Pretty much since NaNo started, when I found out about it on a writing forum I was a part of, I’ve used November as a month to struggle through a story. Different years have been met with varying measures of success. Most years top out somewhere around 25000 words. One year I got 3800 words in and realized I had no idea what I was writing so I quit right away. But in 2007, I finished. I got something like 51000 words down, finished a narrative arc, and was a NaNoWriMo winner. But that’s the only time I won.
This year, I was going to skip out of NaNo. I have a goal of reading 50 books in a year — I’ve had that goal in mind ever since I graduated university — and this is the first year since my first year out of school that I actually have a chance of finishing it. 2003, I got to 49 books and had two or three that were half-finished. This year, it’s just the beginning of November and I’ve got 42 finished with one at the halfway mark.
But then I thought about it. It’s NaNo. Hell, after this long, it should be considered a tradition. So, I threw some notes together a couple days before the beginning. And just after midnight, way in the wee hours of the November first morning, I started. I got a respectable 500 words before deciding to call it a night. It was on the way to work the next morning that I changed my mind. Not that I didn’t like what I had written, not that I didn’t want those words to count against my monthly total, but I wanted to write a completely different story. So I did. I found a way to incorporate the story I was originally going to write into the one I’m writing now and have just over 3500 words after two days.
For those of you uninitiated in the lore that is NaNoWriMo, the goal for each day, in order to have a 50000-word novel at the end of it, is 1667 words per day. Obviously, I’d like to get ahead of the game so there isn’t a blind panic in the last days but if I can just stay reasonably close to the daily average, I’ll be happy.
Regardless, November should be an interesting, busy month. And if I manage to make it through November with a new novel, we’ll see you in December. If not, we’ll probably see you much sooner.
The tale of The Haunted Tree, the story I told at my first Beaver Camp, is a bit of a legend in the camp. It is also a bit of a lesson in how to gauge your audience. Or rather, how not to gauge your audience. I told a bit of a scary story that kinda, sorta scared the Beavers so much that some of them weren’t willing to get up and go to the bathroom in the night.
I got another lesson in storytelling this past weekend at fall camp when I was told that I could tell a scary story to the Cubs and Scouts after the Beavers had gone inside for hot chocolate. The first snag was that some of the Beavers were allowed to stay outside to listen to the story. Not what I would have chosen but another leader gave them permission so I had to abide. The second snag was that it was to be about Goat Boy (or Goat Man), a half-defined figure that was also sort of a legend in our group.
Had it been only the Cubs and Scouts, I would have gone into the origins of Goat Boy before I told the story of how I met Goat Boy when I was camping and how he’d killed my two friends before realizing that we weren’t the ones who’d stolen his horns. As it was, with the Beavers there, I stuck to the origins and left the rest untold.
For the origins, I said that Goat Boy was a Russian immigrant who had toured Russia with various menageries and freak shows but that when Communism fell, he came to Canada for a chance at a better life. Problem was that there were no freak shows here and so he was shunned. Eventually, he was attacked and someone cut the horns off his head. Et cetera, et cetera.
I had pitched the story correctly for the Beavers. One was scared to go out for the night game but could eventually be convinced that he’d be okay as long as he went with someone else. (Good thing I didn’t tell the second part of the story) The Cubs and Scouts were a different story.
I had a Scout express his disappointment to me that the story wasn’t scary at all, to which I could only say, “Yes. It wasn’t scary. You’re right.” So, not a winner with the Scouts.
What I did get, though, was one Cub who was nearly disconsolate because she felt bad for Goat Boy. She wanted to meet him to try and cheer him up. Apparently, I’d moved her so much that she was crying.
So, scary, boring, moving: something for everyone, I suppose.
It was brought to my attention, some time ago, that I tend to over-think things. I like to think that I give things the proper amount of consideration but there are definitely times when it goes too far. I sometimes get stuck in neutral, revving my brain’s engine because I’m trying to figure out all the ins and outs of a problem.
