Jilly: Looking Beyond the Draft

15090927_sIt’s that time of year again. Not the Japanese cherry blossom season Michaeline wrote about so poignantly yesterday, but the three-day beauty parade that matches the cream of (American) college football talent with the good, the bad, and the ugly of professional football in the over-hyped, eye-wateringly expensive, insanely risky extravaganza otherwise known as the NFL Draft.

Most of the 8 Ladies are football fans, and well-informed ones at that. I’m nowhere near their level of clued-in, but I’m working on it, and as I was trying to get my head around this weekend’s decision-making and horse-trading, I thought I saw some parallels with the rookie author’s struggle to find their place in the publishing process. Not the obvious one about long odds, either 😉 .

What interests me about the Draft is that teams spend a fortune in time and resources attempting to predict a young player’s likely performance in the NFL. They gather an incredible wealth of detail about anything they can: a player’s size, weight, body shape, speed, flexibility – even the size of his hands or the flexibility of his hips. They interview him, watch him play, check his social media presence, maybe hire private detectives to compile a profile on his private life.

The wonderful thing is that although that information helps the teams to make the best possible decision they can, the unknowns are still greater than the knowns. Nobody can say which of those players will go on to be Hall of Famers and which will sink without trace.

There’s only one way to find out – by playing. Some athletes come into their own when they have to digest a bigger playbook or find their place in a more complex system. Some learn quickly from their coach and more experienced colleagues. Some step up to the heightened physical and psychological challenge of facing the best of the best from more than a decade’s draft picks, occupying every position on the field. Some have the mental strength to soak up the intense pressure, and develop the endurance needed to survive a longer, more punishing season.

I’m taking writerly inspiration from this. Being able to write a great scene is an important and necessary skill, but once we’ve cracked that, we need to be able to write a whole book, and then another one. I’m thrilled that I’ve managed to finish my first book, but my notes from a workshop at RWA National last year said that you can’t tell whether a series has been successful until you have six books out. Six? Can I write six? I think so, but I won’t know until I try. Can I write two or three books a year, so that I keep the story momentum going? Dunno, but I intend to do it or die tryin’. Can I find the expert help I need so that I get better with every book I write, and sooner or later they become good enough to stand next to the authors I admire most? Hmm. Watch this space.

I decided this weekend, that if I manage to get the newbie writer’s equivalent of a high draft pick (an agent and editor deciding to invest in my manuscript), I’ll be thrilled. If not, I’ll stay in the game, back myself and keep playing as hard as I can.

If you’re in need of similar inspiration, I give you this video of Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks of all time (sorry, Michille!) and holder of three Superbowl rings. In the interview he talks about the year 2000, when he sat with his parents and watched six other quarterbacks get drafted before he finally scraped in as the number 199 pick in the sixth round. He gets a little teary at the memory, but it didn’t turn out too badly for him, did it?

How are you feeling this week? Inspired? Confident? Apprehensive? Determined? All of the above?

11 thoughts on “Jilly: Looking Beyond the Draft

  1. Fun video! I enjoyed seeing the names of people I don’t know flash by. That’ll be me. I was revising away today, shocked that I’m still making substantial changes to chapters four and five, chapters I’ve revised numerous times already. And I know I’m not making changes just to change words because I can’t let those chapters go. I’m strengthening the prose. But if I can’t produce polished chapters faster than this, I’ll be in publishing purgatory forever. So that’s where I am!

    • Speed: I feel your pain – but just think what a great anecdote this will make when you’re through purgatory and out on the good side, and newbies ask you about your process 😉 .

      Seems as though I’ve read similar anecdotes on many excellent multi-published authors’ websites. I’m pretty sure Chuck Wendig said his first book took him five years, and now he’s spitting out stories faster than the eye can see, and blogging another book’s worth per year as well. Just sayin’ .

  2. This week I’m determined. And confident. And excited. I’m rolling!

    I was thinking of Brady as I read your post — everyone had him pegged as a backup. A guy that possibly had potential. Down the road. And then old Hoody was forced into giving him a chance to show his stuff. That’s another parallel with the writing journey, isn’t it? Never judge a book, and all that. We “diamonds in the rough” are just waiting for our chance to shine.

    • Yep. We will all get our shot, and you bet we’ll sparkle 🙂 .

      Very glad to hear you’re on a roll. Long may it last!

  3. I’d say “apprehensive” is my dominant emotion at this time becuase it’s my nature to feel like there’s a zinger just around the corner when things are going well.Two editors have requested to see my complete manuscript. I’ve committed to delivering the first on Thursday and it feels like my book sooo isn’t ready.

    Okay, that’s my daily allotment of whining. Time to get back to work.

  4. Great analogy, Jilly – though I wish we only had to wait three days, rather than than the many months it takes an agent to decide. Interesting that you’ve definitely decided to go it alone if you don’t get a good agent/publisher – have you set a deadline for when you’ll put the traditional route to one side for the time being (nothing saying you couldn’t go back to it later) and indie publish?

    I’m just about to start my second draft of WIP and have (what I think is) a great idea for a new series, so I’m feeling excited and energised at the moment. Oh, and a bit daunted because there’s always something about that moment just before I plunge in again where I feel just a teensy bit nervous. (And for a completely different sports analogy, it strikes me that the more successful you become, each time you start a new book, it’s like taking a step up onto a higher diving board. I’m still on the baby board and still feel scared looking down at the water sometimes!).

  5. I have committed to writing what I feel like writing for this novel. I did NaNo my way, and now I had to give myself a good talking to, and I think I’m back on track. I have accepted that a lot of the WORDS I wrote are going into the garbage — but I’ll still be able to use many of the thoughts and plots. I sat down and wrote a mini-character summary, and I finally got the major plot points written down. And just the act of writing down the plot points helped a few things fall into place.

    (-: Progress. Great for the spring!

  6. Tom Brady may have been a late pick, but lots of people had their money on Tim Tebow when he came into the NFL and despite being a two-time Heisman trophy winner, has only had marginal success in the NFL.

    That said, he’s been busting his butt with personal QB coaches since getting cut from the Patriots, determined to make it, so you have to give him credit for his hard work and his determination, two qualities every writer must have. As well as thick skin. Lots of people said he wouldn’t make it in the NFL, but he’s out to prove them wrong. The Eagles just signed him to a one-year contract, so we’ll see.

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