NaNoWriMo and The Simpsons


With the National Novel Writing Month on at the same time as FXX’s 600-episode Simpsons marathon, I figure now was a good time to writing down the “Simpsons Writing Theory” that I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

It really goes back to the pulp writers of old and the teachings of modern-day writing guru Dean Wesley Smith.  The pulp mag writers had to crank out stories too fast to pay attention to whether they were great or not.

No, really.  I mean it.

It didn’t matter if they were great or not, something had to fill those pages.  And whether the writer thought it was their best work ever or not, they got paid for it.  Then the story was read by thousands, if not millions, of dedicated fans.  And it all happened again the next day, the next week, the next year.

So, similarly, my “Simpsons Writing Theory” goes something like this.

If you’ve been an avid Simpsons fan over the decades, as I have been since I was a kid (it’s been on that long!), then you’ve probably noticed that not every episode is a golden nugget of raw television success.

If you think about it, it’d be pretty much impossible for every 22-minute Simpsons adventure to be the best possible half-hour of entertainment imaginable.  The writers, actors, and animators have to produce how many episodes per season?  Thirteen or more, right?  And for what, almost 30 years? And they have to do it on a deadline.  The writers have to turn out a completed script, send it to the actors to perform and perfect in the recording studio, and then send that on to the animators, which is probably the longest stage of the whole process.  And they have to do this 13+ times a year in a given time limit.  If you divide that out, more than one per month.  That’s a lot of work in under a month.  Some of us aren’t satisfied with one simple short story in that time!  And there are millions—maybe billions—of fans and dollars riding on that process.

So do you think they scrap a lot of the scripts halfway through?  Do you think the animators come back late in the game and say, “You know, this just isn’t going to work out.  Why don’t you start over again?”

Hell, no, they don’t!  They have to get this shit done!

What if the writers can only come up with eight zingers in a season, only eight story ideas they really think will be great?  Do they just not produce the other episodes that year?

Hell, no!  They need a full season.  So if a couple of scripts aren’t pure magic, so what, the others will make up for it.  The show must go on, after all, even if the team doesn’t think that every single minute of the season is their best ever.

And will the fans stop watching the show just because this latest episode wasn’t all they’d hoped it would be?  No, I’m pretty sure they’ll just say, “Hmm, not my favorite ever.  Hope next week is better.”  And then they’ll tune in next week and decide that their funny bone has been satisfied.  And then the next week.  Or they’ll binge on hours of reruns in a row, deciding that this one was one of their favorite, that one was not, and that other one was pretty much a stinker.  And then they’ll be back tomorrow to watch some more.

What’s my point?

My point is, that as writers we should not scrutinize every single thing we write as either being the best thing ever, meeting some imagined 96% or better standard, or, failing that, not being worth jack squat.  Don’t say, “This isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, so I’m trashing it.”

Write EVERYTHING.  Finish your story and put it out there, either to editors or simply publish it yourself.  DO NOT get hung up judging your own stuff as worthy or not worthy.  That’s not your job.  And you might be surprised that the one you struggled to squeeze out, or the story you never thought would work, turned out to be someone else’s favorite.  Or millions of people’s favorite.

So in conclusion, when you write 13+ stories a year for 30 freakin’ years, some of them simply won’t be great.  Some will even be stinkers.  But in such a huge body of work, your readers won’t notice the ones that might have missed the mark.  They’ll just shrug and move on to the hits that they enjoy.  You can’t write pure gold every time.  No one can.  And yet, they succeed.


I hope everyone who dedicated themselves to writing this month met their goals.  And even if you didn’t finish as much as you wanted, typing one word is a net gain!

I personally had a December 1st deadline to meet for a novella that will go into an anthology slated for next summer.  And I didn’t make it.  But I did get over 16,000 new words poured into it, which is probably a record for me, despite the hectic holiday season and brutal day job hours.  And I will finish the story and get it to the editor by mid-month, which will make the fallback deadline just fine.  So a big Homer “Whoo-hoo!” for all of us!


