7/14/2005

Against Gravity finally hit the shops yesterday (Friday), along with the mass market paperback of Angel Stations. I'm not enough of an expert to judge (ie I can see the online ranking but don't know how to interpret it in terms of actual numbers of copies sold), but they both seem to have been doing pretty well on Amazon in pre-orders.

If I haven't (again) been posting that much recently, it's because I'm not really up to writing 'what I had for breakfast' blog entries. So it does get harder to come up with interesting entries. Nonetheless, there are a few things over the past few weeks that do bear addressing.

1: Jim's post bag. In the tradition of many highly-regarded writers, artists, alcoholics and mass murderers, GSFWC writer Jim Steel is a postman. He also has to stick about five hundred copies of the new Harry Potter book through your door, except the letterbox on all of them is too small. Poor Jim. Bad Harry.

2: I had this brief moment of happy hope the other day when I found out that, yes, someone had made a 'period' version of War of the Worlds. I skipped to the official site and watched the trailer (finally viewable since I upgraded to broadband a couple of weeks ago).

I started getting seriously worried when a bloke in a very obviously stuck-on moustache ran towards the camera crying, 'unhand that woman, you brutes!' Then my happy little heart went on a long, long holiday, and my hopes went south bigtime. It is, apparently, uniquely and appallingly unwatchable on a level that challenges even Ed Wood for laughably bad filmmaking. There's a quite hilarious review here.

3: I've been along to a scriptwriting workshop at the BBC a couple of times recently, along with one or two other GSFWC'ers. Scriptwriting is something that always kind of appealed to me, primarily for financial reasons. It's 'relatively' little work for potentially much greater amounts of moolah than that available through novel writing. I used to have a terrible time trying to write scripts since it didn't feel, on some level, like I was really writing a story: more a description of events that felt, somehow, emotionally distanced from whatever made me want to write the story in the first place.

I got past that at last, primarily because every time I start writing a new book, I end up outlining it and planning it out more and more: so it starts feeling not so far from what a scriptwriter comes up with. I dug up an unfinished short story, turned it into a completed script, and felt actually really happy about it. So I'm going to submit it to something called Tartan Shorts and, who knows, if I'm very lucky I might even get somewhere with it.

So let's talk numbers: to get my head around writing a tv script, I downloaded the freely available script for Aliens. Total word count, thirty thousand words: one quarter of one of my novels. Amount of carefully annotated research concerning plausible planetary environments: zero, I rather imagine. But a lot of work in terms of plot structure and character development, I have no doubt. But even if I (or you, or anyone) manages to write an hour-long script for, say, an existing tv show, what you get paid on acceptance is equivalent to a pretty decent payment for a novel: and given a page of a script matches a minute of screen time, you're talking between forty-five and sixty pages.

Yes, there's more to it than that. Yes, it's not quite so simple. But here's the kicker: you get paid that same amount of money again on the day of transmission.

And again, if it gets repeated.

And you wonder why I'm suddenly interested in scriptwriting? I could finance the novel writing for years off of the back of something like that.

Before I sign off, I'm going to make a movie recommendation: I recently signed up to an online dvd rental service, and first through the post was Charlie Kaufman's 'Adaptation', which is about Charlie Kaufman trying and failing to write a script adaptation of a book. Kaufman is already far and away one of the finest screenwriters in Hollywood, responsible for Eternal Sunshine, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Being John Malkovich, and this. If you want to be a writer of any kind, go rent this. And feel the fear.
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