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?