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Work Room - Week 3

The results from Week 2 are up: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/958187.html

as is the new topic: http://therealljidol.livejournal.com/958277.html

Given how busy December tends to be, I've even given you the best gift of all, more time. Use it wisely.

But that's not all. This week I'm giving you something extra in your stocking - A Mentor!

The Mentor program, for those who haven't been around in a season that has had them is where I extort threaten convince someone to come into the Work Room to give advice and be around to answer any questions people might have, and generally bounce ideas off.

This week, it's the Co-Winner of Exhibit B mini-season - and the person who was the fastest in Idol history to join the 100 Weeks Club! Give a warm welcome to your Mentor for the week - the one and only lrig_rorrim!


Ok. I’ve got some important advice for you intrepid Idolers. You ready? Here we go.

1. Reread your entry. Then reread it again. Read it aloud. Then have a friend read it. And then another friend. Rope as many friends into this as you can.

That’s it. That’s the big piece of advice.

Perspective is incredibly valuable. I’m not saying you should be an authorial shape-changer, shifting your style and content and presentation based upon the whims of a mercurial audience. I’m saying that writing is a kind of magic trick - we have images in our mind and we want to smush those images onto a screen in words for others to read. And what images will they have in their minds when they’ve seen the words? Is it what you were aiming for? Could it be closer? The more feedback you get from other people, the more you can perfect that magic trick.

Also, your friends will catch your typos and stray commas and awkward sentences. You’re going to miss some. Trust me on this one.

I said that was it, but really this singular piece of advice comes with two important corollaries.

1a. Learn how solicit good and useful feedback.
1b. Learn how to apply the feedback that you get.

So! Finding people to read your stuff is one thing - that’s what this space can be used for, after all! But those corollaries? Yikes!

How do you solicit good and useful feedback? So often what we get is “I liked it!” or “That was good” or “Eh, it wasn’t my thing.” Now, there’s useful information in those statements, but not a lot.

The first trick is to make sure to ask your readers good questions. It’s nice to know if they like something, but it’s way more useful to know that a sentence wasn’t at all grammatically correct, or that one of your characters is super unlikeable (especially if that wasn’t your intention!).

So, set the tone when you ask folks to read a thing. Ask for help spotting typos and awkward sentences, but also ask questions like, “What do you think happened, in your own words.” If you’re going for a specific tone, whether that’s melancholy or funny or introspective, ask how the piece made your reader feel. Did they get invested in the characters? Was there any point in the entry where their attention started to wander a little bit? I think you start to get the picture!

And what about 1b, learning how to apply the feedback you get? You don’t want to twist yourself into knots trying to make things perfect for everyone, and you’re operating on a pretty tight schedule here. Here’s the secret to revision and applying feedback: it’s not all-or-nothing. You don’t have to take every piece of advice someone gives you about improving an entry and try to apply it. You get to pick and choose. Someone may have fantastic sentence-level feedback for you but be awful about seeing the bigger picture. Maybe non-fiction memoir really isn’t their thing, and so their input on style just isn’t going to work for you this time. That’s ok! The trick is to get enough perspectives on a thing that you understand what’s generally working and what isn’t.

And how do you fix those things that aren’t working? Well, sometimes your readers will have ideas on that score - more often they won’t, or won’t have time to articulate them clearly.

Take what input you’ve got, and remember that every single word of your entry has an impact - sometimes that impact is negative, so you may need to cut a few of those words out. Remember that the things which are so clear in your head aren’t necessarily always making it to the page. If readers are unclear about something important, it might be because you haven’t actually put the words on the page yet. Add words. Reread. Take some words away. Read it aloud. And if you’ve got the time, get even more eyes on it. Creation is an iterative process.

And when that deadline rolls around and it’s time to put your link in the topic post and share it with an even wider audience, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself. And then go read! All these writers, working with the same general constraints, coming up with so many different angles on the same prompt... it’s amazing. You’re all amazing.

