There's no sporting event I anticipate like the annual NCAA tournament. March Madness baby! Woo-hoo!
Not only does liven up what is generally a drab month in Minnesota, but it is simply awesome competition. My family always fills out brackets and enjoys trash talking each other as our respective standings shift.
If you haven't been following it, this year's tournament has been off the wall. So many upsets. My bracket was pretty much ruined when Georgetown and Louisville were knocked out. But then the entire world's bracket was ruined when Northern Iowa took down Goliath Kansas, a team which even President Obama had picked to win the entire tourney!
This post is actually about writing.
There are two key lessons for writers to be learn from the phenomenon that is the NCAA tournament.
March Madness has unbelievable pace. It's heart in throat, pulse pounding action from the first buzzer. The pace is swift and unrelenting. In the space of 100th of a sec, fates are sealed. Teams go on, teams go home.
While I love college ball, I'm not a fan of the NBA. Why? Pacing. The NBA is bogged down. It's slow. It's boring. Come on - 7 game series? 7 games? In July??
The NBA playoffs are akin to an editor saying, hey just tack on another 100 pages or so - that way we can jack up the cover price of your book.
Yuck. No editor would ever say that. There's a reason writing advice is always telling you to cut, cut, cut and kill your darlings. Spareness of word count is mostly about pace. To succeed in your writing you need a killer pace.
March Madness draws so many fans because it is full of surprises. Every year an underdog manages to take down one of the big teams. This year, with Northern Iowa's victory over Kansas, may have been the biggest upset for a long, long time. And it was thrilling.
Readers must be kept on their toes. If they think they know what's coming, and it does, they might have a smug sense of satisfaction, but they won't be screaming or breathless.
Always have the potential for upsest - big "I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT JUST HAPPENED!" upsets - in your story. Call them twists, surprises, whatever. If your characters and plot are predictable, you've already lost the battle.