Thursday, April 28, 2011

And the Panthers choose....

For those of you who don't live in a football-crazy house, today is the NFL Draft. It's starting this evening in primetime. My hubs actually asked to take extra baby-duty yesterday, so that he could stay up late enough tonight to see the entire first round without being interrupted.

And also for those of you not living in football-crazy houses, there was a big hoopla this week regarding injunctions, lock-outs, the 8th Circuit Federal Court, yada yada yada.

So here's some writing things I've learned this week, from my husband who's freaking out:

1. Milk any enjoyment you can get:
sometimes, you have no idea what's coming next, or if anything is coming next. This is as true for writing as football. We get moments of sheer excitement. The awesome contest scores (sqee for Marn and Ter!!). The call from an agent. The talk of a trilogy. These are amazing moments, that should be celebrated to their fullest. Just like with the draft, these are prime-time, celebrate for all your worth, moments. Because we have no idea what will come next, or when. The players being drafted this weekend have no idea if they will play football in the fall. They have no idea if there even will be football in the fall. A 2012 season is looking more and more like a pipe dream. But you better believe these brand new players are going to celebrate today, and so should we.

2. Sometimes, you're swimming alone: sometimes we can get great advice from critique partners, fellow writers, mentors, published authors, contest judges, etc. Sometimes, we feel like we're cut off from all communication. Players this week were told by a judge that they could go to work, but couldn't communicate/interact with their coaches. They can work out and practice -- but not with coaching. Sometimes, you just have to swim alone. And that's okay. It can still be useful, even if you don't have that extra voice letting you know you're on the right track. Just trust your own voice.

3. Sometimes, things make absolutely no sense at all: some editors want racy, some want the romance; some say you can't do x, y, and z, some say you must. Every piece of writing advice is full of contradictions. And every contradictory piece of advice has its own (often loud) group of followers. I've read that an author would be an idiot to try to write without plotting, that no structured book can result that way. I've read that no author can write an organic story if they plot, that it becomes formulaic. Both are probably true for that particular person, both probably aren't quite fully true for anyone else. The judge ruling on the NFL lock-out this week made an 86-page ruling that makes no sense at all. It's full of contradictions (according to my husband, who's been breaking it down for me point-by-point. Goody.). Contradictions are part of life. No matter how good we get at writing, no matter how sure we feel about our own personal writing process, there will still be moments where none of it makes any sense, and everything is full of contradictions. That's okay.

Are you good at relaxing and enjoying the moment, the contradictions, and the alone-ness of writing, or are these things that stress you out?Anyone else interested in the draft, or the continuing saga of the lock-out? Anyone else have a husband who won't shut up about the whole thing? lol


Donna said...

Hal, this is awesome. Although I can see where you must be going bonkers with all the details involved. :)

I kept thinking, "Ooooh, #1 is my fave. No, the second one says it all." But when it comes down to it, #3 really hit the nail on the head. Everyone has advice--including me!--and it can contradict what we've just said/heard the day before. We have to figure out what works for us individually, and realize even that will probably change in the future. LOL

Maybe that's part of the fun, trying to figure out the rules even though it seems like they're written on an Etch-a-Sketch. :)

Bosun said...

I'd been loosely following this lock-out stuff, but missed the kerfluffle this week. I'm blaming Yahoo for not putting this somewhere on their home page that I would find it. WTH?

No spouse, that explains it too. I have no doubt there will be football in the fall. No one, especially not that arrogant, greedy group of bastards called owners, is willing to lose that much money. I did like the talk a couple months ago about the players just starting their own league. I guess that like a bunch of writers deciding to start their own publishing house. (Which actually happened recently.)

All great lessons to learn, Hal, but I say #3 is probably the best to remember. And the toughest for newbie authors. When I first started, rules came at me lick buckshot and I didn't know whether to duck, run for cover, or stand still and hope to die quick.

Marnee said...

I'm surprised I haven't heard more from my hubs about the lock-out. Probably because the Flyers are still in the playoffs and, if he had to choose just one sport to watch for the rest of his life, it'd probably be hockey. So, maybe it's just that it's not the most pressing thing on his mind.

