Wednesday Whirlwind


Just a quick (or maybe not) pass through some of the topics on my mind this week. Nothing too in-depth. I don’t think. (It’s kind of a long post, though; heads-up.)

So, continue on if you’re interested but don’t feel obligated.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Okay, so the 2012 class of Pro Football Hall of Fame selections have been made, and many are decrying the selections as the worst in NFL history. Imagine that, the worst in NFL history. That’s sad.

Part of the problem stems from the selection committee. Now, who do you think chooses the men who are inducted to the National Football League’s Hall of Fame? Former players with first-hand knowledge of the inductees? Coaches who may have worked with those players or coached against them? NFL franchise owners who started and currently run the league?

No, none of the above. Heck, not even the fans who support the league and keep it going on the backs of their ticket- and merchandising sales are the ones who select the hall of fame inductees.

Then, who, you ask?

Well, sports writers, of course! Men with no first-hand knowledge of the sport directly, who sit behind a keyboard and criticize coaches and players and owners, who make no attempt to cover their biases either for or against teams, players, coaches or owners. Anyone who earns their ire might be snubbed for induction regardless of how they performed in their position.

And let’s be clear here; the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame is reserved, theoretically, for men who were exemplary in their era. Not just great players, but the greatest of players, whose impact on the sport is felt through the years. Men who changed the sport forever because of how they played the game, or players whose opponents had to game plan for them.

Sports writers may have some knowledge of their sport of choice, but many of them don’t cover football exclusively — it’s hard to make a living that way. And no one can be an expert in every sport. Sports writers don’t belong in this process any more than they belong in the process of deciding which college teams are the national champions — especially when there’s no deciding match and no general consensus on those things, even among sports writers.

Sports writers are there to present sports to readers of their medium, be it newspaper (does anyone still do that?), new media (like sports web sites and blogs) or radio and TV. They do not have any special qualifications which make them authorities on their sports. (This is also my problem with “professional” as a title being handed to anyone in a literary agency — they’re no better at reading and knowing what’s a good book and what isn’t than you are as a reader.) They’re jacks of all trades and being handed a beat for a team in a sport doesn’t make anyone an expert on that sport. It makes them an expert — eventually, one would hope — on reporting on that team.

So why are sports writers chosen to make the selections for the NFL Hall of Fame?

Well…if I could answer that for you I would. But some injustices have certainly been created because of personal biases and vendettas against a player, coach or team. And this year is no exception.

Writing, writing, writing

I’ve been writing like a madman recently. Well…last night, not so much. After I got home, I was tired. No idea why, just…drained from the day. My back hurt a bit more than it had over the weekend, so I didn’t feel like fighting that to get a lot of writing done. By the time dinner rolled around it was about seven, and by the time I sat my big butt in the chair to key some words, it was after eight. I banged out less than 500, but it was a good scene, so I’m satisfied with what I did.

On the shorter scenes, I have to say I really like them. I’m all in favor of letting the scene itself dictate how long it should be, but I’ve really been trying hard to get to the point, start the scene at the last possible minute, as close to the action as I think I can drop the reader and still give them context and such.

But the pace of the book is quicker now, as it moves toward the conclusion. And these shorter, punchier scenes are a boon toward pacing, I have to say. I’ve got a longer one breaking some of the short ones up, and then back to the short, and it’s a joy. I don’t know if I’ve had this much fun writing a full-length work ever. I have an outline to keep me on track, and I have the freedom to let the scenes flow because I didn’t outline in lurid detail. I’d say it’s a loose outline, which is afforded by planning the book with story architecture and knowing what the milestones are and where they belong.

It’s also gone pretty fast. I didn’t write squat for a couple of months over the holidays, and I didn’t do a lot last month with my back. So I’ve worked on it steadily since September and it’s going very well, I think, all things considered.

I also think the outline will make the editing much easier. I can pick up the pace of the first part of the book (Act I, essentially) with a bit of trimming to get closer to the action in some of those scenes. Knowing the characters the way I do now, I can do more with them and their responses too, and maybe clip some stuff. Overall, I think the edits will all be trimming except for the sixth chapter, which all my beta readers seemed to dislike for various reasons.