Go forth and be amazing. I’ll be here, to answer questions, read and offer feedback on works in progress, and do what I can to help.


( 105 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 9th, 2016 03:46 am (UTC)
So I did what everyone probably did when they saw the topic: I googled it, pretty certain it was a baseball term (it was).

I have already developed a figurative meaning aside from a literal brushback pitch:

Saying/doing something so hurtful in order to purposely push someone you care about away.

I just have no idea what to do with it for myself, just yet. xD
Dec. 9th, 2016 03:52 am (UTC)
Or threatening to do so effectively enough that the other person retreats in self-preservation.
(no subject) - theun4givables - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theun4givables - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kehlen - Dec. 9th, 2016 06:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xo_kizzy_xo - Dec. 9th, 2016 07:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ellakite - Dec. 9th, 2016 11:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - theun4givables - Dec. 9th, 2016 11:45 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ryl - Dec. 9th, 2016 01:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - halfshellvenus - Dec. 9th, 2016 06:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - marlawentmad - Dec. 10th, 2016 12:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 03:47 am (UTC)
And just to save y'all the googling:

Brushback pitch: a pitch aimed close to the body so that the batter must step back to avoid it.

That's what the internet tells me, anyway. A baseball thing. Where are your minds going with this one?
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:20 am (UTC)
Straight into the gutter with lots of juvenile references to pitching, catching, getting to third base, and possibly playing with balls. Clearly I need to re-think this brilliant plan.
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - porn_this_way - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmousey - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:59 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 05:03 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - murielle - Dec. 9th, 2016 05:21 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xo_kizzy_xo - Dec. 9th, 2016 07:40 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kehlen - Dec. 9th, 2016 08:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Dec. 9th, 2016 10:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - halfshellvenus - Dec. 9th, 2016 06:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kehlen - Dec. 14th, 2016 02:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmousey - Dec. 10th, 2016 11:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - dmousey - Dec. 9th, 2016 02:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 03:51 am (UTC)
Woot! lrig_rorrim!

"Creation is an iterative process." Just saying.

I also googled it, before reading comments. It seems to me brushback must have come from somewhere before baseball, like baseball must have grabbed the word from somewhere, like a brushback is a species of a wild animal. Maybe a porcupine.

Or I guess it could mean the act of brushing someone back from the plate. But critters are more fun to think about than baseball.

Dec. 9th, 2016 03:53 am (UTC)
I think I'd personally be tempted to write some fake etymology for the phrase, with the origins steeped in weird.

Or perhaps to create a new Brushbacked Pitcher critter. Something like that. Or possibly both?
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 03:57 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - halfshellvenus - Dec. 9th, 2016 06:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xo_kizzy_xo - Dec. 9th, 2016 07:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 01:55 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:18 am (UTC)
I have a baseball question.

Is there a penalty for the brushback pitch?

Anybody know a lot about little, little league? You know the youngest group?

Heading back to google.
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:23 am (UTC)
This is what the mighty wikipedia had to say: "While the brushback can be an effective part of pitching, the home plate umpire may warn or eject a pitcher he feels is intentionally trying to hit a batter."

I'm afraid I'm not your go-to source for Little League stuff, though. Hopefully someone else will chime in!
(no subject) - murielle - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:37 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xo_kizzy_xo - Dec. 9th, 2016 07:46 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - murielle - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:55 am (UTC) - Expand
My bad - unmowngrass - Dec. 9th, 2016 08:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: My bad - kehlen - Dec. 9th, 2016 08:55 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: My bad - murielle - Dec. 9th, 2016 09:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: My bad - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 01:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Dec. 9th, 2016 11:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 02:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Dec. 9th, 2016 03:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Dec. 9th, 2016 09:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 13th, 2016 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - penpusher - Dec. 9th, 2016 11:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - murielle - Dec. 9th, 2016 11:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:22 am (UTC)
I would just like to share that I said to Chris, "The Topic this week is Brushback Pitch."

