Man, my marble bag is three-quarters empty when I think of all the skills in this game I lack! I never was any good at marbles as a kid. I much preferred rolling them down a long vacuum cleaner hose and listening to the cool sound they made.

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  5. Good analogy! I collected marbles but never played the game. I just thought they were pretty:) But in writing, I do try to make myself grow and learn more. There are a lot more marbles I need in my bag:)

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  6. What a great analogy, Craig. I can look back and count the marbles I added to my bag with writing short stories in different genres, getting a publishing contract, and tackling my first series. It makes me feel pretty good. As they say, hindsight is 2020. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I collected mables as a kid and still have a couple of them:) I like the idea of adding new skills to my collection. I do like to try to learn new things and skills. Short stories are a good was to experiment. Good post, Craig.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m definitely always on the growth curve as a writer. It was a challenge for me to write a series (now I’ve done two), and a bigger challenge to write novels with dual timelines. I’ve since discovered I love writing that way. I’ve done novellas, and short stories and experimented with tense in several books. I haven’t published a novel in first person but that might be something I consider down the road. I do prefer third person, but I think first person and first person present are great for psychological and domestic suspense novels.

    Something else I would like to try is writing a historical novel. I’ve done three books that included historical timelines, but I’ve never written an entire novel set in the past. I especially love writing dialogue in earlier time periods.

    I never “shot” marbles but I did love them as a kid. Even today, I have a bag of marbles I keep in my desk drawer. I often take them out and fiddle with them when I’m writing. They’re like little globes of inspiration on my desk. 🙂

    I really enjoyed this post, Craig.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Mae. You are a lot like me on this. We’ve both dabbled pretty far and wide. I always wanted to write an epistolary novel, but never had enough ideas to pull it off. Your dual timelines are pretty close to that. I love your inspiration globes.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Great post, Craig. Last year, I challenged myself to publish a short story, and I love how it came out. This year, I’m challenging myself to write every day (or at least 4 days of the week…baby steps). I’ve never been able to do it, so it will definitely stretch my abilities. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Good thoughts, Craig. We can only improve if we stretch ourselves to reach out to new things. I’m like Staci, I prefer writing in third person, past tense. However, I have a short story that I hope to finish and publish one day that I can’t see writing in anything other than first person. (Still past tense, I don’t enjoy writing in present tense.)

    I’ve written about the past, don’t care to write about the future, but I would like to dig into different genres.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I’ve tried first, second, and third person (definitely prefer third, and second was a nightmare). I’ve tried present and past tense and even dabbled in future (definitely prefer past). I’ve tried many different genres, many different lengths. Stand-alones, series, and even spinoffs. I’d say you nailed it with this one, Craig. We only get better if we keep adding marbles to our bags. We may find favorite marbles, but that doesn’t mean we should only play with those ones. Nice post.

    And Happy New Year!

    Liked by 4 people

    • In ‘normal’ times I teach creative writing ( as far as one can teach creative writing) Second person POV is a nightmare, Staci. Besides the one novel I’ve read in this format many years ago ( so outstanding I can neither remember the author or the title), the only times I’ve seen it used is in walking guides ( you turn right at the signpost, until you end up in a muddy field) or in furniture assembly instructions ( place section A into section B, keeping section C in place with your foot). I think you were very brave to even attempt second person POV. Not something I can do. As for writing about the future – I think this present we’re living in is scary enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Used to have a big container of marbles, but I think they got thrown out long ago. We never really played the game. More that we created obstacle courses to roll them through. Definitely get your analogy with writing. Even if you don’t stay in a new genre for longer than one story, you can still walk away with new skills. For example, horror can teach you how to create tension and suspense for any type of tale.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. My sons always enjoyed collecting marbles. Though they’ve accumulated a lot of life skills, I never thought to use marbles as you have. How clever, Craig, and how perfect for the beginning of a new year! Thank you for the inspiration. 😊

    Liked by 4 people

  14. #JudithBarrow, me too. Being paid in marbles, that is!
    I’ve written fantasy mostly, but last year I published my first historical novel. I’m now considering a short story in something I dislike–present tense.
    I wrote one short story in first person, from the point of view of a cat.
    But there are so many more things to try out. However, one thing I’m definitely not going to try is to write something with no punctuation, or no paragraphs or anything like that. I actually want people to read, enjoy and UNDERSTAND my work!

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Pingback: The Bag of Marbles — Story Empire – yazım'yazgısı (typography)

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