Screenwriting : Anyone else try writing novels only to find... by Michael Cantrell

Michael Cantrell

Anyone else try writing novels only to find...

...that you absolutely hate it. I decided to make my story a novel after bunches of people telling me it’s nigh to impossible to make it screenwriting. Which is true of course so i thought self publishing novels, that’s the ticket. People will at least read the story. Except i find novel writing insufferably boring. Ive been writing the same scene for like a damn week. It’s moving too slow and having to describe everything and get inside a character’s head all the time. I’m just not enjoying it. It’s a slog. Screenwriting to me is fun and enjoyable. Faster paced. It’s still a lot of work but the work is fun. I don’t care if i never make it. I have some other things i can do for money. I’d rather write movies. Those are my passion and what I feel comfortable doing. Anyone relate?

J. Kenner

I do think that people tend more toward one medium than the other. I'm primarily a novelist, though I also love writing for the screen. But I do have to ask why you need to "describe everything." Just based on your post, my guess is that you should take another look at your pacing. You may find that you're finding writing a novel insufferably boring because what you're writing is boring. I truly don't mean that as a criticism, but a lot of new novelists feel the need to over-describe. There's no Novel Law that says you have to spend 4 pages describing the blades of grass in a park before getting to the action. You can just say "He entered the park, then stood under the majestic oak to get his bearings, searching for his contact. The woman with the stroller, struggling to maneuver it into the shade? Probably not. The elderly man seated on the green wooden bench, tossing seed at a circle of pigeons? Perhaps, but he couldn't be sure. And then he saw the jogger coming toward him on the crushed granite path. blah blah blah" Off the top of my head, but you get the idea. You can be lean.

Michael Cantrell

Yeah i like lean writing. I think i need to be leaner when it comes to being in a character’s head.

Bill Albert

I enjoy both fiction and screenwriting but I'v found it's really hard to switch back and forth from project to project. If I start a script I have to finish it before I can do fiction.

Bill Costantini

Why would you do something that you absolutely hate?

Pamela Bolinder

Michael Cantrell: As you write, try to challenge yourself to write words, thoughts, impressions by design that holds the attention of the reader. I love reading Annie Proulx novels. She has impeccable writing skills, brilliant with the use of language—a master at writing fiction. Just because a person buys a book does not mean they are going to read the story. I have purchased plenty of books that I put down for lack of keeping my attention. Proulx keeps my mind entertained long after I have been reading one of her books. Do what you love! Notoriety is a by-product of doing what you love and doing it well. THIS IS A NO SLOGGING ZONE

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

I wrote a bad book. I enjoyed it but it sucks. Had better luck with screenplays.

Dan Guardino

I couldn't write a novel to save my life. The only ones I could even read are the ones I've adapted into screenplays and I hated reading those.

Michael Cantrell

Bill Costantini Well, that's exactly the question I'm asking myself. I guess because I feel I have a better chance of success as a novelist than a screenwriter. With novels there's more creative control, which is a plus, but that's not the end all, be all for me.

I really want people to experience the stories I produce. I know the only way that happens with screenplays is if they are made into films. With novels, it's a completed project.

The vast majority of folks I've talked to in the business have told me it's better to do novels for these reasons and more. However, I just don't know that I can to be honest. It feels sort of foreign. I think what i've written is decent, but it just seems like it's taking forever to complete. I'm starting to get bored with the story for one thing. I've been working on the story for over a year and just this summer started trying to draft it up. I love the story, I do, but I feel I'm sort of getting burnt. Perhaps I need to step away and do a short story or two, just to do something different.

Bill Costantini

Hmmm....I would think that "I would have the better chance at doing what I love to do"....the best, first and foremost....even if the odds of success at Thing One might be like...twice as high as the odds of success at Thing Two.....I'd do the thing that I love doing, and would probably do that the best...cuz I'd love what I'd be doing...and my brain would be secreting all those good chemicals that make us better thinkers and consequentially...better writers.

I don't know about the "vast majority" folks....someone could take that advice...and write a really shitty novel....I'd agree with Dan G on that...he said he knows what he can't...and knows what he can do.....so that "vast majority" comment...I wonder how many of those folks are talking from experience....or are just kinda bullshitting you....

