Buying into a strategy – plus a small update

This way or that ?

Here is one of those posts where I tie together two seemingly unrelated subjects, usually writing and something else in order to explain a small point. The idea is that it highlights one or more, of the myriad of connections in life, and how we may wish to use these relations in our writing. Today I shall marry football (the one with the spherical ball, US readers, i.e. Soccer), and writing. No, hold on, don’t run off yet, I shall endeavour to make the point in a small number of words and without any prior knowledge of the game. So lets see how that one turns out shall we.

Regular readers will know that I am a Liverpool Football Club (LFC), and pretty much have been since the 1986 FA cup final where Liverpool beat Everton 3 − 1. As anyone who is a fan of any sport can tell you, once you experience the emotional ride once, it is hard to shake off. Liverpool were the main team then. Now they haven’t won the English League since 1990, although thankfully have won other trophies over the years (including the Champions League in another emotional ride in 2005). Now for various reasons, some good, some not, they are on their fourth manager in four years, a man called Brendan Rogers.

Brendan came from managing Swansea City, who had built a reputation on playing good possession football on a small budget, no mean feat. In fact, at the end of last season they went to Liverpool and beat them one nil. Now Brendan has the Liverpool job, still a prestigious one, as Liverpool is one of the most supported clubs not just in the UK, but the world. He is bringing more of a possession game to the club, more along the lines of what the club played in it’s best days. A possession game is the hardest to play because it requires good technical ability, a good understanding of how the team moves, where your team mates should be, where you should be. If you have the ball you need to be able to do something positive as a team, with it. It requires skill under pressure, a cool head, and a belief in what you are doing. It also requires certain movements when you lose possession, or do not have possession of the ball, because part of the game is getting the ball back. Depending on the coaches strategy, you will do a certain thing, for a certain amount of time.

This type of game is the most difficult because it requires good players, but also because without this and a good understanding of what you and the team should be doing, greater risks. For example,if you play out from the back (your own goal) you are at more risk of giving the ball away in a dangerous area than you would be punting it up the field or out of play (letting you regroup). On the other hand if you play out and retain possession, you are in a much better position than punting it or knocking it out of play. Inherent in playing a game like this is players who buy into your philosophy and have the required skills to do so. Those that do not are moved on and replaced with those that do. It is a slower way to progress (potentially), but should it work, it brings a higher chance of the greater reward.

And what exactly does this have to do with writing? Even across the blogsphere, I hear you ask. Well here’s the interesting thing. Anyone out there attempted to write a book? It is a long slog isn’t it? It requires a lot of thought and effort doesn’t it? There is a learning curve isn’t there? Somewhere along the way you learn where you fit on the planning scale. Do you like a strong story plan, and know all the plot up front, or do you work from an idea and see where it takes you? Personally I like a good plan, or as I put it, “a strong spine”, but with some room to see what comes out.

What about a work routine, when do you work? Mornings, evenings, throughout the day? Do you write to a word target, a chapter target, from point to point? I prefer mornings or evenings, and mostly I work to a word count, but that can change if I want to get to a certain point. What sort of advice do you use, and how often? I prefer a few help writing help books, some blog sites and the “community advice”, and the Writers Digest. I enjoy using them but I don’t let them dominate my time. Or not too often.

You might see where I am going here with these question and answers. Writing on a larger project takes some ability and effort. If you have a strategy for working on it, something you have learnt both works for, and compliments you, then you are on the right road. You have a higher chance of success. If you do not have much of a strategy, just dive in, or have a go whenever, you don’t look for your weak areas and try to improve. Things will be much different. You will have a higher chance of failing or getting sidetracked. Your project will get no where fast. I can tell you this from experience. So what I’m saying is you need to learn what works for you. You need to have a strategy that you can really buy into, and commit to and the right tools to do it. Having that commitment will be harder to break. Having the strategy and tools that compliment you will make it come together easier, even if underneath that, there is a lot of time and effort. You may have to learn some technique first, and have some trial and effort, but doing this should benefit you in the long run. Like Liverpool Football club, if the strategy is right and everyone buys into it, if the right players are there, then the chances of going somewhere good, improve.

An Update on a few things

  • The novel project has been slow in the last week or two for a number of reasons outside of the blog. I am not attempting to finish it by the end of the year (or at least a draft of it) so no big deal. That said I would prefer more progress.
  • However, I have a number of good ideas for a short story project which I shall also be developing and working on. The idea was a tiny bit off the back of “100 word fiction” although these stories will be much larger short stories. This and the project above will be worked on over the next few months.
  • I’m changing my Monday posts from focusing on the previous weekend to focusing on the previous week. It will now be called “My past week in Haiku & other assorted nonsense”. Partially this is so I am not tied into having to write this the day before, and partially because some of my weekends are a bit boring.

Lexicon word of the day: gaucherie.

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21 comments on “Buying into a strategy – plus a small update

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    I think you already know I’m an outliner. I like a good plan in place. That being said, I really need to hunker down now and get serious about my current WIP. Over the last two months all my focus has been on getting my first novel ready for its release. Now it’s time to shift gears. I hope I have the energy and creativity to get it on its feet.

    • Elliot says:

      I think the key to finishing a larger project is to have a whole bunch of things in place, the strategy if you will. I’m sure if you sat down and got yourself a little plan down for how to get it going, when to do it and so forth. Plus you bring all your previous experience to the table, so in a sense you are half way there.