I will give you an example:
I’m writing a story about a football coach who is making a new start with a new team. They’re talented but disorganized. He comes in, cleans house, and things start going smoothly.
That’s great. Good idea, and I love where the story can go. However, I get caught up on the details. How, exactly, would a coach add organization and communication to a team? What process would a coach go through to meet a team? Would he meet them individually? Would he meet them as a team on the first day of spring training? These are all good questions. They should probably have answers. But those answers shouldn’t stand in the way of getting the story written. After all, the drills he’d put them through are not the point of the story. But that’s the part I can’t get past because it’s a detail that I need to know to have the story finished.
And that’s the heart of the problem. I create these scenarios in my head and I have a hard time getting past them. They are barriers to completion, to be sure, but it’s not as if progress can’t be made without that information. I could write some later sections of the story. I could write that part of the story as a stub. But I don’t. I let the story sit while I try to think of the answer to my question and, as any writer can tell you, if you’re not working on a story, it’s not getting written. So, the word count sits, stagnant, until I give up on trying to find the answer. Then, I look back at the fantastic story I was writing and wonder what happened. Why haven’t I worked on it? I poke at it, remember the big intimidating research thing that I stalled out on and run for the hills.
I wonder what the solution to this is. Do I just rough in the parts that I don’t know, assuming that at some point I’ll be hit with inspiration or the courage to ask some smart football people? Do I leave the story, knowing that some details are out of my grasp? Do I just fake it and hope nobody notices the details I’ve left out or gotten wrong?
And this is just one of my stories. I’m at this paralyzed state with at least three more. For different reasons, to be sure, but there it is.
Let me know what you think, or what you’ve done to overcome this flavour of writer’s block. ‘Cause I’ve got lots of ideas, I’m just stuck on all of them.
In some ways, it feels like there’s no way we can be halfway through the blog challenge already. And yet, here it is, blog post #15.
With two jobs demanding my time along with the parenting thing and the acreage thing, I’m actually pretty happy with the way I’ve been able to keep up. Granted, some of my posts have been less than planned-out. (I’m looking at you, Typeracer.com) and some of them haven’t gone nearly as deep as I’d like, but I’ve thrown some stuff together, particularly on mastery and the process of gaining a skill that I’m proud of.
I’m wondering about future iterations of the challenge. I’m wondering about making it more interactive. Maybe have one day a week dedicated to a specific writing prompt. Maybe have some collaboration. I know it’s a diverse (very diverse) group that signs up for this thing so maybe things like collaboration and word prompts wouldn’t work but I’m interested to know what you, the reader, and specifically you, my fellow blog challengers think about these ideas.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, despite my best plans, I will not be getting all of the NFL done before the first game of the season. I’ve made my peace with that. I might not even get to the NFC. Who cares? They’re all a bunch of bums anyway.
I do have a couple of posts that I’m excited about, even if they’re respectively in the very early writing stages and still in the planning stage. But I think you’ll like them too. Or not. But that’s not my problem.
Anyway, that’s enough fractured cop-out for one night. Lemme know what you guys think of the extended blog challenge ideas…
In my best intentions, I was done this post and all the other NFL posts by the end of last week. Unfortunately, I got inspired to write other things that weren’t this. So, in the spirit of ripping off Cliff (something I do quite often very joyfully), here is a combined post about two divisions. Unlike him, though, I won’t sully a single post with a cross-conference pair.
Same old, same old for the Broncos who seem to be going the way of “Win now, while Manning is still alive.” That deal with the devil must be running a little short on time but he keeps ticking, even with a new neck. The defense is still really good, even without Von Miller for the first six games.
Offense: Peyton Manning is, indeed, back. And as long as he can play, they will win more games than they lose. Like the Colts when he was there, I don’t like their chances if he goes out for any stretch of time but who’s to say that he’ll go out at all? Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker get to catch what Manning is dealing out and with Manning, the running game is generally an afterthought when it’s a thought at all, so Ronnie Hillman is perfectly adequate for the offense.
