Writing is Fun! Except When It Isn’t.

Right now I’m in the middle of writing the novel version of my favorite screenplay, Queen Henry. This is my second novel, the first was a middle grade novel (ages 9-12) based on my screenplay, Rain on the Water. That script has been optioned twice by companies in Los Angeles. Both options have expired, and, not really surprisingly, nothing came of it. That’s okay. Having scripts optioned really is farther than I ever really thought I would get with my screenwriting, given the odds are especially horrible since I don’t live in L.A. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I can’t move to L.A. for lots of reasons and it sometimes that bums me out. If I really sit down and think about it, the odds of making it as a screenwriter, even if you DO live out there and you DO work in the industry are really pretty bad. There are more than 50,000 screenplays registered with the Writer’s Guild every year. It’s August. Guess how many spec scripts have sold this year so far? About 50. Being a successful screenwriter is a lot like saying you want to be an astronaut. Sure, it could happen. But it ain’t likely. Last week I was reading some blog article about how horrible the odds were and, for the first time in my life, I considered giving up screenwriting. 

It was like a very brief moment of panic. I just froze at my desk. It was like a sudden realization that the odds of this ever, ever happening were so remote that I realized I shouldn’t bother with it. 

I came to my senses less than 5 seconds and got over it, but it pisses me off because I’ve always said that in my 16 years of writing I’d never, ever considered giving up. Can’t say that anymore, now can I? I’ve read so many articles about how you’ve got to live in L.A., work as an intern, then an assistant, and inch your way forward making connections, working 10-12 + hours a day and you’re lucky if you can spare a few hours a week to do some actual writing.  

Yeah.

Well, instead of doing THAT, how bout I spend that time learning the craft, reading, writing, and getting better at it? Who’s gonna be the better writer? Me, or the intern who can’t pay his bills and barely has time to go to the bathroom, let alone learn the incredibly difficult craft of screenwriting? It reminds of the great Mitch Hedberg. He was a comic and people told him he should be an actor. He said “it’s like you work your ass off to be a great chef and people say, yeah, you can cook. Can you farm?” Only in screenwriting are you expected to spend 98% of your time NOT writing until you make it.

On the bright side, I found this article yesterday that made me feel a lot better. – What Are Your Real Chances of Success?

Anyway, one thing is for sure. Getting a novel published, while still incredibly hard, is a lot easier than selling a script.

Movies and writing screenplays are my great passion in life, so I resisted writing novels for a long time. Besides, Rain on the Water is a quiet kind of tale, and not particularly suited for the big screen. Both times that script was optioned, the producers had more of a small-scale independent film or tv/cable movie in mind. I’d always known that particularly story would work better as a novel, so I finally sat down and wrote the damn thing. 

I was honestly amazed at how much I enjoyed writing a novel. I love reading and, after all, a story is a story. Still, I just didn’t think I would like it that much. My career plan right now is to write screenplay – novel – screenplay – novel, but never the same story back to back. Writing a screenplay and then a novel of the same story would be overload – I know I would get sick of the story by then. All the time I was writing Rain on the Water, I knew that the next novel I wrote (after doing a screenplay) would be the novel version of Queen Henry, which is hands down my favorite story ever. I went through a lot of heartache with that script and I endured two years of painfully bad rejections (which hurt more because I loved the story so much) until I finally got it right. Amazingly, even though I worked on the screenplay for two years straight, I never got tired of the story. I just loved the story and characters so much. I enjoyed writing the novel version of Rain on the Water even though I was pretty burned out on the story. It was the first screenplay I ever wrote and I’d been rewriting it on and off for 16 years! So I figured if I enjoyed writing the novel for Rain on the Water, imagine how much fun I would have writing the novel version of Queen Henry. I’d been looking forward to writing that story as a novel for years, so I would absolutely, definitely, with no question love writing Queen Henry as novel. Right?
Right?

Guess what?

