Why a Roseanne Spin-Off is a Waste of Time

Earlier this week I wrote about “Roseanne” being canceled and how it was unfair to the rest of the cast that had nothing to do Barr’s racist tweet.

It appears ABC read my blog, because over the past couple of days there has been word that the network is thinking about continuing the show with the remaining cast members, obviously without the title character.

Huge mistake, if you ask me.

Spin-offs traditionally have not been as popular or appealing to audiences as the original show. There have been exceptions (“Fraiser” and “NCIS” being the first two that come to mind) but for the most part they typically last only a season or so before being canceled. This usually is because they frequently center around a side-character or other supporting cast that do not have the kind of star power as the parent show had. “AfterMASH” even went so far as to have THREE main characters from the original “M.A.S.H.” show, but in the end Col. Potter, Klinger, and the Padre were no match for Alda’s Hawkeye Pierce. Likewise, “R.A.D.A.R,” another spin-off of the popular show, featured a long-time fan favorite as the star of the show, but it was soon clear that Radar O’Reilly worked well as part of an ensemble and was not strong enough to handle a show by himself. That lasted only a season. RoseAnne Barr is the glue and power that kept the show going for as long as it did, to the point where it became the first modern revival of a canceled show years after the final episode aired. While many of her costars are talented individuals themselves (three became popular characters on “The Big Bang Theory”) none of them have the star-quality that Roseanne possesses.

Another point that potentially already dooms a spin-off to failure is the fact that Roseanne herself presents ABC many challenges that would have to be overcome. She was a co-creator of the show and long-time executive producer and even has an ownership and backend stake in it. A similar situation happened years ago when Charlie Sheen was thrown off of “Two and a Half Men” for moral turpitude. CBS was forced to pay him $25 million to settle a $100 million lawsuit, essentially rewarding Sheen when the intent was to punish him. A similar situation between ABC and Barr could easily result in her profiting at the studio’s expense. Not that handful of millions means much to the Walt Disney Company, but if the end result is her being paid money they might as well keep her on the air earning the money instead of it happening after they fire her.

While there is a chance, small as it is, that a Roseanne spin-off could end up working, ABC would have to reach far into its bag of tricks in order for it to not go the way so many spin-offs have. And being a continuation of a powerful show with an even more powerful matriarch, I just don’t see that happening.

Return to Fiction

I just switched on my desktop and am waiting for Windows to update. I’ve been putting it off for way too long, and now is as good a time as any to end my lazy streak and really start writing again.

All day long while I was doing a little landscaping in the backyard I thought about what I could do to ensure that I don’t end up quitting again. I also thought of the countless story and novel ideas that have been fermenting in my brain the last decade or so, and which one I wanted to take a stab at first.

After several hours, an idea came to me. What I need to deactivate my fiction writing motor is a challenge, and the only story idea of mine that stood out from all the rest is a tale tentatively called “One Man’s Land.” Over the past three years or so I have often returned to the idea, and it has taken the form of a potential short story, novella, or novel. I am not sure exactly where it will take me, so instead of sitting down to write a story or a novel I will keep going until the story is told.

My goal for tonight is to write as much as I possibly can. I won’t set a solid word count goal for a while, until I find out how much creativity and time I have between sleeping and third shift.

One thing is for certain, though. From this day forward I am a writer. No quitting, no writer’s block, and no excuses.

Updates complete. Let’s write this thing!

How I Write

I’m not going to lie; If I had not taken so many long breaks over the past several years I could easily have written dozens of books and hundreds of short stories. This is not even counting blog entries had I stuck with the very first of my blogs back in 2011. For me, writing is easy and the only thing that has held me back is my own commitment to it.

I do not consider my process to be anything out of the ordinary, so I have no problem sharing it with others. People might be surprised, though, because I tend to just about break as many “rules” as I can, but to me it’s only natural because I’ve never been one to fit in with a crowd. I have always been a free body and I love to experiment. My writing is great proof of this.

For starters, I never physically outline any of my work. Plots, characters, world-building, and any necessary backstory for any of my stories is all done in my head. To me, taking notes and keeping files is just too much work, not to mention it clutters up my desk and there’s no point writing things down when I can just keep them in my head. Also, a plot outline is pretty much useless to me because I tend to just start with a little story or idea and let the writing take me away on the ride. “Fluid writing” is a term I use for. I’m not sure if there is an actual term for that sort of writing process or not, but it works for me.