Defense: Despite the absence of Von Miller, there’s a lot to recommend this defense. Wesley Woodyard is a hard player and the secondary will make it hard for teams to come back.
Denver is my pick to win the division but only as long as Manning is healthy.
Kansas City Chiefs
I like the direction that the Kansas City Chiefs are going. They are geared to do short, controlled passing, with Alex Smith. Their defense is looking pretty good, and I think they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs if their offensive line can keep Smith alive.
The key really is the offensive line on this team. Jamaal Charles is going to be Jamaal Charles, no matter what. Alex Smith can make smart decisions and deal the ball. Bowe and Avery will be adequate for that. If this team can be smart, and Andy Reid teams usually are, they’ll be dangerous in a grind-it-out kind of way.
Is Tyson Jackson good? I can’t remember hearing that but it’s a feeling I get. I know that Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are both reasonably good, with Hali probably significantly better. And the defensive backfield, with Eric Berry, Brandon Flowers, and Dunta Robinson, should be good enough to stay with most teams.
This team seems to generate scoring on special teams more than others, and that could factor into the success I’m guessing they’ll have.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers make me tired. I don’t like them. I don’t think I’ve ever, outside of one Superbowl when I was cranky about Steve Young, cheered for them. On paper, they have some weapons. But I don’t think they’re going to put it together. Maybe they’ll make a race of it but I see Kansas City beating them out, in the end.
Offense: Philip Rivers is still pretty good. Probably better than pretty good but I don’t want to give him that credit. And he has a couple of decent receivers. But I hate them.
Defense: Aside from Manti Te’o, a guy more famous for his made-up girlfriend than his actually fairly-impressive playing ability, and Dwight Freeney, a guy who can’t have too much more in the tank, this group doesn’t seem to have anything. And I’m glad about that.
I read a headline on the Onion today that made me laugh. Oakland Raiders unlikely to finish the season. And that’s how I feel about this team. They’re Darren McFadden and a bunch of guys. I think they have a really good chance of capturing the first overall pick in the draft but who cares? If they haven’t already traded it away for Matt Flynn or a bag of kicking tees, they’ll just piss it away on a fast guy with no other appreciable talent other than, maybe, a really good limerick.
Offense: I was curious about Matt Flynn. He got a lot of money in Seattle but I was never aware that he deserved it. With a second chance in Oakland, with no real receivers (unless Rod Streater is way better than I envision), he’s going to have to be Joe Montanamath in order for this team to do anything other than lose by a ton of points. Seriously, it’s him, Darren McFadden, and maybe me and Cliff. I’m not sure. I haven’t checked my email today.
Defense: Ah, the return of the prodigal son. The last time Charles Woodson was in town, the team wasn’t a laughing stock. And Mike Jenkins is someone I’ve heard of, though more because of a contract dispute than anything on the field. Though he probably wouldn’t have held out if he hadn’t played for another team, so there’s that. Oh, and Tracy Porter, who Peyton Manning hates, so there’s that. But it’s the Raiders, so these players will be comically ineffective in a way that nobody expects.
I predict this team will be the first in the NFL to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
So, prediction time:
San Diego (ha ha, no playoffs)
Oakland (sad trombone)
Onwards! No slacking now!
Yes, they’re my team, but they’re honestly the best team in the division. Granted, that’s probably not saying a bunch, but even if they’re not the cream of the AFC (which is completely debatable), it gets them into the playoffs.
Offense: Matt “The Marble Statue” Schaub returns. If he can avoid inexplicable interceptions at stupid moments and turning off his ability in the crunch, he’ll be amazing. Throwing to the likes of Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Owen Daniels helps too. And if that’s not to his liking, there’s always the run game with Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The right side of the line hasn’t been the same since the days of Eric Winston and Mike Briesel, but that’s business in the NFL.
