Monday, June 25, 2012

Close Only Counts in Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. Or does it?

The other night, I heard a really good sermon on “almost”.

You know the scripture. Acts 26:28. “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

King Agrippa wanted to believe, and he had an open mind toward Paul’s preaching, but he stopped short of that final step. Almost wasn’t good enough in the end.

I know it’s a big jump, but let’s talk about horseshoes, hand grenades, and our writing.

You know the old saying, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”

Horseshoes is a game where you throw horseshoes at a post and whoever hooks the post or gets the closest wins. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that if I get the hand grenade close enough to my target, it’ll do the job.

I read one comment that sums this up pretty accurately, “I almost won the lottery! I was only off by one number.” lol

So, what does it mean to be “this close” to some of your publishing dreams?

Let’s throw out some oft-heard comments…

~ I was this close to entering that contest.
~ I'm this close to finishing my manuscript.
~ I was this close to winning the The Genesis, The Golden Heart, The Rita, The Carol (take your pick).
~ I'm this close to landing an agent.
~ I'm this close to publication.
~ I'm this close to another contract.
~ I’m this close to landing on the NYT Bestseller list.

Uh huh.

You can be “this close” for a long, long time in this business.

So what can you do to tip the odds in your favor? Hmmm, let’s take another look at horseshoes and hand grenades.
Take a gander at TheBest Horseshoe Pitcher Ever. But come right back. We’ll be waiting…

This video was posted in 2010, and it says, “Alan Francis has won the horseshoe pitching world championship the past seven years.”

Seven years? Wow!

Did you see the still shots in the video? Pictures of Alan as a kid, and as a teen throwing horseshoes in competition? Intense concentration. The right attire. The right form. He even has his own horseshoe pit in his backyard. And practice, practice, practice. Even though close would be good enough, he’s not taking any chances, and it looks like most of his throws are dead ringers!

I didn’t find a Hand Grenade Champion. Go figure.

But I did find specific throwing instructions for hand grenades. Obviously, soldiers are trained to throw grenades to maximize the destruction of the target while keeping themselves and their buddies safe. I’ve never thrown a hand grenade. I’ve never been trained. I would probably panic and blow myself (or someone else!) up.

It stands to reason that the more someone practices throwing a grenade, the more control they’ll have over their throw, and the closer they’ll get to the target every time. Sure, close works for a hand grenade, but dead on target (pun intended) is even better.

We’re all holding our thumb and forefinger about an inch apart and saying, “I’m this close” to something. 

Whether it be finishing a manuscript, entering that contest, or waiting for the phone to ring with the news of a contract.

Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Or does it?

Keep holding your fingers close together.

Because that gap between your thumb and forefinger could close with the click of an email, or the ringing of the phone.

And then you will be THERE.


  1. Pam,

    I'm THIS close to finishing the edits on book 2. WAHOOOOO!!!

    Thanks for this encouragement. Ha! Wonderful title too!

    Have a happy week everyone.

    Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, warm from the oven to go with Helen's coffee... Help yourself!

  2. I read somewhere that hand grenades used by the U.S. Armed Forces were initially designed to resemble a baseball, based on the belief that every American knows how to throw a baseball.

  3. The coffee's here!

    I've been "this close" so many times over the years that I do my best to not think about what I have submitted.

    Now back to the revisions I'm "this close" to finishing.


  4. I'm "this close" to making myself sit down and write.

    Now, I've got to go while I still feeling inspired.

    Great points, Pam.


  5. I am doing my own mini version of Speedbo this week in order to be closer to finishing my manuscript. Sometimes being "this close" means setting other things aside and concentrating on what is before us!

    Thanks for a thought provoking post!

    Peace, Julie

  6. Hi Pam:

    Close depends on who is being shaved!

    It’s all POV.

    When you’ve been missing by a mile, close looks pretty good. Close to a RITA probably means you’ve finaled! One number off on a loto probably means you won a small fortune instead of a large one. I’d sure like to be close to being a millionaire.

    Tina is going to say I’m being a ‘smarty pants’ (which is better than being a ‘smarty pantser’) but I know what you mean. The moral premise is: don’t be satisfied with being close. Use being close as an incentive to push even harder to cross the finish line.

    BTW I’ve actually had grenade training but they didn’t really trust us. We were just Air Police – nothing close to being a Marine.

    Our training grenades were real in every way except they had a firecracker charge in them. There was a big bang and smoke but no shrapnel. In this case you had to be really, really close to get hurt.

    One airman was so nervous that he let the grenade go on the backswing and the grenade flew behind him! (It’s no wonder we were never issued grenades.)

