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Stunted
01-12-2010, 10:46 PM
I've recently switched from novels to screenplays, and I'm sort of feeling the need for a rant.

Background info: I'm 18, freshman in college, and earlier in the year, I realized that my second novel was unsalvageable. Not the end of the world, but depressing.

So I reassessed my situation. I wanted to try something utterly different, I loved movies, and I liked the length of screenplays, and was intrigued by their layout.

So I read a bunch of screenplays, read a couple of how-to books, and planned out my first idea.

Then, after 8 pages, I trashed idea #1, after another 8 pages, I trashed idea #2, and now I'm trying desperately to decide whether I love idea #3.

I've never had trouble committing to an idea before. I've never had so little confidence in myself. I'm starting to ask myself those big questions: "Do I have what it takes to be a writer?" "Do I even want to try?" "Why bother if the chances of anyone ever enjoying my work are so low?"

Writing used to be so fun. Publishing didn't even matter. Just fitting together the puzzle, watching my characters interact, feeling that flood of excitement the 80th time I read chapter 5, made me so happy. Now, my desire to write just feels like a curse.

I don't think that my switch to screenplays is the only reason for this switch. Watching that second novel go south was such a blow to me. I guess before then, I always thought that even if my work had problems or was unpublishable, I would be able to polish it enough that at least I liked and was proud of my work. That coupled with my sudden understanding of the financial realities of writing--I'd known before, but had never doubted my ability to eventually make it to the top--have really fucked me up.

Does any one have any kind words of advice?

(This isn't strictly novel-related, but I'm sure a lot of the writers here have had similar experiences, so please don't delete me!)

Maxinquaye
01-12-2010, 10:56 PM
Why do you expect writing novels to be easy? It's not. It's the major league of writing. If you were a golf player, writing a novel is sort of the same as having a reasonable shot at maybe beating Tiger Woods.

M.Austin
01-13-2010, 01:00 AM
"Do I have what it takes to be a writer?"
You've written before. So obviously you have what it takes to be a writer. Now a published author is another story. Do you have it? Only you can answer that, Dear.


"Do I even want to try?"
I think the answer is yes.

When people are going through relationship problems a therapist will ask how they feel. If they're angry or upset, then they still care enough to do something. If they just don't care anymore, then the relationship is over because someone's already given up.

You're here obviously upset. It seems like you're crying out to be helped, and if that's the case, then yes -- yes you want to even try.



"Why bother if the chances of anyone ever enjoying my work are so low?"


Writing used to be so fun. Publishing didn't even matter. Just fitting together the puzzle, watching my characters interact, feeling that flood of excitement the 80th time I read chapter 5, made me so happy.
You answered your own question.

Why does publishing matter now? It seemed like you loved it as a hobby, and if you're looking at it from a career standpoint, perhaps you should look elsewhere.


Watching that second novel go south was such a blow to me. I guess before then, I always thought that even if my work had problems or was unpublishable, I would be able to polish it enough that at least I liked and was proud of my work.
So what's stopping you from polishing it, again? Because it's hard? Because you'll have to put work into it?

If you're watching something go south, then you're allowing it to go south. Do something more. Keep working on it. Make it better. -Nothing- is over until you're dead, and even then, I'm sure God negotiates.


Does any one have any kind words of advice?
There's not a damned person on this entire forum that will tell you this is easy. The published ones will only tell you one thing: it was worth it.

Best of luck. :)

Ryan David Jahn
01-13-2010, 01:22 AM
I can't answer any of the questions you're asking yourself, of course, but I do have a response to this:

"I always thought that even if my work had problems or was unpublishable, I would be able to polish it enough that at least I liked and was proud of my work."

It's good that you're not happy with your work if it's not publishable. You're honing your critical faculties and that's incredibly important. It will help you with the next project and the next after that.

Every project provides new lessons.

I wrote four or five novels before I wrote one that was publishable, and I wrote three screenplays before I was offered a job.