Defense: JJ Watt and Antonio Smith up front will give the opposing teams’ offensive lines fits. And the presence of an emerging Earl Mitchell who might be an effective nose tackle (though probably not as funny as Shaun Cody) will only help things. At linebacker, the team is incredibly thin in the middle, but Cushing’s back, which changes everything this team can do. If he’s patrolling the middle, the team will be much more aggressive in rushing the passer from the outside, which will probably somehow result in more sacks for Watt, but I don’t mind that. Johnathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are a good cornerback duo, and the addition of Ed Reed can’t be a bad thing.
I don’t know why, but it feels like they’re just trying to do the same thing they did when they had Peyton Manning.
Offense: Andrew Luck is the team. He is the offense, and he will take care of things. Unfortunately, Luck is not Peyton. As far as I know, he hasn’t invoked the power of the underworld (though that might be — and probably is — a requirement for being a Colt) and he’s one of these fast quarterbacks who tend to get injured. This team is set up to get a lead and protect it, which means that if they don’t get a lead, they are stuck.
Defense: Call me a fool but I don’t think that the Colts are any more geared toward stopping the run than they were in the Manning years. Sure, they may be moving toward that, but they’re not there yet, so I have a hard time seeing them challenging the Texans this year, at least.
It’s nice to see division rivals struggle. Not so much when they’re coached by some of your childhood heroes. But still nice.
Offense: Jake Locker has one thing going for him. He’s not Blaine Gabbert. And he has Chris Johnson to hand off to. So two things. Beyond that, there are some concerns. Kenny Britt might be good but I seem to remember that he’s an oft-injured punk. I’m assuming the offense will be good, though, because Munchak and Matthews will have that o-line performing.
Defense: There’s some talent here. Wembley and Akeem Ayers are pretty good. And the defensive backfield will probably be good enough. They’ll be good against the run, I think.
I don’t want to hate the Jaguars. They’re like a stuffed animal that’s been dropped too many times. Del Rio isn’t there anymore. And the stink of his attempts to injure players surely must have faded by now. But it’s still there. Maybe because they’re division rivals.
Offense: Blaine Gabbert has one thing going for him. Maurice Jones-Drew. Other than that, he has nothing. Sure, you can say that he has Cecil Shorts and Marcedes Lewis but honestly, that doesn’t matter. They would need him to send the ball to them through the air, so they are non-factors. How he ended up beating Henne out for a job either says volumes about his draft standing, the idiocy of the coaches, or Henne’s had a stroke and– no, that’s not enough.
Defense: Ooh, they’ve retooled with Jason Babin. The guy’s got some serious physical gifts but the attitude of a 13-year-old girl who’s been dumped but refuses to see she’s done anything wrong. Honestly, he still whines about getting shipped from the Texans for a cold bag of Michael Boulware, let alone his treatment at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles. But he’ll get his sacks, no doubt. Honestly, they look reasonably good on defense until you get to the secondary. I took some teasing about the Texans’ signing of Alan Ball but we all knew he was there to play special teams and maybe chip in if there was an injury. He’s starting in Jacksonville. Again, this is a team that will be strong against the run but maybe just because teams will be passing all over them.
Indianapolis (almost a wildcard but losing out to Buff/Miami and KC)
The other night, a friend of mine was, through no fault of her own, put through an embarrassing situation. Either an employee or the guy who runs the restaurant made her feel less because her payment didn’t go through. She got upset, understandably, and probably even moreso when it turned out that the fault was with the debit machine.
She expressed her anger and embarrassment and the restaurant guy responded by:
- Telling her she was wrong about the way he acted.
- Telling her that the other customers knew she was wrong about the way he acted.
- Told her he used to think she was cool until she got all “ragey.”
-Said he would forgive her for being so wrong but that, in case it wasn’t clear, she was wrong.