    I was much happier with a K9 attack dog than I would have been walking around with a live grenade. Talk about close: we K9 handlers were told not to let the dog loose unless we were willing to shot the intruder. “Unlike you," the instructors would say, "that dog isn’t going to miss!”


    P.S. KC…when can I order a copy of book II? I’d like to buy the first copy.

  7. Pam, what a great post on avoiding procrastination and embracing finishing the race/the book!

    Perfect analogy!

    I think one of the toughest aspects of writing is finishing. And then ENTERING, and SUBMITTING....

    Except in my case where I submitted horrible stuff and made editors gag and retch.

    Besides me, though, I think it's tough for lots of folks and you just have to keep on, keepin' on. I love the horseshoe pitcher. Dedication, devotion, perseverance, persistence.

    And prayer.


    KC, thank you for the cookies!!! And Helen, that's so stinkin' normal. Like Lucy holding out that football for Charlie Brown and whisking it away at the last minute. I promise you that's happened to all of us...

    And still does. :)

    Just so you know!

    Julie, yes, yes, yes! Those tiny, personal goals are my mainstay for working ahead of the curve!!! Go you!!!

  8. Oh, Vince, you have a James Herriot way of telling stories that I love.

    You should write them sometime, with a romance interwoven, like Herriot did in his veterinary stories about doing a stint in the Royal Air Force...

    And falling in love with Helen, his beautiful bride.

    I can totally see you weaving a story like that, larger than life and funny. I smile just thinking about Herriot's work. And yes, he has a place of honor on my keeper shelf!

  9. this applies to other thinks like applying for jobs. almost applying doesn't get you the job.
    It reminds me of my niece when she was about 3 came in crying and upset. She said that the cat had looked at her and almost scratched her. she was still several feet away from it and the poor cat didn't do anything but she was so upset. It was so hard not to laugh.

  10. Very encouraging post to start off the week. How about this: I am this close to being done with the school year! One week and I'm free for most of the summer. Yeehaw!!!

    This post also goes along with a sermon I heard yesterday. It was on TV, but not sure who he was -- some of you might have seen it. Very motivational and spoke to my heart.

    He talked about settling. How we're all so willing to settle short of our goal. Like this isn't my dream job, but it's good enough. I applied it to writing -- I'm not published, but the journey is so much fun I could settle with this, right? Uh, wrong! The TV preacher was way more eloquent. He talked about God's plan never being about us settling for less than He wants for us.

    Anyway, the two -- the sermon and your post have double whammied my motivation! Thank you!

  11. Right now, I'm 'this close' to finishing the first third of my WIP.

  12. Hallelujah and Amen!
    Thanks for the post,Pam, I can definetely relate.
    Now, I knew about Horseshoes and all but the Hand Grenades? Praise God for google!



  13. Pam: the great motivator!

    You're right. How many years have all of us spent saying "I want to be a writer" before we made that leap into "I am a writer"? What does it take to make us hunker down, get in our zone, and become serious about the next step?

    I was "this close" to winning the Fool For Love contest...until Melissa Jaegers showed up (Yay, Melissa!).... But there's next year, the next contest, the next book...

    Meanwhile, I'm "this close" to finishing edits and getting this book back BEFORE the deadline. Back to work!

  14. Go KC. Keep that thought in mind.

    Just THIS close.

    And finishing those edits is something you can control ... unlike, say, a wayward hand grenade.

  15. OMG Pam Alan Francis is amazing. I'm lucky to throw horseshoes within 3 feet of the target much less a ringer every time.

    And I'm relieved you haven't explored your hand grenade prowess.


    Close is something we're all familiar with. Now it's time to push that "close" acrss the "mission completed" line.

    As Alan demonstrates, it takes practice, practice, practice.

    Oh, and let's not forget "close" counts in dancing, too : )

  16. Interesting, Walt, and probably true. And little boys just automatically want to throw something round, don't they?

  17. Helen, we're rooting for you on those revisions. I'm holding my fingers together for you!

    Yes, Connie! Do it! I promise that half the battle is getting started.

    Julie HS, I know what you mean. Some days I fiddle with everything else all day and at the end of the day, don't have much progress on my wip and/or revisions.

    Starting is Job #1, and narrows that gap just a little more each day.

  18. Kav, the fellow you heard is so right. God doesn't want us to settle. He wants us to succeed.

    Finish that rough draft. Finish the polish. Finish the book.

    We may start out as the Bad News Bears, but with polish and perserverance and moxy to finish, we'll end up the St. Louis Cardinals!!

