Tag Archives: novel

How Novel

I’ve written millions of words over the years. Millions. I’ve penned over 20 screenplays and teleplays. I’ve written some short stories that I’ll never admit to. So I wonder what it is about a novel that is so darn intimidating.

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few years exploring the various aspects of the arts. I’ve created a web series and directed the first few episodes. I’ve got other film projects I’d like to work on in some capacity. But the more it I branch out, the more I appreciate the simplicity of a keyboard, a computer screen, and my own thoughts. I enjoy making films, but I’m a writer at heart.

The past year hasn’t been great for that. I’ve written, and what I’ve written is pretty good, I think. But I miss when it was just me and the keyboard, letting the story flow organically, not worrying about whether or not we can afford to shoot this scene or at that location.

I like screenplays. They’re structured. Organized. The story beats and flow makes sense to me. It’s all instinct to me, now. I don’t even have to try to hit certain goals when I write a screenplay. I just know when what needs to happen, and I can make it seem very organic.

A screenplay is meant to be a skeleton, conveying just what is necessary to generate interest and provide a map for the director and actors. It can be written eloquently, but it’s not a requirement. I’ve written these things for years, as noted above. I’ve got it down to a science.

Novels? They’re not organized at all. There’s no formal structure. No flow. No story beats beyond whatever the author decides to throw at you. That makes me a little more uncomfortable. They’re such sprawling, random things. How do you get a handle on it? How do you make sense of a massive story that takes so long to tell and has such a distinct and different flow than a screenplay?

Well, simpler isn’t always better. And lately, my muse has decided to kick me in my complacency and set me back upon the elusive path of writing a novel.

I asked one of my instructors years ago if it were possible to be a novelist and a screenwriter. He told me not everyone was able to make the shift. He himself had done so, because years of reading drivel in the form of B-movie, direct-to-DVD screenplays made him feel kind of “dirty” in a literary sense. He commended my “voice” – my ability to hook a reader with a comfortable narrative voice that reads well, and encouraged me to continue in my efforts.

And so, on I go. I’ve penned around 2500 words in the past few days. I’m excited to be delving back into this world (both the world of the story and the world of writing a novel). Shepard and my other projects will be going forward as planned, of course. This book is kind of a palette cleanser for me, a way to reconnect to my inner writer and to tell a story much grander than any I’ve written in screenplay format. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.

Anyone else out there try to balance both screenplays and novels? What’s your preference? Why?


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Practice Makes Perfect

“The drop hollows out the stone not by strength, but by constant falling.”
– Plutarch

It never fails.

No sooner do I get my new blog up and running than my internet access is abruptly curtailed.  All those fascinating little tidbits, insights and reflections about the Thanksgiving holiday remain locked inside of my head for another year.  Not much point in pontificating about it a week later, is there?

But that got me thinking about my posting habits.  Part of the reason I have so frequently lost track of blogs is because I always try to make each post each post an event – some larger-than-life effort rife with political commentary or some profound observations about life, the universe, and everything.

But not every post need be an event, any more than every day need be an epic adventure.  Some of the most precious moments of our lives are those small ones – the ones that, at the time, may seem insignificant but for some reason stay with us. 

The key to writing, and indeed to writing professionally as I aspire to, is to write regularly.  Not every jot must be epic, nor every tiddle profound.  The idea is to get into that frame of mind that permits the free flow of ideas from the recesses of the mind to the fingertips and the keyboards – and to do so with such regularity that it becomes instinct instead of duty.

I’ll be putting in some long evenings this month at my job, and there will be several opportunities to work in some regular writings here and for my personal projects (and hopefully to stop splitting my infinitives so much).

And what of those projects?  It’s so hard to decide which path to choose.  I have one premise for a novel, geared for older teens / young adults.  It’s based on a story written even before I seriously considered writing anything of substance.  It was a project for a class in my sixth grade year.  It’s come back to haunt me once or twice in the many years since, and I think it’s time it see the light of day.

The other proposition is non-fiction, and is also kid-centric, albeit a slightly younger crowd.  It is nothing less than the million and one things I have learned about life, kids, and being a responsible “grown-up” that the little ones look up to.  I have so much so say – dauntingly so – and I’m not sure quite where to begin with it.  I’ve toyed over some structural elements, how I want to organize the information and relay it to the reader. 

Then there are those old reliable projects, those things I have come to work on here and there in my free time without ever really making any headway.  One mention of “Clash” will definitely send a number of my friends into fits of laughter or irritation.  Here is a story that is as old as my interest in writing.  It was my second “serious” effort at writing anything and has gone through more revisions than I even remember.  When I first sat down to write this story, it was in the pages of a multitude of notebooks, and shortly thereafter behind the keys of my mother’s old electric typewriter.  I would love to see it through – and indeed, someday I will – but I really must decide on a final form.  It has been a novel, a video game, and a series of screenplays and each iteration had its charms.

Small wonder that every time I sit down in front of a keyboard to write, my mind wants to shut down.  It’s time to get better at being decisive and sticking to a schedule, even if it’s a slightly erratic schedule.

Enough from me tonight – only two and a half hours left.  That’s plenty time to start jotting down some ideas… for one of those projects.  Or for all of them.

Decisions, decisions.

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Posted by on December 1, 2009 in Writing


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