I am a HUGE fan of “zero drafts.” These are first drafts that are tougher than rough, and often times look like they were written by someone who failed English class. As I said above, I start writing and let the story move me along. I do not stop to worry about punctuation, spelling, or any other typos. My main purpose for a rough draft is to just get it down on paper. Half the time if I have a story in mind I just write it and go in and fill in other details afterwards. If I can’t think of a good name for a character, I simply use “Character” as a filler. “Villain”, “Lover”, “Boss”, etc, etc. It does make the revising stage rather long, but at the same time it gives me multiple opportunities to reread what I have written and often times I get some really good ideas from it all.

Word count is something big that I shoot for during a writing session. Over the years I have set 500 word, 1000 word, and 2000 word goals for fiction. I rarely pay attention to blog word counts because they’re usually pretty short to begin with, and if I do write something long I want to post on my site I break it up into parts and post them over a series of days, usually with cliffhangers to keep the viewers tuning in every day to see what the next chapter is. I know that many people (myself included) struggle or have had struggles in the past trying to meet a really big goal such as a thousand words or more, so I break mine into small bits. I don’t rush to the computer ten times a day or anything hurrying to write a hundred words, usually it all happens in one sitting. What I do instead is keep a little notepad and pencil by my mouse and for every hundred words I make a tally. Every tally gives me a mental nudge that I’m on my way to reaching my goal, and keeps me pushing forward. It is a very recent trick I started using, and the few writing sessions I’ve used it I’ve written between 2000 and 4000 words easy. Anything for a little motivation…

I consider editing and proofing to be separate from the writing process so I will not talk about it here except that I greatly dislike rewriting. My first couple of drafts might look like absolute crap but when it comes to fixing it up I don’t completely rewrite it. To paraphrase Robert Heinlein, don’t rewrite except to editorial order. If the story is good, just fix it up until it flows better and reads good. Let a professional editor or your test readers tell you if something should be changed or not.

And finally, the most important part of my process–me. I must make the decision each day to get to the computer and start typing. I have years and years worth of story material locked about in the archives of my brain, and very little of that has ever even attempted to escape to the page. If you have a story to tell that has never been told before, tell it. Because once you die that story dies with you, never to be seen or heard or read by anyone else. It is your chance to give the world something really unique and special, and it’s a hell of a thing to waste. I reminded myself of that not too long ago, and ever since then my writing has been constant.

It took me a long time to figure out what worked for me and what didn’t, so I hope by sharing what I do helps you writers and bloggers decide what your own process will be like.

Break the rules. It’s more fun that way, and might just work for you a little better.

The Decision 2007 (Final Part)

There were about thirty of us who arrived at MEPS on the same bus. We passed through security doors and unloaded our suitcases into a storage area before being herded into a briefing room. The MEPS commander, the first naval officer I ever saw, gave us a rundown of the rules and what we could expect from visit. The majority of us were there for initial processing, while a few others were either about to officially enlist or ship out to whatever boot camp they were destined for. After this briefing was done we were shown to the recruitment area, which essentially was the exact same thing as the plaza my recruiting center was part of. It was a large waiting area similar to a doctor’s office, and along the walls were the offices of the five military branches, though the Coast Guard center was dark and lifeless.

The waiting game then officially began. The few of us there for the Marines sat for what felt like hours in front of the Marine Corps office, watching as the two recruiters inside go about their paperwork, phone calls, and texting as if they weren’t even aware of our existence. After a little while an elderly volunteer entered the area and announced that cookies and refreshments were available down the hall way. One of the guys next to me stuck his head in the office and asked one of the recruiters if we could go, and the recruiter shouted “You already know the answer to that!” Undeterred, the minute the inner office door shut the same enlistee got up and went down the hallway and came back with a cup of coffee. I was tempted, but did not want to blow my chances over sweets I certainly could go without.

Finally one by one we were called into the office to answer a bunch of preliminary questions. After my turn I was ordered to proceed with a packet of papers to the medical wing where my processing would truly begin.

