Jilly: Earning a Place on the Pro Tour

Earning a Place on the Pro TourForget resolutions. Do you have a dream? Are you content to keep it as a happy place in your mind, or do you intend to make it a reality one day? If you do, what could you do in 2015 to get a step closer? Will you do it?

When we were kids, my brother and I played tennis to a fairly high standard. My parents thought it would teach us discipline, burn up our excess energy, and keep up out of mischief. It did all those things, and it also taught us how much sheer hard work it takes to become good at anything, and how to make the most of whatever natural talent we’d been blessed with.

I don’t play tennis these days, but I love watching the ATP pro tour. It’s great to see the incredible standard achieved by the best players, but I really enjoy the early rounds of tournaments, because I love watching talented rookies trying to break through from the challenger tour. It’s a huge step-up in class, and to see young players work and grow and change until they’re good enough to compete consistently at the highest level is something I find inspiring.

I’m not young, but I’m a rookie at this writing game, and after three solid years of working at my craft, including a year of drinking from the McDaniel fire hose with my friends from 8LW, I’m ready to take a shot at the pro tour. I don’t know if I’m going to make it, but I’m going to enter contests, and query, and pitch, and keep trying, and most importantly I’m going to use those experiences to improve my work.

So, taking inspiration from the talented teenagers and twenty-somethings of today’s tennis tour, here’s my plan for 2015:

Identify and eliminate rookie mistakes
You often see new players on the tour make choices that would give a top coach or a seasoned professional nightmares. The good newbies improve fast, because it’s relatively easy to learn how to take those basic flaws out of your game. I think/hope I did a lot of that in 2014, but I’m sure I’ll make some more howlers. Hopefully I won’t continue to make them.

Find my strengths and learn to play to them
Every player has to find their own game and play to it. Some have a great serve or fantastic ground-strokes, some are naturally attacking and others have great endurance. The trick is to learn to play to their strengths. If they try to play like another great player instead of being themselves, they under-perform and end up looking mediocre.

Develop staying power
It’s one thing to win a match, or earn a place in a tournament, it’s another thing entirely to do it consistently day after day, week after week. You often see young players begin well and then take a dip in form as they adjust to the demands of the tour. I’m going to try to pick up my pace from the beginning of 2015 to see how it feels. Getting used to the challenge of blogging here consistently every week has been incredibly helpful.

Get help
Even the best players have coaches to help them improve their game, and people to advise them on the commercial aspects. Finding the right ones, and persuading them to work with you, is tough. The better you get, the better your chances of working with the best.

Keep improving
The game is ever-changing, and the player who rests on his laurels, even for a moment, is doomed. The best players keep experimenting, trying to improve their weak spots and find new ways to make their game different and better. I think I did a good job at this in 2014. Now I have to do it again, only more so.

Get a support network in place
At every tournament there are more losers than winners. Giving it your all, day after day, month after month, finding the positives despite the defeats and setbacks, can be demoralizing and nobody can do it on their own. Everyone needs somebody to cheer for them no matter what and give them a lift when it all gets too much. I’m glad to say I’ve got this one covered already (thanks, Ladies!).

That’s my plan for this year. What’s yours?

5 thoughts on “Jilly: Earning a Place on the Pro Tour

  1. That is an excellent plan, Jilly. You are well on your way. My plan is to write more, lots more. And I am continuing my study of craft and hoping to improve my writing (and write a lot this year, did I mention that?). Right now, I’m reading a Justine-recommended book “Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View” by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. Excellent look at POV and a quick read.

    • Write more, lots more – I’ll join you in that plan, Michille. I think it’s great that you’re writing fiction as part of your MFA. Nothing like a hard deadline and academic credit to provide a bonus push in the right direction 😉 .

  2. One thing about sports: for kids who play, they learn early on that success takes a lot of hard work. My plan for this year is to schedule my time better so I can work harder on all my books, from designing new covers for my old ones to finishing the new one, plus plotting the next couple. I think it’s entirely possible that I’ll overplan and underdeliver, but imo, it’s better to plan too big than too small. And so, onward into the new year!

    • I agree, Kay – plan big, give it your best shot, and if you don’t do it all this year, that’s what 2016 is for 🙂 . Here goes!

  3. This is fantastic analogy, Jilly! Lots of food for thought here.

    (-: A couple of things that make things better for writers than tennis players. One: there’s no age limit on our skills; in fact, a little age can make our writing better. Two: there isn’t just one pro circuit. Finding our best game is the important part of figuring out the genre, length, style of publishing, etc. etc. for us.

    (-: On the tennis player side, they get cute uniforms. I suppose we could come up with some writing uniforms that are practical (and ink proof? with arm patches where our forearms rest on the desk?).

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