Now, I’m no customer-facing employee. I’m not comfortable in those situations, so I avoid them. But I do know that the cliché, “The customer is always right,” while not being an absolute truism, has enough historical evidence that a wise business would at least consider it. And it seems to me that a business that defends its alleged bad behaviour with, “You’re wrong! She’s wrong, everybody! I have witnesses. But I’ll forgive her!” has probably taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
I get it. I get where the restaurant guy is coming from. He’s embarrassed at the negative attention and he just wants things to go back to the way they were when everyone thought he was so cool.
It’s the same with these people who apologize for the way other people reacted to something. It’s a non-apology that attempts to dispel the situation without any awareness of what caused it and without any acceptance of culpability. It’s selfish and, in my opinion, it needs to stop.
So, to that end, I’ve constructed a couple of handy flow charts that mindful people can use if they find themselves confronted by someone who’s upset. The first graphic is for individuals, while the second one is for businesses.
So, I’ve left myself enough time to write this post but not so much that I can obsess over how much detail I want to put in it. And I totally did that on purpose. Yeah.
As far as I can see, the AFC North is a two-horse race. Cincinnati and Baltimore are a bit of a cut above Pittsburgh and Cleveland is Cleveland.
It feels like this has a good chance to be a year of Superbowl hangover. They’ve lost some pieces on defense and offense, and lost their star tight end for the season. Still, they do have a fearsome defense and, if money means anything, I think the highest-paid quarterback in the league. If that’s worth anything, it could propel them to the top.
On offense, Joe Flacco still has Torrey Smith and Ray Rice. The problem I see is that they don’t have anyone to draw the defense into covering those intermediate routes, so the sledding could be awfully tough for Smith and Flacco. They could have absorbed the loss of Pitta if they still had Boldin or Boldin if they still had Pitta. I don’t think Rice is enough and I think that will limit what the offense can do.
On defense, it’s like a whole new world out there. Ray Lewis is gone. Ed Reed is gone. They still have players who can get after the passer in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. And Haloti Ngata will clog things up good. But is that enough?
The Bengals have a strong quarterback, an elite-level receiver and enough threats at tight end to make the Patriots jealous. What else they have is a defense that scares me. Unless the Bengals go back to doing what the Bengals do best, I can’t see any of the other teams winning the division, though Baltimore will probably make it close.
Andy Dalton is a strong quarterback. If he’s not among the best in the league, he’s definitely above average and getting better. AJ Green is the guy, though. He’s supremely talented and also, is probably only getting better. Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert will probably have lots of room to create havoc underneath. I’m not too impressed by Benjarvus Green-Ellis but with those four pulling people into coverage, he just has to be average.
The Bengals Defensive Line must be at least top-3. Geno Atkins and Domata Peko are ferocious. And the team got even better in the off-season with the addition of James Harrison on the strong side. Between he and Rey Maualuga, with that d-line, I don’t see too many teams having a bunch of success running. With Leon Hall, Terence Newman, and Adam Jones on the corner, it almost doesn’t matter that the team is relying on Reggie Nelson at Safety.
All I’ve heard this off-season about the Browns is that they’re ready to take a step forward. The problem with the Browns is that a step forward still sees them three or four games back of the playoffs.
I want to believe in Trent Richardson. But he gets hurt. I want to believe in Brandon Weeden. (I think.) But I don’t. And between Greg Lewis, Cameron Jordan, and Josh Gordon, there isn’t a lot to get excited about. The line should be solid which, if Richardson is healthy, could lead to good things. But they’re in the division where defense kills you, so we’ll have to see.
Honestly, on defense, I don’t see much either. But, to be fair, I haven’t paid much attention to the Browns. And people who have have been getting excited. I like D’Qwell Jackson. I’ve heard of Phil Taylor. And Joe Haden is actually pretty good. But beyond that, I just keep thinkig, “It’s the Cleveland Browns.”
