Projects for March 2014

This month, I’m pretty much continuing all my projects from last month.

Middle grade fantasy novel

I completed my first draft of the novel in February; I’m now working on a second draft and hope to begin querying potential agents sometime this month.

Short stories

I’m still co-authoring a couple short stories, and still hope to write some more on my own after I finish a second draft of the novel.

Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program

I’m still working on my entry for this, but I only have two more weeks; entries are due on March 14th. I already have a script I can submit, but I was hoping to submit storyboards as well. However, my drawing skills are pretty awful, especially after more than a year with no practice, so I’m not really pleased with my sketches so far. I may end up just submitting the written treatment rather than storyboards, but I’ll keep trying for the storyboards until time runs out. Actually, perhaps when the weekend is over, I’ll consider temporarily dropping the other projects and focusing only on this until March 14th, because I would hate to waste this opportunity; who knows how long they’ll keep doing a program like this?

February projects

Here’s a short random update on what I hope to be working on this month:

Middle grade fantasy novel

I’m almost finished the first draft of my second attempt at a middle grade fantasy novel. I only have a few more chapters left to write. This month, I hope to finish this draft, edit it, write and perfect a good query letter to represent the novel, and once again begin an agent search.

Short stories

I am working on co-writing two short stories. I will probably also write some short stories on my own after I begin my agent search.

Nickelodeon’s animated shorts program

According to this post from Cartoon Brew:

[Nickelodeon] will choose a minimum of 10 pitches to develop into shorts that will appear on air, on, and the Nick app. The shorts also have the potential to be developed into full series…

I put together pitch material for an animated series proposal back in 2012. This looks like a great opportunity to put the material to good use. I somehow missed this program last year, probably because I was busy finishing my first fantasy novel (which never went anywhere, thus becoming my first “trunk novel”). So I hope to write and storyboard a potential animated short featuring my characters.

Slow cartoon drawing progress…

I’m not sure how many drawings the typical cartoon show pitch has, but I have 4 done and 23 more planned, most of them pretty simple character poses. So far, it’s taken me between 1 and 2 hours to draw each one. That’s mostly because I’m just not a very good drawer and am just now starting to learn the craft, and partly because I have to get used to the character designs and work at keeping them anatomically consistent. Not sure how long it will take me to do 23 more drawings or whether or not I’ll end up changing my mind about some of them.

I will say, drawing with a podcast or an audiobook on in the background is quite relaxing. Frustrating when I can’t get things to look quite right, but overall pretty relaxing.

Cartoon show pitch progress

In addition to staying busy with Animation Mentor (we’re starting on our most complex animation assignment yet: a multi-shot two-character scene… it’s the jackpot!), I’ve been continuing to work on my cartoon show pitch; more specifically, I’m drawing character sketches and really trying to finalize their designs. The experience of drawing is strange. I don’t think my cartooning skills are completely horrible, but they’re not terribly refined either. Looking at my sketches, you can probably tell what I’m going for, even if my proportions and angles are a bit off. I’ll post some pics at some point. My plan for now is to sketch the characters in different sorts of poses that show off their personalities, then scan them into the computer and colorize them digitally.

I think the text of my pitch is pretty much done; I just need to do more drawings, format the text and the pics together in some sort of pleasing design, then I’ll be set.

Last week I bought and read David B. Levy’s book: Animation Development: From Pitch to Production. It’s a good companion to Joe Murray’s book I mentioned earlier, Creating Animated Cartoons with Character. They’re both about the same thing (developing cartoon shows), but they both approach the subject from different backgrounds and experiences, so it’s interesting to get their different perspectives.

Back to that cartoon I’ve been planning…

Creating Animated Cartoons with Character: A Guide to Developing and Producing Your Own Series for TV, the Web, and Short Film by Joe Murray.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this book, but I came across it on my web-surfing journeys last week, went to see if they had it at the local bookstore, and they did, so I bought it. It’s not very long, just 200-something pages. (That it was written by the creator of Rocko’s Modern Life certainly helped catch my attention; that was one of my favorite shows growing up. It taught me the word nauseous.) It’s not so much about the day-to-day ins and outs of actual cartoon production (it touches on everything, but doesn’t go into enormous amounts of detail); rather, it’s about designing a cartoon, putting together a pitch bible, pitching and selling it to a network, or producing it yourself.

If you’ve read this blog for at least a year or so (in which case you deserve some sort of reward), you’ll know I’ve been working on a cartoon idea for a couple years, with the intent of eventually producing it myself in Flash or Toon Boom or something. But if a network bought it and it was developed professionally, it would be, you know, better. So throughout last week, I was going through my old notes and cartoon ideas, cutting a bunch of ideas out, changing things around, and started developing a pitch bible, guided by the book and any online resources I can scrounge up. Even if this doesn’t result in any network deals (the chance of which is pretty miniscule anyway), this seems to be a great exercise that will definitely be helpful if/when I crudely animate a short episode of it myself. It’s also forcing me to finalize character designs. I’ve got most of the text of the bible done (as a rough draft, at least), but there’s a good amount of artwork to do. So that’s probably what I’ll be working on when I can spare the time; still gotta focus on my Animation Mentor studies.

Anyway, for anyone else out there dreaming of developing a cartoon, Joe Murray’s book is great! I definitely recommend it.

Cartoon project

I started planning out my cartoon. I don’t know if I should blog about it much, because in all likelihood it will never come to fruition, with my track record of fruitioning things. But I started working on the character design.

It’s very interesting to work on character design when you can’t draw well. But I’ve been trying to follow two main principles: simplicity and contrast.

Simplicity – the characters are based on very simple shapes: circles, squares, ovals, rectangles. And their clothing and hair is mostly textured right on the shape, just for ease of drawing. They’re nothing like Disney, with nice flowing clothing and such. If you can’t draw very well, you gotta keep it simple. Especially since the idea is to animate them.

Contrast – to make the characters easily distinguishable from another, I’m trying to make them each have very contrasting sizes, colors, and shapes. (And hopefully voices and personalities, when/if I get to that.) This is probably an obvious point. I just don’t have much else to blog about.

I would post pictures of my character designs, but I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t. But I will say there will be five characters. And a sixth character who only pops his head in every now and then. I am currently aiming to be finished by the Summer 2012, before the end of the world. That’s my daydream at least. If I can’t get this to be a cartoon, I could at least turn it into a podcast.

I’m guessing I will blog my progress, though I won’t show any examples until I actually have a product, or until I’ve given up. It’s called “Blather” after all, so I have to blather about something…

Oh, I’m probably also really shooting myself in the foot with this project. The wise old man in me tells me that I should instead focus any spare energy on creating a really amazing short film that could land me a job somewhere, rather than spreading out my time and energy over something episodic. But for now, the episodic idea excites me more.