Applying Scrabble Strategy to Life (or, a Time to Gloat)


My husband and I have been playing Scrabble since our high school courtin’ days.  He’s the “Numbers Guy,” and I’m (supposedly) the “Words Girl.”  Guess who wins at Scrabble almost every time?  I’ll give you a hint — it’s not me.    

But, I’ve learned exactly why I come out behind — lack of strategy.  I’m usually the over-eager player who puts down any word that appears on my wooden tile holder, regardless of points.  However, my husband’s competitive nature (and endless chanting of, “I’m the champion!”) finally got to me.  I played our last round with patience and calculation, and,…I won!  As I kicked butt and took names, I realized the same strategies could also be applied to everyday life, as well as the process of writing.  A few tips to share…  

  • Keep your eyes open, and increase your vocabulary.  Study the Scrabble dictionary, and your chances of winning will go up, up, up — the game can turn around with one great word.  Everyday Life: Never stop learning.  When you stop growing as a person, you might as well just…stopWriting Life: There’s always room for improvement.  Don’t be satisfied with having a beginning, middle, and an end to your story if it doesn’t sing. 
  • Trade your letters in when you’re stuck.  Yeah, you lose a turn, but better to snag some usable letters than try to find imaginative ways to place your seven “I” tiles.  Everyday Life: Unhappy at work?  Update that resume’ and start looking.  Friendship full of drama?  Time to get out.  Kids driving you crazy?  Trade them in.  Wait…um…never mind about that one.  Writing Life: Edit, edit, edit.  When a piece still isn’t working after drenching amounts of sweat, it may be time to move on to a different project.
  • Avoid placing your “Z” and “Q” on an unmarked square.  Unmarked squares mean no extra points.  It’s a waste that (almost) brings my husband to tears.  Everyday Life: Utilize your talents.  There’s something you were meant to do here — figure it out, and get to it!  Writing Life: Write with purpose.  Write for money, or joy, or therapy.  But, if you choose to write, don’t waste time whining about it — just write.
  • Plan one turn ahead.  Try not to open up a triple word score for your opponent, or trap yourself in a corner.  Everyday Life: From daily errands and weekly dinner menus, to graduate school and retirement funds — planning ahead can save many (many) headaches down the road.  Writing Life: Do your research, and know the market.  Find the agent, magazine or publishing company that best fits your topic and style.  Blindly submit into the dark publishing void, and you will get burned.
  • Don’t put down the first word that comes to mind.  Take your time, and choose wisely for the highest possible points.  Everyday Life: This means patience, and lots of it.  Patience when you have a thirty minute wait at the doctor’s office.  Patience when you’re on your fourth round of chauffeuring the kids for the day, and patience with yourself — expecting perfection can be self-defeating.  Writing Life: Be patient with your work, and your output.  Accept the process — checking email 1,058 times a day will not make an editor’s response come any quicker.  And, don’t beat yourself up when the words don’t flow. 
  • Proceed carefully, but get rid of those hard-to-place letters when you can.  Put that “K” down ASAP, or you’ll be minus 5 at the end of the game.  Everyday Life: Grab those opportunities before they disappear — the available babysitter, a ticket to a sold-out concert, or a chance to volunteer.  Writing Life: Determine when your work is ready for submission, and then let it go.
"I'm the Champion!"

And last, but not least…   

  • When you finally win at Scrabble, write a blog post about it so you can really rub it in.  And, that’s all I have to say about that one.


86 thoughts on “Applying Scrabble Strategy to Life (or, a Time to Gloat)”

  1. Ha! This is such a clever post, and a true one. I think the writers in the room will appreciate it especially. 🙂

    It’s funny, your husband’s Scrabble prowess sounds a lot like my mother’s. It doesn’t matter how much I study up, I simply cannot beat her. She’s also a champion gloater. I’ll beat her one day!


    1. Thank you! I think that this might have been a one-shot deal, though. I’m too lazy to play that seriously all of the time. Good luck against your mother!


  2. Excellent post! I grew up in a (competitive) Scrabble playing family, so I endorse your Scrabble-winning strategies as well as your application of them. Congrats on the win!


  3. There are some very important life lessons in here. It’s so wonderful how you were able to relate scrabble lessons to life lessons… AND to writing lessons. 🙂

    With Love and Gratitude,

    The Intentional Sage


  4. It is one of those great moments, when you “get” it” isn’t it? It only took me one time of getting beat at Words with Friends by my future brother-in-law to realize you can play strategically. I love how you tied it in with real life. Gloat away! 🙂 And, if you really want to be immature, don’t let him have a rematch.


  5. Haha, I’m not much of a Scrabble aficionado (actually don’t think I’ve played one time), but I enjoyed the life lessons included in this post :). Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!


  6. What an awesome post!

    I usually don’t find these sorts of “life lessons” sort of posts or reads interesting or helpful ~ but I really liked the links you chose between life and Scrabble…hooray!