  19. Vince said: Use being close as an incentive to push even harder to cross the finish line.

    What a great point. (I should have thought of it myself! lol)

    The passion we put into our words and actions when we bemoan being THIS close to something is fuel to turn this close into the goal.

    Vince, I don't know if my son's hand grenades were real or not (in Army National Guard training), but this mom thought they were! Ack!

  20. Great post, Pam! I want to be right on target with my writing. Which means, I have to write. Or edit, as that's the phase I'm in now. :)

    I don't want to settle for good enough, but to strive to be my best. With God's help.

  21. Ruth, wasn't that guy amazing?

    I've thrown a few horseshoes, okay, like maybe 5 times in my life. The horseshoe pit was the "guys" domain, and none of the other girls/women ever played. But I wanted to try my hand at it.

    Just like knife throwing, and mumbly peg.... lol Tried those too. I need to work on my knife throwing. I like my toes too much to try mumbly peg ever again though!

    I'm just competitive enough to think that with practice, I could be pretty good at horseshoes, but there's the rub. I was never passionate enough about it to actually PRACTICE.

    My husband says he can't lasso a calf, but he's never taken the time to practice, and he never has a GOOD rope either.

    I bought what I thought was a good "roping" rope for him once... Ever rope he's ever gotten has ended up being used to tie the cow, or wrestle the calf to the ground, or keep a gate closed, etc.

    Good ropes for lassoing have to be taken care of. Waxed or something. Dunno. I'm not a lasso expert.

    Hmmm, getting THIS close definitely doesn't count in roping, does it? Not when you see the calf sprinting over the next hill...

    The point is, just about EVERYTHING takes passion, perserverance, and practice to move from this close to "gotcha"!

  22. Great analogy Pam.

    Jodie Wolfe

  23. Jenny, both good analogies.

    And your poor little niece! But, yes, she ALMOST got scratched, and that was enough to send her into panic mode.

    Sounds like she's got a good imagination. Maybe she'll be a writer some day! lol

  24. Y'all may have already celebrated this. I wasn't around over the weekend (or even late last week). But I just saw that Mary Curry doubled finaled in the Duel on the Delta!

    Also, Christy Smith was the other finalst!!! I'm so excited for both of you!!

  25. You're so right, Pam! Practice, practice, practice is so important and it vastly increases the odds of hitting our desired target, not just "coming close." And even though self-publishing e-books now is a wonderful "short cut" option for many, this isn't a time for Christians to put mediocre, poorly crafted and unpolished work out in the marketplace. E-books by Christians shouldn't just "come close," the quality should SHINE.

  26. Pam, fun post!! A good motivation to push through to what we want to accomplish.

  27. Kav, so glad you're almost through with the school year! Now that's a this close with a definite END in sight. Yes!

    Never settle for less than what God has planned.

  28. Audra - so glad you said STL Cards instead of like... the Yanks. [Though I do get the YES network now...]

    So close...

    Feel like I've been there for a while now. "Everyone" keeps saying I'm "almost there", but I still feel like I'm spinning my wheels most of the time.

    And in an effort to stop that, since I'm not even 'this close' to finishing this dratted historical deal, I'm joining Julie HS for mini-Speedboing this week. In fact, I posted in 1K1HR that I was starting at :00 so I probably should go do that ;).

  29. Go Julie and Carol! Hope you have a great mini-speedbo week!

  30. Rose :)

    Ganise, so glad you stopped by. Google rocks, doesn't it?

  31. "...and nuclear warfare." is a line I've heard a time or two. I think that's definitely one best left to the experts.

    The horseshoe champion is amazing. And it's how he met his wife. Sounds like great story fodder to me.

    I'm not close at all, but I am ready to start again. I finished working on the pages for the Ruthy Crit I won several weeks ago. Tomorrow I pick up where I left off in early May.

    Today, I have to hustle because it's Summer Reading at the library in an hour. My 5 year old will never forgive me if we're late.

    Thanks for a great post, Pam!

  32. I'm this close to doing something I'm kind of excited about.
    And I don't want to talk about it.

    But if I do it, which I might, then I'll let you know.

    I'm also very mysterious. Aren't I?

  33. Loved the post title. Made me snicker.

    Just last week I might have been a bit chastised by this post. But trying something new. Getting up half hour earlier to write. Started Saturday. So far, so good. Feels productive without sacrificing too much sleep. Don't intend to be "close" too much longer.

  34. Gosh!! Amen, Pammy!~

    Don't let that little bit of almost discourage you from quitting.