There will always be a part of me that thinks the Steelers will win the division. I’m currently telling that part of me to shut up. But it won’t be quiet. It watched the pre-season game where their defensive line looked hungry, where their pass rush was tearing apart the other team. But I temper it with the thought that that was the preseason and should be taken with a grain of salt. I think they’ll make a decent run at some point this season that makes announcers say, “Here come the Steelers!” But then reality will set in and they’ll finish a couple of games back of a wildcard.
Ben Roethlisberger is good. He is tenacious, he has a cannon, and he seems to be able to extend a play at the expense of his face. That said, who is left there for him? According to the internet, that would be Antonio Brown, Jericho Cotchery, and Emmanuel Sanders. Couple that with Isaac Redman in the backfield and I can see Big Ben running for his life.
on defense, as I said, the defense will always be the defense. They have a strong linebacking corps. Sure, they lost Harrison, but they still have Lamar Woodley, Larry Foote, and Lawrence Timmons, not to mention that guy they drafted, Jarvis Jones. They’ll make people pay but it isn’t exactly a deep defense and things could go south pretty quickly. Of course there’s always Troy Polamalu but will he be healthy and will he play as well as he has?
So, in prediction time, I’ll say:
With Baltimore just missing out on a wildcard and Cleveland once again defying expectations and shooting for that #1 over all pick.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the miracle of commenting on blogs, I learned that there was a participant who had either been left off the list or hadn’t registered in time or something. But the Summer Blog Challenge isn’t like that. We’re an inclusive bunch and so, delayed but not daunted, I’d like to introduce Stacy to the Summer Blog Challenge. What has Stacy been up to? I don’t know. I haven’t been following her blog. But, through the miracle of the internet and the persistence of web sites and blog posts, I’ll go find out. Though it appears that at least one of her kids is a southpaw, which I support fully.
Whew! So, now, you’re all wondering: Does Stacy get included in the daily digests from now on? And the answer to that is a resounding yes. She is a full participAnt in this year’s challenge, subject to the same pithy synopses you all are. Eligible for the same marketing deals. Worthy of the same faint praise.
So, welcome, Stacy. May your stay be a productive one.
The AFC East seems pretty easy to call most years. New England and everyone else. While I still think that the Patriots will take the division, the team that comes in at #2 might be playing for a playoff spot. I can’t decide if it will be Miami or Buffalo but it will be an interesting race.
If I had to predict (which, I suppose, I do), I’d say:
New England – 11-5
Buffalo – 9-7
Miami – 8-8
New York Jets – 4-12
From what I’ve seen this preseason, the Bills have improved in the offseason. Between improvement at quarterback and receiver, along with a seemingly-new offensive system, this team could put some points on the board. If the defense is as good as they appeared when I saw them play, they should win enough games to be playing for something in November and maybe December.
Highlights: CJ Spiller, EJ Manuel, Mario Williams, Jairus Byrd
A lot of what the Dolphins can do depends on what kind of progress Tannehill makes. Last year, he was effective but he turned the ball over more times than he scored, both through the air and on the ground. He’ll have to get that sorted out or the Dolphins aren’t going anywhere. Brent Grimes is an upgrade in the secondary and they reloaded on an effective defensive line by drafting another pass-rusher. I think they’ll be right in there with Buffalo at 9 or 10 wins and competing for a wildcard spot.
How much the loss of Aaron Hernandez hurts them on the field will be dictated by how well Gronkowski returns from his injury. The Patriots picked up Danny Amendola, which mitigates the loss of Wes Welker. Defensively, they’ll be fine. Their system dictates a lot of what they’re able to do. I can see this team easily winning 11 or 12 games and winning the division.
New York Jets:
One can only hope that this is the do-or-die year for Rex Ryan. His defense was overrated by the presence of Derelle Revis which was borne out last year. They still have some playmakers but probably not enough to compete this year. Offensively, this team is a huge mess. They lost any playmakers they had. Their quarterback situation is a mess. If they win 5 games this year, it’ll be surprising to me.