Posted on by Scott Delahunt

A brief look into the making of an entry

Inspired by Rob's "Launch or Lunch" series and needing some filler, I've put this together to show the thought processes (or lack thereof) into the "Lost in Translation" series.

The first step is brainstorming, either to get ideas for future entries or to place ideas for a specific subject down. I have a list of entries with one liners to remind me of the basic plan, and keep adding as I run into more adaptations, remakes, and reboots. In general, I try to limit myself to those that I have access to, either in my own collections or those that are easy to acquire; this holds for both the original and the remake since I compare the two. I also try to have a mix of well known and obscure so that readers don't lose patience when I indulge myself from time to time. I usually try to refresh my knowledge by reading/watching/listening/playing both to keep comparisons fresh. One of the best things about DVDs over video is the commentary track; a good commentary will include insights from the participants about why decisions were made.

From brainstorming comes the decision; which reboot to examine. This can be one of the toughest choices. Sometimes I have ideas for multiple entries and can only work on just one at a time. (I'd try multiple entries at once, but I'd need a second set of arms to work the second keyboard.) Once that choice is made, I mull over the approach I want to take. A typical entry includes the history of the original, sometimes the background of the creator or creators, what happened with the original material, when the adaptation/reboot/remake (ARR from here on), the problems the ARR faced, and whether those problems were resolved, avoided, or appeared. The first draft can have some tense issues as I jump between past and present, and will have question marks throughout as I mark the text for later fact checking.

Once I'm satisfied with the first draft, I go through it again, cleaning grammar and spelling and noting down in a separate file what details need to be clarified. I usually let the first draft sit for a bit so I don't gloss over errors by accident. (That's right; all errors you see have a matte finish!) Oh, and I check for inappropriate humour. An entry about a comedic subject, like The Naked Gun, will have comedic asides and a lighter tone than a more serious subject, like Battlestar Galactica.

The fact checking is mostly to confirm dates. Any other details are taken either from the source directly or a reliable secondary source. When either the ARR or the original is hard to track down, I do rely on Internet sources, but backed up by my existing knowledge to avoid embarassing mistakes, like saying The Blues Brothers came out in 2008. I am well aware of the problem of wikiality. Fortunately, most of my list can be verified easily. An odd case coming up is the BattleTech animated series, where, because the series isn't readily available, I'm relying on a sourcebook produced in support of the show for the original game. Another case, also to come eventually, is the Heavy Gear animated series, where it's easier to ask the members of Dream Pod 9, the publishers of the wargame, and the Pod Corps, their demo team, about the series. Networking – good for blogs, good for me!

Now I've come to the hardest parts of the entries – the title and the tagline. I'm regretting the cliffhangereque approach I've taken, laying down a hint of what's next instead of just saying it outright. It's easy to use "boldly go where no reboot has gone before" and still expect people to realize what's next. Coming up with a tag for the BattleTech and Heavy Gear adapations will be harder due to their relative obscurity. The titles aren't much easier. Some are fairly obvious, such as the Casino Royale entry, "Number 007 – Licence to Reboot". Others, not so much. Hindsight being 20/20, I probably should have thought this through a bit more. C'est la vie.

The last thing I do before scheduling the post, after all the read overs, fact checking, corrections, corrections of corrections, and questioning myself for starting this, is figure out a decent order. I want to make sure I don't do too much the same over and over, like two Star Trek entries in a row, or two RPG adaptations one after the other. Variety is the spice of life. I want to make sure failures are examined as well as successes, as long as the sanity loss isn't too great. In my to-do file, I keep a list of what I've done, what's in draft, what's on deck, and the untouched. By examining the completed entry list, I can tell what I've focused on too much or too little and use that to pick what to write about next.

Finally, the scheduling. I take this as one last spellcheck, though I sometimes disagree with my browser on spellings; tends to be a grey area. I add bolding and italics as needed, add hyperlinks, fix formatting, generally use the posting to administer final touches. Then I schedule and ignore the entry until it appears on its appointed date. Or panic if the system messed up and posted immediately. Mainly ignore.

I am trying to create a buffer. It's very useful and prevents a panic when a Saturday approaches and there's nothing. I'm a bit remiss, but life events tend to trump the entry. The main buffer I'll need will be in November, where NaNoWriMo will eat my brain like a zombie ninja. Maybe a zombie pirate T-rex ninja. Anyway, yeah, buffer. The more, the better.

For those wondering what I use to write the entries, well, brace yourself. Notepad. Yep, a basic text editor. It opens quickly, doesn't have formatting issues when doing a copy and paste (except for weirdly placed carriage returns/line feeds, which is easily fixed after the paste), and forces me to make the final read through to catch all the markings I made while typing. And part of it is force of habit from writing fanfiction in the Usenet days. Text-only was the default then.

And, before I end, a note about success. I've realized that I haven't really defined what a successful ARR is. There's the obvious – the ARR made money. The Phantom Menace definitely qualifies there. Then there's fan approval; fandom accepts the final product as being canon. The Phantom Menace, not as successful there as hoped, but Serenity definitely qualifies. So, what would a successful ARR be? Is it one that gains fan acceptance despite a poor general reception? One that is immensely successful in either ratings, sales, or box office receipts but is derided by fans? A mix?

And there you have it, a look behind the scenes. This way to the egress.

Next time, back into the dungeon.

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  • Regarding notepad… that’s how I tend to do a lot of my writing. Or, well, Mac’s TextEdit. Part of it might be from habit, but the thing loads a LOT faster, it doesn’t show breaks across a page, and it doesn’t get cutesy with trying to finish my sentences or the like. Sometimes the basics are the best.
    Of course, this is coming from someone who used WordPerfect 5.1 until about three years ago, since that’s what I used to start a story in 2001 and it was still working fine… whole program fits nicely on a drive too, with room to spare…

  • Scott D.

    That’s the big thing – how fast the software opens. If I’ve got an idea I want to work on, I need to get going quickly before I start losing details in the thoughtstream. Text editors open quickly, word processors not so much.
    And sometimes, yeah, the older software seems to work better than newer versions. Some of it is familiarity. (Microsoft Office 2007 has a horrid user interface for people familiar with older versions – nothing can be easily found.) There was a Windows version of WP5.1, called WP5.2 (creativity in software names is lacking at times).

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