Monthly Archives: December 2015

Star Wars Marathon and the Machete Order

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The big movie is out THIS WEEK! I can’t say how excited I am to get to see a new Star Wars movie in the theater. It will be legendary.

Such a legendary occasion cannot just happen. It needs preparation; time to get the mind and body ready to endure the absolute epicness of this mega colossal astronomical event. (Thank you thesaurus.)

It’s such a monumental occasion that you can’t just go to the movie. You have to prepare.

And this weekend, prepare we did.

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Quite possibly a Sith, using his mind control powers on my dog.

An elite group of Jedi, one of which I suspect may actually be Sith that I haven’t seen in years, did what few would even attempt. A Star Wars marathon. It was as epic as you would expect, and made for an extremely long day. We did take a few breaks to play some Battlefront and put chains on a truck, but for over twelve hours we indulged in a galaxy far, far, away.

Before starting on such an epic journey, a decision must be made.

What order to watch the movies in? Release order, or episode order? Or, something else?

Last year I found the Machete order where, in an extremely long detailed post, it is suggested that the best way to watch the movies is Episode 4 and 5, then take from that series to watch Episode 2 and 3, then finish off with Episode 6. Interesting suggestion, and I’m not going to bore you with all of the details. If you want that, you can check out the original post.

This article is going to be focused on my reaction to watching Star Wars in the Machete order. Even as a long time fan of that world, I really did see things a little differently.

It’s about Luke and Anakin

The largest thing that stood out when watching in this order was the main focus of the story.

Watching in release order makes it seem like much of the story is about the Empire and rebellion, and how one hero, Luke, is able to help overthrow that Empire. Then when you go watch the prequels, you see how the Empire, and Vader, are formed.

Watching in the Machete order, however, shifts the focus to being all about the Skywalkers. You see Luke finding out about the force (a great introduction to the force, by the way, letting the viewer ease into this mystical energy field), then starting his training under Yoda and ending with a face off with the bad guy, Darth Vader, who we shockingly find out is Luke’s father.

Then you step back from that story and start on Episode 2 and 3, where you find Anakin, a whiny yet powerful Jedi, and you follow his path to the dark side, ending with him killing younglings, getting cooked well done on Mustafar, and ultimately turning into Darth Vader.

Then you come back to the original story with Episode 6, where Luke has to face Vader, after making many of the same mistakes you just saw Anakin make 2 hours earlier, and the threat of Luke turning to the dark side seems more real. Luke realizes this and resists, ultimately ending with Vader’s redemption.

For this fact alone it was worth watching in this order.

Rise of the Empire

This order also tells the story of the empire in an interesting way. In Episode 4 you hear that the emperor just dissolved the senate, and then, in Empire Strikes Back, you get introduced to the Emperor as a giant hologram head. After you know what this Empire is about, and who the Emperor is, you go back to Episode 2 and 3 and find out way more than you wanted about how an intergalactic senate works, followed by who the Emperor really is and how he came to power. Finally, in Return of the Jedi, he gets destroyed.

It’s interesting how this order starts to bring up questions just in time to go get the back story that fills you in as you need it, instead of setting you up with all this information you don’t care about first and then getting into why it’s important much later.

Why skip Episode 1?

Well, there were a few reasons for this. First of all, we spent over 12 hours watching Star Wars movies (with a few short breaks between films) with just those 5! That’s a lot of movie to watch, and if we could do it and legitimately skip one, all the better.

Episode one really doesn’t add to the story in any way that is important. All of the characters and plots that you need to know about in Episode Two are reintroduced in that film, so the viewer isn’t lost by skipping a movie that adds a lot of weirdness. By skipping The Phantom Menace you skip out on all these memorably weird and bad moments:

  • Jar Jar Binks (almost entirely cut from the series)
  • Weird pedophile relationship between little boy Annie and a much older Padme
  • Midichlorians
  • Trade Negotiations
  • Jar Jar Binks

Granted, you do miss out on one of the best lightsaber battles in the series, and an awesome Jedi played by Liam Neeson, and some would argue the podrace scene would be missed, but, those don’t really add to the story. They don’t add anything to the Luke and Darth Vader story, or to either war that’s going on. Everything you need to know about the Trade Federation is already re-explained in Episode 2.

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So yeah, watching the movies in this order was not only a lot of fun, but it was also refreshing and, almost, new.

And now, I have just THIRTY SIX HOURS until I get to go see Episode 7, The Force Awakens!

Just to make sure I really like the movie and have a purely objective opinion of it, I will have to watch it multiple times. The things I do for my readers. 🙂

What about you? What are you doing to get ready for the new movie, and what order do you prefer to watch Star Wars in? Let me know in the comments!

Rite of Passage Twitter Giveaway

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Hey everyone, I have some great news. I will be giving away a signed paperback copy of Rite of Passage to one random Twitter follower when I reach 100 followers.

The rules of entry are easy. Just follow me on Twitter (@JLZenor). When I reach 100 followers I will pick a random account and contact them via a DM (It’s a Twitter thing) to get your address. The winner will have one week to get back to me with their address or I move on to pick another random winner.

I’m already up to 75 followers so it won’t take too long. This could be a great stocking stuffer for that reader in your family.