Panthro, Bitches! Thundercats Are Loose!

thundercats_posterLookie what I got in the mail!  Ordered them on Amazon, in order to “raise my son right.”  Almost all the crap they make for kids these days is pure nonsense.  Very little story, just repetitious stupidity.  Unfortunately, when I started playing my iconic Thundercats on-screen, my son (who is only five) showed no interest.  He was far more interested in jumping up and down in front of me and disturbing my religious revival!  So Lion-o, Cheetara, and the gang had to wait until junior was in bed.

I could go into how impressive the cartoon is beyond pure nostalgia, but it’s like trying to describe a painting or a song; you just have to experience it.  From the high-detail animation to the iconic characters and character acting, to stories with actual, on-going plots and 80s rock themes.  They just don’t put that kind of work into cartoon shows anymore!

Okay, I might be a little bias.  The Thundercats were the foundation of my young reality for much of my formative years.

But if you’re an old nerd my age, than you already know what I’m talking about.  If not, pretend to be buying it for your kids–or your future kids–and see for yourself.

I remember matcatsking up my own cast of characters, but instead of calling them “Thundercats” I called it “Cat Attack.”  I had made one good drawing that I figured I could never top, so I just kept tracing that one as a template and giving them a slightly different look and unique weapons.  I also made a bad guy who was a hyena man.  He was my favorite!

Watching this also ties my stomach in knots thinking about how I had all those cool toys and then gave them away!  I used to save my allowance until I had $6.36 (that’s $5.99 with sales tax), then I’d ask my mom to take me down to Murphy Mart (or maybe it had become Ames by that time?) so I could buy me another awesome Thundercat.  I had all the figures!  My best friend Ben had the Thunder-Tank and I think the Cat’s Lair, as well as a cool Sword of Omens with light-up Eye of Thundara!

And then I had to go and do something stupid like give my big tub of toys away when I got older.  The boy’s parents were trying to say, “Oh, that’s okay, you keep them,” ’cause they didn’t want more junk on their son’s bedroom floor, but the kid was too eager to be denied.  (There were also some Visionaries in there, the guys with the holograms on them.  Remember that show?!  They were awesome!)  aaaad

That damn kid didn’t even know what he had, probably never even played with them!  Damn stupid me!  Why couldn’t I have been more selfish?  Then I’d still have them!

And my kid wouldn’t be allowed to touch them, either.  Oh, no!  Just me.  I’d wait until everyone else was in bed and then bust them out, Tigra jumping off the couch and disappearing, Panthro ninja-flipping up the stairs and fighting Ssslythe and Rataro and all the Mutants, maybe getting trapped in the Giant Microwave of Doom and riding the back of our War Dogs, strapped on by rubber-bands.  And I’d use aluminum foil to make a perfectly molded mask of one character, and then whoever put on that mask would become him!  (Used to use that trick all the time with my He-Man guys.)  Yeaaaah, that’d be great!

Hmm, had to wipe my lip there.  Foaming at the mouth a little.  Maybe, uh, maybe we should just pretend I didn’t write any of this…

Free E-Books: Why Pay For Anything?

A quick share about a series The Fussy Librarian is running.

They ask the question, “Why pay for ebooks?”

One answer is, “Because the writers are people too.”

Check it out by clicking here and see what I mean.  It’s a very nice idea they have here, and it helps illustrate the rant below.

This also comes on the heels of me discovering that some Russian-based pirate site has stolen some of my work, which has been downloaded over 2000 times!  That’s 2000 times that people have preferred to pay a pirate for a subscription of ill-gotten material rather than the writer who made it!  I probably haven’t sold 2000 books total over the last three years.  I pay for cover art and editing services to make my work the best it can be, and 2000 people read it, enjoyed it (as evidenced by the 96 positive comments), and happily paid some Russian mobster for that entertainment over me, the humble author who invested time, money, and soul into the work.


I am not a wealthy conglomerate that can get by without the money.  Eventually cyber-readers are going to realize that by supporting thieves instead of writers, they make us less able to write more material.  If I need to work 50+ hours a week to support my family and pay my bills, I have less time to write more books for you to enjoy.

