Friday, September 21, 2012

Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust...

Football (the American kind--with a weird pointy ball made from the skin of unfortunate pigs) is often called an analogy for war. But as a lifelong fan, I think it makes a great analogy for almost anything--especially writing commercial fiction.

Think of it this way: NFL players prepare at least forty hours for every hour they play.

That's forty-to-one ratio.

This means that if I hope to 'win the game,' for every hour I spend creating new material I must devote many (many!) hours to sharpening my skill, and even more to checking, revising, correcting, formatting, summarizing and pitching that new creation.

Sometimes the words grind out slowly, inch by sweaty inch. Each sentence feels like 'Three yards and a cloud of dust.' A paragraph takes an hour, a single page consumes a whole frustrating day.

Then, like the receiver who breaks free and catches a perfectly-timed throw, scenes unfold in flowing detail, and pages appears on my laptop as if by magic. At the end of these 'bursts' I sigh, close my computer, and think, "Wow. Now that the chapter/scene/book is finished, the hard stuff is over."

Except it's not.

Like a long pass that nets huge yardage, a super-productive day simply means there's more work to do. If a completed scene is a successful scoring drive, I still need to play defense and clean up the manuscript. Another score (a polished draft)? Now it's time to run it by beta-readers and see where the thing drags--in other words, to play more defense.

Offense (writing) and defense (revisions) look good? Now we work on special teams, because we'll never sell our beloved creation unless we successfully pitch to editors and agents (or market the thing ourselves, which is probably harder.)

No football team can win the big prize unless they develop all three phases of the game (ask Boise State, who broke my heart last season. Go Broncos!)

I'm headed to the lake this weekend to work on my passing game.

Come Monday, I'll be back to playing defense.

Cheers...and happy writing!


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