Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Post-Game Presser

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably seen this. Your favorite team has just had its most convincing, most complete victory of the season. In this game/match/whatever you call it, they’ve done everything well. In winning, perhaps they’ve snuffed a multi-game losing streak. Or, maybe, it’s been a season of inconsistency, victories almost equally-balanced by defeat, and even within a single game they go from stunningly good to putrid in a manner of moments. Yeah, that kind of season.

But not now. This was such a solid victory, that everyone is convinced that the team is finally ready to play up to preseason expectations, is finally ready to ascend to what everyone feels is its rightful spot at the top of the standings.

In the locker room, reporters crowd around one of the star players. Microphones and recorders are shoved into his face as they ask about particular plays, how he managed to score that goal, break loose for that touchdown, sneak that curve over the corner. And eventually, someone asks the question: “Do you think this is a turning point for your season?” And just as surely as that question gets asked, comes the answer. “Oh, for sure,* but we try to take this one game at a time**”

To this day, I don’t think I’ve every heard anyone, not the naivest of rookies, the grizzledest of grizzled veterans, or the most hard-boiled coach in all the land answer this question truthfully, which would be something along the lines of, “We’ll know when the season is over. That’s when we can look back and know where the turning points were.” Or, perhaps, “We’ll see how we play the next game.” Either of those answers would be more truthful, more accurate, because it’s entirely possible that the next game will bring another stinker, another loss, another return to inconsistency.

Wow, I sound like a real downer here, don’t I? I should be celebrating a NaNo victory! I had a goal of adding 50,000 words to my current manuscript, and I did, after a fashion. My manuscript now stands at 256 pages and 68,000 words. Yes, if you do the math, it doesn’t work out quite right, as I was starting with around 22,000, however, I also chopped a fair amount. Also, because of the way I’m working on this project, using a sort of outline, there are scenes that went in the outline–some pretty well-drafted–that haven’t been inserted into the manuscript just yet. Yay, me, right?

Yes, but not quite so fast. A team can sometimes feel such relief at getting a big, much-needed victory that they suffer a let down and get their proverbial doors blown off the very next game. With the pressure of NaNo off my back, it’s important that I don’t take my foot off the gas. This project is not complete. The ending is still fuzzy (despite my pseudo-outlining ways, I haven’t been able to see that far ahead yet). One of the characters is lagging a bit behind the others. There are sloppy points and inconsistencies. A coach or player may stand in front of the reporters muttering platitudes about “compete level” and “giving it 110%”, but walk away knowing there’s much to be done. That’s where I’m at: happy with the victory, but knowing it’s a long, long season.

Believe it or not, I’m much more optimistic than I sound. It was a good month. I just need to keep it going.

How about you? How was your month?

*I’m a hockey fan. Hockey players say, “For sure” all the time. I don’t know why.

**I sometimes wonder why they even bother with post-game news scrums at all. At least in hockey, you rarely get more than this, unless it’s a John Torterella press conference, where almost anything can happen.

6 Responses

  1. Oh, heck yes the ms needs work. It's just a first draft. Mine has so many holes in it, it might as well be a colander. BUT, it's essentially my very detailed outline. I needed to get that down so I can work through other issues I haven't made up my mind yet about. I've been letting it rest while I took time off from writing and now I'm finishing a connecting short story. In a couple of weeks I should be ready to go back and make some decisions–after I shift some things around and expand on some characters and plot lines. I love this part. 😀

  2. "Mine has so many holes in it, it might as well be a colander."–Nice, Donna, I like that! Yeah, this is a fun part, isn't it? But it's all kind of fun. Good luck with it!

    -Stacy–Yes. Yes, I did. It's still too easy to ease up on the gas, though.

  3. Yay for you on your NaNo accomplishment! And double yay that you realize where the WIP's weaknesses are and are still enthusiastic about dealing with them. That's harder than it seems sometimes. Go you! 🙂

  4. -Lexa: Thanks and double-thanks! I like the part where you make things nice!

    -Stephen: Excellent work, and thanks for commenting!

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