    I will share it with my father:)


  7. Great post! I love such analogies and always believe that we can learn a lot from the stuff and technologies around us by finding parallels to them in everyday life.

    Congrats on being featured on Freshly Pressed, but more importantly, congrats on winning that Scrabble game! 🙂


  8. Simply loved it, thanks for this, I’ve been playing the whole time on vacations and realized the part about strategy, it’s hard for me to lose! ;D


  9. best thing I like is that you two have been together since high-school! Congrats on your successful marriage, and wish you long years of togetherness!


  10. Love that you guys play scrabble–Ian and I are cribbage fans and I couldn’t agree more that we can all benefit from some board games in our lives. Thanks for making the connections for me!


  11. This post struck a chord with me…I play Scrabble, Lexulous, and Wordscraper online with a buddy in another province…he beats me about 75% of the time, mainly because I play the same way you do (“Wow, I played a six-letter word! What do you mean it’s only worth 7 points?”). Off to read some of your other posts…



  12. Great post. Good advice. I just played scrabble a few nights ago for the first time in quite awhile. Not sure who won as I had to leave early. I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been me even if I had stayed. I felt as if my brain had turned to mush!


  13. I love your scrabble analogy! I am the “word” girl and my husband is an engineer…yeah, we’re just as competitive and I rarely win as well! I look forward to reading more of your work. So glad I saw you on Freshly Pressed.

    – Emily


  14. Great post Amanda! Games are usually a great opportunity to sharpen our strategy senses! And you need strategy in fiction- whether it’s outlining, a plot twist, revision or submitting…


  15. Great post!
    I’m taking note for sure. I should have these plastered all over my ceiling so I can see them first thing every morning before I start my day, maybe like this they will stick and I can finally find my direction in life 😀 … a 20-something year old still looking for whatever it is I’m meant to do in this life.
    Congrats for getting Freshly Pressed!


    1. Thank you, Charlie. I still don’t know exactly what I want to be when I grow up either, so no worries. Good luck to you, and thanks for stopping by~


  16. WEEEE! This post made me SO happy. My boyfriend of three years and I play Quiddler, Boggle, Bananagrams and Scrabble regularly, and yeah, the only one I win at is Boggle because it’s about most words, not points…

    It’s true, it’s all about the strategy. And wait, gloating when we win?! Nooooo…. We don’t do that… *guiltycough*


  17. Thank you for the great comments, all! I’m trying to respond to everyone either here, at your own blog, (or both) so please be patient with me. Many thanks…


  18. great blog. find the analogy to life and writing very apt and insightful.

    have the same issue when i play scrabble with my husband – he is the numbers guy but almost always ends up with more points than me!



  19. I love this post! Earlier this year I was inspired to write about the game of life based on my scrabble game board…

    …”The “F” Word…
    Current mood: focused

    The trick is to try to make the longest word with the most points and to land on colored spaces of the board that give you double points for that one letter (or even the whole word). The game is simple yet can be complex and, at times, frustrating. You blindly pick your own letters and do your best to make a word each time it’s your turn. Keep in mind there will always be board blocks (naturally imposed by you and those before and after you). Sometimes someone steals that one corner that you were counting on and other times you have the perfect word yet are missing a letter to complete the most impressive scoring lay-down. But you keep playing; you keep score and you keep trying your best…”

    Please feel free to read on 🙂


    Thanks for sharing!


  20. What a great post! And what a relief, because I always get thrashed at scrabble, actually I get thrashed at most games except uno, for some reason. Loved the way you tied it into writing, and life. Very funny.


  21. Your analogy is so perfect. And my favorite line was, “and then let it go.” I do believe that might just be the hardest part.

    My husband is psychotic when it comes to board games. In fact, one time we were playing Monopoly with some friends who were just as hard core competitive as him when it came to, you know, fake money and property. I just don’t have it in me, that killer streak. Towards the end of the game, I was losing pretty badly and I had to pay one of them some more cash for landing on one of their gazillion properties. I had one big bill left, but when I went to pay, I couldn’t find the bill anywhere. I knew I hadn’t spent it, but all those game playing freaks were insistent that I had already spent it. So, I was broke and out of the game. I didn’t care. There was wine that needed drinking. But on the way home my husband turned to me and informed me that, indeed, I had not spent the big bill, because he had STOLEN it from me during the game.

    I don’t play board games with him anymore.


  22. When we became bored with traditional scrabble rules, (i.e: my sister played the jackpot round on the triple word with 7 letters remaining), I would challenge her to a game of SCRABBLE IN GERMAN.

    At this time, we both had A level (High school) German. I was just pleased to be able to place 3 tiles down in one go. The big advantage of playing German scrabble with English rules: ‘Z’ still counts as 10 points.
    Zu, zum, zeit, zug, zimmer…..you get the idea.
    Great post, I’ll keep watching.


  23. I’m trying so hard to be patient and strategic about this. Slowly, it’s working. But let me tell you this: Coif is still an awesome word that I should get a million points for using.


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