Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The 221 training bags of Baker Street

 Have you ever noticed the number of writers whose first book is a Sherlock Holmes book, then they go on to success beyond Holmes? It's not a huge number, as getting to "successful professional writer" level is a hard hill to climb in any case, but it's significant. It's a bit like Sherlock Holmes is a practice dummy for perfecting your word punches. And, as his survival after pastiche after pastiche after pastiche shows, he can take it.

Doyle's Rotary Coffin has started another holiday festival of short, short fiction this month with "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" and it's an excellent way to give yourself a reason to play with some wacky idea and give your writing skills some practice. All you have to do is let yourself go.

Seriously, this is some no-stakes writing fun. You can use a pseudonym. There's no comment section. You don't have to plot, write for a certain length, or even have it make a lick of sense. In fact, the more nonsensical it is, the better it might fit the Doyle's Rotary Coffin's motto of "No Holmes barred!"

I'm going to be letting fly on "Ho! Ho! Holmes!" this month with whatever silly Sherlocking that the season inspires on me and tossing it the DRC's way, because you know what? It's good therapy as we wind down this stressful year just to let the brain do a dump of whatever Sherlock nonsense it has available -- it's almost like the therapeutic dreaming that your brain will sometimes do.

Because really, "No Holmes barred!" isn't just about allowing all Holmeses to exist. It's also about a no-rules, no-limits, no-mental-gatekeeping approach to this hobby that makes it so much more enjoyable. (Yes, there probably are actually some limits -- actual crime, personal attacks via fiction, all the things a reasonable person wouldn't do anyway. But that's not you, right?) There's no speed limit on this Holmes highway, no U-turns you can't make, and crashing and burning doesn't have to hurt at all. You can just get in that blank page of a car and drive!

Okay, so maybe I switched metaphors again, but like I said: This is a place to get some of those thousand hours in that will make you a master of your craft, and there's fun to be had here.

"Ho! Ho! Holmes!" -- think of it as NanoWriMo that only takes one evening. Spend a couple hours just pounding the keyboard and send the results along. As with any training bout against a practice dummy, you just can't lose.

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