I've done a rapid gear change and have been writing a book for the last few weeks (about 120 pages done so far) - my agent liked a film script version of this story, but suggested that a book version might help Hollywood go for it, as the script would be uber expensive to make.
The book material's going to get passed to a pretty decent UK publisher for consideration - so much writing, editing and rapidly learning correct prose skills, is underway here, ahead of passing a goodly chunk of it over for consideration. Who knew that where you put the comma in prose is so important? :P
I was wondering, as it feels like fingernails on a blackboard, everytime I gear change from 'prose' to 'submitting plays' or 'continuing to write the plays I have underway' - how do people cope with the gear changing? The switching from one form of writing, to another?
I find I have to fight real hard to get my head into the usual cut n paste of submissions, never mind the switching back to play formats...
On the other side, I have learned that the richness of prose writing, is a whole new ballgame - and I'm trying to get a good speed going, like I normally have with theatre writing. Thus far I'm only making 5 - 8 pages of prose a day - which is a fair number of words I suppose, but damn, 'prose' takes a lot longer than plays...
(Written three full length plays this year as well as a couple of ten minute things - but this book thing is already way longer than all of them combined)
And its quite a struggle to keep up with the daily submissions to theatres. Do folks have any methods of doing that 'gear change' to enable good multitasking without wincing quite as much?
Five to Eight pages a day! Good grief, man! I'd frieakng kill to work at that speed (provided it was any good). What is that? 450 to 720 pages in only 3 months. That is if you work every day, as I do. Some writers take years to write a novel. I've been working on my bloody memoir for over two years and I'm not even up to a teenager yet. Thank God, your muse, your lucky stars--whatever or whomever.
Yes. It is a HUGE gear change. And very difficult for me. With writing a play I can become each of my characters. I can get in their shoes and think like them. It comes naturally to me. Prose does not come naturally. I am so self-conscious it is very, very difficult. I write, re-write and re-write as I go along (just as I have with this post). The only good thing about that is, as with my playwriting, my first draft is also my final draft.
Also, when I switch gears to prose I try my best not to think like a playwright. The only way I can do that is to have no partially completed plays on back burners. I must be up to date on the playwriting front, else it will nag, gnaw and distract. In short, the only way to make that gear change, at least for me, is to throw yourself into it 100%.
Thanks for the reply Edd, I was wondering if I was alone in getting this total immersion problem - which never seemed to appear with 'regular' play writing. Prose seems to have its own utterly druglike effect on me - so that by the end of the workday, I'm fit for little but staring at movies or documentaries and waiting for sleep so that it can continue the next morning.
I suppose regarding the output, I tend to rush ahead in the writing, and then step back every few days, and tweak, cut, and edit it into something approaching decent prose. I over write a lot, something I'm learning pull back on. 'Less is more' is something I'm seeing that is one of the cornerstones of decent writing.
Also I write from around 7am - to 3 or 4pm, seven days a week - so I do eight hour days of writing, which means a lot of words can get put down on paper.
As for the plays on the backburner, I have a couple of them niggling me, but this book project is something that needs to be done NOW, and I dont want to lose the motivation.
To give an idea of the scale of what I'm up to, the film script version of the story I'm writing, is 130 pages - and currently its taken me around 120 prose pages to reach Film Script Page 2, in terms of the plotline.
So I'm trying to keep on going at speed, and not throw up my hands in horror at having started on something fairly gargantuan. Never mind the fact that this story is just 'part one' and ends on a cliff hanger note, and is part of a much bigger Tale. (As the agent said to me, its very much Samuel Beckett meets Tolkien territory. Which makes it mind expanding fun at times to write out.)
Big thing is I'm learning a lot of useful additional writing skills that I didn't know I lacked, despite years of having plays staged. The one thing about prose writing that stands the playwright in good stead, it seems to me anyway, is the ability to create the flowing dialog, which weaves around and through the unfolding prose.
Anyway. Thanks again for your comments. They're much appreciated.
Time to get to work :)
I too write (or try to write) at least six to eight hours a day seven days a week--especially now since I'm not a forum moderator anymore. Sometimes it's a great source of joy as I'm sure you know. Sometimes it is just plain drudgery. Come the end of the day it is always satisfying.
You said something interesting about 120 pages of prose equaling two pages of play script. I, of course, understand how that can be. But, what shocked me was when I tried to write a screenplay of one of my plays I found that twenty or more pages filled only a couple/few screenplay pages. Anyway, I was a failure at it because I really didn't have any passion for it and I felt I was too old to learn a new trick.
I wish I could "overwrite." I can get caught up in one paragraph for hours! It's maddening. I'm obsessive-compulsive. Oscar Wilde said, "Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains." Which I do. Unfortunately for me, an infinite capacity for taking pains does not necessarily make one a genius. Another dashed aspiration.
Edd wrote: I can get caught up in one paragraph for hours!
I am exactly the same way. I used to stress about it, wishing I could speedily write on, secure in the knowledge I would "fix" everything later. But I've since accepted the way I'm wired and no longer fret whenever I'm wrestling with minutiae.
while I find that I can also get hung up on tweaking phrases and paragraphs, for me (and specifically in the prose thing I'm writing) there's such a full world, with so much going on all the time, and the story itself rarely stays in one physical place for too long - that I try and work in big brush strokes. Then later go back and trim the fat, and get rid of the more obviously dumb mistakes I've made.