Several minutes later, the testing began. Just about every single test, checkup, and exam possible was done on me, as well as having the earwax sucked out of both my ears. In a room with several doctors and other recruits I was made to strip down to my underwear and perform various dexterity tests and physical exercises, notes being taken nonstop. Passing all of this, I was sent to lunch and told to report back immediately afterwards. More testing followed, and after another hour-long wait in the recruiting areas Ssgt. Rivera arrived, retrieved documentation from his colleagues in the office and asked if I was ready to go. I had passed another step.

Having passed my background check and health screening, the time had come for me to officially enlist in the Marine Corps. As it would be too much to be done in one day, it meant that I would have to go through a similar experience the following week.

Therefore, the following Thursday I again brought a small suitcase to class with me, and once again a recruiter met me at the door to bring me back to the station. This time, I had a brief meeting with Gunnery Sergeant Love, the chief off the recruiting office, making sure that I was 100% sure that this was something I wanted to do and that I was aware that once I took the oath I was officially a member of the United States Marine Corps as a poolee, and that I would be held to high standards and shipped to boot camp in San Diego as soon as I was done with high school. I assured him confidently that I was ready, and after almost breaking my hand with a firm handshake he transferred me over to Ssgt. Rivera, who was waiting with another recruit-to-be for the second trip to Lansing.

The hotel stay and most of the early morning MEPS activities were exactly the same as they had been the first time, only since I had already completed my health screening and everything it was more administrative this time. Fingerprints were taken, briefings were given, forms and forms and forms were filled out followed by the signing and dating of even more forms. Again, I was given time for lunch, then returned to the recruiting office for more paperwork.

The only time I broke bearing the entire process was when one of the civilian employees made me sign a form designating my next of kin, and that if anything were to happen to me en route to my first duty station (boot camp) that the government would provide six months’ pay to cover funeral arrangements. I could not help but chuckle. If anybody had the misfortune enough to die serving his country before even having a handle to put on a uniform, it would be me. Other than that, I was collected and confident the entire process.

Finally, at the end of the day, there was only one thing left to do to make it official. A group of us were led into a brightly lit room where flags from all across the military, as well as several United States flags, adorned the walls. We stood at attention as an army captain greeted us and ordered us to raise our right hands. He recited the oath enlistment that we followed in spurts, and then we all went back to attention. He shook each one of our hands and posed for a brief picture with us and we were sent back to our recruiters. I was no longer a civilian. I was now a Marine Corps poolee.

Ssgt. Rivera, punctual as ever, appeared right away to pick the two of us up that he had delivered to the hotel the previous day. Instead of taking us home, however, he informed us that MEPS was only the first stop. He drove us down the street to the recruiting HQ for the state of Michigan so that we could be formally inducted as future Marines.

For this task, he turned us over to his friend Ssgt. Leal, a much larger, more intimidating Marine than any of the ones I had met so far. He threw both of us a poolee t-shirt which was to be our uniform of sorts whenever we attended a poolee function. He explained to us that once a week we were expected to appear at our recruiting office to undergo physical training, Marine Corps knowledge, and other items of importance. One Saturday a month would be an even larger poolee function, also required, that would further help build teamwork and Marine Corps values. We were to do the best we could in school, stay out of trouble, and conduct ourselves professionally at all times. Recruiters were to be addressed as “Sir” and any order given was to be acknowledged as “Aye aye, sir.”

“Yes, sir”, “No, sir”, and “Aye aye, sir” needed to be drilled into our minds immediately, because at boot camp those would pretty much be the only words ever coming out of our mouths and the Delayed Entry Program was meant to ensure that we were best prepared to tackle the hardest boot camp in the country.

We were left alone in an office, where Ssgt. Leal had turned on a motivational video. After a while we were interrupted by the recruiting commanding officer, a major, who wanted for us to witness our first promotion ceremony. We witnessed a sergeant promoted to staff sergeant , and a corporal promoted to sergeant. The recruiting center sergeant major informed us that these were major milestones in those Marines’ careers, and made us do twenty push-ups for the amusement of the assembled Marines.