    EVER./ EVER.

  35. Hi Ruth:

    Thanks for you nice comments about my comment. I’ve been very close to reading Herriot many times but I’ve always stopped. Usually I read a blurb about him lamenting the short lives of pets and that stopped me from reading the book. I didn’t want to read about pets dying. But I’m going to give him a try now.

    I didn’t know Herriot was in the RAF. Well, anyway, I just downloaded:

    “All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and All Things Wise and Wonderful” for my Kindle from our Tulsa County Library.

    I didn’t even have to leave my chair! How are authors going to sell books when readers can just download them for free from libraries?

    I’m even feeling put out right now because I have to drive a full mile to the library to get a copy of Ezra Pound poems and “The solace of leaving early” book by Haven Kimmel that has just come in. I am very curious about this book.


  36. Very inspiring post, Pam! This business takes practice and commitment, just like any other worthwhile endeavor. And a big part of it is learning from our mistakes and "almosts."

    Glynna, I totally agree with your comment about self-pubbed e-books. We definitely owe our readers the same quality found in traditionally published books. I do wonder where this latest trend is taking the book publishing industry, though. It certainly is a brave new world!

  37. Hi Pam:

    It never occurred to me that other services might not use live grenades for practice. But now I don’t feel so wimpy. It makes sense. Real grenades are very expensive. The training grenades are just like the real ones but can be used over and over again. Besides, grenades’ are notoriously dangerous. Shrapnel is unpredictable and can go anywhere. I’m sure I can’t throw a grenade further than it can send shrapnel back at me.

    BTW: The first thing they tell you is that a grenade is not a baseball. It’s so heavy that if you throw it like a baseball you risk throwing your arm out. You kind of throw it like a discus and then you get down!

    Isn’t it great to be talking about grenades? You can pick a topic!



    P.S. Tina -- did you practice with live grenades in the Army?

    P.P.S. How’s everyone’s Seepbo FinFic coming? I’m already close to my 50K goal on my “Sidney Saves the World” – 100% pantsered epic. Expect an announcement soon. : )

  38. I'm back for a bit. On my lunch break at the day job.

    Jan asked: What does it take to make us hunker down, get in our zone, and become serious about the next step?

    Jan, this question is universal for unpublished and published. And as I think about it, I realize that we're all different, we come from different backgrounds, different work ethics, and a different set of expectations.

    My reason for not taking the next step might not be the same as the next persons. Sigh.

    When you find the answer, let me know, okay?

    PS. I think I accidentally bought HOT banana pepper rings for my salad! Whew! I shouldn't have ANY trouble getting my 8 cups of water in today!

  39. I don't want to settle for good enough, but to strive to be my best. With God's help.

    Well said, Jeanne T!

    Thanks Jodie! Glad to see your smiling face in Seekerville. Do you like banana peppers? I'll gladly share....

  40. Congrats to Mary Curry and Christy Smith on the Duel!!!

    Now, why do I picture you two ladies with your Colts strapped on, measuring off paces on some dusty Western street? lol

  41. You're exactly right, Pam.

    That incentive that will push us to the next thing is different for everyone.

    For the horseshoe thrower, it's beating his own 90% success rate.

    For me, it's honing the craft - always shooting for a better sentence or a better scene. I'd love to be the kind of writer whose readers can't wait for the next book to be published - and then never disappoint them.

  42. This deserves a bump in the comments: And even though self-publishing e-books now is a wonderful "short cut" option for many, this isn't a time for Christians to put mediocre, poorly crafted and unpolished work out in the marketplace. E-books by Christians shouldn't just "come close," the quality should SHINE.

    It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that traditionally published books should do the same!

  43. Hi, Thanks Pam! And thanks Glynna Kaye I agree a Christian's work should shine!

    When my two older kids were in Christian School they learned to set daily, weekly and monthly goals -- and REACH them. That is ingrained in their lives and they are doing well because of it.

    I didn't want to think about all the times I have come close but I will for a minute and then get busy.

    Thanks you have inspired me again!

    Mary Connealy I will be watching for the mystery to unfold.

  44. Great inspiration, dear Pam. Needed this today. Thanks!

  45. So close...

    Feel like I've been there for a while now. "Everyone" keeps saying I'm "almost there", but I still feel like I'm spinning my wheels most of the time.

    The fact that others in the industry are telling you this lends credence to the fact that the gap between your thumb and forefinger is narrowing.

    You are not alone. We all have our THIS close moments.