      Is it another novel project you are working on?

  2. rtd14 says:

    I understand not getting a book done within the time span you’d hoped for. Your short story idea sounds great. Would you put them together in a collection when finished?

    • Elliot says:

      Yes – I have a bunch of ideas tied around a loose concept so each story will be individual and work on its own, but will be pulled together for a collection around the concept.

  3. jmmcdowell says:

    While I’m a pantser on my initial draft, my later versions include more planning to address earlier problems such as any plot holes or needed revisions of characters/elements that aren’t working as I thought they would.

    Hopefully your football team will reap the benefits of this style of play. 🙂

    • Elliot says:

      I think we learn our best strategies over time (and experience). A lot is trial and error unless we have someone who is a good teacher, and gives good examples.

      I’m not expecting the football team to be too amazing this season, but hopefully the manager gets good time and it beds in providing a good foundation for next. Better still will be if I get surprised this season.

  4. Margarita says:

    So, essentially, you’re describing a running game and a passing game. A running game, you keep more control of the ball, but it’s harder going to gain ground. A passing game, you gain ground faster but expose yourself to greater risk for losing control of the ball. Good analogy! 😉

    • Elliot says:

      Probably very similar assuming you are referring to American football here. I imagine the passing game takes better technical ability than a running game. In soccer football you have more potential with a possession game simply because you have more of the ball than your opponent does. But with that it involves a lot of movement on and off the ball and a good knowledge of what your team mates do. Plus your opponent has to expend more energy chasing the ball around trying to get it back, so it is often a patient approach (which doesn’t suit all players) because sometimes you tire your opponent out in order to better take advantage.

      Anyhoo the gist is you really have to buy into the strategy to make it work. No full commitment and it breaks down.

  5. You bring up a good point. This weekend we had a big birthday party for our boys (their birthdays are only a few days apart so we celebrate them together) and I plan and plan and plan. I make lists, check things off, re-write the list if needed and coordinate everything. However, when I write, I have no strategy – in fact I loathe putting structure on my writing. This is the ONE time when I can just let things flow without worrying where it will take me. Of course, I know if I were more practical I’d probably get more done and more accomplished but right now I’m in a place where I simply want to enjoy the process.

    • Elliot says:

      I think as far as writing goes, for smaller things, poems, blog posts, short fiction, I do not need the structure. For the larger projects, definitely more so otherwise I’m a little like the cliche writer in films / tv who sits near the keyboard, but achieves nothing. Or nothing fast anyway.

  6. I’ve often thought my career as a consultant was the best training ground for life. Everything was projects and some of them were a one man show where I had to wear a dozen hats and complete something in a short time frame. It gave me an ability to estimate time requirements and to map out how to get from point A to Z.

    • Elliot says:

      See there you learnt a strategy that you can use. If someone explained it to you you might get it or might not, but your experience of it tells you what works for you, and possibly somethings that do not. I think when people don’t have much experience they can directly use, then they end up essentially learning the right tools first. If they are lucky they get it right early on.

  7. Eric Alagan says:

    Soccer and writing….Hmmmm

    I usually start with a broad storyline and let the characters and story take over – sometimes paint myself into a deadend alley but resist the temptation to paint a door for the hero to escape…by the time I solve that problem, I’ve got a great storyline. Does that make sense? I’m waiting for my brain to catch up this morning…

    Thanks for your sharing Elliot – Eric

    • Elliot says:

      Well I wanted to write a little bit about LFC, but I didn’t think anyone would read that!

      I know what you mean, and that is clearly a strategy that works for you because you have completed several novel projects. That is my point I guess, that you need the right tools that work for you, and therefore a strategy of some kind that you can buy into or follow. Muddling from one thing to another gets you nowhere fast.

  8. Smaktakula says:

    Apologies for getting here late. I’ve been (and will continue for the next several weeks, most likely) tardy in getting to my regular blogs, but rest assured, I’m getting ’round to my faves.

    Although I do like football, I’m not a huge fan of soccer (much of my animus, I must confess, is due to my own nativist bigotry coupled with my complete lack of soccer skills). Having said that, my ambivalence or even outright dislike of a subject can sometimes, as it was in this case, be countered by the author’s enthusiasm. I am, I think, naturally inclined to look favorably upon honest enthusiasm, no matter how ridiculous (and although you know I frequently like to throw playful jabs, that wasn’t a dig at soccer, which I don’t consider a ridiculous enthusiasm–just a baffling one; I was thinking more of those tricked out bicycles that some people dump small fortunes into, or cowboy hats or things like that) .

    It’s cool that you’re a Liverpool fan. I like the word “Liverpudlian.” Do you have any connection with Liverpool? I think you said you grew up in the South East, didn’t you? I don’t for a minute suggest that a person’s sports affiliation should be local–people like teams for lots of different reasons–I’m just fascinated by places, by where things happen.

    • Elliot says:

      I also am struggling for time at the moment and will be for the next couple of weeks.

      I grew up in the North, but I did live in the south east for quite a while prior to moving to California. Liverpool were not our local team, but the club wasn’t too far away either. My family had been Liverpool fans for a long time and I just (through seeing them on tv, which back then was a lot more limited than now) got the bug. Of course they were the best team back then, which to a young mind, made it a bit easier. But it never left. It is still one of my first ports of call on the net even now, be it the official site, fan sites, or the “news”.

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