Ssgt. Leak handed us each a folder of information and gave me back to Ssgt. Rivera, the other one having had a ride on the way. We stopped at a gas station for an oil change, the staff sergeant talking me through it so he would not have to get oil on his dress blues. He bought me a pop as a token of thanks, and continued on our way.

The only thing I was really bummed about was that I had to wait an entire year before I shipped out. I had all summer break and my entire senior year to go before it was time for me to ship out to boot camp. Otherwise I was completely on top of the world. It was the first of many rash decisions I would make in the coming years, but knowing what I know now at 28, if I had the chance to go back in time and make a different decision I would have joined the Air Force.

Yeah, screw that. I would not have changed my mind if my life depended on it.

The Decision 2007 (Part 3)

Somehow or another I made it through school the next day. It was a Wednesday, the busiest school day of the week. Waking up early to scrounge on the homework I should have done the night before left me a bit groggy and out of energy for most of the day, but as it grew closer to the final bell I would get more and more bursts of energy.

A smell of pot roast permeated throughout the house when I got home. Ssgt. Rivera was due to arrive after dinner, around 7pm, so I still several hours to do whatever until he got there. Mom had already done a lot of cleaning but I did what I could to make the place even tidier, and knocked out my homework in order to pass the time so I wouldn’t have to pull another early morning. Soon everyone started getting home, we scrounged on the roast, and it was just a matter of waiting.

Not surprisingly, he arrived precisely when he said he would. My parents gave him a warm welcome as I cleared the table, and the four of us sat on each side of the dining room table. He brought with him a huge leather briefcase that was almost half the size of his body, heavy enough that I almost thought the table was going to break under its weight. As he got all several hundred of the necessary documents ready he happily accepted Mom’s offer of leftovers, which he downed in a single gulp with a bottle of water. I think the three of us were mightily impressed.

It seemed like we talked for hours. Every single possible detail of a possible enlistment–the process, the logistics, expectations, and what have you–were discussed in fine detail. As a minor, in order to enlist I required my parents’ permission and their signature on every single document I signed, but neither one of them seemed to have any apprehension towards it at all. Of the available MOSs I formally decided on Personnel Administration, and after a final little talk between myself and my parents when the Staff Sergeant had to to run out to his car for something, we all agreed to make it official. The documents were all signed, dated and initialed, and I was tentatively a new enlistment in the United States Marine Corps.

The next major step in the process was taking a trip to Lansing where the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) was located. Ssgt. Rivera told me that it would be an overnight stay at a government contracted hotel, where a shuttle would bring us to MEPS and our recruiter would pick us up at the end of the day. I packed a little bag for the following night and at the end of the day one of the other recruiters arrived at school to pick me up and bring me to the recruiting station while Staff Sergeant Rivera finished up a meeting. Lansing was roughly an hour, hour and a half from us so it gave the two of us a chance to talk more about what the Marine Corps was like and what was even more pressing in my mind at that point–recruit training. He again assured me that by the time I was finished with the Delayed Entry Program that I would be well-prepared for the challenge ahead. I took his word for it.

The hotel itself was a blast. It was the first time in several years that I had stayed overnight away from the family, and the first time ever staying in a hotel by myself. I met potential candidates from every service branch, was given a stern briefing on hotel rules and whatnot by the hotel manager, a crusty navy vet that gave me my very first taste of how serious and unforgiving the military was. Each room was a full-furnished suite with two full sized beds, TV, and certainly was not cheap. The cafeteria served dinner and breakfast, there was a hot tub, steam room,!workout area, arcade games and tons of room to lounge around at and relax. My roommate (whose name I never got; we simply referred to each other as Air Force and Marine Corps) seemed like a nice guy but did not see much of each other. I spent most of my time watching a “Hogan Knows Best” marathon in the room after dinner, and we both fell asleep rather early.

We were promised a very early morning wake up call. That promise was kept.

(STAY TUNED FOR PART 4, THE FINALE.)

The Decision 2007 (Part 2)

My two classmates were disqualified almost immediately. I learned that one of the guys, Z., had criminal drug charges pending, and was the first to find out that the other guy, B., had a kid. The Staff Sergeant sent the two of them back to class and looked across the table at me in earnest. I had already told him that I had no criminal past or familial obligations, which seemed to impress him quite a bit.

