Sunday, May 18, 2014

WRITER'S CHOICE : SCREENPLAY OR NOVEL?


When it comes to writing your first work, there is sometimes a question of what format to write it in. Of course, this depends on the work's final purpose. Is it just for the screen? Is it just a novel? Will that novel later be adapted for the screen or the stage and, if so, will the original author be the adapter? At least, these were the questions I asked myself when choosing the proper format.

All good writing benefits from brevity. The screenplay is no different. In fact, if one likes to write 150,000 word novels, half of which are wasted on lengthy descriptions of twigs and the texture of dirt, they should forget about screenwriting altogether. While it is important to set the stage, the stage itself is secondary to dialogue. For example, a scene simply takes place in a room. It doesn't matter what kind of room it is. That's for the set designer to put together. A period piece requires appropriate attire, but the screenwriter needs not be bothered by its nuances. The costume designer will figure it out. The novel, on the other hand, requires its author's proficiency in these matters. The key is not to let the word count get away from you.

Most importantly, however, a screenplay is only the beginning of a project that involves many people. The novel is the end product involving one.

For my money, a screenplay is easier to write, and a novel is easier to sell. Not that selling a novel is by any means easy, but unless you know a friend of a friend of the pool boy working at a producer's mansion, no one with any leverage is going to look at your wonderful script or, as it is more commonly known, "unsolicited material." 

Querying whole production companies or individual producers is a waste of  time, resources, and sanity. Out of the hundred + script queries I sent out, maybe a dozen came back with a personal answer. The rest didn't come back at all. There was a phone call I will forever remember from Twisted Pictures, where one of the owners very thoroughly and politely provided me with a reality check about screenwriters. Every production company has their reserve, if you will, and these are the folks they use. They are contractually obligated to use them. So, even if they like the query you sent, as a company, they cannot ask you to see the whole script, because you are not one of theirs. Furthermore, they don't want to face a copyright infringement lawsuit from you later, in case you submit something and are swiftly rejected only to have a similar project come to fruition from one of their writers shortly thereafter. There are options of writing competitions, but that is another beast entirely, and one in which I also don't wholeheartedly believe in.

When you query literary agencies and publishers, most ask for at least a 5 page sample of your work, some a whole chapter, or the first 30 to 50 pages. This is a huge opportunity, and one that affords the writer a fairer chance to showcase their work. Moreover, the reply rate is higher. This is why I think it's easier. You may still spend a year trying to get someone to request the full manuscript, but just about every submission has a preview of what you're offering.  Rejection is generally less difficult to cope with when you know someone actually looked at a smidgeon of your project before saying "no." Blind rejections are the worst. "If only they could've read it, they would've surely loved it!" we tell ourselves.

My goal is to write the books, adapt them into screenplays, and direct the films myself. It is an ambitious dream. It is an OCD dream. I cannot imagine somebody else seizing all control. Others are merely satisfied to have the work off their hands. Sell and be done with it. Not this dame.

All right, enough with the technical stuff. Next week - MOVIES!

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