Perhaps the fact that projects aren't coming to life for you right now is simply the painful growth spurt of improved citical abilities. I think often forward progress feels like a step backwards. What once felt smooth and easy now feels difficult. Writers have often said that the writing was much easier before they knew how to do it. Every new thing you learn adds a complication to the process, and at first you don't know how to handle it. Then you learn how to handle it and your writing gets better. It never gets as easy as it once was (or at least it didn't for me), but the writing gets better, and that's the end goal.

The Lonely One
01-13-2010, 03:03 AM
What RDJ said is pretty on the ball.

As for switching formats...

I tried my hand at journalism, and while the writing was easy and formulaic, I found I hated it because of the other 90 percent of the job (basically being an asshole 24-7).

Some formats don't work for some writers. I cling to short story writing like a fly on...well, you know the end of that one.

Novels is new to me but I like the format, so I think it's something I'll continue with.

But if you're truly new to screenplays, it may take more patience than you're giving it to get confident and proficient. One thing I hate about trying new styles in college classes is that it makes me feel like a shitty writer, when I know I'm a damn good writer when I flourish in my niches. But in the end I always love and use what I've learned. It just takes time.

-Lonely One, who is one third of the way through his first pretty-shitty novel.

aadams73
01-13-2010, 03:04 AM
Do you want it bad enough to do it or not?

Pretty easy question, really.

Dave.C.Robinson
01-13-2010, 03:59 AM
I wrote my first novel. I thought it was pretty good. Still do, in fact.

My second, not so much. I finished it, I like some of it, but I still feel it has structural problems that I don't know if I can really fix. The good news is that I learned from it.

My third was a ghostwriting job: I can't talk about it, but I can tell you that I got paid for it. I'm working on the sequel right now.

In the meantime, I'm getting ready to query the first one again and writing (and submitting) short stories.

I could have given up when I realized that at the time I did not really know how to fix the second novel. Instead I went forward and worked through other things. It's hard, and it takes some people more years than the OP has been alive, but the real trick is and always has been persistence.

Jamesaritchie
01-13-2010, 09:20 PM
Who cares whether you like what you write? Writers are the worst possible judges of their own work. If you want to be a writer, you finish what you start, whether it's a novel or a screenplay, and then you submit it.

And financial realities of writing, my left hind foot. Thousands of people earn a good living by writing. Almost all of them are the writers who just write, finish, and submit, over and over and over, just as almost all those who fail are the ones who do not write, finish, and submit.

Stop naval gazing, pick a project, finish that project, and submit that project. Rinse and repeat as often as needed.

It's Heinlein's Rules. They work. Nothing else does.

HEINLEIN'S RULES FOR WRITING
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

They sound simple, but no more than one or two wannabe writers in a hundred manage to follow them. And no more than one or two writers in a hundred are successful.
http://www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm

mkcbunny
01-14-2010, 03:54 AM
"Do I have what it takes to be a writer?"
Only if you keep going.


"Do I even want to try?"
That's your decision, but you have to allow yourself to put out some crappy work or have a bad spell. It's OK to fail, but you have to get back on that proverbial horse for it to go anywhere. That may mean looking at what you've done and editing the parts that work into something better, or it may mean scrapping it all and coming up with something new.

And maybe you need a break to recharge your batteries. Some people would insist that you get back on that horse now and pump out crap daily until something gels. But you may have worked yourself into a self-destructive funk and need to break the cycle. Sometimes it's good to not write, take a walkabout, and regroup—nature is always good for that. It might be hard to take such a break if you're in school, though.

Also, you didn't include your first novel in your rundown. I assume that you finished that one and were satisfied? If so, well, you did it once, you can do it again. Instead of spiraling into a puddle of self-doubt, you might focus on what worked in that book and how you approached it that was different from how you approached this other work.


"Why bother if the chances of anyone ever enjoying my work are so low?"
Your chances are a hell of a lot better if you're writing. Even better when you submit.

As other people have said, none of this is easy. After working solely in entertainment journalism, I've just completed my first novel. It took five years and was probably the most difficult thing I've ever done. Did I have bad patches and doubts? Sure. But that book wasn't going to write itself. Was it worth it? Absolutely.