Or maybe he just figures it'd make him bonkers so he's avoiding the stress.

Right now, I think the second one of these lessons is where I'm at right now. I've been stressing and thinking and whittling away at this story for a year now, off and on. I ask for help, I get opinions, I think I've got the right answer and then I change my mind or I read something that changes it for me. I think I just need to set off--like the settlers to the west--and cut my path out. Later I can worry about whether I took the most direct route or not.

And the not make sense thing? Golden.

Great blog, dear.`

Hellion said...

As much as I would love it if there were no football this fall, I know the Universe doesn't love me that much. And as Terri said: it's just not good business to drag this out where no money was made at all. And those guys are all about the business.

Of course, you describing your husband breaking it down point by point gives me the horror shakes. I want to run screaming out of the room, but not sure how I would describe that to the coworkers.

Ugh. However, if some "horrible" thing happened and there was no NFL this fall (oh, the shame) there would still be college football. There'd be no pure "no football" mourning. There will always be football.

Okay, sorry this was not a blog about football. This is about writing...and I love your analogy. It was spot on! Um, no, I'm not good about relaxing about anything, let alone anything particular to writing. *LOL* And while I'm keen to celebrate everyone else's victories, big and small, I always feel dumb celebrating mine. :) But the only way to work through that is by celebrating more victories--so I have to work to do that!

Hal said...

Donna - the rules are written on an etch & sketch! Such an excellent analogy. Just about the time you figure out what you're doing, somebody shakes the damn thing!

I also think you're right that we have to remember that what works for us today isn't necessarily going to work for us tomorrow. Rather than looking for the one perfect process that will always work, we have to continue looking for ways to change/re-invigorate/improve our current process.

Hal said...

When I first started, rules came at me like buckshot and I didn’t know whether to duck, run for cover, or stand still and hope to die quick.

Another great analogy, Ter! Man, we're on a pirate roll today :) I love that your other option is to die quick. No hope for a late recovery, just make it as painless as possible, please. It does feel like that some days, doesn't it?

Hal said...

I'm glad you two are convinced football will prevail. I'm not a huge fan, but I find it an entertaining way to spend a fall Sunday afternoon, and I'd be sad if it were gone.

Hellie - I know absurd amounts of information about football. Whenever we're driving somewhere late at night, and he's tired, I'll ask some random football-related question, and he'll seriously talk for an hour or two. He get's all earnest about it, and starts organizing his's freaking hilarious (and a good thing he doesn't read this). I just laugh and doze off, and say "uh huh" every few minutes to keep him going. But it keeps him awake, and apparently much of it sank in, because I can hold my own when his friends start talking football.

Hellion said...

What little I know of football I feel is a waste of brain matter I could be dedicating to Harry Potter or the Royal Wedding.

But I did really enjoy the movie The Replacements. I thought that was a great movie, even if it did have Keanu Reeves.

Hal said...

Marn - ah yes, the hockey playoffs. The Cap's are still in it too, so I'm getting it from every angle right now, it feels like. lol.

I think I just need to set off–like the settlers to the west–and cut my path out. Later I can worry about whether I took the most direct route or not.

I think that sounds like a good plan. And really, what's wrong with the indirect route? You still get to the destination, and you get to know the area better while you're meandering. Later, after you've seen all there is to see, you can chart out the direct route for the tourists (i.e., readers).

Okay, so I stretched that analogy way too far. I gotta slow down on the coffee this morning :)

Hal said...

Um, no, I’m not good about relaxing about anything, let alone anything particular to writing. *LOL*.

haha. Yeah, me neither. It's amazing the obscure shit I can find to worry about.

Bosun said...

I've loved and watched football for as long as I can remember, but I don't remember details stats or anything like that. Hell, I can barely remember who won the most recent Superbowl. (Green Bay, yes, I know they beat Pittsburgh. Change of subject.)

My sister is the hockey fan so she'll text me with scores and when the Pens win. And I text back "Do. Not. Care."