He said "That's a baseball pitch thrown to the inside to make the batter step back."

I'll be over here in shocked amazement. I said "how the @&#* did you know that?"

He said "because I'm a manly man and I know things about sports."

So after I got up from rolling round laughing, I asked how he really knew. He said he has no idea.

Seriously, I'm not sure he could pick a baseball out of a line up.
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:35 am (UTC)
I would be thrilled to read a list of other Manly Man Things Chris Knows (or makes up, 'cause why not). Heh.

Maybe we can blame trivial pursuit for this one. It seems like the kind of thing that would be a sports category question...
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - halfshellvenus - Dec. 9th, 2016 06:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wolfden - Dec. 9th, 2016 05:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 05:33 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:25 am (UTC)
...what happens if I make a negative impact on purpose because that's what a brushback pitch is supposed to do?
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:36 am (UTC)
... you've got to aim for that sweet spot of negative impact which isn't toooo bad. You know, just before someone presses charges.
Dec. 9th, 2016 05:23 am (UTC)
It's going to be interesting explaining this topic to kfp_rawr! While he has played a lot of sports, baseball is not one of them.

For myself. i like some of the suggestions above, though nothing is jumping out at me yet. I think the idea of doing something offensive to back someone up is good. It reminds me of how in self-defense class they even suggested peeing yourself to make yourself less desirable if being assaulted. I am not kidding.

Dec. 9th, 2016 08:49 am (UTC)
I was thinking the same thing about how to explaint to yamyam_kat. Then again, I have surgery Tuesday and a slew of concerts before and after, so this may be a 'bye' week for both of us.
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 02:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fannishliss - Dec. 9th, 2016 03:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 09:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 10:49 am (UTC)
Absolutely yes to lrig_rorrim's advice. Reading your piece aloud is really a great idea. You think that reading it with the voice in your head is okay, and it frequently is, but there's no substitute for fully verbalizing it because you're forced to actually say those words and that can pick up a lot of syntax errors, typos and awkward phrasing.

And yes to having an agenda when you ask for criticism... know what you want to learn from any remarks from readers. That's why having a specific set of questions ("did you understand the passage?" "was the action clear throughout the piece?") will help your readers know what they're looking for - you don't want them to have to play detective and guess what you want them to know. Make life as easy as you can for your readers because they're doing the heavy lifting of your writing!

Edited at 2016-12-09 10:52 am (UTC)
Dec. 9th, 2016 02:00 pm (UTC)
Am I the only person who doesn't worry much about the actual meaning of the prompt?
Rather, I take the emotion/feeling of the prompt and use that as a starting point. Sometimes it ends up being literally close to the original meaning, sometimes it doesn't.
Just wondering?
Dec. 9th, 2016 02:11 pm (UTC)
When playing, I would often spend a day (or an evening, depending on the deadline) worrying the prompt like a dog with a good chewtoy. I tried to tear it apart and look at it from every angle I could conceive of, including the inside out. I usually ended up with something that was pretty weird, and didn't directly use the prompt at all - except maybe as the title. I'm crap at titles. So, no, you're not the only one!

The only caution I would have is to "show your work" in some way. It really helps a lot of voters if they can see at least a little bit of the prompt in your entry, if they can follow the reasoning which led you to create that specific thing out of this other specific thing. Usually this isn't a problem - there'll be hints and shades and pieces of the prompt in there - but if it's too obscure or hard to see, folks might just pass an entry by. It's an interesting tightrope to walk, but not one I'd worry toooooo much about, especially at this stage of the game. Just writing quality entries and being creative will take you very far indeed!
(no subject) - feritatum - Dec. 9th, 2016 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 02:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - kathrynrose - Dec. 9th, 2016 04:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 02:07 pm (UTC)
And though I've said it now in a couple comment threads, I'll say it here too: don't be intimidated by this prompt! You've got a good long while to write this week, and this is good practice at working with oddly specific niche phrases (which, for some reason, come up a lot around here).