Next time, consider making your own cup of coffee at home, and redirect that four bucks toward paying an artist for the week of entertainment you’re going to get from their book.

(This blog is a repost from my “old blog,” thus the “classic” tag.)

Steeped in the Mire

The hardest thing about writing, I think, is the tenacity.  The keeping at it to complete a book, or at least a long one.  Short stories I can turn out fairly quickly.  Even some short books I’ve been able to get out in a surprisingly short amount of time.  But the longer books…  They take more endurance.

I’ve been working on Twilight of the Gods, which is a prequel of Hungry Gods, and the more I work on it, the longer it gets.  There are a lot more characters with a much, much bigger plot going on.  This one’s going to be a superhero epic!  But, damn, does it take a long time to write!

Which wouldn’t be an issue if I were a full-time writer.  Then my job would be to entertain all you fine folks!  I could do so much more!

But it’s not.  My actual job is much more demanding, with much more responsibility beyond myself or even my family.  In fact, both of those things are considered secondary to the greater goals of the service.  So in order to feed my family and stay out of the brig, I need to dedicated most of my time and energy at my “real world” job.

But, hopefully, I’ll be transitioning away from that job next year.  I’ve officially put in a request to get out of the Navy (yes, I have to request it, it isn’t an automatic thing) next summer.  I could go on for days about the goods and bads of being in the service, and I’m very proud of what I’ve done, the people I’ve worked with and for, and the places I’ve seen in over twelve years of selfless service.  But ultimately, I just don’t want to do it anymore.  It’s a young man’s (or woman’s) game.  I have a family now, and dreams other than those issued to me.  It’s time to move on and make a new life.

The bad side of that decision is that my whole life is about to be turned upside down, dropping me and my family into a situation where nothing is guaranteed anymore.  Uncle Sam won’t be there to protect us and nurture us anymore (or throw us into war-torn territories, for that matter).  Which means, I NEED TO START LOOKING FOR A JOB!  So that’s also going to draw precious time away from what I’d rather being doing, which is writing for a living.  Of course, at this point, we’d all starve to death if I hinged our future on that.

(Part of that starvation I’ll contribute to pirate websites and those who download from them, since I’ve just been alerted to another one benefiting from my hard work while I go unpaid for my labors.  Don’t do it, people!  You enjoy an artist’s work?  Then pay them for it!  Is pitching the artist or author a few bucks really that terrible?  Why pay some internet asshole instead??!)

Anyway, the point of my rambling (mostly to myself) is that my superhero epic is going to be delayed more than expected.  I may even push it back a month or so further so that I can shift gears and get a short novel I wrote 13+ years ago up and running and out into the world.  It’s an urban fantasy-noir-Asian mythology story that I’ve been afraid of working on because it’s so important to me.  But now I’ve realized that being afraid of screwing it up and therefore not ever getting it published, isn’t doing me or any potential readers any good at all.

So while I’m working on my resumes and job hunting, I may find time to get that shorter project done.  If so, I’ll let you know.  And then it’s back to the epic, one page at a time.

Thanks for “listening.”  And if you hear of any good nursing jobs opening up next summer—or even better, any creative jobs where people get paid to do what they really love (supposedly they exist, but I just can’t imagine—it’s called “going to work” because you have to do it, not because you love to do it, right?)—don’t be shy about sharing.

(It’s not that I don’t enjoy nursing, but it’s not my dream job.  I’d much rather turn out 4-5 books a year instead of just one per year, you know?)

Okay, better quit rambling and get something else done today…

* * *

p.s.  Another delay in getting more novels out (none in over a year now!) is that I spent a lot of last year writing short stories.  Two of which have been published in the last several months, two more are coming out this fall, and three more are out to editors, awaiting judgment.  “So I’ve been writing, honest I have!” I insist, reminding the stern glare from the mirror…

p. p. s. Amending this the next day: In looking through my old notes on the noir story I mentioned, I see that the first draft of Solitaire was finished almost 14 years ago to the day: 07 August 2002.  Wow.  Now I have to get that story done before any more years go by!