I do. I love it. I have never, ever had so much fun writing anything ever in my life. I love these characters and I love the story and I love the journey that they’re going on together. I am more passionate about this project than anything I’ve ever worked on in more than 16 years of writing. This means two things.

  1. This could be The One. This could be the one that lands me an agent or gets me published or both. Agents and readers and editors can tell when you’re passionate about something. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this thing for years now and I think it shows.
  2.  It will break my heart not if, but WHEN it gets rejected. Sure, tons of agents will turn it down without reading it for a million valid reasons. But somebody’s gonna request it. Somebody’s gonna hate it. Somebody’s gonna tell me that.  

That’s the life of a writer. Lots of ups and downs. No guarantees of success and very little is for certain. But one thing IS for sure – writing this novel is hard work but I’m having a blast with it. The only regret for me would be if I didn’t write it.

 In case you’re curious, Queen Henry is about a homophobic, macho, major league baseball player who doesn’t want anyone to know he has asthma, so he takes part in a clinical drug trial and the new drug makes him gay. I’m writing this in the first person – so you’ve got a married woman and mother of two writing from the perspective of a man…and then a gay man….and his journey of discovery. It’s a challenge and great fun, I will tell you that. The things that run through Henry’s mind as he experiences this crazy ride crack me up on a daily basis.

Gotta go for now. Henry’s got a date with his brand new love interest, Thomas. 

I’m as excited as he is to find out what happens next.

Welcome Back, Henry!

On Friday, May 27, 2011 I finally FINALLY finished the latest draft of my screenplay, SOLO POWER. Whenever I finish a draft of a screenplay, I usually celebrate by listening to my personal soundtrack to the story. That is, whatever songs I had been listening to while writing the script, the Screenplay Soundtrack. This time around, I was so thoroughly tired of the story, I didn’t even do that.

Remember back to your high school or college days when you finished a particularly grueling exam? Sure, you were relieved when it was done, but you were so mentally drained from it that you just can’t even think about the material anymore. That’s exactly what this felt like. Not so much a feeling of accomplishment. Just exhaustion.

It’s strange. I like the story. I like the characters. This script has just been especially difficult for some reason. Lots and lots of rewrites, which is not uncommon. I guess it’s just been a tiring struggle writing this one. More so than normal. My plan was to not even look at it for two weeks, then pick it up again for more rewrites. Usually, I feel refreshed when I get some distance from what I’m working on, and then I’ m ready to go back to it.

Well, it’s been a week and I’m still not read to look at it. I can’t help but wonder if one more week will be enough.

The last screenplay I wrote was just as much work as this one, if not more. I endured horrible reviews and I kept working and working on it until it started to get really good reviews. My next project after my current screenplay is going to be writing the novel version of my earlier screenplay, QUEEN HENRY.

Since I finished the SOLO POWER draft a week ago, I’ve started prep work on the novel. I thought it might help to work on a different project for a little bit.

It was like visiting old friends. Oh, how I’ve missed these characters. Henry, Thomas, Sam, and Alice are calling to me. “Hey! It’s great to see you! Remember how much fun we had a few years ago?”

Yes! Yes I do.

It’s funny – I spent just as long on QUEEN HENRY as I did on SOLO POWER. Just as many rewrites and I was relieved when I finally finished but I never, ever got tired of the characters or the story. It’s still my favorite story and I’m excited about the prospect of turning it into a novel.

So – I’ve got the current project that’s not done yet but that I’m sick of and I’ve got a new project that I’m really excited about. It seems crazy to ignore the momentum I’m gaining on writing the new novel. I can’t wait to write it. So I guess I shouldn’t wait.

So I’m thinking maybe I will write a draft of the novel and then go back to the earlier screenplay. Hopefully, it will be enough space and time that I will be ready to look at it again with a new perspective and new ideas to make it really good.

Sorry, SOLO POWER. It’s not you – it’s me.

Come on, Henry! We’ve got a lot of work to do and some life lessons for you to learn. Let’s get to it!