.....if you're solely looking for a "creative control" thing....then writing a novel is definitely the way to go....but if you hate doing it....man...that would be hard to live every day with....unless you learn to love what you hate....that's not so hard...learning to love what you hate... sitting down and being able to write prose...it shouldn't be hard to turn that hate into love......and especially if you do it with leftover Halloween candy....I hate this stuff...I hate this stuff....mmm....actually...I'm starting to like this stuff...actually....I''m starting to love this stuff...and especially these Whoppers...I can almost play Dueling Banjos chewing these things....heh-heh...

.....best of luck to you, bro!

Doug Nelson

I have three finished (?) novels puy up in 3 ring binders - never to be published. I really enjoyed the years of research but not the long slog writing. They're all period pieces so they are a hard sell as films. The Stolen Kingdom (the overthrow of Hawaii by the US). The Hooded Summer (the 1924 election under the prying eyes of the KKK) and Faithfully Executed (lot's of flashbacks to Poland at the end of WWII). They are all woven around romances.

Pamela Bolinder

Doug Nelson! I would LOVE reading those! Do NOT throw them out! Tom Hanks, and I'm sure others, love that kind of content! You surprise me with the romance laced in history. I like it. =)

J. Kenner

Just a note based on the « better chance of success as a novelist comment » ... while I make a good living writing novels and know many others who do as well, I got this today from the Author’s Guild: ‘

Published American authors today average $11,000 per year down from $25,000 a decade ago. Full-time author incomes in Canada and Great Britain have declined as well.

Bill Costantini

Julie: but $11,000 is still $3,000 higher than the average American makes and...oops...forget that...I'm time-traveling today...and it's 1976...no wonder why I'm sitting in my 8th grade class...stealing chocolate milk from the kid next to me....never mind!

Dan MaxXx

$11,000 yr is more than 14,000 WGA union members who made 0 income in year 2017.

Roxanne Paukner

Michael Cantrell , I totally relate. And since I started screenwriting, I find it difficult to even read novels!

Michael Cantrell

Roxanne Paukner I'm a voracious reader, but I'm sort of in the same boat. I've read like 15 novels over the last several months and I'm sort of moving back toward nonfiction in subjects I'm intensely interested in. I have more patience when I know I'm learning something than I do with fiction writing. Novels are sort of a slog to get through. As much as I do love them, I have a hard time finishing them because they take so long.

I've always been a diehard film fan because it's a story I can digest in a few hours. Or if it's a show I can take it a bit at a time and reflect on it. If I do this with a Novel, it will take months for me to finish it. I read Stephen King's "It" last year after I watched the movie and it is by far my favorite novel of all-time. However, I doubt I'll ever read it again. It's 1,100 pages and took me four months to get through. I don't have time for that lol.

Michael Cantrell

Dan MaxXx Yeah, but how many folks self-published novels that made next to nothing too?

Bill Costantini

Michael: You really shouldn't try to think of it primarily in terms of money, or how to primarily monetize a passion you may have. Writing is not primarily about money. If it was, then any starry-eyed dreamer could become a billionaire overnight.

There was a post here recently...about a writer who won TWO MAJOR AWARDS this year...with the same script. That writer has been writing for something like 20 years. It took her 20 years to gain something of great value for her passion. Do you think you can endure that long for something like that?

Whatever you decide to do....base your decision on what you love to do...and where your passions lie. Take your time...do it right. And then...you might be ready to market something. And after that...someone may offer to buy it. And after that...you start again.

If is was just about money....well...it reminds me of the old joke....plumber walks into a house. He fixes the toilet. He hands the owner the bill. "$250? For 20 minutes? I'm a doctor, and I don't make $250 in 20 minutes!" The plumber looks at him and says "Yeah...when I was a doctor...I didn't make $250 in 20 minutes, either."

If you wanna make a lot of money....well...there are only a few things you need to learn in order to be a plumber. Just a few. And the world could always use a few new plumbers. Just sayin' bro....just sayin'.......

Michael Cantrell

Bill Costantini The world might could use a few more plumbers, but I ain't gonna be one of them. First off, I have dysautonomia, which is a chronic every day condition that makes any sort of work that doesn't involve sitting down at a computer pretty much impossible for me.

