Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNoWriMo

For writers, November is a special month.  It's National Novel Writer's Month (www.nanowrimo.org), a contest where participants rush to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  It is a hell of a rush, dumping words on a page day in and day out, when you finally finish your novel in the last few hours of November, barely eking out your necessary word count.  Sure, it probably sucks because the only word you care about is the one you're writing at the moment and you're not giving a single thought to what you wrote even a few seconds ago, but that's what editing is for.  NaNo isn't for creating a good product, it's a test to see how well you can build the habit of writing.  It's about pushing your skills to their limit.


The first time I tried NaNo was 2012.  I had just finished my very first novel, a fantasy story that I had started in 2002 and had languished on zip drives and paper drafts for a 10 years.  I'd add a few things on to it in the meantime, but I decided in 2012 I'd finish it.  It sucked, but I was determined to write the planned sequel for NaNo, hoping it would boost my motivation to continue the series.  I started NaNo with a pathetic outline - really it was barely more than an idea.  "This thing happened, then this one, and finally this one."  It was really no surprise that I failed - I burned through all my ideas too quickly and petered out about halfway through the designated length.  After that I just put both books away and let the next NaNo pass by without an idea.  After one spectacular failure, I decided I'd probably never try NaNo again.


I started 2014 with two little ideas - a homeless werewolf and a supervillain retirement home.  I had no idea what I wanted to do with either of them.  I mean, what I wrote up there just now was all I had even thought of.  That summer, I had an epiphany - merge the two ideas into one story.  After that, all sorts of ideas flooded in.  In a moment of inspiration, I decided I'd try NaNo again.  I resisted the urge to outline a story, instead focusing on the world building.  I wanted this story to grow as I wrote it.  I honestly had no idea where it was going to go.


I went in with two characters - my homeless werewolf, named Manny and Major Max Malice the Menacing, my supervillain stuck in a retirement home.  I'm not sure how I arrived at the decision to write both characters in first person, but I couldn't resist being in both of their heads at once.  They lead me through an exhilarating story that clocked in just over 50,000 words on November 29th.  I finished a day early!


I spent the next year editing the story.  Overall, I didn't change much besides the ending.  I added a lot of backstory and a few new characters in, but I felt the story worked well enough that I didn't have to rewrite it. 


November 2015, I decided to follow my winning formula.  I wrote a sequel to my first book and went in again without an outline and just a few scenes in my head that I wanted to get down on the screen.  Once again, my book just barely crossed the finish line just before the deadline, but I wasn't as happy with it as I was the first book.  While it's far from terrible (in my opinion at least), it wasn't what I expected.  I'm going to rewrite it once this NaNo is over.


Tomorrow I'm going a different route from my first two wins - I'm going with an outline again.  I'm adapted a screenplay idea into a novel and making it a spin-off from my two recent novels.  I've been building the outline this month, trying to get it as detailed as I can so I don't rush from one underdeveloped plot point to the next.  I've got a handful of characters, each with their own backstory.  I've got the world-building locked down.  Tomorrow I start a new experiment and find out who I really am - a pantser or a plotter - and if you can only be one or the other.


This month, the villain restrospects go on hold.  I still have a few to go through after November, but I'm focusing my Monday posts on tracking my novel progress.  I probably won't have time to do any drawn out posts and I doubt I'll do more than one post a week, unless I'm feeling extremely motivated, which honestly, hardly ever happens!  Nevertheless, I'm planning to fill Old School Evil with a bunch of numbers this November, going for that sometimes elusive but always rewarding 50,000!



Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Biting the bullet

I originally wanted to wait until closer to the end of the week, but the anxiety was killing me.  I sent off the first of my query packages to five of my top agent picks.  The heart was racing, the pits were slick with sweat, but it's done.  Of course I've got a few hundred more to send out before I feel I should give up on finding an agent, but I'm taking November off for another writing project.


Getting the submissions out there before the end of October, even if it was only a handful of them, was all about limiting the time I've spent writing on Old School Evil.  I started the book on November 1, 2014 and shat out a 50k word novel during November's NaNoWriMo, a writing contest where all you win is the satisfaction of pushing out a crappy first draft of something that might one day be good.  It's taken me 2 years and about 7 drafts to finally get the book exactly where I want it to be: DONE.  And sending off queries with (portions of) the completed novel has been such a relief.  Will there be more drafts in the future?  Only if someone tells me this one sucks, so yeah probably.  But for now, Old School Evil is a complete novel by my own lax standards.