Overall, I give the project an “A” and can’t wait to wrap it up. If I can manage a thousand words a night during the week and five thousand over the weekends — and I can’t say I can do that definitively, but if I can — I should be able to wrap this thing up in something like a week or two. Figure 5K each week, give or take, and about 5K per weekend is going to add about 10K in a week; so maybe a week and a half. I’m sitting at about 52K total, but don’t feel compelled to push this to the magic 80-85K the gatekeepers insist on. (If it runs longer, fine, but right now I see 60-65K as pretty solid for this piece.)

So, yeah, I’m excited. And I’ll be looking for betas to go over the full document for me and give reader impressions. As before, not really interested in “critique” from a writer perspective except essentials I miss (typos, word repetition, wrong word usage, things like that). No, I don’t think I’m the pinnacle of writerly skill and accomplishment, and yes, I do have reasons for not seeking writer input.

Let’s face it, when writers critique each other all they do is say, “Well, I would have done it this way instead, and think you should too.” I’ll be blunt here, and say that’s simply not what I’m looking for. I want to know what you, as READERS, think. It’s not other writers I’ll be selling to, it’s readers, so their impressions and thoughts are paramount to me. As for critique, well — it’s my book, not yours, so go write your own if you want to do it differently. Just don’t write mine or steal the idea and the Internet’s big enough for both of us.

Character consistency and depth will be something I’m very interested in hearing about. I got a couple of good pieces of input along the way about that before, but I also wanted to let the story unfold a bit, and let the character arcs play out before I intervened as the author and capitulate to reader desires. So it’s going to be interesting from my perspective to see whether that worked out or not.

But again, I have to finish the book first. A week or two, best case; another month or thereabout, worst case.

The Back Chronicles

I don’t know what’s wrong with my back, but I feel very certain it’s some sort of injury. My loving wife, as insightful as she is, believes it to be something simple which will be cleared up with relative ease. I don’t know. I’m doubtful, in fact. But then, I tend to be a bit of a hypochondriac when it comes to things like this, always thinking the worst possible case is going to be true for me.

After my disastrous chiropractic episode, I decided to see an orthopedic specialist in my PPO network. He’s very near the house, he’s accepting patients, I can pronounce his name and his assistant calls him an “orthopod”. How much better can it be? The Greek word orthos, from which we derive our term orthopedics, means “straight” — so let’s hope he can straighten this out for me.

My appointment’s later this week. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, my chair doesn’t help as much as I’d like but it doesn’t hurt as much as my old one, either. So we’re at an impasse, and I don’t know what to do about that. Return it for a new one? Keep it and see if the improved/treated back solves it? *Sigh*

Future Stories and Software worries

I’ve got a few novels I can get into after this one’s complete, and I’ve long wanted to experiment with my other writing software programs with them. But the fact is, I don’t know how much those things are helping me as a writer. Most of them include ways to track story facts and information, and that’s good. Most of them have a built-in outliner, which is also good. Most of them allow moving scenes freely within a book and that’s good (I’ve already used this once and it was pretty freakin’ awesome, actually).

The not-so-good part, though, is not all of these programs do all of these things equally. Scrivener for Windows is the one I want to try the most, I think. I’ve toyed with WriteWay, have written my current novel-in-progress entirely in Power Writer, and so I have to feel out Scrivener. But Word beckons me; Word is so much more powerful than it used to be, and with a good outlining tool at hand, what else does a writer need but imagination?

Nevertheless, I paid for this crap, and dammit, I’m gonna use ’em all at least once!

Power Writer, for all its good points, doesn’t do as well as I initially thought with notes about small sections of the book. And it doesn’t seem to have a place where I can look over all the notes of the book in a single frame or glance or layout, so it’s hard for me, say, to go back to Chapter 3 for the name of that character we haven’t seen since or the name of that town which I’m returning to. It does do those things — and many others, to boot — but not as intuitively as I’d hoped.

WriteWay, however, has a scratch pad and the new release does Nook- and Kindle-ready publishing, so even though I keep wanting to try Scrivener for Windows, I’m seriously considering WriteWay for the next one. Why bother with conversion of a file to Kindle format if I can output it that way directly after writing? The major drawback with WW, however, is it limits your book to no more than nine acts. That doesn’t sound like an issue — after all, isn’t the Three Act Story Structure the model for all stories?

