A for effort

I finished the first draft of a screenplay. I am pleased with myself. I remember after I had finished BLOODANGEL and an acquaintance said something like, Well it’s an accomplishment just to complete it, and I, very much the jaded aspiring-novelist, muttered along the lines of, So what, I’ve completed novels before, I want to see the damn thing get published.

With the screenplay, though, I truly am just letting myself feel the satisfaction of the finish line. It’s my third screenplay, and the first one I’ll actually show people (in fact, I am showing it to someone as I write this). I junked the other two. Because they sucked. I don’t say that to be modest, or falsely modest, or charmingly self-deprecating, or as an expression of Low Self-Esteem*: they were broken things and I didn’t care enough to try and fix them. They were practice exercises in every sense of the word.** They also made me eager to get back to novel-writing, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever try screenwriting again.***

This screenplay is an adaptation of my YA novel UNINVITED — which is slated to come out from Simon & Schuster in Sept 2007 — and in order to find the drive and will to finish it I had to commit to an online screenwriting course — not just one, actually, but two. But it’s done, with the added benefit of a better deeper understanding of the story, which I will bring to the revision of the novel. Which means I’ll be rewriting the novel based on the screenplay based on the novel. (And this, by the way, was my justification for taking the time to write the screenplay in the first place.)

Speaking of — one of the highlights of the World Fantasy Conference this past weekend in Austin, Texas was meeting up with my editor Jen Heddle. I’ve been quite content to wait for both her and my other editor at Penguin (the BLOODANGEL sequel) to get back to me with their editorial letters about the respective books. This part of the process is a bit like standing in line at a bank with only one teller open. The editor works her way through the manuscripts slated to be published before yours, and then finally you’re the one waiting at the front of the line, you’ve reached that point of Next, and the editor looks up and catches your eye and waves you over.

* Has our culture not yet kicked and whacked and battered and buried this term so that it now means absolutely nothing?

** I’ve never had any trouble turning cold to my stuff and throwing it out, figuring I’ll recycle the good parts in some future, better work by my future, better-writer self. Even as a kid. Especially as a kid. (There are things I threw out that I now wish I’d kept, just for the nostalgia and novelty.) I spent much of my life assuming that all writers did this — the idea, the cliche, that a writer would have a Trunk filled with old stuff he thinks he might trot out again one day was a genuine revelation to me.

*** You could say it’s inevitable that I’d try screenwriting since I live in LA and keep rubbing up against the business (through friends and acquaintances) — except it could also be inevitable that I would refuse to waste my time having anything to do with the business after observing it from a front-row perspective. It is, as a friend admitted recently, “a terrible business, just a terrible business”, and this from someone who’s had the kind of success and experiences that aspiring types would kill for. Just kill for. I don’t want to get my heart broken, my soul smashed. I would, however, like to write a really good and original screenplay, and no matter how much I lie down, the urge doesn’t seem to pass. Drives me nuts.

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