Of course now I have to start the second draft of my second book and hopefully finish it in less time than this one took.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Villain Retrospect - Saw Boss

Saw Boss and the Monster Minds.  Now those are some cool names.  But would you ever expect them to be plant-based vehicles?


Monster?  Maybe.  Mind? I doubt it.
Instead we get a story about sentient plants that can turn into angry-looking vehicles.  Their leader, Saw Boss, is able to become one of these vehicles, but mainly uses clones of himself that he controls telepathically.  So usually, he sits on a throne, pointing at stuff.  Maybe he's where they got the Monster Mind name - his head is huge!  Still, there's no sign of an actual saw, so his name, and all of the others make no damned sense. 




Anyway, enough with the names - Saw Boss had a pretty impressive power to control all plantlife connected to his system of vines and instantly transport his base.  Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of instances of Saw Boss doing anything himself.  He's another example of a villain that just leads his minions from his chair without engaging the heroes at all - he's like Dr. Claw, except Saw Boss has actual power he doesn't hardly ever employ.  In the first episode, the most he does is swear to follow Jayce across the universe after teleporting his base a few seconds too late.  For having this huge vine system that spreads across galaxies, it's amazing that he can't follow Jayce into space.


It brings up a strange point that Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors follows a different formula that many of the other cartoons have.  Many of the other shows had the villains trying to pull off some scheme or destruction and the heroes only get involved to stop them.  IF the villains weren't active, neither would the heroes be.  But this cartoon specifically has the villains going after the heroes - bringing the fight directly to them.  There are no ridiculous plots perpetrated by the villains, they just have one singular mission - catch Jayce - even if they fail every episode.


Let's go to ratings:  Coolness - 1.  I mean look at the guy up there.  He looks like an idiot.  His vehicle design is an improvement, though not by a huge amount.  At least his name makes more sense.  I still can't tell how a vine can hold the saw blade though - if he moves the blade even the slightest degree, wouldn't it cut through the vines?  Oh well.  I also find Saw Boss's voice to be very underwhelming.  It's loud with an echo-y filter over it, but there's no character there.  It could be just about anyone, but it doesn't scream "villain" to me.


Effectiveness - 2.  Saw Boss does have some plans, but they all center around killing Jayce to get his root.  So they're really limited to how much he can try to do.  In any case, they're easily escapable traps most of the time and just followed up with a boring chase.  Yawn.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Villains Retrospect - Honorable Mentions

For one reason or another, there are a lot of villains that just didn't make the cut in the 80s.  Maybe they missed the decade by a few years - even if their cartoon was a perfect fit for it, like Pirates of Dark Water. 


Honestly, this cartoon was better than most of the stuff in the 80s for it's world-building and continuity.  It was one of the only cartoons I remember having an overarching story instead of the same conflict every episode.  The cast of characters were awesome, including Bloth, that big evil-looking pirate dude up there.  If only the cartoon came out earlier...


Speaking of cartoons that came out too early, a few years later one of the greatest cartoons ever came out.  Disney's Gargoyles is by far one of the best examples of a cartoon taking itself seriously. 


In every regard - the animation, the art style, the cast, the story - this show's quality was the highest around.  The story spanned centuries, dipping through time to weave together characters and events in different ways, taking cues from multiple sources, like Greek mythology and Shakespeare's works.  Greg Weisman created a cast of characters that covered wide ranges of emotions and beliefs.  In doing so, he created possibly the best villain in any kids show: David Xanatos.
This is a man who could plan for any eventuality and not have it come across as some kind of plot-induced omniscience.  He turned every situation around to benefit himself and got away with it.  This wasn't a case of the good guys beating the bad guy every episode - it was the good guys just barely keeping up.  No matter what went on in Gargoyles, David has his hand in it.  There were other villains the Gargoyles faced, but Xanatos was easily the primary foe.


