Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Platform games

I was reading this post about screenwriters crossing over to novels on English Dave's excellent telly-writing blog, and it got me thinking. I totally agree, by the way. Stories are stories. If you've got the instinct you can tell them in any format. The only obstacles are technical ones, and you can get over those. Nuff said.

But it was something else (and coffee) that got the brain cells moving. The idea that you get more respect as a novelist than you do as a screenwriter. I would say that, yes, you get some semblance of respect as a novelist. Your name gets printed a lot more and you actually get the public and critical credit for the work you've done. In a weird, slightly anaemic way, you even get some celebrity. Invitations to parties, VIP treatment at festivals, interviews in the papers, foreign travel etc.... I've had all that. But


No fucking money. Or not much anyway.

Oh yeah, you get paid for everything. And the figures even look good on paper sometimes. But making an actual LIVING out of it? Forget that.

Which makes you look at that "respect" you've been getting and wonder if it is that after all.

Don't get me wrong - I am far from having a go at the paymasters. Mr Market-Forces is right there outside the window. He's a big bad wolf and he'll get you if you're weak. This is not a socialist republic and you can't expect a penny unless that wolf says you're worth it.

But still, writing is work.

If you're one of the few, you'll make a good living from it. I don't count myself in that number yet but I have friends who do. And when I say make a living I mean a sustainable one. Many apparent "successes" get paid a shitload for a first two-book-deal and fuck all thereafter, because the sales weren't up to it. There's a big red number where there should be a big black one.

Game over.

Writing is a bitch, no matter what the platform.

But still we pursue her, running after her with flowers and fine perfumes and rhyming couplets. Because she's captivating and beautiful. And we're tough motherfuckers. Or saps.

Or both.


Rob said...

Right on.

One niggle though: generally speaking I reckon screenwriters get more respect than novelists most places these days, precisely because they make so much money AND hang out with film stars.

Charlie Williams said...

You're probably right, Rob. I mean, hanging out with film stars is a surefire way to get respect, right?

rob said...

You knows it.

If you saw me hanging out down Wetherspoon's with me mates Steve Gutenberg and Ruth Maddock you would be too awestruck to approach.

Seriously, the respect of idiots quantativley (but not qualitatively) outweighs the respect of non-idiots.

But come on down anyway, Bonnie Langford's turning up later with her mate Terry Nuttall and they're smuggling in some Advocaat to drink in the disabled bogs.

Charlie Williams said...

You are right. I was forgetting that we are living an in increasingly imperfect world.

By the way, did you know I went to uni with Danny Kendall out of Grange Hill?

The Sledgehog said...

Or, you know, we're just too bloody stubborn to give up...

plotdog said...

I had the same issue before I decided to do each major story of mine as both a screenplay and a novel. I use the screenplay as a sort of outline and then watch everything go nuts in the novel. Good post

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