Yesterday, I visited one of my cousins in order to teach him how to play dominoes. He thought he’d never learn, but it did pretty well.

For those that haven’t played, dominoes is a really simple game that can get complex. Here’s what the game looks like: 

That’s the dominoes in the box. You remove the pieces and connect them. In order to score, your dominoes have to add up to a product of five. For standard rules, the highest possible score at one time is 35, but that’s rare. Generally you’ll score between 5 and 15.

Simple: Connect numbers that equal 5. But what’s so interesting about this game is how you must strategize. When you play, you have to score points while stopping your opponent from getting any significant “money” as well. So you’re constantly thinking about yourself and your opponent.

I’d like to stretch these domino philosophies into an area I shouldn’t…writing. When you’re writing, you’re constantly thinking about yourself, but there’s an opponent out there for you–the reader. Most readers aren’t out to “get you”. They don’t think of themselves as opponents. Many just want to read a good book knowing that they may catch a bad one.

They’re in it for themselves, not the writer.

When playing inexperienced players in dominoes, you can actually struggle more than playing someone with tons of experience. Newcomers are often in it to count numbers and get points. Strategy isn’t a part of their goal. And they can survive or even beat you because dominoes isn’t like chess. There’s a lot of luck involved. All your opponent needs to do is pull a good hand and you’re at a loss.

Back to writing. When a reader isn’t worried about the writer, they don’t care how much time you’ve invested into your work. They’re not worried about what literary devices you used or if you’re setting something up for future books. Readers that are only worried about how well you entertain them can be some of the harshest reviews out there. What took you months or years to publish can take them hours to destroy.

As writers, we have a responsibility to our readers. We have to think of their every move and plan for it like it dominoes. But is it really possible? No.

Even in dominoes, you can plan for something and watch another thing happen. You cannot account for every possibility. Therefore, you have to learn how to adapt and recover from your losses.

I don’t mind when readers trash my novel.

I”m a balanced domino player. Sometimes I go for big points and other times I worry about my opponent. That’s the same way I write: to please myself and my readers. If my readers don’t like my work, great…don’t buy another book. If they do, great…buy another book. There’s no reason to cry over a loss. If I lose one domino game, I plan to win three more!


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