Fact, Quote, Anecdote: writing a story, building a career


I am a gambler. In life, and in the casino. At the tables, craps is my game. Last week I was able to spend an evening in Montreal's casino and added yet another story for my backburner gambling book. In fact, the story that came from this one evening, might reshape my gambling book altogether.

That night, I put my writing above the party or myself. New for me, but it felt natural. Practice what I preach, always a good thing to do. So, I sat at the bar scribbling note after note about the people at the table, my thoughts and feelings. This morning I had my sunday coffee alone and began the essay. I’ve been gambling for eleven years, and this one experience has changed the way I will see myself at every future table. I nearly started to cry as I was writing and recognized a loss of innocence, in some way, from this one game. But lets get back to the writing of the story.

I’m writing this story for me. But I also want it to find a home. When pitching a book, you have a much better chance of selling it if you have an excerpt from it that has already been published. And the bigger the audience, the more they will respect you and your work. As an example, your writing will be considered more if your excerpt was published in a national magazine as opposed to a regional one.

Though it might’ve have been good to write through whatever emotions I was having, I chose to go home and add some backbone to it instead. I went online and did research on both books in the gaming industry, and magazines as well. I will have to actually see some magazines to figure out which might take a personal essay story like the one I’m working on, since it doesn’t talk so much about tips to play. It might even be better suited for a women’s magazine. The point is, do the research. Check out all your options, don’t just submit aimlessly.

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The first travel writing class I ever took, several years ago now, suggested that we write interchanging pragraphs of “fact, quote, anecdote.” I had gathered both quotes and anecdotes the night I played, but today I started looking for the facts. Google is a godsend, and all I had to do was type in a few keywords to find some bits of history to add to my story.

Now, to read the history, to do more research on good magazine market leads for this particular story, and to weave in fact, quote, and anecdote, until it’s done.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t finish this all in one day. I know it will take me more than one sit down. That’s ok. As long as we keep at it. See how the practice is connected to the career? Notetaking, writing, researching, submitting to the magazine, more writing, getting the byline, building the platform, more writing, building the book. I think it’s fun.