Other things made him excited. At 5’10 and 170 pounds I fit perfectly within my height and weight range, I was on track to graduate, and had that strong military background that I gave him a quick run-through about. He did not want to take up anymore of my class time and asked if he could come pick me after school. Nervously and like the good kid I always was, I did not want to do anything without asking permission, so he loaned me his phone so I could call mom. She was surprised but told me to go for it, so I was sent back to Global Issues with an after-school appointment to look forward to.

Right on time when the final bell rang a couple of hours later, Ssgt. Rivera appeared at the entrance of the office, shaking my hand again and asking if I was ready to rock and roll. The recruiting substation he worked out of was only a five minute drive away, and he spent the entire time talking about himself and the opportunities the Marine Corps had provided him. Before becoming a recruiter he had been in a good service job in the Marines, had been a squad leader at boot camp, and was a Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor. What intrigued me most about everything was that he told me he had a bunch of friends who went into Marines that also enjoyed reading and writing, and that if I wanted to go to college I could do so while I was in (for free) or have a brand new GI Bill whenever I decided to get out that would take care of any and all college expenses for me (also for free.) It could not have been timed for perfectly, because the second I was in total awe of the potential opportunities we had arrived at the recruiting station.,

I expected it to be a little cubbyhole in the wall that he worked out of, but what I found was an enormous office FILLED with men dressed exactly like him (he told me they were called dress blues.) I was introduced to a rank I had never heard of before, a Gunnery Sergeant who was the boss of the office, and several other sergeant and staff sergeant recruiters who covered schools that Ssgt. Rivera did not. Beyond that, there was about four or five much younger Marines fresh out of boot camp who were helping with recruiting assistance. All of these Marines wore a different kind of uniform–olive pants, khaki shirts, and the same extremely polished shoes as the recruiters. I was told they were called “charlies” but there was too much information overload going on for me to remember much of this stuff until later on.

The first thing he had me do was sit in a tiny room on a laptop and do a miniature ASVAB test to see if I possessed the basic reading skills and whatnot that even the dumbest Marine needed to have. I told him that I had taken the actual ASVAB only a few months earlier at the suggestion of the Air Force recruiter, which made him very happy, so while I took my test he went to work pulling up my scores from the big one. When we were done, I took a seat in front of his desk and began to learn even more about what the Corps had to offer and some of the various jobs (Military Occupational Specialties, or MOSs) I could potentially choose from. I did not tell him this at the time, but my heart had already settled on the clerical MOS, that line of work being more suited to guy like me than infantry or artillery or any of those combat MOSs he slyly mentioned first. As a gift he presented me with an entire book’s worth of pamphlets talking about the various aspects of the Marines for me to peruse, then offered to take me home because I was interested in introducing him to my parents.

During the ride home I came out with the few misgivings that I had about everything. First and foremost was that I was not in great physical shape. The seemingly permanent smile on his face widened as he promised me that they take care of that before they even ship us off to boot camp. I told him that I already had a good relationship going with the Air Force, and as his lips touched his earlobes in smile he assured me that they steal recruits from the Air Force all the time, and that they were used to it. There was something about his attitude, the sort of kick-ass quality in everything that he said, that not only put me at ease but all of a sudden made me want to become a Marine even though I was still not 100% sure what exactly a Marine was.

I was not able to ask him that before we pulled up to my house. I ushered him up the steps and through the front door, greeted as usual by the family Bassett hound, Flash, and I introduced him to both my mom and younger brother, who both were as admiring of the five foot Marine as I had become. It turned out that Dad was out of town for the night, and Ssgt. Rivera was really anxious to sit down with all three of us to discuss everything in greater detail with the possibility of signing enlistment paperwork right away, citing my obvious enthusiasm and everything. He and my mom scheduled for him to come back the following night and he gave all three of us a firm handshake and smile, Flash a big pet behind the ears, and was out of the driveway in no time.

Mom turned to me with a huge shit-eating grin and was like, “I love how leetle he is!”

There was no way I was going to be able to concentrate on anything but the military, so I ignored my homework and instead dived into the paperwork I was given. I went to the basement, pulled out the M encyclopedia and began researching as much about the Marines as I possibly could.

My mind was made up.

(STAY TUNED FOR PART 3)