This brings up a point I wanted to make about what cartoons and their villains were and were not considered for retrospectives here.  You've no doubt noticed Gargoyles above is the first mention of a Disney cartoon, even though the Duck Tales and Chip 'n' Dale's Rescue Rangers were on the air before the end of the decade.  I didn't feel that they belonged here since they were adaptations of other material that started long before the 80s.  Scrooge McDuck and the chipmunks started out in sorts and comics before ever getting to Saturday morning cartoons.  I don't want to do anything here that's adapted from another work.


For this same reason I'm not including a lot of anime dubs.  Voltron and Sailor Moon and the like were popular cartoons, but they were adaptations of a Japanese cartoon and not made expressly for American kids like me.  Transformers and GI Joe and all the rest might have been animated over there and Transformers might have been adapted from two of their toylines, but the characters and stories were created here. 


One last cartoon I wanted to bring up with this is The Real Ghostbusters.  Now I freaking loved this cartoon, still do even, but by my own rules above, I couldn't include them here.  Granted they did make up a ton of original stuff for the cartoon, and it became a lot bigger than the movies ever were, but it's still an adaptation, which makes me sad.  Another reason it doesn't make the cut here is because it didn't have a recurring villain.  I know a few of them made more than a single appearance, like Samhain or the Staypuft Marshmallow Man, but it's hardly what you'd call a lead bad guy.  Another cartoon I loved watching around the same time, Thundarr the Barbarian, had the same problem.  When every episode has a different bad guy, you can't just pick one as a representative of the villains the heroes faced.


I'm coming close to the end of my list of villains for the retrospectives, but I've got enough to fill in for the rest of the year.  I've got an idea what to do after that, which I think will be really fun, but until then, keep coming back to look at those villains we loved to hate.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Villain Retrospect - Genghis Rex

If there's one thing that captured the interest of any kids in the 80s it was dinosaurs.  Every kid loved them and they made appearances in practically every cartoon - most notably as the Dinobots in The Transformers. But so few cartoons capitalized on it like Dinosaucers

In this cartoon, a race of aliens called the Dinosaucers from the planet Reptilon comes to earth on a friendly mission to look for resources, but are followed by the evil Tyrannos.  Typical cartoon nonsense words if I've ever seen them.  But the cartoon was pretty cool - the characters were the most interesting being humanoid looking dinosaurs with lots of colors.  The best part was when the good guys "dinovolve" - becoming full-fledged dinosaurs!  I loved watching this cartoon and it's a wonder to me that it didn't last that long - though I'm sure it had at least a little to do with the fact that it had no toyline release, although that's a sort of "the chicken or the egg" thing.  Over time, it was practically forgotten among the deluge of more successful cartoons, something I think is a big shame.




Genghis Rex was the leader of the Tyrannos.  I wish I could say I remember more about him, but as this cartoon faded from everyone else's memory, it's done the same in mine.  He yelled a lot and seemed to get great delight from being called silly names like "Bossasaur."  He was a smart leader, even understanding at times, but was quick to rage as well.  I don't remember him having any particular powers (since he and his minions were unable to dinovolve), but still, being a 20-foot tall half-dinosaur is still pretty damned powerful. 





Each of the characters in the cartoon had their own flying ship and the Tyrranos' base was a giant red T Rex robot (reminds me a lot of Trypticon but more spiky).

I'm ready to rule - Coolness - 8.  Genghis Rex looks pretty awesome.  He's a big red T Rex looking guy, what's not to like?  His voice is a deep rumble that fits his character very well. 
Effectiveness - I watched a few episodes while I was writing this and I think his plans ran the gamut from decent to laughable.  Of course none of them work at all, but I think he's pretty even with the rest of the villains, so I'm giving him a 4.

Monday, October 3, 2016

No Villain Retrospect today

I'm starting a new job today at the hospital I'm working at, so there won't be a villain retrospective.  I'm finding myself in the scary position of running out of bad guys to even write about.  I've got a few still on my list to touch on, but soon, I'll be out of villains since I'm staying away from comic book or movie-based cartoons and I'm not interested in Disney's offerings.  I do have a plan for a follow-up series but I need to start figuring out how it's going to work soon.


Next week, I'll be returning with a villain I'm having trouble even finding stuff about online - Saw Boss from Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors.