Thursday, March 11, 2010

From the Page to the Screen

I've been really struggling with my new novel, which is giving me a very difficult time, sort of like when your new puppy seems to be understanding everything you are trying to teach her and then hits 6 months and turns into a rebellious teenager. My new novel is now in the teenage phase. And the beginning isn't working for me at all. This, of course, is making me rethink the whole novel, because I don't get what some people call "writer's block." When something is making me run from writing, it is simply because it isn't working for me. And if it doesn't interest me, how could I possibly expect anyone to want to read it? So I am heading back to page one with the novel to revisit the idea and the way I am telling the story. These are the moments when I remind myself that writing is a craft and even bad writing helps you become a better writer.

This reminds me of my first real piece of writing which was a screenplay called Heritage. This is without a doubt the worst screenplay ever written. The poor friends who had to read it can probably attest to this fact. But you have to get all the bad screenplays out there before you can make room for the good ones. This is the advice screenwriting guru Robert McKee gives to his students. It's been many years since I took his Story Seminar, but I recall him saying that the first 20 screenplays you write will be terrible--basically shredder-worthy. And that once you get through that, you will be a great writer. Screenplays are on my mind these days because a good friend of mine recently asked me to collaborate on a screenplay with him. I wrote screenplays for many years before I discovered that writing novels was more fulfilling for me, so I am comfortable with the format and have the right program on my computer. But as I am discovering, it is almost like going back to the beginning as a writer. Because the process is so different. I'm going to share my process with my readers as I work on this script--collaboration, three-act structure, and the struggle to write something really good.

Today, I am working on an outline for the script--which for me, is just a four or five page summary of the story with highlights of special moments that I can already see in my mind. So far, my vision and my partner's vision are kind of different. He's seeing one movie, and I am seeing another. So today, my goal is to try to blend the two--and in that blending, to come up with something really original and special.

More later...


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