Go follow me on Twitter and then share me with your friends. 🙂

Uhm, that makes for a really short blog post. What else could we talk about? Oh yeah, there is a new movie coming out next week that I’m sure none of you will have heard of. Anybody heard of The Force Awakens? Yeah, it thought not.  To get ready for the largest movie release of the century my friends coming over for a Star Wars marathon. We will be watching them in Machete order, in case you are wondering.

Anyway, yeah, Twitter. Go follow me, win a book, write a review, and watch Star Wars.

NaNoWriMo Attempt 3 – Why do I do this to myself?

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It’s official! I am a THREE time winner of NaNoWriMo! (National Novel Writing Month)

That’s right, for the third year in a row I managed to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. This year has been the most difficult, for some reason, but I managed to squeak by the finish line in 27 days, with a lot of help from other writers that were as crazy as myself.

You’re insane! Why do that?

“Why would you ever do that?” You ask?

Because it’s awesome!

It’s not just about writing, but about setting an incredibly tough goal for yourself and then joining a community of other writers who attempt to reach that same goal, together. The connections that I have made every November through NaNoWriMo events have not only been a huge support and encouragement, but have been friendly and helpful even after NaNo has ended. At the end of NaNoWriMo this year I can say that I have forged new friendships, made some stronger, and walked away with a novel penned by me! How awesome is that?

“A novel in a month? That must be one crappy novel…”

Well… Yes, it is. But do you know what else it is? It’s 50,000 words of a novel ready to be refined and polished into an amazing story.

The fact that it is a crappy first draft has very little to do with the speed in which it was written, and a lot to do with the fact that all first drafts are crappy. Guaranteed.

The first book that I attempted to write took me over months of work, writing, rewriting, tweaking, planning, and more writing. After six months I had only managed to write 20,000 crappy words of a book. They still needed a lot of polishing and rewriting that I could never do because I never got to the end of that first draft. It’s only when you get to the end and see the full work, that you know exactly where the true story lies.

An analogy that has helped me along the way compares writing a book to working with a pottery wheel. The first step is not to add clay to the shape and keep shaping it as you go so that when you get to the top it’s a finished work. The first step is to put all of the clay on the wheel. Only then can you shape it and start working with it.

Writing is the same way. The first draft is just putting clay on the wheel. Only then can you see how much material you have to work with and what the general shape of it is going to be compared to the vision you had in your head. You need to get that first draft down first, then you can be the master craftsman who shapes it.

Don’t forget that, writers. Embrace that first draft as the crap it is so you can polish the story that lies within. Don’t feel bad and beat yourself up because you think it isn’t a masterpiece as soon as you type “The End.”

“Is it really winning if ‘everybody wins’?”

This is another argument I have heard against NaNoWriMo, but it can’t be further from the truth. Just because multiple people win doesn’t mean that win is any less difficult to achieve. Sticking with writing for 30 days is an extremely tough thing to do, especially when we all have school, work, and families, that all want our attention. Even without other obligations, it is hard to remain creative day after long day for thirty days straight.

Along the way many writers drop out. Last year in my region only 1 in 5 writers reached that goal. It is like running a marathon. Anybody who crosses the finish line is a winner. They may not have been first, but if that was the only purpose then as soon as first place won everyone else would just give up. Most marathon runners don’t do it to be first, they do it because it’s an incredible challenge that they want to win.

So yes, winning NaNoWriMo is incredibly hard and is not just a ‘participation award.’ It’s worth it, give it a shot!

Planning vs Pantsing

Each year I approached my NaNo novel differently. The first year I had only learned about NaNoWriMo days before it started; which meant I had absolutely no plan for the story beyond a vague idea. That was the ultimate attempt at pantsing my novel. (Pantsing, also called Discovery Writing, is when you write a novel without an outline or any detailed road map, which you might call writing “by the seat of your pants.”)

This year I tried to outline as best I could. I spent two months coming up with world building ideas and outlines for my story. I thought it would make the writing of my story a lot more rigid and less fun, but it actually worked out really well. I still had room to change the plan as I went, but I knew where I was going and what major events were going to happen along the way. Some of those changed, but the first draft definitely came out cleaner than in previous years when I pantsed my way through the month and came out with a weak ending.

I couldn’t have done it without…

Seriously, this challenge would not have been possible this year without the support of some very awesome people. On those many days when I was having difficulty wanting to write a single word, watching my best friend creep up past my word count lit a fire under my butt and made me write anyway. The fact that we both crossed the 50,000 word finish line within minutes of each other was awesome as well. That was probably my biggest help this year, so thank you, Lena.

I also would not have completed this challenge if it wasn’t for Ben, this region’s ML (organizer of events), and the rest of the ChatNano IRC chatroom. Amy, Ben, and Sara, your constant insistence on word wars really helped motivate me to write when I would have otherwise lost all of my time playing World of Warcraft.

And of course, Timmy and your love of (ignoring) raptor sightings was always great chatroom entertainment.

I won’t lie, NaNoWriMo takes a lot of time, a ton of effort, and a boat load of dedication to set aside life for 30 days and work on your dream, but it is worth it.

Stats!

Oh yeah, did I mention that NaNoWriMo has stats?

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