I find my speed depends on the context, if its serious moments or extreme violence, then I slow down to a snails pace, whereas if its back and forth cheerful humor amidst some sustained absurdity, then I whizz along at a good speed. Especially if there's a lot of dialog - as I guess thats where the 'playwright' part kicks in, helpfully.
Just a side thought though, my earlier mention about 100+ pages of prose being equal to 2 pages of film script - I wouldnt use that as any kind of yardstick, because I'm writing a kind of Tolkien-ish epic Saga - so explaining the 'world' in which the story unfolds, and its many sidetracks and histories, take up a lot of time.
I'm sure that if I was writing something set in a 'normal' regular reality, then things would be much easier and faster - but its far from a normal world. I'm finding I have to create Appendices for some of the histories, and interrupt the story at times with brief narratives, in order for the reader to understand the actions of characters. And given that the characters range from assorted Demons, through to civil rights lawyers, and a range of 'other' species - its a fun juggling act all round. Not to mention 'utter craziness' at times.
But yeah, I 'over-write' and just detail everything that is occurring, and then on editing I remove the dumb stuff, and trim it down to the bare essentials and fine-tune the 'beats' of sentences.
I'm sure that when its finally done, I'll need to lift the hood and tinker with the engine even more - but for now, there's a ridiculous amount of events unfolding which propel the characters along. Makes me wish for a simple story set in one room, at times. Still, what can you do, but write the story your brain gives you - and hope you'll stay alive long enough to finish it :)
EDIT: Aug 29... Now at 185 pages of the Saga... seem to be getting a little faster with writing...
apart from some occasional quick looks now and then for possible opportunities - I've just put the 'gear changing' to the side - as its too chaotic for my brain to deal with. So I might miss out on some opportunities, but at least I should hopefully end up with something approaching 'a novel' - which isn't a bad thing to add to the list of 'things to be sending out samples of'..
Last edited on Fri Aug 29th, 2008 10:52 am by IanFraser
Just to pause, gasping for breath in my old haunt for a moment.
Currently I've reached 311 pages in this ongoing Saga I'm writing.
Apparently I'm going quite fast - but not from where I'm sitting, grrr.
I'm hopefully somewhere around halfway in the story. *gulp*
All I can is press on, and ride the ride until its done, and the story is all
told, then I can go back to the blissful and easier task of play writing :)
Prose is a whole different ballgame.
Still, I've been learning a lot of much needed skills along the way...
With 180 000 words written so far, I'm now on 643 pages.
Christmas break? What Christmas break? :)
And after 17 pages or so of climactic action stuff (and don't let anyone tell you that
writing prose 'action scenes' is easy!) - I'm on the far end of my last big set piece,
ahead of what I hope will be a rapid run towards the finish line.
No guarantees, though. The story unfolds at its own logical pace, despite my urges to
be done with it.
Sent off the first 8 chapters to my agent, who plowed through the 140+ pages
overnight, and said all sorts of good things about it: (it doesn't feel like a first effort,
its 'witty' and funny, and left him feeling quite goofy...)
I guess this is a positive reaction. :)
Where things stand now, is that it has to be finished. One needs a complete work, for
agents to go to the next step with the work.
So, on I trudge, trying to reach the end-point. I've seen that prose is very much about
precision of text. All that should be on the page, is what best conveys what one means.
Prose is very much about 'making movies in the mind of the reader' - its a great
power trip, to act as director, lighting cameraman, script-writer, and actor - all in one.
Its an interesting step away from the creation of a play-script, which totally relies on
the brain and perception of the director and actors - which is often an iffy hope, at best.
With prose, I see that there's no need to 'hope that the director/actor gets it right' -
as you are the Creator of the universe that the reader enters.
And if your precision, crafting, and structure are properly on course - then it is just right, and the reader gets the movie you've made, and understands what you mean
at every moment.
Anyway. Enough rambling. I have a days work to get into. (Threading characters
ahead of a collapsing mountain, up a dangerous path alongside a cliff, and down to a
town swarming with refugees from an advancing army.)
Yes, I have become Cecil B De Mille and Peter Jackson :)
Hopefully the end is in sight...
Last edited on Sun Jan 11th, 2009 01:53 pm by IanFraser
No rest yet though, got to edit it all (only about - gulp - 500+ pages to do), and then throw it towards agents and let that process go where it will, so that I can get back to writing some darn plays :)
Last edited on Sat Jan 31st, 2009 02:51 pm by IanFraser
Just adding an update for my future self to stare at...
Currently editing on page 535 - and the length of the book now, has slowly expanded - and is 793 pages. I seem to be managing to edit/rewrite around 15 -30 pages a day.
As well as editing and throwing out the 'fancy words' and superfluous stuff, and correcting my own dumb mistakes - I'm also 'chopping' the narrative into Chapters.
Figured (for no particular reason) that every 30-35 pages is a new chapter.
When writing, I didn't bother with ensuring that chapters would happen, but luckily, given the episodic nature of the story and its unfolding action and set-pieces, it lends itself neatly to being scissored up and titled.
Given that its an old style Adventure/Journey/Saga - the titling seems to fit in with the tone. And an excuse to use moments from cheesy songs, or homages to bits of pop culture.
In other news, had some unexpected good news on the theatre side, which I'll put in the appropriate forum.
A note to my future self. STOP trying to roll cigarettes AND use the exercise bike at the same time. Its either one, or the other. You know this - so why even try?
Last edited on Mon Feb 23rd, 2009 11:41 am by IanFraser