If felt like I wanted to die, Hal. LOL! I sat through a workshop where the instructor was insistent a writer should NEVER use the word "was" in a manuscript. EVERRRRRR. Not once. Stopped me up like a cemented butt plug, it did.

Irisheyes said...

I love it, Hal! I would have to go with #3 as my favorite. I've been known to be a pretty rule oriented person and throwing so many contradictory rules and "shoulds" my way just freezes me in my place. I need to ignore them all and just write.

I know about the lock-out courtesy of buffalo wings. We were just driving along the other night and the DH turned to me and said that the chicken industry is shaking in its boots because of all the football lock-out talk. LOL Now, I'm not the brightest at the best of times, I'll grant you, but trying to tie the chicken industry together with the NFL had me a bit confused! Buffalo Wings!!! Everyone orders them at bars, goes to BWW to watch the games and have wings, and so on and so forth. It led to a very fun discussion of the domino effect on most things in life.

The DH is heavy into a few fantasy football leagues, so come August I start to hear it all - best draft choice, best team, worst coach, nicest stadium, etc., etc. But right now I have to endure the anger directed at the Blackhawks for blowing it in game 7 against Vancouver.

2nd Chance said...

Football...nope. Husband isn't really crazy about any sport. We both like NASCAR, but not LOVE it. Though when the America's Cup starts in San Francisco, I'll be watching!

As for the taking the scenic route...yeah, might arrive a bit later, but oh, the things you'll see along the way! And some might work for this book and stay in and some won't... It's all good...

Forge your own path and screw the rules!

Bosun said...

Irish - I imagine the Budweiser Company is full of anxiety as well. LOL!

Hal said...

Bosun - the "was" rule froze me up as well. That and the "don't start sentences with she/he." Since about half my sentences started with "She was...." I was panicked and ready to duck back into my fanfic hole :)

Hellion said...

I don't get that. How are you supposed to write sentences without using he/she or was? Come on!

Hal said...

I know, right?

I guess you could just always start with "they were".


Hal said...

Irish - buffalo wings? lol! I wouldn't have made the connection ether, but he may be on to something! No one at the bars on Monday nights, no one betting on games, all that extra TV time on Sundays....

I'm a rule-oriented person too. I'm the person who stops to read the signs just to make sure I'm not inadvertently breaking any rules :) So it's hard for me to, to let go of them and just write. I also tend to get hung up on a particular rule. Adverbs, for instance. I latched on to the rule about "no adverbs" and launched into a lecture every time someone used took me a while to learn the power of a well-placed adverb.

Hal said...

2nd - yeah, the sights are always better on the scenic route (uh, hence the name, of course. jeez I'm a little slow this morning!)

I like watching the occasional Nascar race. My older brother was a professional driver, so I grew up spending weekend nights at the race track. They were always dirt tracks, so you'd come home covered in mud and your ear drums practically blown out. So while I like Nascar, something about seems much too tame to me to be racing :) You don't get any mud in your teeth, you aren't pelted by flying sand . . . where's the fun? lol

Hal said...

Marn - how are the revisions going for the final round? They're due today, right?

Bosun said...

These Never! and Always! rules rarely make sense. (See that, I threw an adverb in there and I'm not dead yet.)

I grew up watching Nascar but there's a small track here that's much more fun to watch. Guys slide right off the far side all the time and from the stands, you never can tell if they're going to show back up. And if you sit close enough at some Sprint Cup tracks, you CAN get stuff in your teeth. LOL!

Hellion said...

buffalo wings? lol! I wouldn’t have made the connection ether, but he may be on to something!

I bet PETA is behind the NFL strike.

Janga said...

Great analogy, Hal!

My family is sports-mad, and football is the favorite sport. SEC news overshadows pro news, however, and speculating about who's lying, who's going to get what slaps on the wrist, and who's going to jail has kept conversations about lockouts and drafts to a minimum.

