Monday, April 24, 2006

Some things about writing

What could this be? A best-of-TV survey? Well, let's vote right away!

Also, if you're linking to my blog, please let me know. I'm starting up a "They link, we link" section to highlight all of you, and I'd like to make sure I don't miss anyone. And Steve Barnes? I've already got your message. Thanks. Fun blog too!

So I always SAY I'm going to write about writing here, but I never actually DO it. I thought I might, though, just this once, share some things I've learned about writing (specifically MY writing) from the many, many start-and-stop attempts I've made at it over the years.

I've wanted to be many different KINDS of writers over the years, but, strangely, I've never wanted to be a screenwriter. Why do I call this strange? Because it seems EVERYONE wants to be a screenwriter nowadays. Writing the Great American Novel is out-of-date. Everyone wants to move to Hollywood and make millions to be treated like crap.

Now, I would love millions of dollars. If someone came up to me and asked me if I wanted it, I would say, "Back up the truck!" I consider myself an artist, but I'm not THAT committed to my principles.

I don't want to write a screenplay because of that whole "treated like crap" thing. My stories are MY STORIES. In the film world, your stories are often stripped from you, ripped into shreds and thrown about all over the screen. That's because the writer rarely has power in Hollywood. I'm not saying there's anything WRONG with directors having the power; I'm just saying that it wouldn't work for me.

Oddly, though, I've gravitated to wanting to write for television, which is another collaborative art form. Why? I think it's because television gives the writer power and manages to remain a more social environment. Writing novels, I think, would get too isolating. If I can't break in to television writing, I'll fall back on writing novels (story's gotta get told somehow), but I like the idea of sitting in a room with other writers and hashing out stories.

But why choose this life? It's full of uncertainty, to be sure. The only reason to choose this life is because you can't NOT choose this life. You've got to be the sort of person who sees stories EVERYwhere, who can't read the newspaper WITHOUT seeing a novel or a movie or a TV series or a play (or anything else). The people who are just in this for the money aren't going to make it. It's the people who are in this because they need to get these ideas out there that are going to make it. It can seem tough, I know, but it will pay off.

If you're going to be a writer (or think you can be), get a job where a deadline is important. It will teach you about getting things written even when it seems impossible. Wander down to your local alt-weekly or send stuff out to web sites and get those pieces out there. Then, when the latest draft of your novel is due in two weeks, you'll know how to budget your time.

And don't start a blog. It's going to suck up your time.

Sorry for the disjointed nature of this post. But I wanted to share a few of these thoughts. The next time I touch on issues like this, I'll talk a little about the nature of the spec I'm writing and the project I'm working on and how it evolved.

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