You can make this very particular baseball phrase your own - it's just the starting point.

There are a LOT of creative ways to view this prompt, from the very general sense (intimidation, a confrontation between adversaries, etc.) to the very specific (word play with "pitch"/"pitcher" and "brushback". How many kinds of "pitch" can you think of? Imagine different uses and interpretations of "brushback"). Now, what's an interesting story to tell about any of that, real true life or otherwise?

You want to stand out in the crowd. Having little to no knowledge of or interest in this particular kind of sportsball can be an advantage, and should be taken as a challenge to prepare you for the many more challenges to come.

The trick then is to make sure you show your work - how did you get from the prompt to your ending piece? Will you include the phrase itself somewhere in your entry? Will you leave an explanatory comment or footnote, or just trust that your readers will be able to see it in there. I usually went for "trust the readers" when I went weird (which, uh, was often), but there are many, many options available to you.

You can do this Idolers. This one may seem intimidating, but don't flinch, don't step back. It's not as bad as it looks.
Dec. 9th, 2016 03:04 pm (UTC)
Phew! From not knowing anything about the topic to now having some ideas floating in my brain, this is a good start to 'day 1' (Yay! We have a week!) I guess :)
Thanks a ton ! to dmousey murielle penpusher for this amazing discussion and making the game clear for me too.
Also, so happy to have lrig_rorrim as the mentor. Some great tips there.Thank you!

Edited at 2016-12-09 03:24 pm (UTC)
Dec. 9th, 2016 04:52 pm (UTC)
I have to think about this one.

It's strange, last week, I had at least ten different stories I could tell. This week? I'm sure that they are there... but I can't think of any yet.
Dec. 9th, 2016 07:01 pm (UTC)
I swear to you that's what the past two prompts were like for me. Then I was like "I'll think about it later, promise". Then all of a sudden "Hey everyone, here's the vote page, remember to vote!"

Crud... -.-
(no subject) - lrig_rorrim - Dec. 9th, 2016 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 9th, 2016 07:00 pm (UTC)
::peeks in::


Been having a rough week x.x

But I'm still alive! And I THINK I might have an idea for this topic! FINALLY! Hallelujah!!!!!

::goes back to work::
Dec. 9th, 2016 08:41 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to hear you've had a rough week (meep! Hope everything is ok!), but glad to hear you've got an idea! I look forward to reading it. :)
Dec. 9th, 2016 07:26 pm (UTC)
I am so failing at the social part of this game right now cause there are only so many hours in the day.

I am also completely and utterly lost with the prompt. The definition gives me nothing either. I have absolutely no clue how to connect this into ANYTHING in my life ever. Not even as a metaphor. The concept of aiming for the body forcing someone to move off. Not a thing I've ever done. When I aim for the body, I aim to hit. The only way I could even maybe use this thing is to talk about how I've never used it in any way, shape or form... but I can't think of a way to make that work without losing the entire crux of the prompt and just writing something about nothing.
Dec. 9th, 2016 08:41 pm (UTC)
I reallllly understand feeling overwhelmed by the social aspects of Idol, especially in early days when there are just so many participants and so much to read and comment on. Hang in there.

Since the specifics and generalities of the prompt really aren't connecting for you, maybe something a little more off the wall would work? A sales pitch that's meant to brush people off or put them off a product all together? Or a tonal pitch that scares people away from a place? I'm just tossing out relatively silly ideas, but maybe something like that would work a little better? Honestly, I think "despair about the prompt" is probably an important step of the process for most of us. I have faith you'll work through it. :)

Dec. 9th, 2016 08:51 pm (UTC)
I was deeply dumbfounded about the prompt. Apparently, Google is the answer and ... it's not an answer for me. :p Sports is not my thing at all. Hmm.
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