Regarding writing rules, I tend to agree with Ezra Pound about knowing the rules before breaking them. If good writing were simply a matter of following rules, it would be much easier and I would have been spared countless papers written by gramatically proficient students who never learned that the cardinal rule of writing is to never bore your reader. I can rant for hours about those who misuse the term "passive verb" and insist that all to be verbs should be omitted. On the other hand, I am weary of published writers, including some I read regularly, and their copy editors who ignore the rules governing pronoun case and persist in constructions such as "Let's keep this news between you and I."

Off topic: Hellie, have you seen the new HP 8 trailer?

Hellion said...

Janga, it's a tough line to walk. *LOL* I don't want Bo'sun in a bodybind because she feel she can't use the word "was"; and I have read sentences that avoid "to be" verbs and were so much better for them. I think part of the problem with it is that they say "DON'T DO IT!" and they don't show you how to do it with your own work to make it better. PLUS if you do that too much, you almost lose your voice. How do you sound like you if you're a person who speaks in was's? But those glaring grammar errors in novels can be enough to make your head spin off too. It is a fine line. And you should know the rules before you break them.

At the same time I think: however it takes you to get the story on the page is fine, but when you revise (the 8-10 times necessary) go back and tighten the sentences with better language. Remove unnecessary was's then...or unnecessary clauses...or whatever. Remove, remove, remove. I think a lot of us get seized up before we even started, trying to head this stuff off at the pass and frankly we just need to write it like we hear it in our heads--and it's a lot easier to revise correctly written grammar than to speak it on the fly.

And as soon as you asked, I went to YouTube to watch it. *swoons* BEST. BOOKS. EVER. I need to warp my 4 year old niece into loving these books as much as I do since I have no children of my own to warp.

Hellion said...

Okay, the YouTube one was NOT the one you were talking about. THIS must have been the one you were talking about. *LOL*

Bosun said...

The one you linked to is the one I watched on Yahoo a little while ago. Even if those weren't the most popular books ever, that movie looks incredible. The Yahoo article said the trailer gives spoilers but could there be anyone who doesn't know how it ended? Even if you don't read them, you still know.

Irisheyes said...

...could there be anyone who doesn’t know how it ended? Even if you don’t read them, you still know.

Me. *raises hand*

For some unknown reason, my family got the HP bug round about last summer. Since then they've been renting the movies (nonstop!) and breaking down the story ad nauseum. Then last fall the kids decided to start reading the books (in between required reading for school). I think my daughter is on book 5 and my son book 4.

Anyway, they've involved a good number of their friends and we have pockets of Harry Potter mania at my house on a consistent basis. One of the cardinal rules, though, is that NOONE is to give away the ending. We all laughed at the possibility of us getting to July 15, 2011 and still not knowing how it ends but we're getting close.

The DH and I are taking bets as to who among us is going to crack first and grab the book and read the last chapter! :)

2nd Chance said...

I did that when working at the bookstore. Not the last chapter of the last book, but somewhere around the 4th or 5th when they started getting so big I knew I wasn't going to pick them up anymore.

Hey! I needed to know for the customers who would come in!

I adore the scenic route, but it does take some editing once done to neaten it all up.

the passive stuff, the don't use WAS or don't use adverbs or DON'T, DON'T, DON'T stuff is stifling. Use it and then if you can, lose it. If you can't? Let it stay. Those words are part of our vocabulary for a reason!

My 2 cents!

P. Kirby said...

Sports? Huh? I didn't know who was playing in the Super Bowl until the day before. Husband critter is Mr. Handyman, and too busy with projects to sit down and watch sports. Given that my performance reviews, back when I had a grown up career, featured the statement, "Not a team player," it's no wonder team sports don't rock my boat.

As for rules.... Come on, ya are pirates, ain't you? Screw the rules. :)

2nd Chance said...


Janga said...

I forgot to ask if all you Johnny Depp-loving pirates have seen the Disney insert in People. I'm not a fan, but I have to admit he's gorgeous, although my fave is Jeff Bridges with Penelope Cruz. Now there's a model for your older hero, Chance.

2nd Chance said...

I ranted about that spread to Terrio...told her she had to see that one of Jeff and Penelope... I totally agree with you, Janga!