Well, yes and no. That model can be broken any number of ways, but my favorite way to break it — so far, anyway — is to split Act II into two separate parts. This is why I don’t call my structure model a three-part structure; the one I use is actually a four-part structure with the midpoint falling between parts two and three. That makes the second act much more palatable and easy to manage, thus avoiding that “Muddle in the Middle” (or the “Beginning, Muddle and End” model many writers use).

So, with only nine acts and a four-part, five-milestone structure (four parts, first plot point, first pinch point, midpoint, second pinch point, final plot point), I’m very, very close to the limit of the software’s ability.

The only other drawback with WriteWay? It’s ugly. I don’t love the editor. We’ll see.

So I’ve got about five or six novels I can kick off, if I can get through this one in a timely manner. Now, should I identify the software of choice for me — and who knows, maybe it will be Word 2010 and Text Tree or something — I’ll probably start more than one book. My wife’s been trying to get me to do that for years, and says I’ll never get bored because I’ll always have something fresh to work on. I’m afraid it will mean none of those ever get done. But I have to say, publishing five novels within a few months of each other would be great.

The End

Okay, that’s it for me. I’m out. Thanks for listening and have a great rest of the week.

-JDT-

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6 thoughts on “Wednesday Whirlwind

  1. All of the sports hall of fames have flawed methods of inducting people. Cooperstown inducts players based on voting by the baseball writers association. Then there’s a secondary way of getting in based on voting by a committee of inducted players. Which for a long while was the plaything of a certain retired player. This guy got most of his former teammates inducted because they were his friends, not because they were worthy of being in the hall. With that being said, I would not appreciate having players and coaches pick who gets inducted into the hall.

    That’s interesting. That would, in my view, be the ideal way to have them inducted, but as you pointed out, that system is easily abused too. I also think “fan voting” for all-pros/all-stars is a stupid idea.

    The reason sports writers were chosen to do the inducting is because in the days before cable television, the only people who saw games from other cities were the writers. They would tour the nation and see as many games as possible. The fans didn’t get to do that. The fans only got to see the players on their home team and on the teams visiting their home team. In baseball, if you lived in a city that only had a National League team, you never saw an American League player, ever. Imagine living in Boston back in the day after the Braves moved to Milwaukee. You only ever saw the Red Sox and any American League team visiting the Red Sox. Meanwhile, there was this guy in San Francisco named Willie Mays. Sure, you heard of him, but you never saw him play. You had to assume that he was as good as you heard.

    And this is fine considering all-star players currently active. But other people — like team managers for that conference, for instance — have seen these people play as well as writers, and that’s not a good method to continue using now, IMO.

    Then again, the hall of fame as a whole is a silly institution. It makes sense as a museum of the sport for fans to visit and parents to teach their children about players from previous eras. But that’s it. Whether or not a player is in the hall of fame is completely irrelevant. Maybe the hall of fame should hire a curator the way a museum would and have that curator completely run the show. Induct moments, not players. For example, in Cooperstown, put an exhibit all about Don Larson’s perfect game in the World Series.

    I see merits in both. I think saluting extraordinary players is important, but it’s the Hall of FAME, not the Hall of Pretty Good or even the Hall of Great. Getting over that limiter is the key, to me, in having an effective Hall.

  2. Well, any improvement in your back situation is better than none. I’ll be happy for you for now. Good luck with the Orthopod! (Sounds very science-fiction-y)

    Yes, it does, doesn’t it? I told the girl on the phone, “…not to be confused with an arthropod, of course…” But she said, “Huh?” I laughed alone, I’m afraid.

  3. hey pal,

    Glad to hear the writing is moving along well. I hit a dry spot this week, it has been stressful as Hell at work, my daughter has been sick and when I get home I have been too burned out to do anything but go to sleep or play SKYRIM.

    If I could match your output, Al, all six of my novels would’ve been up on KDP last year. Don’t worry about a small break in productivity like yours.

    The next 2 years of the serial novel are ready and the #fridayflashes are good until th end of the month but my Monday PRICE BREAKS AND HEARTACHES has hit a snag… and all because I decided to include a sword and sorcery dream sequence.

    Darned dream sequences.

  4. Good luck with the orthopedic doctor, my ex went to one, and he found it to be a HUGE success!

    And congrats on all of the success in your current WIP. I’m excited to see how the rest of the story pans out. ♥

    Thanks! I’m hoping I’ll get a few beta readers lined up. I’m really close now!

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