Lyrical Writing

I believe you write how you read, just as you are what you eat. So as a writer, I need to read well (and often). After perusing this great thread of writing advice on reddit, I found a new writer to consume. I couldn’t help but share.

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” — Gary Provost

I’d never heard of this author before, but I’ll definitely be checking him out. If his popular “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing” has any more gems like this, I can’t wait to uncover them.

garyprovost

Advertisements

Scripts vs Novels

Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional, and nothing found on this site should be taken as legal advice.  Always consult an attorney.

I’ve already written about the differences of Screenwriting vs Prose from a writer’s perspective.  Now I’d like to touch a little on the differences between the finished products: Scripts (screenplays) and Novels (books).  Physically, here you go:

The Script: Three-hole-punched 8 1/2″ x 11″ computer printed paper, bound with two brads.
A Book: Bound pages, professionally printed, in a variety of shapes and sizes.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

As for the format?  There’s plenty of nuts and bolts books written on formatting screenplays and you can google manuscript specifications for agents or publishers (or ebook format), so if you’re looking for that, keep looking.

What I’d really like to talk about in this post is what the rights a writer keeps if they sell a script versus selling a novel.

Here’s what it boils down to: when you sell a screenplay, you are (generally) selling the whole thing.  It’s no longer yours.  Other writers can (and probably will) make changes to your story without your permission.  When you sell a novel, you’re still the copyright holder and it’s still your writing, you’ve just given the publishing house the rights to print and sell it.

As a writer in the US, you have far more rights as a novelist than as a screenwriter.  In Europe, screenwriters have more rights, but for this purpose–I’m talking only about American writers making deals with American production companies.

There are ways to keep certain rights to a screenplay, such as the extremely complicated Theatrical Separated Rights.  On the flipside, there’s also terrifying loopholes like Hollywood Accounting, where you might never even get paid.  For the most part, though, screenwriters aren’t even allowed to distribute the very scripts they wrote once they’re sold.

But as a novelist, you keep your copyright.  Even if your book is getting adapted to film–in which case you only license the material to the studio, allowing them to make the film, much like you allowed a publisher to print the book.

Really, we can chase this rabbit down the hole as far as we want, but I think if we go much further we’ll need a pack of lawyers to read the map.  So… that’s it for now.

Lesson learned: write the book first.  Sell it twice, keep the rights!

Screenwriting vs Prose

As a writer who finds himself at home in both forms, I’m often asked what it’s like transitioning between the two.

Personally, I love it.  They’re both very different, and switching from one to the other is like taking a break, but without the lost productivity.  And my number one goal?  Be prolific.  So if nothing else, it helps me accomplish that.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me outline the fundamental differences between the two.  As most people are familiar with prose (you’re reading prose right now!), I’ll just speak to how screenwriting differs.

In prose, the writing is the finished product. In a screenplay, the movie is it’s final form.  So there’s no thoughts, no emotions, no asides–just action and dialogue. In a script, you’re only writing what will be SEEN or HEARD by the eventual audience.  And guess what?  No description either.  You want your lead in a blue dress?  Oh well.  UNLESS it directly influences the plot, but if you just envisioned her that way–too bad.  Why?  Because at this point you’re doing someone else’s job.  A movie is a collaboration.  There’s someone whose entire job is picking out what color dress your lead will be in.

The result leaves you the bare minimum of words with which to tell the story.  But that’s expected, because there’s one other very important job as a screenwriter: you dictate the pacing.  The general rule, is that one page in a script is equal to one minute of film time.  So much hinges on this (budget, blah blah blah) that a minute goes by quicker than you think.

So in a nutshell:  Writing a novel, your goal is to completely immerse your reader into your story, by whatever means possible.  There are almost no rules.  Writing a screenplay, your goal is to not get in the way of everyone else on the project, so they can immerse the audience into your story.  And there are lots of rules (I’m not going to touch on formatting), but they can be broken if you know what you’re doing and have a good reason.

Now to cover the initial question: what’s it like to switch?  It makes my writing, in both forms, that much richer.  I’ve learned to make my words count, to use subtext, to let a moment speak for itself.

As an exercise, I re-wrote a story that was originally a short script, The Tunnel, as a short story.  You can read the script here and the short story here.

Want more on the differences?  Check out the next post in the series, Scripts vs Novels.