What do tennis players and writers have in common? Not much, you might think, but having (mis)spent a lot of the past two weeks watching Wimbledon, I've come to the conclusion that writers could learn a lot from them.
When you submit your work to a publication or competition, you can try to do some research about what might succeed, just as a tennis player might try to work out their opponent's strengths and weaknesses by watching their previous matches. Ultimately, however, editors and competition judges don't know what will catch their imagination on a particular day, any more than a tennis player can be sure that her opponent will serve to her backhand. It isn't unusual to see guidelines for a magazine that say 'no vampires or zombies' only to find them making war on each other in the latest issue.
All you can really do is put in the training. For a tennis player this means working out in a gym, and for a writer this means reading and taking notice of the advice in classes, magazines or forums. Both tennis players and writers need to practice as often as they can, and then all you can do is make sure you turn up i.e. send your story/poem/flash fiction etc. out–making sure, of course, that you follow the rules and guidelines. Otherwise, you can expect the umpire to call 'Out!'