Secondly, I'm shitty with tools. I'm a nerdy guy. I couldn't build a bridge out of popsicle sticks. I've had plenty of people try to teach me how to be handy over the years. Yeah....the word disastrous comes to mind. Some people should never be handed a wrench. I'm that guy.

Thirdly, I'm not just a creative. I'm a business minded individuals. It's always about the money. How many people use that "it's for love of the craft" stuff to justify not moving forward and treating their writing seriously? You'll never make writing a career if you don't treat it like one.

Fourthly, I'm bound and determined to make my living creatively. Which means I need to be thinking of the money. Art and self-expression and passion are must-haves for any creative endeavor. However, my family still has to eat. Seeing as how my employment options are limited, it's write or bust for this cat.

Fifthly, I'm already paid to blog and write. While it's news/commentary -- which honestly sucks right now given the political climate here in America -- I still get to be rather creative. I'm also in the process of building my own blog -- not related at all to what I'm currently writing about -- so I'm sure in a few years that will produce a solid income. I've been doing that for years and know the ropes.

I didn't just start that blog because I'm passionate about its subject matter -- films from a certain perspective -- but because I believe I can make money with it too. The two aren't mutually exclusive.

I want to be financially rewarded for my work. I'm going to find my voice and express myself, sure, but I'm not doing this just for shits and giggles. I'm doing it with the end goal in mind of making some cash. It may never happen. I don't know. But I'm approaching this creative thing like my life depends on it ;).

Bill Costantini

Michael: Well said. I can totally understand all of that, and relate to most of that. I need to make money, too, and have like 26 monthly bills, most of which keep going higher and higher every year. It's like...nothing ever goes down....everything always goes up...and especially as you get older and enter different age brackets for things like auto insurance and health insurance. I haven't caused an accident EVER and my auto insurance keeps going up. WTF?

Whatever you choose....I hope you make the most money that you can at it, and wish you the very best, bro.

Michael Cantrell

Bill Costantini Man, I feel you on the insurance going up. Mine went up just last month. No clue why. Makes no sense at all. I wish you success too!

Roxanne Paukner

Yeah, after you win a screenwriting award, when you check out at the grocery store, they still want you to swipe your credit card.

Michael Cantrell

Dan Guardino question man. What was it you found difficult about writing a novel? I'm still finding it difficult and frustrating, but at the same time, I feel like a novel is a product I could sell while a screenplay may never see the light of day. Although I could turn them into radio dramas as part of a podcast series or something. Anyway, just wondering if your struggle is similar to mine.

Kimberly Burks

Michael how is your writing now? is it better after several years of posting this comment? How are you doing?

I am also a novelist. So any input you have would be helpful.

Julian Martin

My sympathies! I wrote seven scripts before I felt I could pull off a novel, and I wrote just the one. It was only 60K, but it felt like running several marathons. It takes different writing muscles than screenplays do. I’m trying to work up the muster to write a second one, but I’ve written two of my best scripts since then and it’s daunting. Good luck.

William Martell

I wrote some novels in my 20s (unpublished due to my laziness), and am currently adapting a screenplay of mine that got me a bunch of studio meetings and probably a deal on something else - but never sold.<br>

My "retirement career" is adapting screenplays that almost sold into novels.<br>

Even though I wrote some short stories and a novelette (which was recently #2 on Amazon's Short Mysteries) as practice, the novel is kicking my ass some days. Last week I hit a big patch of character introductions that got me bogged down in descriptions. Got through it. Now, even though there are going to be some more bumps in the road, I am into the fun part of the story where very bad things are happening and our hero has to deal with them. <br>

The first two chapters were easy to write once I figured out those characters, and I figured out a way to get through the big patch of character introductions (and the protag's thoughts and feelings) but focusing on the thoughts and feelings - finding a way to make those introductions interesting and exciting (I hope) so that readers won't notice the exposition (just like in a screenplay). <br>

There's a learning curve. This isn't instant. It can be frustrating, but that's just because you are learning to do something different. <br>

So just keep smashing your head against the wall... eventually it will break. <br>

(one or the other)

WL Wright

I write both, I love screenwriting more but I'm not entirely over novel writing at all.

Deborah Sawyer

I write both. Some stories lend themselves to just a screenplay, others to the novel format. Part of it may come down to how fast the story needs to move. A fast-moving story is probably better turned into a screenplay.

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