  46. I've also found the close counts in mouse sightings.
    Even if it's only close, I'm on a chair screaming.

  47. Andrea, some things take precedence, and the Summer Reading program is definitely one of those things!

    Ah, Mary, what are you gonna do? Chase down a mouse? Go out for lunch instead of eating in at the day job? The suspense is killing me!

  48. Patricia, that's wonderful. And I need to do that too. But I also need to use that early morning time to get outside on the bicycle before it gets too hot.

    Early mornings are not my best time of day, so more power to YOU!

  49. Myra: And a big part of it is learning from our mistakes and "almosts."


  50. Oh yeah, Mary, close definitely counts in mouse sightings.

    Most definitely.

  51. Come on, Connealy! You have to tell us now!


    You said: "I didn’t find a Hand Grenade Champion. Go figure."

    Thanks for my first laugh this morning, girlfriend -- this was SO fun to read and SO very true!!

    I remember the first year I entered the Golden Heart and didn't final. I SOOOO wanted to know my ranking out of 40-something Inspy entries, so I contacted RWA and asked for my ranking. They told me to call back after the awards ceremony in July, so guess what?? I did!! And I found out that out of 40-something entries or so, I ranked #6 -- 2 away from finaling, and let me tell you something, darlin' -- that "close" sure counted for me because it told me that I was SO close and that with just a little more practice, a little more patience and a lot more prayer, I would make it. And you know what??? The next year I finaled in the GH!!!

    So, I am inclined to agree with you -- this is a tough business and we need all the encouragement we can get, which is why "close" doesn't just count in horseshoes and hand grenades ... it counts in the writing journey as well because it's a much-needed measure and an encouragement for those of us pressing on.


  53. Pam, such a thoughtful post.

    When writers final in contests and receive "good" rejection letters...when they understand GMC and how to build a story...when they've worked hard to hone their craft, they're close. But, as you mentioned, being close can last a long time.

    I call it hitting a plateau.

    Like in dieting, extended effort is often needed to make that sale.

    Or sometimes it means making a slight shift in direction.

    My direction shift was adding a faith element to my story and pitching to Love Inspired Books, which was Steeple Hill at the time.

    Seekerville: Think about the small change you might need to go from rejection to contract.

    Fingers crossed for everyone's WIP to be on the mark!

  54. "Because that gap between your thumb and forefinger could close with the click of an email, or the ringing of the phone."

    What a wonderful sentence! A keeper for sure :-)

    Congrats + congrats to Mary Curry . . . and congrats to Christy Smith! Super accomplishment.

    Nancy C

  55. Happy to finally see that the Sherri Shackleford debut novel that I won, JUST arrived!

    Man, this TBR pile is just getting bigger!!

    Keep those books coming Seekerville authors!!


  56. Very clever (and inspiring!) post today, Pam---thank you! ~ Now I need to push myself even harder to close that gap. Blessings, Patti Jo
    p.s. Since it's VERY warm here in Georgia, I have a big pitcher of cold Peach Punch to share--enjoy!

  57. Oh, oh, oh, secret news....


    Connealy is going to be RIPPED TO SHREDS by editor Mike Ehret at this web address:


  58. Remember, use the link TOMORROW...

    When I will, of course REPOST IT, LOL!

  59. Ah, poor Mary! But of course we'll go see what's going on. Kinda like rushing to a train wreck or following the firetrucks to a house fire! lol

    What a fun day.

    Everyone keep your friends close and your wips closer!

  60. Long but fun day, concluding with the A/C going out. Ack. But we have fans at least!
    I'm on the blackberry and too many wonderful posts to remember them all. This much closer to finishing edits!
    And oh wow! Thx Vince! This fall, May 2 will release probably October. You'll see fireworks I'm sure. :)
    Ruthy - so right. I have most all the Herriott books. Being a vet's daughter, I thought I was one of the few who could relate but nooooo. Vince, you'll adore them I'm almost positive!
    Y'all have a good one!

  61. This post's title caught my eye b/c I was interviewing a WWII vet yesterday who showed me a Japanese grenade he brought home- inert PTL! I hope to put all of these stories together into a book about the last of the Greatest Generation's thoughts about the war. (Possible title?) Great thoughts here. Thanks for sharing.

  62. You had me smiling throughout the post. So true!!


  63. Ugh, KC, no fun with the A/C going out. Hope you get it fixed soon!

    Kayleen, a Japanese grenade? Yikes. I'd be sorta afraid it was still LIVE. Like it would be after 70 years, but still...

    Marybelle, smiling right back at 'cha! Thanks for stopping by.

  64. Thanks for reminding me to hit the target rather than just being "close".