TV WRITING AND NOVELS...Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
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Monday, January 31, 2005

I got a very nice note from someone whom I was hoping would recommend my novel to an agent up here. She thought it was "a great idea" and she "enjoyed the story" but felt it could use some revision.

I'm a bit depressed about that. I'm also a bit depressed that now, taking a look at the novel, I'm not exactly swept up in it. I've gone very far away from who I was when I wrote it. I'm not really interested in the Matter of Britain (the Arthurian cycle) any more. It was a very big deal to me once. I'm not excited about Morgan le Fay and her quest for vengeance.

Lisa had a perceptive comment though. She pointed out that all the TV writing has given me a much more popular sensibility. I used to try to write popular stuff but really I wrote stuff I was interested in and few else; the success I did have was out of sheer craft I guess. Screenwriting doesn't really fix that, because a movie is your vision as much as a novel is, there are just fewer stories that want to be movies than books. If I were to perpetrate a novel at this point, I'd probably start with a screenplay, just to get the plot right.

I'm always impressed with people who can just sort of write their way into a novel. But I rarely read their novels. And I don't envy them the horrible rewriting.

Neil Gaiman is an example of one I do read, but he comes out of comics, so his plotting instincts are well honed already; he has structure in the back of his head even if he's not paying close attention to it when he writes his first drafts.

I think writing for TV is probably excellent training for writing spec movie scripts. Trying to be fresh within a well defined template teaches you how to be fresh in a much looser form. You probably shouldn't write free verse before you can turn out a sonnet.

On the other hand I couldn't have made as much headway in TV if I hadn't had all that practice writing spec movies scripts... so I guess it doesn't really matter were you start so long as you keep writing all the time.


Alex, did you ever consider that the feedback you received isn't entirely (or even remotely) correct? It happens. Maybe you should get a second opinion.

I agree that screenwriting and novel writing are different diciplines. Where they overlap is in the realm of storytelling. I also agree that the majority of novels aren't good screen fodder. I think Hollywood and other prodcos across the globe snatch up novels because the storytelling work has all ready been accomplished. But it goes to extremes.

I read a wonderful novel in the late 90s entitled, Perfume. By 2000, a German producer had optioned the book and was looking for a screenwriter to adapt it. No way was that going to work. That novel was, The Orchid Thief, times 10.

By Blogger David C. Daniel, at 4:41 PM  

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