"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing and Golf

By Richard Rice

Sometime, not too long ago, I set two goals to guide me through the next years of my life. Number one, I want to publish a novel. Secondly, I want to shoot my age at golf.

Simple goals, their achievement easily verified. Now I’m on record. The world can watch to see how I do. How difficult are these goals, and how am I doing?

Specifics I’ve set for the published novel is that it cannot be a limited, self-published work, but a genuine, New York book, purchased by thousands of anxious readers who will become the beginnings of my fan club. The odds against this happening are quite high. Statistics abound, suggesting that agents receive tens of thousands of author queries each year and only a small fraction actually lead to published novels. I believe it. I have hundreds of rejections, probably enough to paper my garret. Undaunted by such odds, I fearlessly plunge ahead with my writing and queries.

I have recently completed my third novel, Incendiary, and have begun the tortuous journey toward its publication. I’m pleased to say, things are going well. I have already received my first rejection! I won’t bore you with a long description of the story, but just in case you’re interested, here is a short excerpt from Chapter 1:

Mohammad felt a light pressure on his shoulder and a tingling sensation in his throat. Surprised, he raised his hands to his neck and looked down, discovering a crimson stain spreading across his chest. He tried to shout, but no sound came from his mouth. Dark spots appeared before his eyes and a roaring filled his ears. A dizzy feeling came over him, deepening as he sank to his knees, still not understanding what had happened. Strong hands took a grip on an arm and belt and he felt his body being propelled toward the precipice. He saw the river below growing closer and sensed a cool rush of air on his face. He wondered if he could be flying.

The golf goal is also a long shot. Shooting your age at golf is a rare accomplishment, limited to only a few percent of all golfers. Still, I persist, a familiar figure hacking away at the local courses, and occasionally on a road trip to some exotic links in, say, Utah. How close am I to reaching my goal? Consider the numbers. A normal golf course par is 72. Pro golfers usually shoot about this or a little less. My typical score is considerably higher. For example, this last weekend, if I was 89, I would have shot my age. But, I have a long way to go before I’m 89. Can I hold on to my present level for another 18 years? Or improve enough to intercept my age somewhere along the way?

To increase my odds of shooting my age someday, I take lessons, try new equipment, fiddle with my golf swing, practice often and note golf tips in various magazines or on the Golf Channel. Are these things working? So far not enough. But, as in writing the Great American Novel, one must persist, continue to learn, and never give up.

So, I persist. In writing as in golf.

Richard grew up in Southern California and received his BS and MS degrees in Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. In an exciting three-decade technical career, he was involved in NASA’s space program and in nuclear energy and novel energy production research for the Energy Department. He traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe and Asia, presenting the results of his work and collaborating with other research institutions. Richard began writing as a teenager, covering high school sports for the local newspaper. He continued writing throughout his career, producing a number of technical papers, articles and reports. He recently decided to end his engineering career and write full time. Since then, he has produced three novels. He has also written several short stories, three of which were accepted by the Idaho Magazine. His third short story was named as a winner in the Idaho Magazine 2010 fiction contest. Richard lives with his family on the Snake River in Southeastern Idaho.


  1. Thanks for posting, Richard. I don't know a thing about golfing, but I do know that those who are eventually published are those who don't quit.

    Linda S.

  2. Hi Richard:

    Good post. About the golf score. I haven't played golf for a good many years, but when I did, and people asked about my golfing average, I proudly announced that I consistantly shot in the low 70s. I guess this means I succeeded shooting your present age sometime ago with one minor caveat. I neglected to mention that the score in question was for nine holes on a nine hole course. So if worse comes to worse, you can shave nine holes off your game, and, walla, you've accomplished your goal and then some. :)

    I wish you the best of luck on your publishing endeavor. As you are undoubtedly learning, getting published these days is tough. But hope springs eternal, so hang in there. I'm currently working on a screenplay, myself, I hope to see on the big screen someday.

    Bill C.